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May 7. 2018

Teacher Tip: How to Get Readers to Expand Their Thinking in a Reader's Notebook

A reader's notebook can be a useful tool for readers to collect their thinking and record it in a variety of genres and forms. Consider beginning with one thoughtful letter a week or every other week between you and your students. Here are some suggestions and ideas to help you react to, reinforce, and expand a reader’s thinking:

  • Notice the questions a reader asks and respond to each one. 
  • As you read the letter, think about what the writer is communicating to you and react as you read. Then pick up your pen and share your reactions. 
  • Share the thinking the writer brings out in you. How are you personally connecting with the reader’s thoughts? 
  • Confirm the reader’s good thinking and inquire genuinely about what you don’t understand. 
  • Think about the type of text a student is reading. How can you use your knowledge of genre characteristics to expand the reader’s understanding? Nudge the reader to think about these characteristics. 
  • After reading a student letter, review the Systems of Strategic Actions. Notice what aspects the reader is attending to and what aspects would expand the reader’s thinking about the text. Make comments that will help the reader think in new ways.
From The Literacy Quick Guide: A Reference Tool for Responsive Literacy Teaching by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2018 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.
April 30. 2018

Teacher Tip: Effective Practices for Book Talks

Book talks are brief introductions – teasers or commercials" of sorts – to new books. Book talks can remind students of the wide variety of books available to them in your classroom library. Here are a few effective practices for book talks:

  • If books are part of a series, you may want to gather several or all the titles in the series and do one book talk, as the books will be similar in style and/or have the same characters. 
  • Deliver minilessons that teach students to make book talks of their own. 
  • Make your approach to each book talk unique, e.g., begin with a question, read an interesting sentence, read the opening, read the back cover, or share an illustration.
From The Literacy Quick Guide: A Reference Tool for Responsive Literacy Teaching by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2018 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.
April 10. 2018

Teacher Tip: 5 Tips for Creating a Prekindergarten Classroom Library

A classroom library is an essential feature of a literacy-rich prekindergarten classroom. You may wish to incorporate these ideas as you design your library.

  • Place the classroom library among quieter work areas, such as the writing center and listening center. 
  • Create a comfortable environment for reading with rugs, pillows, and lamps. 
  • Display a wide assortment of picture books, including simple books with one or two lines of print per page, books from shared reading and interactive read-aloud, alphabet books, counting books, books about colors and shapes, pattern books, pop-up books, and informational books.
  • Label baskets or shelves with both pictures and words. Matching colored dots on books and baskets will help children return books to the correct place.
  • Provide stuffed animals ("listening buddies") that children can read to.
From The Literacy Quick Guide: A Reference Tool for Responsive Literacy Teaching by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2018 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

March 27. 2018

Teacher Tip: Support English Language Learners Through Multiple Modes of Communication

To support English language learners, you will not want to depend solely on oral language, especially with children who have newly arrived from another country and have very limited understanding of English. Think what it is like to listen to a string of directions and remember them; then think what it would be like to listen to it in a language that you are only beginning to learn. Use other means of communication:

  • Act it out.
  • Demonstrate explicitly what you want students to do.
  • If it's complicated, have them "walk through it," acting out what they will do (or have a few students demonstrate while others watch).
  • Seek the support of another student who also speaks the student's primary language (if possible).
  • Use pictures and symbols.
  • Provide it in simple writing accompanied by illustrations if necessary.
  • If at all possible, learn some key words in the child's language.

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 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 6. 2018

Teacher Tip: How to Introduce Independent Work Areas

When introducing independent work areas:

  1. Talk about and demonstrate the routine yourself.
  2. Have children practice the routine.
  3. Observe children in the center until you are comfortable that they are consistently using the area independently and are being respectful of others and of the materials.
  4. Help children learn how to clean up and organize the materials at the center before transitioning or moving on to the next center.
  5. Teach children how to transition from one area to another.

From Fountas & Pinnell Classroom System Guide by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2018 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

February 20. 2018

Teacher Tip: Incorporating Play Into Your Kindergarten Classroom

Play is an essential component of the kindergarten classroom. Throughout early childhood, the foundation of reading and writing is joyful play, language, and literacy experiences. Through play, children practice and gain control of abilities essential to learning, including language, self-regulation, and high-level thinking. As you design your classroom, you will want to provide space for choice time activities, including free and structured play. These areas may include resources for dramatic play, blocks, a sand/water table, and art supplies.

From Literacy Beginnings by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2011 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann

January 23. 2018

3 Tips for Forming LLI Groups

When forming LLI groups, children do not always fall neatly into just the right number of groups. After all, they are individuals who cannot be defined by “reading level.” You will probably have to do some problem-solving when you begin to group children. Your goal is to group the children so that the level of instruction will be appropriate for all of them. Our recommendation is to start the group at a text level that allows every child to begin with success. Here are some suggestions:

  • Make some “one level” compromises. Three children whose instructional levels are B, B, and C, for example, may be able to read together and benefit from the intervention lessons starting at level B. 
  • If you are working alongside a teacher in a classroom, make arrangements for a child from the neighboring classroom to join the group you are teaching. 
  • Take children at the same level from different classrooms (but be sure that it doesn’t take too much time to assemble them in the space you are teaching). 

Your priority should be to group children efficiently and effectively so that you can teach them at the appropriate level.

From LLI Orange System Guide by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

January 16. 2018

Teacher Tip: Sharing Guided Reading Texts Among Several Classrooms

You may be sharing guided reading texts with a team of fellow teachers. If so, consider the following tips and ideas for coordinating the use of the texts and accompanying lessons.

  • Meet before the school year begins to create a plan for sharing the books and lessons.
  • Store books in an area that is easily accessible to all teachers who are sharing them. You may wish to create a book room for your school. A book room houses a wide range of leveled books from levels A through Z that you share with your team. Books and accompanying lessons are stored together in bags and organized in bins by level.
  • You may wish to create a simple check-out system for keeping track of which classroom is using which titles.

For detailed advice on how to create and use a school book room, see Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades or Leveled Books for Readers.

From Fountas & Pinnell Classroom System Guide by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2018 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

January 2. 2018

Twelve Tips for Powerful Teaching in Guided Reading Lessons

The following are some guiding principles that may help you get more power in your teaching:
  1. Notice the student's precise reading behaviors.
  2. Eliminate ineffective behaviors and help the reader do what proficient readers do. 
  3. Select a text on which the reader can learn how to read better- not too difficult and not too easy. 
  4. Teach the reader not the text.
  5. Teach the student to read written language not words.
  6. Teach for the student to initiate effective problem-solving actions. Use clear precise language that passes the control to the reader. 
  7. Only ask the student to do what you know he can do. 
  8. Don't clutter the teaching with too much talk. 
  9. Focus on self-monitoring and self-regulating behaviors so the reader becomes independent. 
  10. Build on examples of successful processing. 
  11. Teach for fast responding so the reader can process smoothly and efficiently.
From Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.