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Teacher Tip Tuesday

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 23. 2018

Teacher Tip: 5 Effective Practices for Teaching with Text Sets

A text set is a collection of two or more books that can be connected because they have common features. They connect books in a way that helps students build specific understandings from book to book. Here are five effective practices for teaching with text sets:

  • Texts are versatile. A single text can be part of many different sets. A text set need not be a static collection. 
  • After students experience a text set, encourage them to suggest other titles that are connected. 
  • Keep lists of potential text sets rather than assembling them physically to allow more flexibility in how you use individual books. If you have a list, and a system for storing books for quick retrieval, text sets can easily be assembled when needed. 
  • Keep an eye out for new titles to add to your text sets. 
  • Pull from text sets clear examples of particular characteristics for reading and writing minilessons.

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 17. 2018

Teacher Tip: Conduct a Self-Assessment to Elevate Your Teaching

Take the time to reflect on your teaching. Select one instructional setting a week and analyze: How did it go? How did students respond? What shifts in learning are you confident that took place? Don’t get mired in the details or expect to do everything perfectly, but notice whether you and your students are beginning to handle routines smoothly and automatically, leaving more time for rich talk and thinking. Call in a colleague to observe, and talk through your self-assessment with her. 

For the purpose of guided reading, we include a Self-Assessment for Guided Reading on p.590 of Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades and in Online Resources (resources.fountasandpinnell.com). It is comprehensive, but you can select one or only a few areas at a time. We also include a simpler and more abbreviated self-reflection form (Self-Assessment: Getting Started with Guided Reading). In our other professional books and on our website, you will find many such tools to support your continuous learning. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of self-reflection and professional development is the talk and problem solving that takes place between colleagues as a result.

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.

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.

April 2. 2018

Teacher Tip: Have Children Match and Sort Letters

Children's first efforts at matching and sorting may be with letters of different shapes or colors, but they can soon learn to sort letters, match letters, find letters with features in common such as tails, circles, short sticks, tall sticks, tunnels, dots, capitals, and so on. Their time spent sorting letters in a myriad of ways is essential to learning how to look at print in the early levels. They need to develop fast, flexible recognition of letters. Begin with just a few letters rather than all twenty-six, and concentrate on the lowercase letters and get the children to develop speed in matching or sorting.

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.

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 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 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 27. 2018

Teacher Tip: How to Use The Literacy Continuum with Leveled Literacy Intervention

At the end of each level in the Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) Lesson Guides, you will find pages from The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum: A Tool for Assessment, Planning, and Teaching to help monitor progress and guide your teaching. It lists specific behaviors and understandings that are required for children to read successfully at that level. These behaviors and understandings are accumulative across the levels. They include important competencies children need to think within, beyond, and about texts. In other words, children take on new demands as the texts grow more challenging.

The LLI lessons are designed to support the goals listed in The Literacy Continuum. Your goal should be to help children meet the demands of successive levels of text and, in the process, expand their systems of strategic actions. The following suggestions may contribute to effective teaching in your lessons:

  • In advance of the lesson, read the new book with The Literacy Continuum goals in mind. 
  • Think about what your children can do, and then find behaviors and understandings that they control, partially control, or do not yet control. 
  • Read the introduction to the text and teaching points for the lesson, keeping in mind the processing needs of the readers. Make any adjustments you think are necessary to meet their needs. 
  • Look at the Phonics/Word Work and at the additional suggestions provided on The Literacy Continuum pages, and make any adjustments you feel are necessary for your group. 
  • As you near the end of a level, look at what the readers now control and what they need to know to successfully process texts at this level. 
  • As the readers grow more proficient and reading becomes easy at the level, look ahead to the The Literacy Continuum pages for the next higher level. You may find new understandings or more complex versions of the same understandings.
From Leveled Literacy Intervention Orange System Guide, Second Edition by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (C) 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.