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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

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March 9. 2018

Why the Comprehension Conversation is Critical to Assessment

Students' talk reveals their thinking, which helps you know them as learners. One-on-one assessment is a great time to talk with students to learn their thinking, because what they're thinking will inform your instruction. Without talking to them and learning where they are, there's no way to know how to bring them forward. It's for this reason that the Comprehension Conversation is vital to assessment.

The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System stands out from other assessment systems because it incorporates a rigorous and important Comprehension Conversation. The purpose of this Comprehension Conversation is to enable teachers to sharpen their observation of students' reading behaviors by hearing their thinking through talk and strengthen the connection from assessment to instruction. Here's how.

Reading is complex

Reading is a highly complex process that requires students to bring together their own knowledge with the print on the page. When students read, they use in-the-head systems of strategic actions to process texts, flexibly integrating many different kinds of information in order to construct meaning. You cannot see strategic actions, but you are able to observe reading behaviors and infer what readers are able to do as they think their way through a text. Students' talk during the BAS Comprehension Conversation reveals their thinking.

How it works

In Part 1 of the BAS assessment, the student reads aloud a precisely leveled fiction or nonfiction book while the teacher observes and notes the reader's behaviors. In Part 2, the teacher conducts a conversation with the reader to determine how well he or she comprehended the text; beyond a simple retelling. This unique approach not only gathers data about what students understand about a text, but it also provides an opportunity for teachers to get to know their students-a valuable use of time, especially at the start of the school year. During the conversation, teachers will prompt the student, but the goal is to have a flow of back-and-forth talk, with the student doing as much of the talking as possible. It is in these conversations that the student's thinking is revealed.

Key understandings

Key understandings that the teacher should look for during the Comprehension Conversation are provided in Part 2 of the assessments. These key understandings are based on the goals and behaviors from The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum. The twelve systems of strategic actions are clustered into three categories that encompass how readers construct meaning as they process a text: thinking within, beyond, and about the text. So while you are giving the assessment you can note which of the understandings the students pinpoint and which ones they don't.

What next?

Now that you've identified in which areas the student needs instruction, you can weave that into your teaching. Since the goals and understandings that you've identified come from The Literacy Continuum, it would be ideal to also have instructional material that also aligns with those goals. For those students who may need extra instruction, the Leveled Literacy Intervention System is a good option as the goals in each lesson are taken from The Literacy Continuum. And for your small-group and whole-group instruction, as well as partner and individual work the lessons in Fountas & Pinnell Classroom™ are designed around the goals in The Literacy Continuum.

Reading is thinking, and a student's talk about what they've read is evidence of that thinking. Skilled observation of literacy behaviors enables teachers to understand how their students can "think their way" through a text. The Benchmark Assessment System Comprehension Conversation is a key tool for gaining this behavioral evidence of students' thinking.

March 1. 2018

Nurture Young Learners' Curiosity Through Inquiry

All children need the opportunity for play and inquiry. We must remember that children, especially prekindergarteners, learn through play. Inquiry is the kind of focused play you do when pursuing a topic of interest. A rich and joyful early literacy environment in which reading, writing, and talking are part of play, often become play.

With two kinds of inquiry--information seeking and wondering--children are immersed in constructive learning that results in an exciting, meaningful expansion of knowledge that continues through life.

Information Seeking

In this type of inquiry, we engage others or use artifacts and other resources to figure something out or build new understandings. We problem solve, pose real questions, interact with others, and are motivated to find out. We ask questions that can be answered or identify a problem, make a plan and take action, gather resources, analyze and summarize our information, and draw conclusions or report findings. Information seeking usually results in a product, an answer, and a closure.


When we wonder, we seek questions and examine alternative factors. The goal is often the pleasure of the process itself-speculating, asking more questions, sharing insights that are only possibilities. Using open-ended questions is important with prekindergarteners. Using thoughtful language as we teach is crucial to helping stimulate children's thinking.

Play enhances language and literacy learning. When your teaching is inquiry-oriented, you enable young children to learn how to learn, investigate and discover new understandings, and pose wonderings about the possibilities. They learn about choice, how to work in groups, and most of all, how to direct their energies to activate engagement that stimulates the intellect.

For more information about inquiry, be sure to read Fountas & Pinnell's Literacy Beginnings: A Prekindergarten Handbook.

~The Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ Team 

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

February 23. 2018

RECAP: Text. Talk. Teach. Twitter Chat with Fountas and Pinnell

On Thursday, February 22, Fountas and Pinnell hosted a Twitter Chat on the importance of fostering talk in the classroom. Below is a recap of that chat. Talking is thinking. Learn about the different ways in which you can offer your students valuable opportunities to express their thinking through TALK.
February 22. 2018

Ask Meli! February, 2018

Meli has been so busy reading all of your wonderful letters! She loves hearing from each and every one of you, and can tell that you have been practicing your reading and writing.

This month, Meli answers letters from her friends in Burleson, Texas.

Dear Meli,

Q: Hi my name is Melanie. I am in 2nd grade. I love your books. When is your birthday? Who is your best friend? What is your favorite toy? Love Melanie

: Hi Melanie! Thank you for your letter! My favorite toy is my red ball! I love my rubber chicken too! Woof! -Meli More...

February 15. 2018

Opportunities to Foster Thoughtful Talk

Students’ talk reflects their thinking. When students talk about what they are reading, they reveal their understandings and perspectives; communicate and refine their ideas; make meaning from texts; and make connections to their own experiences. Thoughtful talk is a treasure trove of information that will help inform your teaching.

Students need robust opportunities for varied talk structures within many different instructional contexts. Here are some settings in which you can foster those opportunities! More...