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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 16. 2016

Twitter Chat: A Conversation on Benchmark Assessment Systems 1 and 2, Third Edition

As the new school year begins, so do the monthly Fountas & Pinnell Twitter Chats. On Thursday night, September 15, 2016, the Fountas & Pinnell learning community joined Gay and Irene for "A Conversation on Benchmark Assessment Systems 1 and 2, Third Edition." Below is the transcript of the conversation. You can follow us on Twitter here: @FountasPinnell and if you’re wondering how to get started on Twitter and how to participate in a chat, check out this free resource from Heinemann on Twitter for Educators. All of our chats follow the hashtag #FPLiteracy

Before you begin reading about the chat, some thoughts from Gay and Irene about Benchmark Assessment: 

  • If assessment does not result in improved teaching then its value in school diminishes greatly. 
  • Meet students where they are and bring them forward with intention and precision. 
  • Assessment is not teaching; it is gathering information for teaching.  
  • The ability to observe, analyze, and interpret reading behavior is foundational to effective teaching. 
  • The interpretation and use of benchmark data are more important than the scores themselves.




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/

September 1. 2016

What’s New in Guided Reading, Second Edition? It’s not a revision…it has been re-envisioned.


You’ve had your trusty white-covered copy of Guided Reading on your shelf for years. Its frayed edges and bent pages from constant referencing have made it difficult to jam in between other books. You’ve even written your name in black marker across the cover to deter potential thievery. It’s a familiar friend. And now there’s a new edition?! What?! Don’t panic. Your friend is still as inspiring as ever. This is not a revision to a classic text, but rather… it has been RE-envisioned.

 

While this second edition is a completely new text, the “nuts and bolts” of how to use guided reading are still there. There are many new changes, but we’ve listed the key differences below.

 

More Emphasis on Responsive Teaching

One of the most important differences in the second edition is the extra emphasis on responsive teaching. It’s even in the subtitle, “Responsive Teaching Across the Grades.” What is “responsive teaching” you ask?  “It is the observation and analysis of the students’ reading behaviors that informs your next teaching moves. No matter how well you plan and structure learning tasks, it’s the one-on-one interactions that inform the power and effectiveness in your teaching,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2017). Responsive teaching is about teachers knowing their students well and knowing how to better teach them.

 

A Multi-text Approach to Teaching

Guided reading is important. We know that. But it isn’t the only instruction students need on a daily basis. In this edition, Fountas and Pinnell emphasize that guided reading should be embedded within a coherent literacy system, which means teaching that ranges from high teacher support, like interactive read-aloud and shared reading, all the way to independent reading. “Small-group instruction is more powerful when nested within a variety of instructional contexts with varying levels of support,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2017).

 

A Focus on Creating a Community of Learners

One of the goals of this new edition is to get teachers to not only treat the classroom as a place to learn to read, write, and expand language skills, but to create a community of learners. “It is a laboratory where they learn how to be confident, self-determined, kind, and democratic,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2017). This new edition provides teachers with a list of behavioral and emotional expectations to look for in students. If students are not displaying these behaviors, teachers can provide numerous opportunities to help build them up and develop a sense of agency.

 

Support for Teaching in a Diverse Classroom

Fountas and Pinnell believe that there is an increasing need to prepare our children to become global citizens. Throughout this new edition there are many references that show teachers how to support English language learners by addressing the unique ways they can adjust their teaching to serve these students well.

 

Examples of Student-teacher Interactions

While students are learning a new topic, it is helpful for them to see demonstrations on how it is done. It is also helpful for us adults sometimes. For that reason, Fountas and Pinnell have provided many helpful examples of student-teacher interactions within guided reading groups in a clearly laid-out chart form.

 

New, Super Pretty, Colorful Book Features

There are over 100 full-color spreads of guided reading books, example charts, classroom photos, and more that punctuate the teachings throughout this new book. It’s just plain stunning. 

 

So yes…it’s a whole new book. It’s a beautifully-written, clearly presented, colorful, important new edition of your old companion. The world has changed and so has the thinking surrounding small-group instruction. “Change is not good or bad—it’s simply inevitable,” (Fountas and Pinnell 2017).

 

Jill Backman

Fountas & Pinnell Marketing Manager

 

Explore the NEW Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades at http://www.fountasandpinnell.com/guidedreading/

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

 

References

Fountas, I.C. & Pinnell, G.S. (2017). Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades, Second Edition. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

 

August 29. 2016

Making Your Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) Conferences Efficient and Informative

This is the time of year for getting to know each of your new students as unique individuals in your classroom community. Your BAS conference is a wonderful opportunity to spend a short time with each child to get a big payoff.

Think about the following tips as they may help you establish more efficient and informative BAS conferences with your students.

Making a Schedule
It’s 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.

Finding Time
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.

Conducting the 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. When you start with a text that is easy, but not too easy for the student to read, the next book will likely be an instructional level. The third book read will likely be hard. As soon as the data shows the text is hard, you stop the assessment.
Think about how to organize yourself for an efficient administration. Organize the books by level in a pile. If you are using the iPad application, you will be paperless. If you are using paper, make several copies of each Recording Form, so you can quickly pull the form you need. Have your F&P Calculator/Stopwatch ready.
Use last year’s reading information to know where to start. Make a list of start levels for each student. You might also talk a minute with the student about what books he read over the summer to get a level indicator. In any case, you can talk to last year’s teacher.

Move the conference along at a good pace. 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 you can move along at a good pace.

Learning More
The more you administer the BAS, the more efficient you will become. If the students read fluently, the assessment will be shorter. The goal is for the student to read one easy book with fluency, one instructional level book with fluency, and only part of one book that is hard.

Plan ahead for an efficient administration. And share tips for efficiency with your colleagues.

Our best to you as you start a new year.

-Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell.

August 15. 2016

The Art and Science of Responsive Literacy Teaching


by Irene Fountas

What really matters for each child in his journey of reading development is your response to his attempts to process a text. When you respond precisely to the reader’s observable behaviors, you can meet the child where he is and lead him forward.

Clay helped us understand that when we notice and build on a reader’s strengths instead of targeting deficits, our teaching can be highly effective in building the student’s agency and independence. Each child’s response is often not simply right or wrong but “partially correct” (Clay, 300-301).  For example when a child reads “stairs” for “steps,” he made a meaningful attempt that fits the syntax and has letters that look similar. It is too simplistic to say it is wrong.

Think about the reader’s logic each time you notice a reading error. Think about what information the child used to make the attempt and how you can expand what the child can do to make sure the attempt makes sense, sounds right and looks right. For example, use language like the following:
•    “That makes sense, but does it look right?”
•    “That looks right but does it make sense?”
•    “You are almost right. Check the middle.”

Gay and I have explored the effects of teacher language in facilitating the reader’s construction of problem-solving behaviors in working through a text. The teacher’s “facilitative language” promotes the reader’s thinking. As a reading teacher, we encourage you to eliminate judgmental comments like, “nice work” or “good job” and replace the comments with language that confirms the reader’s precise reading behaviors and enable him to develop new ways of thinking.

When you teach in this way, every time a child reads a book, you have the opportunity to support their construction of an effective literacy processing system. Instead of teaching your student “how to read this book,” your student will learn “how to read.” We refer to this as “generative” reading power.

How do these ideas make you think about your moment-to-moment responses to readers within the act of teaching?  We encourage you to continue the conversation  with your colleagues about the language you can use to support “generative learning” in your classroom/school.


This blog first appeared on the Lesley University Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative blog. To read more visit https://lesleyuniversitycrrlc.wordpress.com/

For more information about responsive teaching from Fountas and Pinnell:

Explore the NEW Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades www.fountasandpinnell.com/professionalbooks/

Join the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ Community for collaborative conversation https://www.facebook.com/groups/FountasPinnell/


References:
Clay, Marie, M. (1991). Becoming Literate: The Construction of Inner Control. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Fountas, I.C. & Pinnell, G.S. (2017). Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Fountas, I.C. & Pinnell, G.S. (2012). Prompting Guide Part 1 for Oral Reading and Early Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.