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March 20. 2018

Teacher Tip: 6 Ways to Save Time During the Assessment Conference

To save time during the assessment conference, consider the following suggestions:

  1. Starting Point. Knowing where to start will save the student from having to read numerous texts. Use last year's reading records to get an indication of where to start, or what will be an independent text for the student. Then have in mind the next text, an instructional text, for the student.
  2. Organized Materials. Keep you Benchmark Assessment books and Recording Forms well organized in a hanging file next to you so you can "hit the ground running."
  3. Familiarity with Books. When you know the Benchmark Assessment books and key understandings well, you can move the comprehension conversation along briskly.
  4. Fluency. If your readers are fluent, the reading will take less time.
  5. Hard Text. As soon as a student's text reading shows the number of errors indicative of hard text, discontinue the reading. There is no need for the student to struggle through the whole text.
  6. Comprehension Conversation. If the text is hard (based on accuracy), do not have the comprehension conversation.

From the BAS Assessment Guide, 3rd Edition by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

March 9. 2018

Why the Comprehension Conversation is Critical to Assessment

Students' talk reveals their thinking, which helps you know them as learners. One-on-one assessment is a great time to talk with students to learn their thinking, because what they're thinking will inform your instruction. Without talking to them and learning where they are, there's no way to know how to bring them forward. It's for this reason that the Comprehension Conversation is vital to assessment.

The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System stands out from other assessment systems because it incorporates a rigorous and important Comprehension Conversation. The purpose of this Comprehension Conversation is to enable teachers to sharpen their observation of students' reading behaviors by hearing their thinking through talk and strengthen the connection from assessment to instruction. Here's how.

Reading is complex

Reading is a highly complex process that requires students to bring together their own knowledge with the print on the page. When students read, they use in-the-head systems of strategic actions to process texts, flexibly integrating many different kinds of information in order to construct meaning. You cannot see strategic actions, but you are able to observe reading behaviors and infer what readers are able to do as they think their way through a text. Students' talk during the BAS Comprehension Conversation reveals their thinking.

How it works

In Part 1 of the BAS assessment, the student reads aloud a precisely leveled fiction or nonfiction book while the teacher observes and notes the reader's behaviors. In Part 2, the teacher conducts a conversation with the reader to determine how well he or she comprehended the text; beyond a simple retelling. This unique approach not only gathers data about what students understand about a text, but it also provides an opportunity for teachers to get to know their students-a valuable use of time, especially at the start of the school year. During the conversation, teachers will prompt the student, but the goal is to have a flow of back-and-forth talk, with the student doing as much of the talking as possible. It is in these conversations that the student's thinking is revealed.

Key understandings

Key understandings that the teacher should look for during the Comprehension Conversation are provided in Part 2 of the assessments. These key understandings are based on the goals and behaviors from The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum. The twelve systems of strategic actions are clustered into three categories that encompass how readers construct meaning as they process a text: thinking within, beyond, and about the text. So while you are giving the assessment you can note which of the understandings the students pinpoint and which ones they don't.

What next?

Now that you've identified in which areas the student needs instruction, you can weave that into your teaching. Since the goals and understandings that you've identified come from The Literacy Continuum, it would be ideal to also have instructional material that also aligns with those goals. For those students who may need extra instruction, the Leveled Literacy Intervention System is a good option as the goals in each lesson are taken from The Literacy Continuum. And for your small-group and whole-group instruction, as well as partner and individual work the lessons in Fountas & Pinnell Classroom™ are designed around the goals in The Literacy Continuum.

Reading is thinking, and a student's talk about what they've read is evidence of that thinking. Skilled observation of literacy behaviors enables teachers to understand how their students can "think their way" through a text. The Benchmark Assessment System Comprehension Conversation is a key tool for gaining this behavioral evidence of students' thinking.

February 16. 2018

FAQ Friday: Is There a Lexile Correlation Chart for Fountas & Pinnell Levels?

Q: Is there a Lexile correlation chart for Fountas & Pinnell levels?

A: No, there is no correlation chart. There are several approaches to determining a text's level of complexity. Metametrics, the company that provides Lexile measures, takes one approach by measuring text complexity with a proprietary computer algorithm that measures sentence length, syllables, and word frequency.

The levels in the F&P Text Level Gradient™ are based on ten text factors: Genre/Form, Text Structure, Content, Themes and Ideas, Language and Literary Features, Sentence Complexity, Vocabulary, Words, Illustrations, and Book and Print Features. A level obtained from a Benchmark Assessment differs from that obtained with a Lexile assessment in that comprehension is a key factor in the Benchmark Assessment. A student might very well be able to decode high-level texts, but a Benchmark Assessment also determines if the student's comprehension is good enough for instruction.

<<To see more FAQs or get answers to other questions from a trained consultant, please visit the Discussion Board!>>

January 12. 2018

FAQ Friday: How Often Should the Benchmark Assessment Be Administered?

Q: How often should the Benchmark Assessment be administered?

A: We suggest that you administer the assessment at the beginning of the year to help you determine where to start your teaching with each child. You may also want to conduct the assessment in the middle of the year, to take stock of progress, though you may already have the information from your ongoing use of reading records in instruction. Finally, near the end of the year you may want to conduct one more assessment to obtain a final record of the child's growth across the year. You may decide to administer the last assessment a couple of months before the end of the year. In this case, the assessment can provide information for instruction during the last months of school, while avoiding the redundancy of testing at the very end of one year and the beginning of the next.
December 22. 2017

FAQ Friday: Can a Child Look at the Book During the Comprehension Conversation?

Q: Can a child look at the book during the comprehension conversation?

A: Yes. One purpose of the Benchmark Assessment System is to give you information to guide your instruction. If a child has to look back as a reminder it doesn’t necessarily mean the child doesn’t understand or remember. Perhaps the child doesn’t feel confident in his or her memory or talking about the text without that confirming look. Reinforcement and prompts to talk about texts without always looking back may build the child's confidence. The teacher needs to know the student and note such observations of behaviors that provide evidence of thinking and analyze the child’s thinking at that point in time.