leveled books

Dear Lucy,

Dear Lucy, Thank you for writing No One Gets to Own the Term “The Science of Reading.” I am so relieved that discussion of reading science has made its way into the balanced literacy community and that you’ve added your own voice to the conversation. You’re making it safe for experienced educators to refine our practice as a result of new learning.  For many years, I was a devout reading

The Drudgery (and Beauty) of Decodable Texts

I was determined to undo the bad reading habits my students had developed during guided reading. So, I exchanged a leveled reading program for one with decodables and used a diagnostic phonics assessment to regroup my students. For some students, cracking the code was easy Students with strong phonemic awareness linked the sounds they heard in spoken words to the letter patterns I taught. When they came to an unfamiliar

F&P Benchmark Assessment System: Doesn’t look right, sound right, or make sense

My district, like so many others, uses Fountas and Pinnell’s Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) as the primary measure of student reading progress. But if you’ve had doubts about the assessment and the ways BAS data is often used, you’re on to something… Limited Materials An F&P Benchmark Assessment System kit provides us with only two books (one fiction and one nonfiction) for each reading level, so we end up using

It’s Not Enough to Know Better

Just as the school year began, Natalie Wexler’s Knowledge Gap and Emily Hanford’s At a Loss for Words shook the ground under Balanced Literacy. Optimists might assume that classroom instruction will be transformed as a result of these powerful publications, but if a teacher in my district heard the research and wanted to change her practice, she’d face a series of barriers.  Barrier: Formal Evaluation The school year began with

What F&P Have “Clarified” and What They Haven’t

The Fountas and Pinnell leveling system is designed to help teachers match students with books they can read. Period. Whether or not it actually does that will be covered in the next blog, but first… Districts across the country use Fountas and Pinnell materials in ways contrary to the creators’ intent, which is a problem separate from the materials themselves. “It is our belief that levels have no place in

Leveling Charges at F&P

The (Marketing) Genius of the F&P Leveling System The Fountas and Pinnell leveling system proposes that all the books written in English can be sorted into 26 categories, exactly the number of letters in the English alphabet. (In the same neighborhood as Reading Recovery’s 34 levels, one can’t help but notice. But that minus-eight makes all the difference.) The A-Z simplicity of the F&P leveling system is so appealing that

Phonics Instruction: Helps All, Harms None

The Wait and See Approach: While some students crack the alphabetic code with minimal or even no instruction, others require systematic phonics reinforced by decodable texts to become skilled readers. The catch is that when students enter school, we don’t know for whom code-based instruction will be essential. We can wait and find out, and in fact, we do this so often that the approach has a name, “wait to

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