October 5. 2016

What is LLI?


Even with many high-quality literacy opportunities, some students struggle with literacy learning. An intervention system gets them back on track so they can benefit fully from classroom instruction. Fountas & Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy System (LLI) is a literacy intervention system for students who find reading and writing difficult. Its goal is to give students the boost they need to read at the same level as their peers.

Who is LLI for?

LLI is a rigorous, small-group, supplementary literacy intervention system for students who are not achieving grade-level expectations in reading and writing, and are not receiving another form of literacy intervention. The LLI systems are designed to bring students from the earliest level A (kindergarten level) to level Z, which represents the competencies needed at a middle and high school level.

LLI is based on the F&P Text Level Gradient™. Each level of text makes increasing demands on the reader, but the demands and resulting changes are gradual. By actively participating in intensive lessons on each level, readers have the opportunity to expand their reading and writing abilities. With the support of instruction, they stretch themselves to read more complex texts with accuracy, fluency, and comprehension—and to write with more complexity. With these goals in mind, students effectively engage in the reading and writing process every day, (Fountas and Pinnell 2012).

How does LLI work?

We use the term leveled because leveled books are a key component in helping students become competent readers and accessing texts of increasing complexity. Each book is carefully designed, analyzed, and sequenced to provide enough support and a small amount of challenge so the reader can learn on the text and make small steps towards grade-level goals.

When readers struggle, there is a critical need for highly effective, small-group intervention to get them back on track as soon as possible. There are some basic implementation principles that are essential if the intervention is expected to work effectively, (Fountas and Pinnell 2012).

We want interventions to be short term and intensive, with flexible entry and exit points so that individual needs may be accommodated in a small-group situation. If the intervention is early and effective, then the length will be shorter; however, students who are far behind may need a year or more of effective supplementary instruction. The layers of intervention should be flexible enough that the teacher can group and regroup students.

Lessons must be supplemental to good classroom instruction; it is the combination of high-quality classroom teaching and intensive small-group intervention lessons that enable learners to make accelerated progress, catch up with their peers, and continue to perform at expected levels for the grade.

How long does LLI take?

Lessons must be frequent—five days a week is preferred—so that readers can gain and sustain momentum and acceleration is possible. And, the teacher-to-student ratio must be as low as possible. For the greatest impact in short-term intervention, we recommend a ratio of 1:3 for children performing at earlier levels (kindergarten, grades 1 and 2) and 1:4 for students performing at higher levels (grades 3–12).

Who administers LLI?

Providing excellent intervention lessons depends on the expertise of teachers. The teachers of struggling readers and writers should be exceptionally skilled in systematic observation, in the assessment of reading behaviors, and in teaching for the range of strategic actions that proficient readers use. All teachers of struggling readers (classroom and intervention teachers) need opportunities to continually increase their understanding of the reading and writing processes and the behavioral evidence that reveals competencies. The expert intervention teacher is able to make effective decisions that meet the diverse needs of students.

Excellent communication and teamwork among all who have a role in supporting the students’ progress are required for an intervention to help individual students. Students’ families need to know the goals of the intervention as well as what students will be expected to do for homework. Good communication between classroom and intervention teachers is essential so that they are working toward the same goals. It is critical to have a shared set of curriculum goals like those detailed in The Literacy Continuum, LLI is built on the foundation of the descriptions of text characteristics and strategic actions described for each level, A to Z, in this comprehensive tool, (Fountas and Pinnell 2012).

Finally…

When basic implementation requirements are in place, we need to dig deeper into research on literacy learning and reading difficulties to inform the design of teaching. What happens in the intervention must affect change. Many struggling students sit in daily 30- to 45-minute intervention lessons, yet little improvement is evident in what they are able to do independently.

Remember that progress is not enough; struggling readers need to make faster progress than their peers, and that is the whole purpose of intervention. They may be disengaged or bored. They may work diligently at mechanical tasks that they do not connect in a lively way to real reading and writing. To be effective, the intervention lessons must incorporate everything we know about what students need to learn, especially those who are experiencing difficultly.

Stephanie Tucker, Fountas and Pinnell Marketing Manager

Join the fastest growing community in the field of literacy education. Get your free membership and stay up to date on the latest news and resources from Fountas and Pinnell at www.fountasandpinnell.com 

Join the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ Facebook Learning Group for more collaborative conversation at https://www.facebook.com/groups/FountasPinnell/ 

References:

Leveled Literacy Intervention System Guide. © 2012 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

September 29. 2016

A Level is a Teacher's Tool, NOT a Child's Label


It’s hard enough to be a kid. They have lots of things to worry about: parents, friends, sports, grades, etc. Reading can be an escape from those worries, just like it is for adults; it’s a way to relax and plunge yourself into someone else’s world for a little while.  But what happens when a child finds out that they’re not reading on the “same level” as the other children? What does that even mean to them? It’s not good, they know that. Reading has now become another worry to add to the pile of worries.

Trying to climb the “level ladder” is not what reading is about. It should be about enjoyment and discovery. Focusing too much on text levels can cause problems. Fountas and Pinnell created the F&P Text Level Gradient ™ to be used as a teacher’s tool for assessment and instruction. The levels aren’t meant to be shared with the children or parents.

Help Students Build Self-Esteem and Love of Reading

“It is detrimental to a student’s self-esteem and to their love of reading when they are encouraged to measure their own progress by ‘moving up levels,’” (Fountas and Pinnell 2017). Students should not use levels to compare themselves with others or to compete. This is counterintuitive to building a classroom community where each student is respected; has a sense of agency; values collaboration over competition; and grows up seeing themselves as literate.

Make “Choice” Authentic

Telling students to choose by “level” is not an authentic way to select books to read independently. That isn’t how I choose a book as an adult. In fact, I really love reading high fantasy, young adult books with a romantic twist. Can I read War and Peace? Sure, but I devour those YA novels like candy and that’s what we want students to do: get them to a point where they need to read every day; they yearn for it. As much as possible, strive for them to choose books in a way that all readers do—books that interest and engage them. 

Advocate for the Appropriate Use of Levels in Your School

Fountas and Pinnell believe very strongly that students’ reading levels have no place in teacher evaluation or on report cards to be sent home to parents. Too much emphasis on levels can lead to misconceptions on the part of families. Informing parents of the level at which their child is reading can make them uneasy.  They may see the level as a very exact measurement, but students don’t always read at a precise level. Parents also talk with other parents, and if they find that their child is reading at a lower level than other children, they might panic. But they don’t understand the intricacies of how those levels work the way you do.

Levels can be a resource for you and your colleagues to guide student choices for independent reading, but they should not be a limitation or a requirement. Leveled books are instructional tools for teachers who understand them—nothing more. Above all else, a level is a teacher’s tool, not a child’s label.

Jill Backman, Fountas & Pinnell Marketing Manager                                                                                                                       

Join the fastest growing community in the field of literacy education. Get your free membership and stay up to date on the latest news and resources from Fountas and Pinnell at www.fountasandpinnell.com

Join the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ Facebook Learning Group for more collaborative conversation at https://www.facebook.com/groups/FountasPinnell/

September 23. 2016

What is a level and how can I make it work for me?

Levels of books are more complex than they seem.  The gradations of complexity from one level to the next are subtle, but significant.  Understanding levels and how they work takes time and practice. But it can be done! Here is an explanation to lay the foundation for learning the intricacies behind the levels and how you can use them to make your teaching efficient.

What are levels? 


First, look at the F&P Text Level Gradient ™. This gradient of reading difficulty was created and refined by Fountas and Pinnell as a teaching and assessment tool over the past thirty years. Each of the twenty-six points on the F&P Text Level Gradient ™, from easiest at level A to hardest at level Z, represents a small but significant increase in difficulty over the previous text level. (There is a level Z+ on our website, which refers to the highly complex texts, many of which contain very mature subject matter that students read in high school and college. But for our purposes here, let’s just look at A to Z.) Each level is made up of a composite of ten text characteristics that increase slightly in complexity as you move up the level. The ten text characteristics are:

  • genre 
  • text structure
  • content 
  • themes and ideas 
  • language and literary features 
  • sentence complexity 
  • vocabulary 
  • words 
  • illustrations
  • book and print features 

A great way to learn the specific characteristics of texts at each level and see how they increase in complexity is to get your hands on The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum www.fountasandpinnell.com/continuum. It’s all in there.

Uses of the text gradient

OK, so now you know what levels are and how they make up a gradient of text. How can the levels help in your classroom teaching? “A gradient of text is a powerful tool for you as a teacher. It helps you in the very challenging task of selecting texts that will challenge your readers and offer them opportunities to learn (Fountas and Pinnell 2017).” You can organize your leveled texts in magazine boxes or baskets from easiest to hardest. If you have a school book room, organize it by level, which will make selecting and using books easier for all your colleagues. But you want your students to choose books the way readers do—by author, topic, genre, and general interest—not by level. So, in classroom libraries (and school libraries) you don’t want the level to be a criterion or even visible. But more on that later. A nifty tool for looking up a book’s level is by accessing the Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Books Website www.fandpleveledbooks.com. You can look up the titles and it will tell you the level, genre, and much more. Easy.

How do I know my students’ reading levels?

Begin with a benchmark assessment to learn your students’ instructional book level so you can group them and begin teaching www.fountasandpinnell.com/bas. Once you begin teaching, observe your students and notice their reading behaviors. There are specific behaviors to look for at each level that change slightly as you move up the F&P Text Level Gradient ™.  Students start at the instructional level, a level that offers some challenge, but not too much. Once they demonstrate good control of most of the behaviors and understandings at the level, move up a level to introduce more and new challenge opportunities for learning.

“A gradient of text is not a precise sequence of texts through which all readers pass. Books are leveled in approximate groups from which teachers choose for instruction. The teacher who recognizes the convenience of the gradient yet reminds herself of its limitations will be able to make good choices and test her decisions against children’s behaviors while reading and talking about texts (Fountas and Pinnell 2017).” Below is a figure that sums up what a text gradient is and is not.

So back to the aforementioned warning about not letting your students know at what level they’re reading. They may notice some levels on books (and as students grow more sophisticated, they will realize that some books are harder than others to read); but assure them that these markings are helpful to teachers but not important in choosing books. Teach them to evaluate a book for themselves. “It is destructive to measure their own progress by “moving up levels.” This does not provide the real motivation that consuming and talking about texts would (Fountas and Pinnell 2017).” To put it simply: a level is a teacher’s tool, NOT a child’s label.

Log in next week to learn more on that topic and how to avoid using levels as labels for students.


Jill Backman

Fountas & Pinnell Marketing Manager


References:

Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades, Second Edition. © 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.