October 18. 2016

October Twitter Chat on The Literacy Continuum

On Thursday, October 13th, authors Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell hosted a Twitter chat on The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum: A Tool for Assessment, Planning, and Teaching. People from all over the world chimed in to discuss The Literacy Continuum and its role in schools as a road map for literacy acquisition. Read on to see how this essential tool benefits classroom teachers, administrators, and coaches. See how these educators use The Literacy Continuum in student observation, which informs responsive teaching. Gain tips on different ways people are using it in the classroom in conjunction with other tools, such as Reader's Notebooks, sticky notes, etc. to enhance their teaching. See how teachers are using The Literacy Continuum for planning instruction that directly meets the needs of the students.  

The best way to describe The Literacy Continuum is as a road map. It tells you what behaviors and understandings to look for during student observation. Your observations tell you where their literacy skills sit on the "map," which will lead you to the correct route to take for the next step in instruction. 

Join us on November 17 at 8:00 p.m. EST for our next Twitter Chat on Guided Reading, Second Edition. 



October 13. 2016

What are the Systems of Strategic Actions?

*This is the first in a series of blogs about The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum. In order to understand The Literacy Continuum it is essential to understand the Systems of Strategic Actions. Read on to learn more.

While we read books, magazines, blogs, etc., our brains are subconsciously and simultaneously performing a variety of in-the-head actions in order to understand the text in front of us. We notice words we haven’t heard before or understood. We form opinions. We predict what might happen next. Word solving, predicting, and critiquing are just three of the twelve Systems of Strategic Actions that are simultaneously happening in our heads while we’re processing a text.


 

Take a moment to look at the image above. Fountas and Pinnell have developed this Systems of Strategic Actions (SOSA) wheel to illustrate the thinking readers are engaged in as they process texts. Whether you’re a beginning reader or a seasoned reader, all twelve systems are in use. These cognitive systems are assembled and reassembled in the head as readers move from the easiest texts up a ladder of increasingly difficult texts. The demands of the instructional level text give readers opportunities to learn new ways of problem-solving that in turn builds the processing network.

With appropriate text opportunities and effective teaching, readers will continue to construct their in-the-head processing systems as they move across the grades and into adulthood. Below is a breakdown of these Systems of Strategic Actions.

Thinking Within the Text

Thinking within the text refers to searching for and using information, monitoring and self-correcting, solving words, maintaining fluency, adjusting, and summarizing for purposes and genre of text.  By engaging in these strategic actions, readers acquire a literal understanding of the text—“what is happening” or “the facts.” “Most of the time, these actions are unconscious. You don’t mentally tell yourself, ‘Now, I have to search for information.’ You just do it when prompted by internal questions. When studying for a test, for example, you might consciously remember details or a summary, but most of the time, you simply understand the text and recall the information automatically. Since you do not need to pay attention to the processing, your mind can be working on something else,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2009).  As a teacher, you can gather information about the first five systems of strategic actions by observing reading behavior.

Thinking Beyond the Text

Thinking beyond the text means bring your own thinking TO the understanding in a variety of ways.  Readers make predictions.  They make connections with personal experience, content knowledge, and other texts.  They synthesize new information, which requires differentiating between what they already know and adjusting that fund of knowledge to accommodate the new information they encounter in the text.  Readers  infer what is implied but not stated. “Again, you do not consciously understand these actions; they happen while you are reading. Much of your comprehension of a text comes not from the print itself but from what you bring to the reading. Anyone who has been a member of a book club knows that every person in the group has a slightly different interpretation of the text. These variations in interpretation are quite valuable when they are shared—everyone’s thinking is enriched,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2009).  As a teacher you can gain evidence of your students’ ability to think beyond the text by listening to their talk about it and examining their writing.

Thinking About the Text

Thinking about the text means examining it closely and in an analytic way.  Readers notice and analyze the writer’s craft and appreciate or criticize something about the writing. “When you say, ‘Amy Tan is one of my favorite writers,’ you are indicating that you like her style, the subjects she writes about, the way she organizes and tells a story, her choice of language, and so on. You are holding up the text as an object to be admired. Similarly, you might question the accuracy or authenticity of a text or be critical of the author’s motives or qualifications. Sometimes analyzing and critiquing are conscious efforts, especially if you plan to talk about the text with others; but just as often, they are unconscious. Proficient readers think analytically and critically all the time while they are reading,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2009).  Evidence of students’ ability to think about the text may be found in their talk and writing.

Through closely observing your students during oral reading, talk, or writing you can see the evidence of their control of all twelve systems. The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum shows you what behaviors you should be noticing and teaching for at each grade or level. Each behavior is categorized into one of the Systems of Strategic Actions, to help teachers make decisions during shared reading, interactive read-aloud, and guided reading lessons, as well as writing about reading.

“The common thread is that most children acquire a fully developed literacy processing system that grows and expands over the years. It is helpful to have in mind a clear picture of what effective readers do as they build their systems so we can think about what all readers need to be able to do,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2009).

Jill Backman, Fountas and Pinnell Marketing Manager

Join #FPLiteracy on Thursday, 10/13 at 8:00 p.m. EST for a LIVE Twitter Chat with @fountaspinnell   

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 www.fountasandpinnell.com 

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 www.fountasandpinnell.com/forum 

For more collaborative conversation, join the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ Facebook Learning Group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/FountasPinnell/ 

References:

When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Works. © 2009 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

September 23. 2016

What is a level and how can I make it work for me?

Levels of books are more complex than they seem.  The gradations of complexity from one level to the next are subtle, but significant.  Understanding levels and how they work takes time and practice. But it can be done! Here is an explanation to lay the foundation for learning the intricacies behind the levels and how you can use them to make your teaching efficient.

What are levels? 


First, look at the F&P Text Level Gradient ™. This gradient of reading difficulty was created and refined by Fountas and Pinnell as a teaching and assessment tool over the past thirty years. Each of the twenty-six points on the F&P Text Level Gradient ™, from easiest at level A to hardest at level Z, represents a small but significant increase in difficulty over the previous text level. (There is a level Z+ on our website, which refers to the highly complex texts, many of which contain very mature subject matter that students read in high school and college. But for our purposes here, let’s just look at A to Z.) Each level is made up of a composite of ten text characteristics that increase slightly in complexity as you move up the level. The ten text characteristics are:

  • genre 
  • text structure
  • content 
  • themes and ideas 
  • language and literary features 
  • sentence complexity 
  • vocabulary 
  • words 
  • illustrations
  • book and print features 

A great way to learn the specific characteristics of texts at each level and see how they increase in complexity is to get your hands on The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum www.fountasandpinnell.com/continuum. It’s all in there.

Uses of the text gradient

OK, so now you know what levels are and how they make up a gradient of text. How can the levels help in your classroom teaching? “A gradient of text is a powerful tool for you as a teacher. It helps you in the very challenging task of selecting texts that will challenge your readers and offer them opportunities to learn (Fountas and Pinnell 2017).” You can organize your leveled texts in magazine boxes or baskets from easiest to hardest. If you have a school book room, organize it by level, which will make selecting and using books easier for all your colleagues. But you want your students to choose books the way readers do—by author, topic, genre, and general interest—not by level. So, in classroom libraries (and school libraries) you don’t want the level to be a criterion or even visible. But more on that later. A nifty tool for looking up a book’s level is by accessing the Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Books Website www.fandpleveledbooks.com. You can look up the titles and it will tell you the level, genre, and much more. Easy.

How do I know my students’ reading levels?

Begin with a benchmark assessment to learn your students’ instructional book level so you can group them and begin teaching www.fountasandpinnell.com/bas. Once you begin teaching, observe your students and notice their reading behaviors. There are specific behaviors to look for at each level that change slightly as you move up the F&P Text Level Gradient ™.  Students start at the instructional level, a level that offers some challenge, but not too much. Once they demonstrate good control of most of the behaviors and understandings at the level, move up a level to introduce more and new challenge opportunities for learning.

“A gradient of text is not a precise sequence of texts through which all readers pass. Books are leveled in approximate groups from which teachers choose for instruction. The teacher who recognizes the convenience of the gradient yet reminds herself of its limitations will be able to make good choices and test her decisions against children’s behaviors while reading and talking about texts (Fountas and Pinnell 2017).” Below is a figure that sums up what a text gradient is and is not.

So back to the aforementioned warning about not letting your students know at what level they’re reading. They may notice some levels on books (and as students grow more sophisticated, they will realize that some books are harder than others to read); but assure them that these markings are helpful to teachers but not important in choosing books. Teach them to evaluate a book for themselves. “It is destructive to measure their own progress by “moving up levels.” This does not provide the real motivation that consuming and talking about texts would (Fountas and Pinnell 2017).” To put it simply: a level is a teacher’s tool, NOT a child’s label.

Log in next week to learn more on that topic and how to avoid using levels as labels for students.


Jill Backman

Fountas & Pinnell Marketing Manager


References:

Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades, Second Edition. © 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

September 14. 2016

What is New in Benchmark Assessment System 1 and 2, Third Edition? Can I Use Second Edition Materials with the Third Edition?


Here we are again with another new edition! I assure you we are not trying to make you all crazy. The fact is: Fountas and Pinnell always have their fingers on the pulse of what is happening in our schools. They always want to know what’s working and what’s not working. What’s trending and what’s going out of style. And on top of it all they are always revising and they are ALWAYS working! (Just ask our editors here at Heinemann who are on the brink of insanity.) So when they saw that there was room for refinement in the Benchmark Assessment Systems it couldn’t go unaddressed.

What is Different?

Perhaps the most significant differences in the third edition are the new comprehension conversation rubrics and the more detailed assessment guidelines. Fountas and Pinnell have been able to observe many teachers administer and score the comprehension conversations with BAS, Second Edition through their work in schools over the last few years. “It became clear that gaining strong behavioral evidence of understanding using talk as evidence was new or unfamiliar to many teachers,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2016).  Because many teachers weren’t getting the ongoing professional development needed in standardized administration and scoring, Fountas and Pinnell decided they needed to offer more guidance. The goal is for teachers to achieve consistency. “The new guidelines and rubric will enable teachers to sharpen their observation of students’ reading behaviors and strengthen the connection from assessment to instruction,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2016).

Other changes to note are:

Updated Assessment Guide and Recording Forms

All new Professional Development and Tutorial Videos

Inclusion of the new The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum

Updated leveled books that include factual revisions to some nonfiction books and minor revisions to some fiction books

Recording Forms, summary forms, optional assessments, and videos will be available in one place on the Fountas & Pinnell Online Resources 

Updated Online Data Management System (ODMS) to accommodate both BAS, 2e and 3rd edition scoring

Updated BAS Reading Record App.


Can I use a mix of materials from the Benchmark Assessment 2nd and 3rd editions?

No, unfortunately. Changes have been made to both the Benchmark Books and the Recording Forms in the third edition. So using the two editions will not work because the text of the book and the text on the form will not always match, which will affect your ability to score a reader’s accuracy.

It’s also important to note that because of the modifications to the scoring rubrics, it is essential for all classrooms and teachers to be using the same edition. Maintaining consistency in assessment protocols within schools and across districts is critical. Some schools may not be ready to transition to the new edition, however, or have recently purchased the second edition shortly before the third edition was published. Heinemann does offer some solutions. Please contact your local sales representative to explore your options.  The second edition is still a reliable resource for teachers, but we urge you to learn more about the choices that are available.

They key word here is refinement. “With refinement comes reflection. Reflect on your assessment analysis and observations, and engage in a discussion with colleagues to plan rich and comprehensive literacy experiences that meet learners where they are and bring them forward with intention and precision,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2016).

Jill Backman

Fountas & Pinnell Marketing Manager


Join #FPLiteracy on Thursday, 9/15 at 8:00 p.m. EST for a LIVE Twitter Chat with @fountaspinnell   


Explore the Benchmark Assessment Systems 1 and 2, Third Edition at www.fountasandpinnell.com/bas

 

Join the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ Facebook Learning Group for more collaborative conversation at https://www.facebook.com/groups/FountasPinnell/