Is Leveled Literacy Intervention Really a Scripted System?

We are sometimes asked whether Leveled Literacy Intervention is a scripted teaching system.

Here is an example of the type of question we occasionally recieve about this topic.

"If research shows that what really matters is highly effective, educated teachers who are able to make teaching decisions based on his/her students’ needs, why would you create a scripted curriculum in a box? I understand the district’s decision to purchase a boxed curriculum. It’s less expensive than teaching the teacher, but with your Reading Recovery knowledge

I don’t understand why you would create it. Why must LLI teachers even conduct a running record or "reading record" when their next books and word work activities are already planned for them."

We consider Leveled Literacy Intervention neither a “scripted“ nor “boxed” system, but a comprehensive system for supporting teachers’ decision making when working with a small group. In our experience, Reading Recovery teachers have found the system to be very useful as designing a lesson for one child is very different from working with a small group. In fact, many have sent feedback indicating that they have appreciated having a starting point and tools to get started.

You will see as we have written on the blog elsewhere, we do not consider the LLI lesson a script, but a framework of suggested considerations and routines. Teachers learn more and more about how to make better decisions by noticing children. We hope you will have the opportunity to read the System Guide where you will learn that teachers can skip books at a level, focusing on the behaviors they notice, they tailor the suggestions to fit the children they teach, regrouping children as needed, customizing the cards and games with the Lesson Resources CD-ROM etc. They select appropriate language to use with their students from the Prompting Guide and use The Continuum of Literacy Learning to guide their teaching. Reading Recovery teachers have been especially positive as they see that LLI is a system that supports the very principles you describe and is a wonderful complement to their Reading Recovery teaching. We hope you get a chance to talk with more teachers who have had professional development in LLI so they can share with you how the system is intended to be used. As with all materials and professional resources, a teacher must bring thoughtfulness to decision-making. You should know that Heinemann provides both onsite and offsite professional development services to support LLI teachers at all levels.

We discussed the notion of scripted lessons in LLI at greater length in our forum.
http://heinemann.com/forum/messages.aspx?TopicID=52

We hope this helps clarify any misconceptions you may have about the Leveled Literacy Intervention System.

 

Best regards,

-Gay & Irene

Getting Started Lessons for Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI)

Here is a recent question about the Getting Started lessons from a Title I teacher who is implementing Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) this year:

I have a question regarding your LLI lessons - which we just purchased and absolutely love by the way! The Getting Started lessons (1 - 10) move quickly in terms of reading levels. However, once you hit lesson 11, it drops back to level A.

I have looked everyone and can't find out any information regarding this. Should we be starting every student in the Getting Started lessons and then jump them to their appropriate reading level? Do we start every student in the Getting Started and then continue them onto 11, 12, 13, etc...regardless of their level? Or do we skip the Getting Started lessons and jump to their reading level lesson? I guess we are just a little confused about the Getting Started lessons.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration with this question. I also wanted to let you know that we use your resources greatly in our schools and have much success with them.

Thanks again!

- Paul

Answer:
Hi Paul,

The Getting Started lessons were designed to help the children, who have been struggling and are probably passive, become active, engaged learners and to build a foundation of early reading and writing behaviors. These 10 lessons also establish the routines of the lessons for the students. For the teacher, it is a time to closely observe students strengths and to engage them in conversations about their reading. The Green System is primarily for first grade, so at the beginning of the year you would probably start all of your first graders with the Getting Started lessons. If you have first graders that are at a Level F or G at the beginning of the year, they probably don't need an intervention and will progress with good classroom instruction.

In the middle of the first grade or at the end of first grade, you will probably make different decisions about the Getting Started lessons because you will be taking students into LLI at higher reading levels and will start where the students are in lessons. You will still want to keep in mind the purpose of the Getting Started lessons as you start with this round of students. However, you will start where the children are (their assessment level).

We hope this helps!

~The Fountas & Pinnell Team

Literacy For All annual Reading Recovery Conference and Institutes

This November the 21st annual Literacy For All PreK-8 Literacy Conference and Reading Recovery Institute will be held in Providence, Rhode Island at the Rhode Island Convention Center. We invite all literacy and Reading Recovery teachers in the northeast to attend this wonderful event! This year a new Technology Strand workshop will be available for those who are using technology in their classrooms to help engage young readers. There are also separate strands designed for literacy coaches, administrators, and trained Reading Recovery teachers. Keynote speakers will include David Booth, Steven Layne, and Susan O'Leary. Participants can earn up to 14.5 professional development hours for attending this 3-day event.

We are also excited to be speaking at the PreK-6 conference sessions! This conference is coordinated by the Lesley University Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative, which is directed by Irene.

Here is a summary of the events scheduled for this 3-day conference:

Pre-Conference Workshops, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010
Energize your teaching by registering for a one-day workshop! Pre-conference workshops are intensive study sessions on specific topics with experts in the field of literacy learning.

PreK-8 Literacy Conference with Middle School Strand, Monday-Tuesday, Nov. 15-16, 2010
You will have the opportunity to learn about the best literacy practices from the finest trainers in the field. Participants will come away with a better understanding of the current practices in literacy education and learn strategies to use in the classroom.

Reading Recovery Institute, Monday-Tuesday, Nov. 15-16, 2010
This is your opportunity to strengthen the skills of Reading Recovery teaching. The Reading Recovery Institute promotes a greater understanding and facilitates better teaching practices for Reading Recovery professionals.

For more information visit the Lesley University Center for Reading Recovery homepage here.

We are looking forward to participating in this wonderful gathering of literacy teachers, and we hope to see you there!

 

Warmest regards,

Gay and Irene

 

Questions about Fountas and Pinnell Teaching Systems

This back-to-school season the Fountas & Pinnell Forum at Heinemann.com has received a swarm of implementation questions for Leveled Literacy Intervention, the Benchmark Assessment System, and other Fountas and Pinnell teaching systems such as The Continuum of Literacy Learning. Below are some of the top questions we have received and answers to help you start the new school year right!

As always, we welcome and appreciate your feedback and questions! You can post your questions to the Fountas & Pinnell Community of educators by using the "Forums" link at the top of our blog, or just click here to see a list of all the conversation threads in our forums.

 

Forum Questions about Fountas & Pinnell teaching systems

Benchmark Assessment System - 1st Edition vs 2nd Edition
Question: What are the differences between the two kits? Are the passages the same?

Answer: This page summarizes the changes between the first and second editions of Benchmark: http://www.heinemann.com/fountasandpinnell/BAS2_changes.aspx. Overall they are largely the same; the 2nd edition provides enhancements for ease of use (improved Assessment Guide format) and information on working with specific student populations (ELL, Special Education - for example). No new little books have been added, but slight adjustments have been made to the running word counts in the upper-level nonfiction books.  The Pre-K Continuum has also been added.

If you are transitioning from the old Benchmark edition to the new one, you can order a BAS 2nd Edition Compatibility Package. If you do not plan to implement the 2nd Edition alongside the 1st Edition you do not need this package. We recommend that you continue to use your system as you do now. If you plan to use the 2nd Edition system alongside the 1st Edition, the package will allow you to have consistency across systems. We recommend that you request the Compatibility Pack.



Progressing through Benchmark Assessment levels:

Question:
I have a second grade group who has all had Reading Recovery and did not progress. They Benchmarked at level D and have gone through the 10 green lessons with average of 93% accuracy. When we moved to level E this week, they scored in the 83% range on the first Running Record. Because I worked with them so intensely, I have a feeling that when their time comes up to be tested, they will need additional special education services. My question is: "Should I progress through level E or do the level D in the blue system so they can be successful?" Your thoughts, please??

Answer: You are on the right track with wanting your second graders to be successful. Children need success to learn. Perhaps more time reading at Level D from the Blue System would be beneficial. You could also try more Level E books and increase your level of support in the introductions and their first reading of the new book.

It would be helpful to do another study of their reading records from the 10 green lessons to see if there are any patterns emerging and compare your findings with how readers are processing text in the Continuum of Literacy Learning at Level D. The introductory paragraph to Level D gives important information about readers at this level (not to be missed).

Also, as you examine the reading records over the last ten lessons, go through the behaviors and understandings to notice, teach and support that are listed in the Continuum with this group in mind. Have you analyzed these reading records with a colleague? Sometimes having several people interpret and discuss the reading records sheds more light and gives new direction for your teaching. How much are these second graders reading when they are not with you? They need increased time with easy book.

Question: We are testing students using the Benchmark system in grades 1 and 2. Many of the students scores are falling below 90% at the Level A. Where do we start with them? Are we able to use the LLI with them? If so, what level do we start on?

Answer: Yes - you could use the Orange System of LLI for your students who are reading below A and start at the beginning of the System because you will be reading to them and with them before you ask them to read a text by themselves. This support will help them read Level A texts independently.


 

Teaching phonics for kindergarten:
Question:
I am wondering if anyone uses the Phonics Lessons in their Kindergarten, Gr.1, or Gr. 2 classroom...I am teaching a K-2 class and am trying to choose a Phonics/Spelling program and am wondering if you have found it comprehensive enough to teach sight words, spelling and phonics?

Answer: The Fountas and Pinnell Phonics and Word Study Lessons Grades K-3 is a comprehensive series of lessons for phonics and word study that is based on research and how children learn. It is designed on a continuum of knowledge that includes nine areas of learning: Early Literacy Concepts, Phonological and Phonemic Awareness, Letter Knowledge, Letter/Sound Relationships, Spelling Pattersn, High-Frequency Words, Word Meaning, Word Structure, and Word-Solving Actions.

www.phonicsminilessons.com will provide you with a program overview. Along with these Phonics and Word Study Lessons for K, 1, 2, and 3, there is a large amount of professional development built in to increase your knowledge of the linguistic systems, there is a direct connection to reading and writing, and there are built-in assessments that will provide you with data to inform your instruction. We are confident that you will find these lessons comprehensive enough to teach sight words, spelling and phonics.


 

Teaching balanced literacy, Reading Recovery, and special needs students:
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. I am passionate about helping struggling readers learn to read and I don't feel they can be helped with a "hit-or-miss" approach. I think they need a daily, systematic, sequential program. From what we have been told with coteaching we are not to work with the same groups of children every day. I think this is a disservice to those struggling readers who feel so much success when they work with me. Do you have suggestions as to how I can provide help for these children under those conditions? It is breaking my heart that after only one year with LLI I will have to give it up, yet how can it be used when I will be in multiple classrooms and will not be allowed to have a set group each time?

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. We hope this helps. Let us know how it is going.

 

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: 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.

 

Question: I teach kindergarten through second grade special education (mostly LD and cognitive disabilities) in a large urban midwest city. I am also lucky to be trained in Reading Recovery, although our district dropped the program several years ago. I read When Readers Struggle this summer, and I am going to use the LLI lesson format using any materials I can find. I am also writing a grant to purchase at least the BAS and the first grade LLI kit, since we have less than no money for materials. If I get the grant, I'll have to collect a lot of data, and I will be happy to share my results with you. Do you have any advice on how I can make it clear in the grant that LLI will help support my instruction more than my dwindling collection of Reading Recovery books?

Answer: At Heinemann.com under the Fountas and Pinnell tab, in the right hand column, you will see Research and Data Collection. You will find the research and data for both the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment Systems and the Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention. There is valuable information that will help you with your grant writing.


 

Using Leveled Literacy Intervention in conjunction with DRA reading levels:
Question: My school ordered the blue system in the LLI. I read that that system is primarily for second grade and above. However, I teach first grade. Students who are on a DRA 3 and below are pulled to participate in the LLI-blue system. I love using the LLI, but I didn't know if my students would be more successful using the green system than the blue. Is there much of a difference?

Answer: The Green System is for Levels A though J – designed for 1st Grade

The Blue System is for Levels C through N – designed for 2nd/3rd Grade

The LLI systems are coordinated with the grade levels and the books were written to coordinate with the different age levels. The Green System has a series of 10 Getting Started lessons that children reading a C or below need before starting into lessons. Another difference would be the phonics lessons which are systematic and explicit. You may see a difference with the needs of your first graders and the Phonics portion of the lessons in the Blue System. The Green System will be more appropriate for struggling first graders. You will have to make your decisions for teaching based on the observation of your groups of LLI children rather than following the guide in the Blue System. If you could have the Green System, you would have a wider range of options.


 

Organization and management of classroom materials:
Question: I am using the green kit with 2 groups and the blue kit with 3 groups as a Title 1 Reading Specialist. Two of my groups I walk to, carrying materials. I find it difficult to carry the manuals and to keep switching manuals between groups. To solve that I resorted to copying the manual pages for each group so I just carry the pages needed and each group has the manual pages with their daily materials. Does anyone have a better solution than copying the whole manual? Is there a possibility that the manuals would be on CD so that they could be printed as needed for a group?

Answer: The teachers in our building who teach multilevel LLI groups pull a cart on wheels, purchased from Staples or some other office store. That way, it is easy for them to also have all of the LLI materials, books, etc that they need right with them. They pack them up at the end of every day so they are ready in the morning.

 

Question: I am getting things ready for this school year. Does anyone have a great way to organize all the materials for LLI? I have all three systems and need to keep things organized for multiple people to use. Please let me know how you have organized your materials.

Answer: Until districts have the funds to purchase more systems, they have tried several ways to organize their materials to share with others.

The districts that have a book room designate a section for their LLI books and materials. They keep the books (and they had to purchase extra copies of books because they could not predict when two teachers might have a group on the same lesson) organized by Lesson number on their bookshelves. They have a checkout system for the LLI books similar to the one they use for their Guided Reading books. They have 3 ring binders containing plastic sleeves for each lesson that contain copies of reading records, parent letters, fold sheets, picture cards, word cards. . . whatever is needed for each lesson in a sleeve labeled with the lesson number (some lessons required several plastic sleeves since they have multiple copies of everything needed for the lesson). The binders are kept on the shelves with the books organized by Lesson number. They purchased Lesson Guides for each teacher and keep the Program Guide/DVD’s with the LLI books. They developed a system for replenishing materials needed for the lessons when the supply was down to the last two. The teachers decide whether they checkout materials for the week, a number of days at a time or daily.

Other districts had a similar system with file cabinets because they do not have the luxury of space in the book room. Rather than keep three ring binders of lesson materials in sleeves, the teachers made their own copies of materials for the lessons to keep in files in their rooms. They purchased copies of the Lesson Guides for each teacher.

Copernicus Educational Products is now offering three smart storage systems designed specifically for use with guided reading programs such as Leveled Literacy Intervention. They are all available on the Copernicus website, here: http://www.copernicused.com/ProductListing.aspx?categoryid=54&searchstring=all

There is also a video on TeacherTube about organizing a guided reading classroom - you might find some good tips her as well.


 

Leveled Literacy Intervention for upper elementary grades and middle school:
Question: I have heard that LLI kits will be created to extended into grades 3-5. If so, when will they be available?

Additionally, will the lessons differ from the current kits? (time, components of the lesson, comprehension)

I have used the blue kit with 3-5 students and have seen tremendous growth in my students' reading levels, confidence, and attitude toward reading. I would love to see the progress students would be able to make with materials matched to the grade level of the students!

Answer: Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas posted an updated about the development of LLI for grades 3-8 on their blog. You can read the post here: http://www.fpblog.heinemann.com/post/2010/08/09/Update-on-Leveled-Literacy-Intervention-for-Grades-3-8.aspx

More updates on their progress will be posted as development of these new LLI levels progresses.

 

~The Fountas & Pinnell Team

Update on Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) for Grades 3-8

Dear Colleagues,

 

 

Hot in Boston and hot in Columbus, but summer brings its own change of pace. Many of you have been asking about our development work on the new levels of Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) for upper grade students. The next colors will be red and gold, taking students from guided reading levels J through T, and are targeted for grades three and four. We hope to release these in about two years. The next two colors, purple and teal, will be for grades five and six through eight, though they will also be useful for high school students reading below grade level. The purple and teal colors will take students through level Z. The book authors are sending us wonderful, engaging fiction and nonfiction manuscripts to which we respond and suggest any revisions, and we get to select the illustrators for every book which is also very exciting! Our goal is to select books and art that interests students at upper grades who are reading at lower levels - which can be tricky.

 

Summary of Leveled Literacy Intervention for grades 3-8:
Red/Gold: Levels J-T, grades 3-4
Purple/Teal: Levels U-Z, grades 5-8 (and high school intervention)

 

It always takes a long time to go from original manuscripts instead of just using existing books, but we believe you will think it was well worth the effort and the wait! In the meantime, many of you have been using the LLI framework and selecting books beyond level N, and we hope that is working well for you.

 

We will keep you posted on our ongoing development of these programs. In the meantime we wish a very happy back-to-school season to each and every one of you!

 

 

Best regards,

 

Gay and Irene

Fountas and Pinnell Systems Named as Core Components of MA Reading Success Initiative

Fountas & Pinnell's Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) and the Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) have been cited as essential reading and literacy intervention components of an initiative to improve student reading proficiency in Springfield, MA. The Turing The Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success initiative, which is led by the Cherish Every Child initiative of the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, is defined in "Reading Success by 4th Grade: A Blueprint for Springfield" (.pdf). The Springfield school district activities are just a part of a statewide initiative to improve children's language and literacy development in Massachusetts.

Beginning in the fall of 2009, the Benchmark Assessment System was implemented for students in grades K-5. Springfield Public Schools utilize the system because it "provides teachers with detailed, quantifiable assessment of reading comprehension so they can differentiate instruction in small guided reading groups."

While BAS will be used to help evaluate the reading proficiency and comprehension ability of all students, the LLI program will be used primarily with under-performing readers in grades K-2.

During the summer of 2009, Springfield Public Schools [SPS] received a Title One Redesign and Restructuring Grant: Innovation Through Summer Semester Program from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. SPS used the grant resources to pilot the Leveled Literacy Intervention strategy for under-performing children who were entering the first and second grades at the Frederick Harris School. After participating in jjst one half-hour per day of LLI for five weeks, 37% of students made gains of one reading level, 41% made gains of two or more reading levels and 19% maintained their reading level. As a result of these gains over a short period of time, the district added LLI as a Tier 2 intervention. Beginning in fall 2010, every elementary school will have one of each of the three leveles of LLI kits and a minimum of one staff member per building will have LLI training.

The Turing The Page initiative aims to "Increase the quality of children's language and reading environments across the many settings in which they are growing up, from birth to age 9." Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention and Benchmark Assessment System are sure to be an integral part of this important literacy education initiative for many years to come.

Introduction to Phonics Lessons and Word Study Lessons

While our Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) and Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) are quickly becoming well-known in the elementary teaching world for the outstanding results they produce, sometimes educators are looking for a structured program to meet the developmental needs of their youngest students. We understand that to some extent children follow their own idiosyncratic paths, but we also recognize that developmental patterns provide a foundation upon which to build the smartest instruction possible. Our Word Study Continuum plots a course along the developmental pathway children traverse as they become expert word solvers and effective readers. It is with this in mind that we developed our Phonics Lessons and Word Study Lessons.

To address young readers' developmental needs, Phonics Lessons, Kindergarten includes four essential areas of language knowledge: phonemic awareness, letters and sounds, reading words, and early reading concepts. Phonics Lessons, Grade 1 expands into more sophisticated concepts and includes six areas of knowledge: phonemic awareness, letters and sounds, reading words, writing words, processing strategies in reading, and processing strategies in writing. Students in grade 2 will move into more sophisticated reading and writing concepts within these six areas, and students in grade 3 will focus on even more advanced areas of language with the addition of vocabulary, fluency in reading and writing, and word meaning. Please refer to the Phonics Lessons Research Base document (.pdf) for more information about the research and educational theory behind these programs.

In these videos Gay answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Phonics Lessons and Word Study Lessons. A wealth of additional information about these programs is available on http://www.phonicsminilessons.com.

Overview of Phonics Lessons and Word Study Lessons

 

What makes a good phonics minilesson?
A good minilesson is quick, efficient, and effective, and Phonics Lessons and Word Study Lessons are designed to be just that. They are short, focused on a single principle, use consistent language and clear examples, engage children in active learning, and follow a regular lesson structure that quickly becomes familiar to children.

Using Phonics Lessons and Word Study Lessons as a spelling program
A systematic, five-day lesson procedure for learning specific spelling principles is built into grades 1, 2, and 3. The five days include choosing and writing words from a given word list, a "look- say-cover-write-check" technique, a buddy check, making connections with other words, and finally, assessment.

Using poetry for early language development in Phonics Lessons
Poetry provides many powerful learning opportunities by surrounding children with the sounds, words, and expressions of poetic language. Classrooms in which enjoying and reciting poetry is part of the culture help children absorb basic knowledge of how sounds and words work.

Supporting English Language Learners in Phonics Lessons and Word Study Lessons
Through the lessons, speakers of languages other than English learn the basic building blocks of oral and written English. Two tools in the minilesson books directly support these learners. First, the front matter at the beginning of each book contains general recommendations for working with English language learners. Second, "Working with English Language Learners" at the beginning of every lesson provides specific ways to adjust the lesson for these learners.

Research base for Phonics Lessons and Word Study Lessons
Phonics Lessons
and Word Study Lessons are grounded in a wide base of academic research, including all the areas examined by The National Reading Panel, and reflect its recommendations for phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. A complete research paper, entitled “Phonics Lessons: The Research Base” is available. In addition, the lessons reflect practical, classroom-based research in how children learn, practices that have been reconfirmed by many teachers as they have field-tested Phonics Lessons and Word Study Lessons.

For more answers to frequently asked questions about our Phonics Lessons and Word Study Lessons, visit http://www.phonicsminilessons.com/classroomsupport/faq.html

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.

A new resource for teaching prekindergarten literacy!

We are involved in the enjoyable task of bringing a new book into publication especially for prekindergarten teachers. We hope you will look for and enjoy "Literacy Beginnings: A Prekindergarten Continuum to Guide Teaching", which we hope to publish by late 2010.

In this book we look at the wonderful world of prekindergarten children as they enter literacy in a playful and joyful way. The book includes a continuum of literacy learning for prekindgarten and lots of practice advice gained from observations in classrooms. It's full of children's drawings, language, and emerging writing and reading.

Thank you all for your tireless dedication to the craft of teaching!


Best regards,
- Gay and Irene

Common Questions about the Benchmark Assessment System

With the upcoming release of the 2nd edition of our Benchmark Assessment System (BAS), we thought it would be helpful to look at some of the most frequently asked questions about what the system is and how it works.

For answers to more common questions about the Benchmark Assessment System, visit the Benchmark Assessment Frequently Asked Questions webpage or the Fountas & Pinnell Support Resources webpage.


What is the Benchmark Assessment System?

The Benchmark Assessment System is a one-on-one, comprehensive assessment to determine independent and instructional reading levels, for placing students on the Fountas & Pinnell A-Z Text Gradient, and connecting assessment to instruction with the Continuum of Literacy Learning. A benchmark assessement system is a series of texts that can be used to identify a student's current reading level and progress along a gradient of text levels over time. The word "benchmark" means a standard against which to measure something.

 

Why is benchmark assessment a valuable use of time?

Conducting benchmark assessment allows you to...

  • Determine your students' independent and instructional reading levels.
  • Determine reading placement levels and group students for reading instruction.
  • Select texts that will be productive for student's instruction.
  • Assess the outcomes of teaching.
  • Assess a new student's reading level for independent reading and instruction.
  • Identify students who need intervention.
  • Document student progress across a school year and across grade levels.
  • Inform parent conferences.
  •  

    Why are the criterion for accuracy so much more challenging for Benchmark Assessment System levels L-Z?

    Please see our document, "A Higher Criterion for Accuracy, Levels L-Z" (.doc) for a detailed explanation of why the accuracy criterion are increased significantly for the later levels.

     

    What is the source of the words in the Benchmark word lists?

    The Benchmark word lists were compiled to include the words that appear most frequently (in our survey of leveled texts) in the books that children read from earlier levels to about end of grade four. In addition all word lists were checked with several different lists, including both Spache and Dolch. They are not identical to either list but there is a great deal of consistency across them. Finally, the lists were check with teachers.

    The words that appear on the word lists are "tier 1 words," meaning that they are frequently used in oral language and in general literature. The lists do not include "tier 2" and "tier 3" words—words not in common use or technical words related to content areas. These words are those that appear most frequently.

     

    How does the Benchmark Assessment System address Response to Intervention (RTI) compliance?

    With the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, you can monitor reading level three times each year. This assessment will yield level (with equivalent grade levels), accuracy, fluency, and detailed information and scores on comprehension. This system has been extensively field tested. You can have students complete a writing prompt to further assess comprehension. You can use optional assessments to monitor progress in phonemic awareness, phonics, letter learning, and high frequency word knowledge. You can establish expectations in each of these areas based on your own district's requirements. A grid is currently in development to establish criteria for each grade level, beginning, middle, and end.

     

    Why are the Little Books for Benchmark 2 shorter than the ones for Benchmark 1?

    The books for Levels L-N in Benchmark 1 while longer (16 pp), contain illustrations that give young readers picture support. The books from L-Z in Benchmark 2 are shorter (4 pp), and contain almost no illustrations with the exception of nonfiction text features like diagrams and maps to support the older reader. Length is only one factor in text difficulty and it is not a significant one unless you are talking about a large difference (50 to 100) in number of pages (which would inevitably place a greater burden on memory). A short text can be very hard, with difficult vocabulary, complex sentences, and complex ideas. A long text can be easy, with familiar concepts and vocabulary and simple sentences.

    Another consideration was the amount of time required to administer the assessment. The length of selections in the the Benchmark System 2, provides an adequate sample for assessing an older child’s oral and silent reading, vocabulary, capacity to solve multisyllable words, and ability to interpret more sophisticated content.

     

    How do the Fountas & Pinnell Text Gradient Levels equate with Basal, DRA, Rigby, and Reading Recovery levels?

    View the Grade-Level Equivalence Chart (.pdf) to see how F&P Text Gradient levels equate with other readability scale levels.

     

    How do Lexile levels correlate to the Fountas & Pinnell Text Gradient levels?

    There may be a statistical correlation between Lexile levels and F & P levels. For example, if you run measures on thousands of books and over many levels, there would be a correlation. We have not performed these analyses ourselves. The lower F & P levels, in general, would have lower Lexile scores. The higher F & P levels generally would have higher scores. But this kind of correlation is not the same as a precise matching of levels, for example, a Lexile range of numbers corresponds to a specific A to Z level in a reliable way. The two systems are based on some of the same text factors but not all. Metametrics uses a mathematical formula, which they can explain. The F & P levels are based on the ten text factors named in several of our books. A group of raters reach reliability after independent analysis. We can not say with high prediction that a given book with a certain Lexile score will fall into a category on the F & P gradient. Every time we have looked at Lexile levels for texts that seem highly reliable on our scale, we have found a number of "outliers."

     

    Are the end of grade level benchmarks nationally normed?

    The grade level benchmarks are not nationally normed. That would take a large random sample of students taken across the United States and Canada and a great deal of testing. It is just not appropriate for this kind of system.

    The levels have, however, been tested in a large field study. The end-of-year expectations as defined in our system are consistent with recommended national standards from the National Center on Education and the Economy. Districts do have a choice in adjusting the expectations to meet their own standards. There are slight variations from place to place, but we have stated levels that indicate typical satisfactory progress.

     

    For answers to more common questions about the Benchmark Assessment System, visit the Benchmark Assessment Frequently Asked Questions webpage.