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September 12. 2017

How to Design Your Classroom to Build a Strong Community

Your classroom is a place where students learn how to read, write, and expand all of their language skills, but it is much more. It is a laboratory where they learn how to be confident, self-determined, kind, and democratic members of a community. The design of a classroom supports the building of community. Although the materials and organization of space will vary from grade to grade, here are 6 characteristics of classrooms that build strong communities.

  1. Welcoming and Inviting. Bright colors, beanbag chairs, and lamp all help to create a welcoming space. The intention is not to fill the room with furniture, but you do want to create a pleasant, comfortable place for students.
  2. Organized and Tidy. Clutter increases stress. The more organized the classroom, the more independent your students will become, the less of your time they will require, and the more time you will have for teaching. Materials should be clearly organized and labeled, and the work that takes place in each area should be visible at a glance.
  3. Rich with Materials. Fill your classroom with books, writing tools, art materials, manipulatives, references, computers, tablets, and other technological resources. This can be difficult criterion to meet because it depends on the resources of the school district. But, at least where books are concerned, you can increase their richness by visiting garage sales, checking out books from libraries, asking parents and friends to donate, writing for grants, and appealing to the business and social community.
  4. Includes Group Meeting Space. If you want to form a community, students must have a place to meet together and talk every day. For young children, a colorful rug with space enough to accommodate the class sitting on the floor in rows or in a circle. Older students can also sit on the floor in a circle or they can move chairs from their tables to make a circle in the same area.
  5. Includes Personal Space. Instead of individual desks, many teachers use tables or desks that can be combined in flexible ways. But students also need a personal space. If they do not have a desk, they can have a cubby or personal book box where they keep personal documents like a reader's notebook, writer's notebook, independent reading books, etc.
  6. Shows What is Valued. A classroom must be alive with student work. You can start the year with relatively blank walls because your students are going to fill them with a variety of products that show student input and student wrok. The greatest motivation you can give your students is to display their work. Change displays as the year progresses. And at the end of the year, let students take them home. You'll be starting again with a new group.

From Guiding 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.

September 7. 2017

Go Paperless with the Fountas & Pinnell Reading Record App

The Fountas & Pinnell Reading Record App is an efficient alternative to taking a reading record on paper. The app accurately analyzes reading and accuracy rate, self-correction ratio, and fluency and comprehension scores to reveal students’ progress, and the results sync wirelessly to the Online Data Management System.

In the video below, watch how the Fountas & Pinnell Reading Record App provides greater convenience for iPad® users taking assessments. 

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September 5. 2017

5 Tips for Conducting an Assessment Conference Efficiently

A key to an efficient conference is being organized, knowing where to begin the assessment, and moving the assessment along at a good pace. Here are some tips for conducting an assessment conference efficiently.
1. Make a schedule. It is a good idea to make a schedule for conducting your assessments. Be proactive. For example, plan to have two or three assessment conferences a day and complete all the assessments within two to three weeks. Don’t let the assessments drag out for weeks.
2. Find time by partnering up with a colleague
. Consider partnering up with a grade-level colleague so you can release each other to administer an assessment or two. For example, take turns reading aloud to both classes or taking both groups out for recess time. Think together about other opportunities that could enable both groups of students to engage in meaningful work together while you gain time for assessment conferences.
3. Organize materials for efficiency. Think about how to organize yourself for an efficient administration. Some examples are:
  • Organize the books by level in a pile.
  • If you are using paper, make several copies of each Recording Form, so you can quickly pull the form you need.
  • Have your Fountas & Pinnell Calculator/Stopwatch ready.

  • Make a list of start levels for each student. Use the student's reading information from last year to know where to start. You might also talk a minute with the student about what books he read over the summer to get a level indicator.
4. Go paperless. Using the Fountas & Pinnell Reading Record App will save you time and paper.
5. Move the conference along at a good pace. To do this, be sure to read all the books before you begin. Collect one book while handing over the next. The more assessments you give, the more familiar you will be with the prompts and the more efficient you will become when conferring.

Above all, plan ahead for efficient administration, and share these tips with your colleagues. The more you administer the BAS, the more efficient you will become.

September 1. 2017

Twitter Chat RECAP: The Power and Purpose of Assessment

On Thursday, August 31, Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell  hosted a Twitter Chat about The Power and Purpose of Assessment. People from all over the country logged in to share their thoughts about this important topic, just in time for the new school year! Followers engaged in a discussion about many different angles of assessment from how assessment informs moment-to-moment teaching decisions, to the importance of the continuous use of reading records in everyday instruction. Some favorite tweets included: 
Assessment is not teaching. It is gathering information for teaching. More...