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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 16. 2018

FAQ Friday: How Can I Ensure That I Am Conducting the Benchmark Assessment in a Standardized Manner?

Q: How can I ensure that I am conducting the Benchmark Assessment in a standardized manner?

A: The precise steps of the assessment conference are described in the Assessment Guides and are systematically presented on the Recording Form for each book. Remember to keep your own language spare and to avoid teaching or leading the student to answers. The introduction to each Benchmark Assessment book is standardized and printed on the cover as well as on the Recording Form. The steps for administration, scoring, and analysis are all standardized and explained in detail in the Assessment Guides. In addition, the tools supporting the assessment, such as the F&P Calculator/ Stopwatch, the Coding and Scoring at-a-Glance chart, and the comprehension conversation rubrics, provide an easy way to maintain consistency across assessments and help you internalize the steps in the process. Furthermore, the Professional Development Videos provide clear examples and plenty of practice opportunities for developing precision and consistency throughout assessment conferences.

March 14. 2018

Daily Lit Bit - 3/14/18

Reading aloud and discussing texts with children helps them become interested in print, notice characteristics of genres, and expand their vocabulary and content knowledge; it gives them something of substance to think about and talk about.

March 13. 2018

Teacher Tip: Expanding Students' Vocabulary in Specific Instructional Contexts

How to expand students' vocabulary in specific instructional contexts:

  1. Interactive read-aloud and literature discussion. Here you have the opportunity to use intentional conversation to bring students' attention to words and invite them to discuss words. The texts that you use for interactive read-aloud can extend vocabulary minilessons in which you have taught word-solving strategies. You can demonstrate how to derive meaning from context or look at word parts.
  2. Small-group reading instruction. Here students have the opportunity to read for themselves with your support. In each instructional segment––introduction, reading, discussion, teaching points, and writing about reading––words can be examined, taken apart to identify meaningful parts, and discussed. Students are presented with examples in context and have the opportunity to apply word-solving strategies independently.
  3. Extending meaning through writing. Here students have a chance to examine words more closely. You can extend understanding of the meaning of texts––and the words in them––by supporting students as they write about their reading. They can summarize their understanding using organizational tools like graphic organizers to analyze the text, respond to specific language and the meaning they take from it, or write from the point of view of a character. As they write, they are considering and using the vocabulary from the text. In addition, they can focus on vocabulary directly using word webs, grids, or charts.

From When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Works by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2009 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.

March 9. 2018

FAQ Friday: Do the Fountas & Pinnell Classroom™ Shared Reading Books Have Levels?

Q: Do the Fountas & Pinnell Classroom™ Shared Reading books have levels?

A: The books in the Fountas & Pinnell Classroom™ Shared Reading Collection do not have levels. Levels are only used in guided reading instruction.

In the early years, shared reading provides easy entry into behaving like a reader. It helps students understand how to find and use information from print—directional movement, one-to-one correspondence, words and letters, and the whole act of reading and understanding a story or nonfiction text. As readers become more proficient, shared reading continues to offer opportunities for more advanced reading work than students can do independently. Supported by the group, they can take on more complex texts; and, with your teaching, they can learn a great deal which they can then apply in guided and independent reading.

March 8. 2018

Daily Lit Bit - 2/8/18

Teachers are concerned not only about what students learn but also about how they learn. A spirit of inquiry and intellectual curiosity permeates the classroom. And the educators in the school offer a model of collaboration and continual learning.