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March 14. 2017

Guidelines for Selecting Books for Interactive Read-Aloud: A Teacher Tip from Fountas & Pinnell

Sometimes teachers are tempted simply to pick up a handy book and read it, and it is certainly true that students can enjoy and benefit from any wonderful book. But if you want to get the most instructional power from interactive read-aloud, it is important to plan for teaching in a more precise way. Here are some guidelines for selecting books for interactive read-aloud.

  • Look for texts that you know your students will love (funny, exciting, connected to their experiences, able to extend their thinking.)
  • Select texts appropriate to the age and interests of your students.
  • Select texts that are of high quality (award winners, excellent authors, high-quality illustrations).
  • Plan selections so that you present a variety of cultures; help students see things from different perspectives.
  • Choose texts that help students understand how people have responded to life's challenges.
  • Consider books on the significant issues in the age group--peer pressure, friendship, families, honesty, racism, competition.
  • Especially for younger readers, select texts that help them enjoy language--rhythm, rhyme, repetition.
  • Select different versions of the same story to help students make comparisons.
  • Evaluate the texts to be sure the ideas and concepts can be understood by your students.
  • Plan selections that appeal to both boys and girls.
  • Mix and connect fiction and nonfiction.
  • Repeat some texts that have been loved by former students.
  • Vary genres so that students listen to many different kinds of texts--articles, poems, fiction, informational texts.
  • Select informational texts, even if they are long; you can read some interesting parts aloud and leave the books for students to peruse on their own.
  • Choose texts that will expand your students' knowledge of others' lives and empathy.
  • Choose texts that will help students reflect on their own lives.
  • Select texts that you love and tell students about them.
  • Select texts that build on one another in various ways (sequels, themes, authors, illustrators, topics, settings, structure).
  • Link selections in ways that will help students learn something about how texts work.
  • Select books that provide good foundations for minilessons in reading and writing.
  • Consider the curriculum demands of your district; for example, link texts with social studies, science, or the cor literature program.
  • Select several texts that help listeners learn from an author's style or craft.
  • Select texts that offer artistic appreciation.
  • Select fiction and nonfiction texts on the same general topics.
  • Consider "text sets" that are connected in various ways--theme, structure, time period, issues, series, author illustrator, and genre.
Adapted from Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2006 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.


January 3. 2017

Put literature study into action: A Teacher Tip from Fountas and Pinnell on Selecting Texts for Literature Study

Literature study enables students to help one another learn. Our goal is always student independence. We want individual students to take responsibility, manage themselves as learners, complete tasks, and discover how to learn on their own. At the same time, we recognize that learning is interdependent. 

We want our students to participate in learning groups in which they can contribute to the learning of others. The key characteristics of effective literature study are selecting texts, forming groups, establishing routines, facilitating discussion and varying the organizational models. Select a great variety of high-quality texts specifically for literature discussion.

Select texts for literature study that: 

• Are developmentally appropriate.

• “Teach” and “stretch.”

• Include layers of meaning.

• Exemplify worthwhile issues.

• Reflect a variety of perspectives.

• Represent our diverse world.

• Encompass a variety of authors/illustrators.

• Encompass a variety of genres, formats, and levels.

• Exemplify special features.

Excerpted with adaptations from Guiding Readers and Writers. To learn more about selecting texts and other key characteristics of effective literature study reference Fountas and Pinnell’s professional books. 
December 27. 2016

Cut Across the Path of Literacy Failure: A Teacher Tip from Fountas and Pinnell on Intervening Early

The early years of school are important for every child, but for those who find literacy learning difficult, every one of these years is critical. Intervention must be effective and focused on outcomes rather than simply on numbers of children served. The most effective intervention is implemented early in a child’s school career—before the cycle of failure is established. 

If you intervene to help readers who struggle, you want to do so in a way that will prevent further difficulties. The ability to observe and interpret reading behavior is foundational to effective teaching of struggling readers. Fountas and Pinnell talk extensively in their book, When Readers Struggle, about the essential experiences needed to support young children who find literacy difficult.

Ensure these essential literacy experiences daily: 

1. Talk—evaluate whether your students have enough time to talk with others and share their stories.

2. Texts—engage students in a large amount of continuous text from various genres that are of interest, are age/grade appropriate, and can be read with fluency and comprehension.

3. Teach—provide explicit, clear, effective instruction based on the observed behavior of your students.


A literate life is the right of every child—even (or especially) those who initially find it difficult. Excerpted and adapted from When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Works.