2004

December Question #1

Joy Pike
1st Grade Teacher

I am in the process of leveling my books. I have been using the book, matching books to reader and that has been very helpful. I have also been using a Web site and it gives the lexile score. Could you please explain how the lexile score could help me level on the A-Z method? Also what is the lexile score of NP?

Thanks for your help

Answer

Dear Joy,

The lexile formula does not correspond to the factors that we used to level books. It is a very different way of looking at text difficulty.

Best,
Irene


December Question #2

Michelle Tomnay
1st Grade Teacher

Our school purchased only the below level and language support leveled readers. However, we have not been able to utilize them because we have some questions. Can you please help?! When are the leveled readers supposed to be used? Where do they fit in with the entire HM reading program? We are unsure because the TE never makes reference to the leveled readers, so we have just been using the anthology and phonics readers. If you could lend some insight we would really be grateful.

Thank you.

Answer

Dear Michelle,

The leveled readers are useful for working with small groups of children at all levels. You will want to form groups of children similar to each other in reading ability and select texts that are not too easy but not too difficult. The leveled text you select should be at the childrens' instructional level so you can teach the children how to expand their reading ability.

The Houghton Mifflin Leveled Readers can be used during small group instruction. Visit Leveled Readers Correlations for additional leveled readers information.

Best,
Irene


November Question #1

Harriet Yoffee
Reading First Reading Specialist

We are considering buddy reading for the children from kindergarten through grade five. I wanted to know if there was research that examines this. I am interested in finding out the benefits of matching younger kids with older kids for book buddies. I know of anecdotal references and what I feel are the benefits. Has there been research done?

Thank you.
Harriet

Answer

Harriet, you will need to do a Guided Reading search to find specific research on this topic.

I would suggest looking at paired reading, partner reading and buddy reading.

Good luck,
Irene


November Question #2

Cristen Delaney
All

Hi, Ms. Fountas.

I just wanted to ask you a question: How do your books and theories support a process approach to learning? This question is being asked of me, but I can not seem to figure it out. Have you written any articles and how may I find them?

Thanks for your time. Love your books!!

Cristen Delaney

Answer

Cristen, I am not clear on what you mean by a process approach to reading. You may want to read sections of Guided Reading and sections of Guiding Readers and Writers to learn what we have written about the reading process. We have written some articles, most recently on comprehension and one on phonics in the California Reader.

Thanks for your comments,
Irene


November Question #3

Sharon Mosden
2nd Grade teacher

Can you suggest a more updated list of books by guided reading level? I've already purchased three of your Guided Reading texts (they're huge), but many new books are available and not listed. What do you suggest for coding my enormous library?

Thanks,
Sharon

Answer

Sharon,

Since you have used many of our leveled books and read about the leveling process in our professional books, you can tentatively give your books approximated levels to try them out.

Good luck,
Irene


October Question

Kim
Teacher

What is the best way to assess a class of students to determine their individual guided reading levels?

Answer

Dear Kim,

I suggest that you use benchmark books to assess reading levels using running records. A benchmark book is a sample text or prototype from the level. It is described in Leveled Books for Readers Grades 3-6 and Matching Books to Readers K-2 by Fountas and Pinnell. Both are published by Heinemann.

Good luck,
Irene


September Question #1

Marliss Barczak
Instructional Supervisor, K-6

Our teachers want workbooks instead of the Leveled Readers that I ordered for them. Can you give me some ammunition in trying to get them to understand the importance of the Leveled Readers and the research that says busy seat work isn't the most rewarding strategy to use?

Thanks,
Marliss

Answer

Dear Marliss,

The best way to help readers learn how to process texts is to engage them in processing more texts. When the text level is appropriate, the reader can learn to read better. So the text level matters a great deal.

The research shows a strong correlation between amount of reading and student achievement scores. You can see a chart from the Reading Research Quarterly study in 1988 by Anderson, Pearson and Fielding on page 43 in Guiding Readers and Writers (Fountas and Pinnell). When the teachers use the Leveled Readers, you will see that there are questions for them to think about and many worthwhile tasks for writing about reading if the teachers feel the need for them to do more written work. The written suggestions are more open-ended and require higher-level thinking.

Best to you,
Irene


September Question #2

Annmarie Baird

How can I use the Burns and Roe Reading Inventory to assign my students to independent reading books? For example, is a third grade reading level passage equivalent to an “L” level book? Since most teachers must use a leveled library and not a basal reader, how can I get more from this book than just grade levels? I need to align it to Fountas and Pinnell leveled books that they talk about in their book Guiding Readers and Writers. The levels go somewhere from A to V levels. Please help.

Thank you,
Annmarie Baird

Answer

Dear Annmarie:

The primary use of a qualitative reading inventory is individual diagnostic information. You can refer to the equivalent charts in the Leveled Readers Handbook I wrote that is published by Houghton Mifflin or the equivalent charts in Matching Books to Readers or Leveled Books for Readers published by Heinemann. The charts will show you approximate grade-level equivalents for each of the letter levels.

Best to you,
Irene


September Question #3

Sharon Hellmann
Grades 3-5

I teach language arts in a multi-age classroom at a small charter school. We are a new school and do not yet have a substantial library, leveled or otherwise, or set of teacher resources for our guided reading practice. I am looking for a source of text selections to use for running records. I have 42 students, most of whom do not come with information on last year's end-of-year level. So, I expect to be doing a large number of running records to get each child properly evaluated early in this year. However, I don't have a large supply of leveled books or prepared running record texts. Is there a book? A Web site? Any sources you know of would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Sharon

Answer

Dear Sharon,

You can find about 15,000 titles leveled in two publications, Matching Books to Readers for K-2 (Fountas and Pinnell) or Leveled Books for Readers (Grades 3-6) (Pinnell and Fountas), both published by Heinemann. You can also find the Houghton Mifflin Leveled Readers in Leveled Readers Handbook by Irene Fountas, which is published by Houghton Mifflin.

As of January, Heinemann expects to launch a leveled books Web site (Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Books) that will be very useful to you. Keep your eye on their Web site for the announcement.

Good luck,
Irene


July Question #1

Sharon Nolde
First Grade Teacher

Dear Irene,

Our school is trying to build up a leveled book library. We are using the guided reading model in classrooms in first and second grades. I am looking for a phonics component that would work with this program. I am uncomfortable just pulling skills from the text and would like some guidelines to the skills that I need to be teaching. Our school is a private school on a limited budget. Do you have any suggestions of a program that would work well with guided reading yet give me some specific lessons or a sequence of skills to be taught? I would appreciate a response.

Sincerely,
Sharon Nolde

Answer

Dear Sharon,

I am not familiar with a variety of phonics program but can suggest that you look at Phonics Lessons, 1, 2 and Word Study Lessons 3 by Gay Su Pinnell and myself, and published by Heinemann. It has a very comprehensive word study continuum. You can look at sample lessons on the Web site:

Phonics Lessons
http://phonicsminilessons.com/

Good luck!


July Question #2

Susan Weinman
Vice Principal

Can you direct me to a continuum of comprehension skills K-5?

Answer

Dear Susan,

I am sorry, I do not know of a continuum of comprehensive skills.

Best,
Irene


July Question #3

Donna Reid
Consultant

Which level for assessment in grade five P?

Answer

Dear Donna,

Levels S, T, U, V and W span grade five. You may want to refer to the Leveled Readers Handbook where there is a chart of all the grade levels.

Best,
Irene


July Question #4

Nancy Janssen
2nd Grade Teacher

I am stuck on building fluency with my “careful speakers.” They are all decoding and comprehending, but read so very slow. Any suggestions? I do a lot of repeated reading, and it will pick up fluency for that selection. Then we start over again with a new text and it is slow until they repeat. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

Answer

Dear Nancy,

Fluency is related to many things, including the child's ability to anticipate the language and read phrases. You might want to model reading fluently and ask the children to repeat and then tell them to put their words together the way you did. You need to try to give the children a concept of fluent reading so they know what you mean. I would also suggest that the new text be introduced so children are familiar with the content and language and can process it more easily.

Thanks for your support!

Best,
Irene


July Question #5

Michelle Dimond
2nd Grade Teacher

I have leveled all the leveled readers with my series using the guided reading method. All the titles were available on the Web site correlation guide except the language support titles. Do you have a resource that shows the correlation?

Answer

Dear Michelle,

The Language Support books have not yet been leveled.


June Question #1

Melissa Schaub-Diaz
Asst. Principal Curriculum & Instruction

Dear Irene,

We have implemented balanced literacy, with specific attention to guided reading this year at my school. Part of the training has included running records in order to guide level selections. We have made a school-wide assessment schedule for formal running records (data collection purposes) 3 times a year. Teachers are asking about children experiencing the same book more than once. If they scored instructional in an earlier reading, is it okay to use that book again for retesting of the same level without causing any alteration in data? Theoretically, this formal tesing process would happen 3-4 months later (with informal running records being taken along the way), and would touch only a few cases I imagine, depending on the grade level and typical rate of movement through the levels. I would so appreciate your feedback on this in order to give a truly researched answer.

Thanks so much!
Melissa Schaub-Diaz

Answer

Melissa,

If the child did not achieve an instructional level, you can give the assessment again, but the important aspect of running records is a look at the processing not just the level. If the child was at instructional and it is three or four months later, one would hope the level is now independent. You can always use the text more than once, but just make sure you note you are using it more than once.

Good luck!
Irene


June Question #2

Jennifer Bukovsky
3rd Grade Teacher

I am researching guided reading and have had difficulty finding out where exactly it has originated from and the history of guided reading. If you could forward some references or imformation it would be helpful.

Thanks,
Jenny

Answer

Jenny,

The early work in guided reading came from New Zealand. You may want to research Don Holdaway's Foundations of Literacy.

Irene


June Question #3

Shirley McNinch
Literacy Coach

I'm in charge of leveling the Houghton Mifflin's Early Success™ books to match the levels we now have with Fountas and Pinnell leveling. Is there a resource I can access to make this job less cumbersome?

Answer

Shirley,

I would refer you to Matching Books to Readers and Guided Reading for level descriptions and a description of the process.

Irene


May Question

Jennifer Gardner
SOAR Teacher

While a great deal of emphasis is being placed upon building fluency in grades K-2, it seems critical analysis of text is being put on by wayside until third grade, which is when these students are taking a pass or fail state mandated reading test. Though Piaget says that the brain does not develop the ability to think critically until later in life, our statewide test is asking our third graders to apply critical thinking skills when answering what is believed to be comprehension questions. Though we do not have the ability to alter brain development, what can be done, in addition to having students retell stories in the lower grades, K-2, to assist comprehension and independent critical thinking, so that there is a good foundation when students are faced with this obstacle in third grade? One would think that these skills should not be grade-level dependent, but begin at even the emergent level; there must be some suggestions for fostering these skills. Our district is very much behind Guided Reading and Reader's Workshop, and still there are gaps. I believe that some key elements are missing from instruction. I would like to have suggestions that are helpful, do not alienate my colleagues and enlighten me as to how to best help the problem that we are having at our campus.

Answer

Jennifer,

You are making some specific statements about the kinds of thinking promoted at various grade levels and I am wondering what is the source of the conclusions. I agree with you that discussion of a variety of ways of thinking about texts should happen throughout the grades as developmentally appropriate. I do think retelling is overused and low level. As texts become more sophisticated in guided reading, they will warrant higher-level thinking about the meaning.

I would suggest lots of good discussion around read-aloud texts at the early levels, and at about grade two the children can participate in small literature discussion groups with you. Also I would suggest the use of a great deal of drawing and writing about reading in which children respond to texts and share their thinking in response to any reading that is done in the classroom.

Hope this helps!
Irene


April Question

Rosanna L. Gowan
7th/8th Language Arts

What is the Lexile Level and the Fountas/Pinnell Level? I'm familar with Guided Reading and Leveled books; however, because I've been teaching older students, I need help understanding the concept of leveled books at a middle school level. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Answer

Rosanna,

The Fountas and Pinnell level is a letter that indicates how difficult the book is based on a set of characteristics such as book and print features, vocabulary, decodability of words, genre, content,theme, ideas, language and others. Books are arranged in a gradient form A to Z with A being the easiest at about a kindergarten level and Z the most difficult at a middle school and high school level. You can find detailed description of all the levels through middle school in Leveled Books for Readers Grades 3-6 published by Heinemann.

I am not knowledgeable about lexile levels but can tell you that they do not correspond with the Fountas and Pinnell levels as they are based on very different factors.


March Question

Jane
4th-Grade Teacher

What level is Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo? Also Song of the Trees and The Well by Mildrid D Taylor?

Answer

Jane,

If you do not find a title in Matching Books to Readers or in Leveled Books for Readers, they have not been leveled by our team. Books like Because of Winn Dixie and Song of the Trees are such wonderful literature discussion books that I would not want to level them and use them for guided reading. If you would like to look at them in terms of leveling, the criteria for analysis are described fully in the two professional books I refer to, available from Heinemann.

Best,
Irene


January Question #1

Gina
K-4 Learning-Center Teacher

I am a learning center teacher who is working primarily in 1st and 2nd grade classrooms supporting learning/disabled students. My school has an extensive Guided Reading library but no basals or anthologies. Relying solely on Guided Reading seems to be somewhat difficult for the classroom teachers to manage week to week. Do you recommend that teachers combine the use of basals and Leveled Readers in their classrooms, or if you feel that just guided reading and Leveled Readers are appropriate, do you have any management suggestions? Thank you!

Answer

Gina,

Guided Reading is one component of a comprehensive approach. I am unclear on what grade levels you are referring to but teaching reading at the children's instructional level is one critical component at every level in the elementary school. Teachers can learn to use guided reading as the core program along with other components with good professional development and good text resources. They would also be using shared reading, read aloud, and literature discussion texts. Some schools use basals or anthologies along with leveled books for guided reading as well. I believe either approach will work well with appropriate professional development.

In terms of management it is important that the independent work children do when they are not with the teacher in a group be productive and meaningful. Teachers at the K and 1 level find centers useful when they have taught the children the routines well. At the upper levels students can manage independent work like writing about reading and listening to stories on tape.

Your teachers may find the guides to the Leveled Readers useful as they provide a good basic structure to the teaching.

Best,
Irene


January Question #2

Claire Orsinger
Mother of 1st-Grade student

Is there an updated version of 1999's “Matching Books to Readers?” I am trying to put levels on books published since 1999 and would like to buy an updated list.

Answer

Claire,

The newest levels are in Leveled Books for Readers Grades 3-6. We are in the process of creating a database for schools to access, so stay tuned.

Best,
Irene


January Question #3

Elizabeth Morin
4th-Grade Teacher

I am assuming that the correlations of books to levels use the same formula as the levels in the book Guided Reading. We have several books that aren't leveled. How can one get trained to Level Books using the same formula as you are using?

Answer

Elizabeth,

We describe the leveling process in Matching Books to Readers and in Leveled Books for Readers Grades 3-6, both published by Heinemann. We believe you should get to know our levels well before trying to level some of your own.

Good luck,
Irene


January Question #4

S Fassiotto
4th-Grade Teacher

Are the Houghton-Mifflin Guided Reading Levels based on the same criteria as the Guided Reading Levels in the books you authored with Pinnell? If not, how do they differ? We have compared the levels of several titles and found the books rated differently in the two resources.

Answer

Ms. Fassiotto,

The Houghton Mifflin Leveled Readers have been leveled with the same criteria. I cannot speak to other Houghton Mifflin texts as I did not level them myself.

Best,
Irene


January Question #5

Alice Patton
School Liaison

I am the school liaison for an Air Force Base in Hawaii. I have had several parents ask me how they can get their teens (grades 7 & 8) interested in reading for pleasure. Any suggestions?

Answer

Alice, I think it is important to finds the books on topics that the teens can't resist“the topics that are relevant in their lives. I would suggest asking the librarian for lists and asking the librarian to give a few short book talks on each to get the students interested. Sometimes listening to a book on tape gets teens interested in a series.

Best,
Irene


January Question #6

Cindy Powell
1st-Grade Teacher

I have a question about Guided Reading with ELD students. The Charter School I am now working at (which is new) is all ELD Russian Children and I am really floored on the lack of prior knowledge. Working with 1-3 ELD students is not the same as the entire classroom. I wanted to know about how many days should I spend on a single book with these students. It seems everything I know about Guided Reading has gone out the window when they don't even recognize what a lake is even after they have recognized the word family “ake.” I find myself spending more time helping them connect words to objects. They are energetic, excited, and ambitious to learn, but their knowledge isn't meeting their energy. Do you have some suggestions to help bridge the gap of traditional Guided Reading and Guided Reading for ELD students. Also I should mention they spend three hours a week learning to write and read Russian (I don't speak Russian). Thanks for your help or advice.

Answer

Cindy,

The selection of books for these students is critical. Try not to choose books that have too many new concepts. Give the children a lot of input in terms of background knowledge and use the language of the text. Also get them to repeat the unfamiliar language structures prior to reading them. The difference is to spend more time giving the children input and getting them to use the language. Increase the amount of time for discussion after as well. I think the most important thing is appropriate book choice or the reading will not be successful.

Best,
Irene


January Question #7

Rhonda
3rd-Grade Teacher

How do we use Leveled Readers (in this case, 3rd grade) for a child whose independent reading level is at least 6th grade, quite possibly higher? We use Legacy of Literacy. I could use guidance on how to use Leveled Readers to teach children who are very far above grade level and still maintain the requirement that we stick with our main grade-level reading program for all children.

Answer

Rhonda,

When a child can process a text at least three years above grade level you will likely find that the content is beyond the child developmentally. In other words a third grader cannot understand texts the way they are meant to be understood at the age of a sixth grader. I suggest using texts about a year above level and extending the child's background knowledge and thinking with texts that are age appropriate. You will notice that many of the Leveled Readers at fourth grade level are rich in content and literary value. The kind of thinking the child does with the text is what matters, not how hard the words are to read. I suggest expanding the child's range of genres and depth of reading. Also take advantage of opportunities for the child to write about reading. It is a good way for him or her to reflect on texts at a deeper level.

Good luck,
Irene


January Question #8

Amy Thomas
Resource Library

I am putting together a Leveled Reading Library for our new school and am having trouble finding out the proper guided reading levels for a collection of Houghton Mifflin Literature Books we have. Can you tell me the levels for the following?

Answer

Amy,

The titles you list are wonderful literary selections—I would suggest them for literature discussion or read aloud and would not suggest leveling them for use in Guided Reading. They can be leveled using the criteria we describe in Leveled Books for Readers Grades 3-6, but the books you name are ones I would not choose to use in Guided Reading lessons.

Best,
Irene