September 30. 2016
Assessment is the key factor in reaching the below-level reader in the upper grades. Teachers must be able to discuss effective and ineffective reading behaviors, as well as how text being read by students may or may not be supportive of new learning.
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
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September 29. 2016
A teacher of guided reading does not have to wait for the results of end-of-year testing to know that the instruction is successful.
September 28. 2016
Responsive teaching brings the teaching to the child.It's not about fitting the children into a preconceived slot or sequence, but finding out what that student is interested in, what motivates them, what their hopes and desires are.
September 27. 2016
The ability to observe, analyze, and interpret reading behavior is foundation to effective teaching.
September 26. 2016
We know that teachers are individuals, and of course, you develop your own individual styles. But in pursuit of coherence, hold some things in common across the school for the benefit of student learning.
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 23. 2016
Learning does not occur in stages but is a continually evolving process. The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum. © 2017 by Fountas and Pinnell.
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.