search navigation
March 23. 2018

FAQ Friday: Which LLI System Should I Use?

Q: Which Leveled Literacy Intervention System (LLI) should I use?

A: There are seven systems that make up LLI and span grades K through 12.

Primary Systems:

  • Orange System: levels A through E
  • Green System: levels A through K
  • Blue System: levels C through N

Intermediate Systems:

  • Red System: levels L through Q
  • Gold System: levels O through T

Middle/High School Systems:

  • Purple System: levels R through W
  • Teal System: level U through Z

There are specific Lesson Guides for each LLI System, and the systems are coordinated with the grade levels at which they will most likely be used; however, educators may make other decisions as they work to match the program to the needs of particular readers. The systems overlap in levels, but books and lessons for each system are unique, with no overlap of titles or lessons.

The LLI books have been written specifically for the intervention system. Written by children's authors and illustrated by high-quality artists, they are designed to provide engaging, age-appropriate material while at the same time offering increasingly sophisticated learning opportunities so that students can build a reading process over time.

March 15. 2018

Struggling Readers Need Intervention. They Need LLI.

It is midway through the year, and by now you might be observing that some of your students are falling behind their peers in reading. Even with many high-quality literacy opportunities, some students struggle with literacy learning and need intervention to get them back on track. The goal of Fountas & Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention System (LLI) is to give students the boost they need to read at the same level as their peers and fully benefit from classroom instruction.

What is LLI?

LLI is a rigorous, small-group, supplementary literacy intervention system for students who are not achieving grade-level expectations in reading and writing, and are not receiving another form of literacy intervention. The LLI systems are designed to bring students from the earliest level A (kindergarten level) to level Z, which represents the competencies needed at a middle and high school level.

How does LLI work?

LLI is based on the F&P Text Level Gradient™. Each level of text makes increasing demands on the reader, but the demands and resulting changes are gradual. By actively participating in intensive lessons on each level using original, authentic, high-quality books, readers have the opportunity to expand their reading and writing abilities. With the support of instruction, they stretch themselves to read more complex texts with accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. The goals of each lesson are taken from The Literacy Continuum—a must-have tool when using LLI because not only are the goals derived from there, but you can refer to it to determine where to take your students next. With these goals in mind, students effectively engage in the reading and writing process every day.

Does LLI work?

Recently the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has reviewed the research on LLI, finding positive impacts on general reading achievement for students in grades K–2. These findings are based on two independent, empirical studies conducted by The University of Memphis's Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP).

How long does LLI take?

Lessons must be frequent—five days a week is preferred—so that readers can gain and sustain momentum and acceleration is possible. For the greatest impact in short-term intervention, we recommend a teacher-to-student ratio of 1:3, 30 minutes per day for children in grades K–2 and a teacher-to-student ratio of 1:4, 45 minutes per day for students in grades 3–12. For the systems used in grades K–2, we estimate that success will be evident in 14 to 18 weeks, and 18 to 24+ weeks for the systems in grades 3–12.

Who administers LLI?

Providing excellent intervention lessons depends on the expertise of teachers. The teachers of struggling readers and writers should be exceptionally skilled in systematic observation, in the assessment of reading behaviors, and in teaching for the range of strategic actions that proficient readers use. All teachers of struggling readers (classroom and intervention teachers) need opportunities to continually increase their understanding of the reading and writing processes and the behavioral evidence that reveals competencies. The expert intervention teacher is able to make effective decisions that meet the diverse needs of students.

Remember that progress is not enough; struggling readers need to make faster progress than their peers, and that is the whole purpose of intervention. They may be disengaged or bored. They may work diligently at mechanical tasks that they do not connect in a lively way to real reading and writing. To be effective, the intervention lessons must incorporate everything we know about what students need to learn, especially those who are experiencing difficultly.

Join the fastest growing community in the field of literacy education. Get your free membership and stay up to date on the latest news and resources from Fountas and Pinnell at

For a well-organized, searchable archive of FAQs and discussions that are monitored by Fountas and Pinnell-trained consultants, go to our Discussion Board at 

For more collaborative conversation, join the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ Facebook Learning Group at
March 2. 2018

FAQ Friday: What Are the Main Differences Between the Intermediate and Primary LLI Systems?

Q: What are the main differences between the intermediate and primary Leveled Literacy Intervention Systems?

A: There are several differences as the Red System is the first in the series of Leveled Literacy Intervention systems designed specifically for intermediate, middle-level, and secondary-level students. See the research foundation paper at The Red, Gold, Purple and Teal systems are built on a foundation of research related to preadolescent and adolescent literacy that is reflected in the design of the lessons. Each color in the system is designed to provide high-interest books for the grade level. The books in the Red and Gold System are designed to appeal to students in grades 3 and 4. The books in the Purple and Teal System are designed to appeal to middle and high school students. Compared to the Orange, Green, and Blue systems, you will find a higher ratio of nonfiction texts (60%), and many are longer with additional nonfiction text features. The Red, Gold, Purple, and Teal System lessons are designed for daily 45-minute instruction and include a variety of instructional procedures that differ from the other systems. In addition, there is a novel study sequence at the end of every level with a four-lesson optional test preparation sequence in the intermediate and middle/high school systems. We believe you will find that the Red, Gold, Purple, and Teal systems increase the intensity of the instruction to meet the needs of students who may have been struggling with reading for a longer time and at the same time are challenged by higher-level text demands.
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.
February 13. 2018

9 Tips for Introducing New Words to Learn

As you help children learn new words, use some of the following teaching suggestions:

  1. Use language that makes it clear you are talking about a word (not a letter): “This word is [word].” (Some children confuse letters and words and may be focusing on only a part.)
  2. Encourage children to look at the beginning of the word and show them what that means.
  3. Read the word as you run your finger under it, left to right.
  4. Ask children to look closely at the word and say what they notice at the beginning.
  5. Ask children to look at the word and then read it as they run a finger under it, left to right.
  6. Use another word to help children remember a new word: an, and; the, then.
  7. Help children notice the first letter and then look across the word left to right to notice more.
  8. Give children magnetic letters in order to build the word left to right.
  9. Using magnetic letters, have children break a word by pulling down the first letter and then the rest of the letters. Then have them put it together again.

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.

February 9. 2018

FAQ Friday: What Is the Purpose of the Getting Started Lessons in LLI?

Q: What is the purpose of the Getting Started lessons in Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI)?

A: The 10 Getting Started books are pairings of lap books and student books used at the beginning of the LLI Orange and Green Systems to provide maximum support for children for whom the world of print is very new. The books are introduced and read using a shared reading approach: reading to, reading with, and then reading by the students. The goal of the Getting Started lessons is to help children become active, engaged learners and to build a foundation of early reading and writing behaviors. 

Since they are reading the books with such a high level of support, children are able to read levels A, B, C, and D. During this time they are exposed to multiple text features and literacy concepts in a small group setting. 

Then, following the Getting Started lessons in LLI Orange, children begin instruction at Level A. After having experienced higher-level books, they will have a great deal of confidence in their own ability as well as a strong foundation to begin to learn and practice strategic actions needed for the reading process.

The Getting Started lessons can be used for a variety of purposes: students who are instructional at level A, B or below, students who need high support in establishing early literacy concepts, English Language learners, students who need to get a strong fast review of early literacy concepts, students who need to establish routines, and older Special Education students who are reading at lower levels.