Daily Lit Bit

February 28. 2017

Use Interactive Writing as an Opportunity for Children to Learn About Letters: A Teacher Tip from Fountas & Pinnell

Early experiences in interactive writing offer kindergarten children an opportunity to learn about letters. At the same time, even though that have very limited knowledge of literacy, they are participating in the construction of a meaningful text. Working with with letters within a known text is a more powerful learning experience than simply working with a letter in isolation. Children are highly engaged because they see that letters have a purpose. And, when they read and write, they must recognize letters that are embedded in words that are embedded in sentences.

During interactive writing, you can draw children's attention to letters and help them learn how to look at them by using the following teaching directives:

  • Have the children say the name of the letter (m).
  • Talk about the features of the letters (a stick and two humps).
  • Demonstrate the motions necessary to make the letter.
  • Talk about the motions while making them (pull down, over and down, over and down).
  • Have the children trace the letter in the air on the floor, talking aloud about the motions while making them.
  • Show the children how to check the letter against a model (alphabet chart or name chart).
  • Show the children how to make connections between the letter and known words, particularly names.
Adapted from Interactive Writing: How Language & Literacy Come Together, K-2 by Andrea McCarrier, Irene C. Fountas, and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2000 by Andrea McCarrier, Irene C. Fountas, and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.

February 21. 2017

Ideas for Ways to Help Children Learn a New Word: A Teacher Tip from Fountas & Pinnell

Struggling readers need to build a core of words that they know quickly and automatically--that they can recognize without effort. They also need to develop a system for learning how to learn words. Here are some ideas for ways to help children look at and learn a new word:

1. Use language that makes it clear you are talking about a word: "This word is _____." (Some children confuse letters and words.)

2. Tell children to look at the beginning of the word and show them what that means (first letter on the left).

3. Read the word to children as you run your finger under the word, left to right.

4. Ask children to look closely at the word and say what they notice at the beginning.

5. Ask them to look at the word and then read it as they use a finger to check it, left to right.

6. Remind them of another word that will help them remember a new word: an, and; the, then.

7. Help children notice the first letter and then look at the rest of the letters in the word, left to right, to notice more.

8. Give children magnetic letters in order to build the word left to right.

9. After building the word, have children take it apart and build it several times.

10. After building the word several times, have children write the word.

11. Show children how to check the word they have written letter by letter: a, a, n, n, d, d.

12. Have children, using magnetic letters, break the word apart by pulling down the first letter (s) and then the rest of the letters, e.g., s-ee, th-e.

From When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Works by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2009 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.


February 14. 2017

How to Provide Opportunities for Processing Texts: A Teacher Tip from Fountas & Pinnell

Comprehending the fullest meaning of a text is the goal every time we read anything. We do not teach comprehension by applying one strategy to one book during one lesson: we help students learn how to focus on the meaning and interpretation of texts all the time, in every instructional context, each instance contributing in different ways to the same complex processing system. Below are some suggestions for you and your colleagues to provide your students with opportunities for processing texts:

1. Bring together a cross-grade-level group of colleagues to think about text experiences. You may want to have them work in small grade-level groups and then share as a whole group.

2. Use large chart paper divided into columns. As a group, consider (1) processing orally presented written texts; (2) processing written texts; and (3) acting on the meaning of texts after reading. These three actions occur across instructional contexts.

3. Have each group use their weekly schedules to discuss a week of instruction in their classroom. Make a list of all the processing opportunities students have in each of the three areas in the three columns on the chart paper.

4. Review the charts. Have the whole group participate in a larger discussion of how these opportunities can be expanded. Emphasize that there are specific ways of teaching for comprehending in each of these settings.


Excerpted from Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency: Thinking, Talking, and Writing About Reading by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2006 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.