Posts Tagged ‘guided reading’

Professional Development for Teaching Guided Reading

May 12, 2010

Guided reading is quickly becoming one of the most widely-used strategies for delivering effective reading instruction. Because teaching and supporting guided reading systems uses a different approach than traditional reading programs, it is important to have teaching staff that is properly trained. We are regularly contacted by teachers, principals, and reading coaches who want to know what training opportunities are available for guided reading and assessment systems such as Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) and the Benchmark Assessment System (BAS). Below are some of the questions we have received about training for guided reading and our answers. If you would like to ask a question of your own, please visit the professional development forum thread or use the contact link at the top of this blog.

Questions about professional development for teaching guided reading:

Question: In order to use the new Leveled Literacy Intervention, do you have to have formalized training?

Answer: Of course, professional development is essential to support teachers in all of their work with readers, especially those who are having difficulty. We thought very hard about his issue when we constructed the LLI systems. There are a variety of options available from Heinemann’s Professional Development group. Nevertheless, we also know that many teachers cannot be released for formal professional development; and, today many districts do not have resources for travel and even modest fees. We wanted LLI to reach as many children as possible. Therefore, no additional formal training is required. You will find that professional development is built right into each of the systems and each is different in terms of the content. In the Orange, Green, and Blue systems, you will find the following items: a Program Guide with detailed information about how to implement LLI; Lesson Guides, which provides text analyses and suggestions for preparing and for assessing learners; The Prompting Guide, which is a flip chart that gives you specific and precise language to use while working with readers and writers; a professional book called When Readers Struggle; Teaching That Works that has extensive examples and theoretical rationales for the approaches in LLI; Finally, a Professional Development DVD that contains an extensive tutorial for taking and analyzing reading records as well as 3 to 4 sample LLI lessons from, the system that you are using. All of the above material can be used by an individual for self-study, by a study group, or by a district staff-developer. And you can always post questions in the professional development forum!

Question: If a school can send only a few teachers (classroom/resource) to your training, can those teachers then do turnaround training back at the school to implement the LLI system at the school or should all the teachers have some of PD from you? My concern is that in the turnaround there may be some misinformation shared.

Answer: It is wonderful if you have the resources to send at least one team to one of our institutes. Alternatively, you can bring a Heinemann Professional Development consultant to your district. If some teachers do get training at our institute, they can train other teachers. Our institute does not focus on how to train other teachers but they can observe how we work with the group and conduct the same kind of learning experiences.

Question: I am a trained Reading Recovery teacher but have been working as a reading specialist for several years in CO. Would you recommend that I do the training program for LLI to get best results? Could I easily get the gist of the program and easily implement it with support from a colleague (RR trained) who will be attending the training? Also, what do you have within the program to support ELL learners?

Answer: The materials are designed to include a great deal of professional learning. We do believe however that the more professional development you have with the system the better so we would highly recommend it. We will be in Westminster, Colorado for an LLI institute on October 28–30, 2009. Perhaps you could attend.
You will find specific ELL suggestions in every lesson in the LLI Lesson Guides as well as material in the professional book When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Works.

Question: Do you recommend training only certified teachers? What about training parapros?

Answer: We believe the children with the most difficulty need the most expert teachers. However, some districts have trained paraprofessionals to use LLI and are seeing progress with their students. We suggest that you collect data and evaluate your results.

Common Questions about Teaching Guided Reading with Leveled Books

April 28, 2010

If you are new to the guided reading instructional method, it’s likely that you have quite a few questions about how it works. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about what guided reading is and how to get started with it in the classroom.

Question: How do I choose a book for guided reading?

Answer: You will want to select a text that is within the students’ reach, one that is not too difficult but offers some new learning opportunity. Select a text that will stretch the reader a little but will allow the reader to be successful with the instructional scaffolds you will provide across the lesson.


Question: When should I start guided reading in kindergarten?

Answer: As a kindergarten teacher, you will want to look for indicators that your students are noticing and using print features. Through reading aloud and shared reading, you support the children’s early ability to think like readers. Through interactive writing and shared reading, they learn early reading behaviors such as left-to-right directionality, word matching, concepts of letters and words, and the use of punctuation.

Once your children are able to work well at centers, begin to pull these children three at a time to work with you in guided reading. Usually you will begin in late fall or early winter. Choose those who are noticing more about print first, but be sure to include all of the children by year’s end.


Question: What are other students doing while I meet with a guided reading group?

Answer: During the reading workshop, students not working with the teacher in guided reading or literature study are reading and writing independently. Work hard at the beginning of the school year to teach routines that make it possible for students to manage their own learning. The activities you choose should be simple, meaningful, and manageable. For younger children, literacy centers such as familiar reading, poetry, word building, writing with a specific focus, and listening to audiotaped stories are meaningful to students and can easily be maintained by the teacher to meet students’ evolving learning needs. In second grade, as students sustain their silent reading and writing for longer periods, you can introduce independent activities such as a reader’s notebook. When choosing or evaluating an independent activity, ask yourself the following questions: What did the students actually learn? How has this activity supported my classroom instruction? You can also take a few minutes at the end of reading workshop for one or two students to share their learning.


Question: Is guided reading a whole reading program?

Answer: No. It’s important to remember that guided reading is not a “program.” It is an instructional approach with the following research-based characteristics:

  • The text is matched to readers in difficulty and complexity so that the readers can use effective strategies.
  • Children are grouped by ability so that matching text and readers is possible.
  • The teacher provides direct, explicit instruction to support all aspects of effective reading.
  • Children have a designated period of time to read continuous text, practicing effective strategies.
  • There is opportunity to extend meaning through writing and discussion, thus supporting comprehension.
  • There is opportunity to do some very specific teaching about letters, sounds, and how words “work” across the lesson as well as following the lesson.

The effectiveness of the kind of instruction described above is supported by research. Guided reading puts students into an instructional context that is brief, focused, and fast paced. All the above are accomplished in guided reading, but a “reading program” includes much more. For example, an excellent program would include reading aloud carefully chosen books to children as a basis for discussion; it would also include poetry, writing in response to reading, book clubs or literature circles, readers theater, and shared reading. Guided reading is one critical component of a comprehensive approach.


Question: How many books do I need to have for use in guided reading in my classroom?

Answer: Leveled Books K-8 describes in detail the number of titles to level for a classroom collection or a school bookroom, but essentially you will want books at levels consistent with the grade level you teach, supplemented by books a few levels below and a few levels above so you can meet the diverse needs of your students. You will want to have four to eight copies of every title since you will meet with small groups of children and every reader will need a copy.


Question: How can I use chapter books in guided reading lessons?

Answer: As your readers move into reading longer books, you will want to divide a book into sections or a group of chapters they can read each day for several days. Some books will take two or three days and others may take five or six. It is important to introduce each section before the students read, as your scaffold will help them learn more through reading. You will also want to discuss the reading on the same day that they read in order to get their best responses. The discussion is also an opportunity to “lift” their learning from the text. Try to schedule your lessons with chapter books on consecutive days so your readers gain momentum. Also, you will not want to drag out the reading of a book over a long period of time.


Question: Is the gradient the same as the one used in Reading Recovery?

Answer: Reading Recovery is an early intervention program for the lowest performing children in grade one. A teacher works with one child at a time. The teacher is trained to select one book for one child from a very fine gradient of texts developed specifically for grade one. The Reading Recovery teachers needs a gradient with tiny increments of challenge.

In contrast, our gradient is for use with small groups of children from kindergarten through grade eight. A slightly broader gradient is used to accommodate the slight differences between children in a small group situation as well as different strengths and needs. You will notice small increments through grade 1, slightly larger increments at grade two, and still larger increments for grades three through eight.


Question: Time is always a problem for me. How can I be more efficient in my guided reading lessons so that they don’t take too long?

Answer: You can make some notes on a sticky and place the sticky on the front cover of the book to remind you of the few things you want to talk about as you introduce the text. This will keep you focused on what is important and help you be more efficient in your first few minutes of the lesson. Then be sure the book is at the right level and the children can read fluently; otherwise, the reading will take too long and the processing will not be good. Have in mind the key understandings you want to be sure come out in the conversation after the reading so the talk after the reading is productive and doesn’t last too long. Have your materials all ready for word work so your word work will take only about two minutes.


Question: Do you use readability formulas to create the list of leveled books?

Answer: We do not use traditional readability formulas to create our list. We have included some of the factors typically used in readability formulas such as word and sentence complexity, but we analyze a greater range of factors. In creating our gradient, we looked at a large variety of texts and tried them out with readers at different levels. We found that a complex range of factors contribute to a text’s level of difficulty, such as genre, content, print layout, text structure, and language structure. Other factors that we take into consideration during the leveling process are : sentence complexity, vocabulary, illustrations, and physical aspects of the text (length, size, layout, etc…). Our readability measurement formula is described in great detail in The Continuum of Literacy Learning.


Question: Should students use levels to choose their own books?

Answer: No. As a teacher you can use your knowledge of the levels to help guide student choices. But basically you want students to learn to select books for a variety of authentic reasons and also to develop the self-awareness they need to tell whether a text is right for their present abilities. Interest plays a big part as well. You want to teach students how to choose books they can read with understanding and fluency. You want to avoid having students see themselves as, for example, a “reader.”

Your understanding of your students will be a factor in helping them begin to take control of their own reading. For example, you want students to learn how to select texts that:

  • They will enjoy and find interesting.
  • They can read with confidence and competence.
  • Will increase their content knowledge.
  • Will expand the range of genres that they read and enjoy.
  • Will help them understand themselves and their world.


Question: How do school librarians and libraries fit into the leveled approach to reading instruction?

Answer: We do not write specifically about school libraries because our work addresses mostly classroom libraries and leveled-book collections. We do believe that the library is extremely important and should provide a dynamic and rich program for students. School librarians are a wonderful resource for recommending books to read aloud. In Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency, Grades K-8, we write extensively about the role of the interactive read aloud. Also, of course, the school library is a great resource for independent reading.

We recommend that you do not level or label the books in the school library or the classroom library. (You can find this recommendation in the text mentioned above and in Leveled Books, K-8: Matching Texts to Readers for Effective Teaching.) We would not want students to self-select books by level or to think of themselves as a “level T reader,” for example. They need to be taught to choose books using many different criteria.

It is advantageous, however, if the school librarian knows the approximate levels of books. That knowledge can help the librarian develop a collection that will meet the needs of the diverse group of students in the school and make appropriate suggestions to particular students. The librarian can also help teachers make choices for classroom libraries.

Using Reading Accuracy to Help Determine Guided Reading Levels

April 20, 2010

Determining a child’s guided reading level can be complex, but it is very helpful to keeping readers engaged in content that is appropriate for their instructional level. We believe that an accuracy score alone is not enough to determine instructional, or guided reading, text levels.  A combination of accuracy along with a measure of a student’s comprehension of the text are both important to consider.

We regularly receive questions related to this topic in our guided reading Leveling Questions forum discussion:

“My son is in the first grade. The teacher said that he started on level B. I had a meeting with her in November and was informed that he is now on level C but at home he is reading level 1 very well and level 2 with very little support. His teacher said that the books were like your level F. (p) Then at a December meeting she informed me that he tested at 92% in level C and 82% on level D (still on C as of today) I asked ‘what does he need to do to move to the next level?’ She said he must get to 95-100% I asked her were was this policy written. She said it is in Chapter 10 of your book Guided Reading. It did tell about the different levels but not anything about percentages. Can you please tell me how you move from one level to the next.”

1. For levels A to K, a text read at 90%-94% accuracy (with satisfactory or excellent comprehension) is considered an instructional level text. That means that the student can read it effectively with teacher help–a good introduction, prompting, and discussion). Reading successfully at the instructional level helps the child get better at reading!

2. For levels A to K, a text read at 95%-100% accuracy (with satisfactory or excellent comprehension) is considered to be an independent level text. That means that the student can read it without help. Reading at the independent level is extremely valuable because the reader gains fluency, reading “mileage,” new vocabulary, and experience thinking about what texts mean (comprehension).

We wouldn’t want anyone to interpret these percentages in a rigid way, of course. A child might read one text at 91% and then experience a few tricky words in the next book and read it with 89%. Usually, a child reads quite a few books at the instructional level because he/she needs to experience books that are organized different ways, for example, funny stories, nonfiction, traditional stories, “how to” books, etc. Also, by reading quite a few books, the child can build up vocabulary.

So, we do not have one criterion for moving to the next level. And, much more than “level” would figure into decisions about promotion. Schools and districts, of course, may develop their own policies, but we simply advise being sure that the reader is reading smoothly and easily with satisfactory accuracy and comprehension before moving to the next level.

The level is just one way that the teacher monitors the progress of the reader. Chapter 10 of Guided Reading lists characteristics for each level, so you can see the range of complex mental actions the reader needs to demonstrate. Also, if you look at Chapter 3 of Guided Reading, you can see a summary of abilities that go into assessing any reader.

The best think you can do to help your child would be to have him do a great deal of reading at his independent level. Don’t worry so much about the level. Get books that are engaging and that he finds relatively easy. If you go to a good children’s bookstore or library, you can have him try a few until you find the easy ones. And, probably, his teacher would be able to let him take home independent level books. When you are helping him, be sure that there are only a few tricky words that he needs to ask you to tell him. In this way, he will have the opportunity to work with “smooth processing.” It is not helpful to a young reader to struggle through a book asking for help every five to ten words.

Help him read in phrases using some expression. (A great way to do this is to take turns reading pages.) Also, rereading is helpful, although you wouldn’t want to go so far that the book becomes boring. Your son may enjoy drawing and talking about the stories he reads, and that will expand comprehension and the ability to talk about books. Above all, make reading fun!


Research on the Effectiveness of Leveled Literacy Intervention

April 15, 2010

With the limited funding available for purchasing classroom materials today, more and more teachers and educational administrators are relying on research to help guide them to the best programs to invest in.

Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention was developed over a five-year period during which it was implemented in 70 districts in 15 states. You can refer to the Research Base document for more information. During the development of LLI, a field study was conducted at sites around the United States to assess the LLI framework. Please refer to the field study for more information about the research connected with the development of LLI. Additionally, the student data from three of the sites that participated in the field study (Newark OH, Boston MA and Manchester NH) was analyzed for a pilot research project that examined student progress. Please refer to the pilot study, for the results from this study.

“I am interested in finding out more about any research that has been done demonstrating LLI effectiveness. Are you aware of any independent research that has been done with LLI?”

In the 2009-2010 school year, an independent LLI Efficacy Study is being conducted in two low-performing U.S. school districts. The LLI Efficacy Study is being conducted in the 2009-2010 school year by an independent research group, the Center for Research in Education Policy (CREP) at the University of Memphis. This study will involve two U.S. school districts and will examine the impact of LLI instruction on struggling readers. A control group will allow the researchers to assess what the LLI uniquely contributes to student growth. An evaluation of year 1 of the LLI Efficacy Study is currently available from the CREP. A final report will be published in late 2010 and will be available through Heinemann.

“Will there be a request to the What Works Clearinghouse to have your research studies of this program reviewed. It would be helpful to districts wanting to implement LLI if there was a positive review of LLI research available?”

Although What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has not yet approved LLI, an LLI Data Collection project is also underway to look at progress of students in schools that have implemented LLI. Many districts have volunteered to participate and the data coming in is very exciting.

Using Leveled Literacy Intervention with English Language Learners

April 12, 2010

One of the most frequently asked questions about the Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) guided reading program is how it can support English Language Learners (ELL) and non-native English speakers.

Recently this question came to us from a teacher using Leveled Literacy Intervention in a school with a high ELL population:

“We are having challenges determining which students to target for intervention for Kindergarten. Our understanding was that LLI for kinder would best benefit students at risk for retention who may be able to move to grade 1 after intensive intervention. We have students who are slightly struggling and then we have groups whose English is still very limited. Teachers are wondering whether the ELL students who are still so far behind would really benefit. Has anyone else out there encountered and resolved this? My initial reaction is the teacher should work with those who are slightly below and the struggling ELLs should go to LLI, even if their English is very limited. Any suggestions or helpful information would be appreciated!”

LLI is an intervention for the lowest achieving children in Kindergarten, grade 1 and grade 2 and has sometimes been used in grade 3. Each school district must go by their language policy in providing reading instruction to children for whom English is a second language. It is of course a good idea for the child to have some control of oral English to benefit from instruction in reading in English. Many LLI children have been in ELL and made significant progress because of all the language support.

As far as kindergarten, we do not reference retention. We suggest that about mid year all of the children begin reading little books with the goal of all children reading at least instructional level C by the end of kindergarten. Any child who needs LLI support to achieve that goal would benefit from participation.

We also regularly receive requests to produce an edition of Leveled Literacy Intervention for teaching Spanish language students:

“We need a Spanish literacy intervention for our dual language school, and we love LLI. Is it available in Spanish or are there plans to make it available?”

We are in the process of creating a Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark System 1 in Spanish, called Sistema de evaluación de la lectura (SEL) which will be published later this year. Also, the Prompting Guide in Spanish is available now. Presently we are also working on the development of LLI for grades 3-8 in English, which will take some time. No decision has been made yet as to whether to create LLI in Spanish though it is something we would love to do.

Introduction Video to Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI)

April 8, 2010

This video provides a very brief introduction to the Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) guided reading program developed by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell,  and proudly published by Heinemann.

Is Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) Scripted?

April 8, 2010

Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) is one of the foremost guided reading intervention programs available today. One of the biggest misconceptions about the LLI program is that the lessons are scripted.

LLI is the antithesis of a script. Rather, it is a system for enhancing teacher expertise and supporting children’s improvement in literacy. We have designed our materials to help teachers learn more about making the most effective decisions for their children, helping them become better observers of reading and writing behaviors. The most powerful teaching fits the precise needs of the learners. The LLI Lesson Guides provide teachers with background information, suggestions, and tools for making good decisions specific to the children they teach. We provide a variety of tools to support effective teacher decision making.

We find that some teachers need more support and others less support depending on their experience and knowledge of the reading process. We provide a predictable lesson framework within which the teacher needs to make decisions that fit the children. We begin with an analysis of text characteristics so teachers can learn about and think about the features of the text as they support and challenge readers. We include behaviors and understandings to notice, teach for, and support at every level so the teacher can consider the specific strengths and needs of the readers in relation to the suggestions given in the Lesson Guide. In addition, we provide professional development suggestions and information specific to consider in teaching English Language Learners in each lesson. There are other tools to support decision-making provided in the system as well. The Prompting Guide is a tool for the teacher to use in making decisions about supporting each reader and in selecting teaching points. The Continuum page at the end of each level provides the competencies the teacher will keep in mind as she teaches within each lesson and makes the decision to move a child to the next level. In addition, there is an extensive professional resource, When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Works that supports the teachers’ knowledge, and a Professional Development DVD to support teacher expertise in coding, analyzing reading behaviors, using the information to inform teaching, and teaching effective lessons.

In sum, LLI provides a powerful system of professional development so that teachers can learn more about teaching through using it and have a structure for teaching that promotes the differentiation of instruction so students can make accelerated progress and reach the competencies of grade level readers. We hope you will take a look at the materials to understand this description more fully.

You will find that the books that come with the system should be adequate. If you find that you need for than the number of books at each level you can move to the other system to get more books and lessons at that level, but that would be rare.

If a student is not making progress with excellent teaching and consistent daily lessons in LLI in addition to small group classroom instruction the student may need an evaluation to diagnose any type of processing difficulties.

The components are available separately but it is far more economical to buy the system. See the LLI order form for ordering information.

It is not ideal to share a system as you may need some of the same levels at the same time. Also the other components that come with the system are designed for one teacher. If you find you must share at first you may get additional components separately.

You can read about the existing and ongoing research on LLI by checking in on our website frequently.

Welcome to the Fountas & Pinnell Blog!

April 6, 2010

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to our blog. We have been working with literacy and reading teachers across the country for several years, and we are very excited about the difference their teaching is making for children. In this blog we will share with you our thoughts and opinions as educators on a variety of topics ranging from Fountas & Pinnell books and programs to educational policy and teaching theory.

Please contribute to this ongoing professional discussion by adding your thoughts as comments to our blog posts. We also invite you to send your questions or article suggestions to us directly using the Contact link at the top of this page. Your input is essential to building a collaborative community of educators dedicated to improving literacy and creating a lifelong love of reading for all learners.

Shared conversations about the children who need the most expert teaching creates an opportunity for us all to learn more about our craft and assure that all children can experience the joy of success.

Warmest regards,
Irene and Gay


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