Guided Reading for Reading Recovery, Balanced Literacy, and Special Needs Students

While not developed specifically for Reading Recovery®, balanced literacy, and special needs students, teaching systems such as Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) and the Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) are often used with them. The effetiveness of reading and literacy development programs is determined by the ongoing interaction between the student, the instructor, and the instruction being presented. Fountas & Pinnell teaching systems combine research-based instructional models with developmentally-appropriate reading materials and a common language of instruction to assure that students' learning experiences are consistent and well-structured - regardless of who is doing the teaching.

Here are answers to questions about using guided reading instruction and assessment with Reading Recovery, balanced literacy, and special needs student populations.

**If you would like to present your own findings or opinions on this topic, please feel free to contribute to the Balanced Literacy, Reading Recovery, and Special Needs forum hosted by Heinemann Publishing.

Question: I am a Reading Recovery trained teacher and as I watched the video of the program, it looks like RR for groups. After teaching RR for 10 years, I went back into the classroom as a kdg. teacher. I adapted my training in RR to teach to small groups with much success.

Answer: The design of the reading Recovery Lesson and the design of the LLI lesson are different, though they are both built on Clay`s complex theory of the reading process. As you know, when you work with a small group you must address broader needs and use techniques that build on the group interaction. You will see some similar instructional procedures that we have identified as highly effective with low-achieving readers such as the sound and letter boxes form the Russian psychologist Elkonin. You will also find many other instructional procedures that are very different from Reading Recovery. You may be interested in reading a paper we wrote on this subject called “The Advantages of Using Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) and Reading Recovery® Together to Serve More Low-Achieving Children in Schools.”


Question: LLI and Balanced Literacy – How do they mesh? Our county is moving into a Balanced Literacy framework, guided by the principles in your publications. We fortunately have teachers and literacy coaches who have been trained as Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative teachers to help us think through our learning and implementation. Will the LLI framework provide the same sort of theory and implementation so that our EIP and Special Ed children not be involved in a different framework - very concerned for our first grade kids!

Answer: The LLI teaching will fit well with the theoretical foundation of Literacy Collaborative and Reading Recovery and will be highly effective with second language learners and many special education students. There may be a few special education students who after evaluation may need a specialized approach that differs from LLI. For more information on this subject, you may want to read a paper we wrote on LLI and Reading Recovery.


Question: I have heard that LLI is being used with SPED students. Is there a research article available that summarizes these results? How the pacing of the lessons may differ, etc? Is there any data out there for use with ELL students?

Answer: LLI is not especially designed for SPED although many SPED teachers are finding it very helpful. At this time, LLI is so new that we do not have results on its use with SPED students, however we are in the process of collecting data from a number of districts and will soon have reports to share on our website in the LLI Research and Data Collection area. Informal reports from SPED teachers indicate that their students do make good gains and that they are able to use the lessons as designed. For most, the pacing is about the same although some teachers report that they provide more lessons on a level. This is easy to do by using both Green and Blue Systems or by using the framework with more leveled books that are teacher selected.


Question: We are working with a group of 3 special ed students. They have come out of a self contained program to a mainstreamed class. We are providing reading service to them. We did the benchmark assessment and they came out at level J. We are using LLI with them. We are finding that they are reading fluently at that level, but the comprehension is limited. They did level J last year in the blue kit and know have completed the green level J lessons with limited comprehension. Where should we proceed next?

Answer: Are you are using the Recording Forms from LLI to evaluate the comprehension conversation? When you see the children are having continued difficulty with comprehension it is important to first think about the teaching in the lessons. How well are you introducing the texts? Are you helping them think within, beyond, and about the text? How effective is your discussion?
We would also refer you to Chapter 17 in When Readers Struggle for many specific suggestions for improving comprehension. This book is included in your LLI system.

Ultimately, if you decide you need to spend more time at the level pull in more level J books from your leveled book library and use the LLI lesson structure and the Continuum goals for guided reading included in your lesson guide to plan for your lessons.


Question: I recently attended your LLI training in Houston and am planning on implementing the systems in our school. I am the principal of a school that serves many students who find literacy learning difficult. I am wondering if you would recommend using a lesson structure in guided reading groups that is similar to the odd/even structure of the LLI lessons. I think there is an advantage to having a Reading Recovery teacher return to the classroom so that RR strategies can be used with more children in the classroom. I wonder if using the LLI lesson structure(s) in guided reading would also enhance student growth.

Answer: We do not recommend the LLI format for classroom groups. Guided reading is a powerful structure for children`s literacy learning in groups in the regular classroom program. In the guided reading lesson, the teacher does use the same facilitative language we discussed related to strategic activities. The language is not specific to Reading Recovery™ or LLI. The Prompting Guide we used is a tool for all literacy teachers. The theoretical knowledge that underlies Reading Recovery, LLI, and guided reading is similar. However, the LLI structure is more intense for the lowest achieving children.


Question: Is LLI an appropriate program for use with students labeled as having the characteristics of dyslexia? Dyslexia is a term I do not see in the body of your work nor that of Marie Clay, at least that I can find. However, school districts are bound by law in our state to provide programs for dyslexia. There are strict guidelines and specific tests, such as the GORT and CTOPP, used for diagnosis. The typical dyslexia program in the surrounding school districts seem to be phonics-based programs which I shall not name. I, along with many of my reading facilitators, am Reading Recovery trained. I feel that the LLI kits are very well suited and more well-balanced for most students who receive the dyslexia diagnosis. I found one blog entry in which you spoke about the IEP and making sure the kit matched the accommodations prescribed. The guidelines in our state dyslexia guide provide for students to be categorized dyslexic in RtI Tier 3. Only if a student does not make adequate progress in 18 weeks is he tested for Special Education. The 504 guidelines also give leeway to label a child dyslexic in Tier 2. Could you please comment to the extent you can on how your program works with students who have the label as well as your own understanding of dyslexia?

Answer: Dyslexia is an umbrella term that covers a variety of learning disabilities. LLI was not specifically designed to meet the needs of students who have been tested and determined to have learning disabilities and been given an I.E.P. In general, it is an early intervention designed to be used when the teacher`s assessment shows that the student has difficulty and is not able to meet grade level standards. It`s broad base allows for acceleration across reading, writing, and phonics, and the combination of research-based instructional actions meets the needs of most students.

LLI can be used with learning disabled students after a team meets and determines that the components of LLI are consistent with the student`s I.E.P. Many students have been served in this category.


Question: I am a reading intervention teacher and I have enjoyed using the LLI programs with my 1st and 2nd grade struggling readers this year I have seen much progress. My district has decided that pulling groups out of the classroom is a no-no and that coteaching is the way to go for next year.

Answer: Your district is setting up a completely different delivery design than the one suggested for LLI, so it is a problem. We believe skipping around to different groups and giving struggling readers only occasional help will not have instructional power and is not supported by research.

It is a little hard to understand exactly what will be happening. Will there be two teachers in the classroom at the same time for a morning or a day? Or, will you move from class to class taking groups? LLI has been very successfully used in a "corner" or small designated space in a classroom so that children do not leave. It seems a major challenge you have is in providing a sequence of lessons that allow children to build momentum. You might try to make a case for the most struggling readers to have at least four lessons per week (realizing that you will not get the acceleration possible with five lessons) With two teachers present, you would be able to allow 30 minutes. Perhaps you could present your administrator with a systematic plan that allows for you to do the co-teaching they want and at the same time work intensively with one or two groups. It will be very important to collect student data and analyze it.

If all of this fails, be sure to gather your results from this year and prepare a concise written report that also includes how you implemented LLI. This is a responsible thing to do in any case and you will have a written record that you can come back to as you evaluate results for next year.


Question: I would like to know more about why this reading program is not designed for students w/ dyslexia. Is it designed for students w/ language learning disabilities? Thanks. Is any part of the Fountas Pinnell reading program specifically designed for dyslexia/language learning disabled children?

Answer (submitted by the Fountas & Pinnell Team): Although Fountas & Pinnell programs such as BAS and LLI are not specifically designed for students with autism/dyslexia or other learning disabilities, many people do use them in such circumstances. (see this forum thread for an example). Some research has been done on using guided reading with autistic children (this article, for example), but for the most part the programs are used in regular education classrooms. While many people use Fountas & Pinnell guided reading programs for special needs students, there hasn't yet been a large-scale study on this topic, and the programs themselves are not specifically designed for special needs populations.

All evidence available at this time indicates that the instructional principles of guided reading are appropriate for use with special needs students, and this is something that Fountas & Pinnell hope to address more closely in their upcoming work.

Here are a few more articles that you might find helpful:
Supporting Literacy With Guided Reading
Strategies for Teaching Reading to Visual Learners
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) also has several articles on using guided reading with special needs students, but many of them are available to members only.