October 26. 2016
The purpose of assessment is to meet students where they are and bring them forward with intention and precision.
October 5. 2016
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?
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.
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
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/
Leveled Literacy Intervention System Guide. © 2012 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
September 29. 2016
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
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
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
Make “Choice” Authentic
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
Advocate for the Appropriate Use of Levels in
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
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
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:
- text structure
- themes and ideas
- language and literary features
- sentence complexity
- 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
It’s all in there.
Uses of the text
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.
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.
Fountas & Pinnell Marketing Manager
Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades, Second Edition. © 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
September 21. 2016
Rather than teach the level or book, notice and use
behavioral evidence to guide your next teaching move.
September 20. 2016
Assessment must result in informed teaching. Assessment is not teaching; it is gathering information for teaching.