The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System is a popular literacy assessment, which I absolutely love! This universal screener is administered individually, requiring about 20 – 40 minutes per student. The screener includes an oral reading component and a comprehension component. When taken together, these two components provide an instructional level for each student (independent, instructional, frustrational).
The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System is a great tool to drive instruction and place students in guided reading groups, but…
A Fountas & Pinnell reading level should NOT be the determining factor for a Special Education referral!
F&P is Subjective!
The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System is a subjective measure. This is because there is no right or wrong answer, and a teacher’s beliefs, assumptions, emotions, and opinions can influence the outcome of the score.
Objective assessments have a single correct answer. Think true or false, multiple choice, and matching questions. Subjective tests include extended response questions and essays, or in other words, the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System.
In addition, many of the benchmark tests include some inherent bias toward culture, background knowledge of the student, etc.
In addition, at the start of the year, students can be hesitant to talk to a new teacher, while some students are shy all year! The open ended questioning format of the test can be biased against shy students, students lacking language, and others. The personality of a student can impact the outcome of the assessment.
F&P is Only One Data Point
As teachers, we know that one data point cannot be used to make an educational decision. Good teachers use numerous types of data from many sources to determine student strengths and areas to improve.
How often does a student score one way on the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, but is unable to read that same level of authentic text?
Self-Correction Scores Do Not Impact F&P Reading Levels
Self-correction is not taken into account when determining a student's reading level in the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System.
Some students are able to achieve high accuracy and high comprehension scores, despite also demonstrating a high self-correction rate.
Self-correction in reading is a good skill that teachers love to see. It shows us that students are visually attending to the text and self monitoring for meaning of the text.
Typically, a high self-correction rate impacts comprehension, but for some students, it does not. This can mean that a student is reading “too fast” and not attending to the text for phonics (decoding) principles. This should indicate to a teacher that the student requires explicit instruction in attending to the text and may indicate a need for explicit instruction of phonics skills noted in the self-corrections on the running record.
F&P is NOT Norm-Referenced
The Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment is a criterion-referenced tests. Such tests are designed to determine if a student has a set of skills. A norm-referenced assessment compares the student’s performance to other same-aged students.
Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System touts itself as just that - a benchmark assessment! This means that it can be used to measure student progress against a grade level or learning goal. Benchmark assessments, like the F&P, are interim assessments and should be given in between formative and summative assessments.
The F&P Benchmark Assessment is based on empirical research on language development, vocabulary expansion, reading acquisition, and reading difficulties. The assessment system has been field tested, but there is no empirical evidence on it.
There are NO F&P Police
The F&P Benchmark Assessment does have directions for administration; however, as teachers, we know that every student is different, and not every student follows the rules!
What happens when a student makes an error on the same word repeatedly? Does this count as multiple errors or just one?
What happens when the fluency rate is extremely low, but the accuracy and comprehension scores meet expectations?
So who do we go to with our questions about the students who do not follow the F&P rules?
Many schools have literacy coaches, but every coach seems to have their own interpretation and answers to our questions!
For instance, I was once told that we stop assessing a student when he/she has achieved one year above grade level, even if we think this student could read at a higher level. Is this right?
While scores may have F&P norms in place, who is enforcing them? Are they F&P’s rules? And doesn’t this just add to more subjectivity?
Fountas & Pinnell Should NOT be used to Refer Students to Special Education
Independent studies examining the usefulness of the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System as a universal screener are limited. Furthermore, in studies, using F&P to identify students as at-risk have resulted in moderate sensitivity, or unacceptable rates of identification (Burns, et al., 2015).
Fountas and Pinnell reading levels are one descriptor of a student’s reading ability, but it should not be our sole indicator.
But while The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System should not be used to refer a student for Special Education testing, it is very useful for teachers!
Its purpose is to inform instruction for teachers, relay to teachers, students, and families which skills are important to master, and express a student’s progress towards those learning goals, not to determine Special Education eligibility.
By Miss Rae
Burns, M. K., Pulles, S. M., Maki, K. E., Kanive, R., Hodgson, J., Helman, L. A., Preast, J. L., (2015). Accuracy of student performance while reading leveled books rated at their instructional level by a reading inventory. Journal of School Psychology, 53, 437-445.
Center on Response to Intervention: Screening Tools Chart (https://rti4success.org/resources/tools-charts/screening-tools-chart)
Klingbeil, D. A., McComas, J. J., Burns, M. K., & Helman, L. (2015). Comparison of predictive validity and diagnostic accuracy of screening measures of reading skills. Psychology in the Schools, 52(5), 500-514. http://doi.org/10.1002/pits.21839
Parker, D. C., Zaslofsky, A. F., Burns, M. K., Kanive, R., Hodgson, J., Scholin, S. E., & Klingbeil, D. A, (2015). A brief report of the diagnostic accuracy of oral reading fluency and reading inventory levels for reading failure risk among second- and third-grade students. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 31, 56-67.
A cooperative learning using the jigsaw reading strategy
How do I find the time to teach Science and Social Studies???
How do I find the time to cover all of the curriculum, nevermind actually teach it???
How do I get my students to work cooperatively together???
How do I get my students to work together to learn together???
Well, I have the answer.
Get your students to work together to learn together using the jigsaw reading teaching strategy!
Every student will work in an Expert Group to become an “Expert” on a topic or skill. These students will all read the same text together, determine the main idea, and then, use their expert knowledge to teach the students in their Home Groups about the topic or skill.
First, make your Expert Groups Expert Groups should consist of 3-5 students who similar reading abilities. Essentially, these should be homogeneous groups.
Next, find a set of reading selections on the content you are teaching. For example, if you are studying Plants, perhaps one Expert Group reads about the parts of the plants and their functions, another Expert Group will receive a text about the life cycle of a plant, and the last Expert Group will read a text about adaptations of plants.
These should be short texts. Think the length of an article in a magazine!
Note: It is important that the reading material assigned is at appropriate instructional levels (90–95% reading accuracy).
I use sections from textbooks, chapters from novels, or websites with FREE non-fiction articles like...Newsela (https://newsela.com/) or ReadWorks (https://www.readworks.org/)
Next, make your Home Groups. There should be one “Expert” from each Expert Group in each Home Group.
Explain to students that they will be working in different cooperative groups to become “Experts” on a topic or skill
Introduce the strategy and/or the topic to be studied.
Then, group students into their Expert Groups and provide them with their assigned text to read.
Give students an appropriate amount of time to read the assigned text.
Provide students with highlighters, sticky notes, and/or a graphic organizer for notetaking.
It should be explained to students that while reading their texts in their Expert Groups, they should be reading for main ideas, supporting details, and key terms. It is going to be the
Experts’ jobs to teach other students about what they read.
After the Experts have finished reading the text, students should work together in their Expert Groups make sure that all members of the group fully understand the ideas presented and are able to accurately summarize their learning.
Note: You may provide key questions and/or a graphic organizers to focus the discussion.
Next, students move to their Home Groups.
While in their Home Groups, each student (or Expert) will report the information learned from their Expert text (or the text they read in their Expert Group).
It is important to remind students that Home Group members are responsible to learn ALL content from one another.
Using our Plant example, each Home Group should have one student from the Expert Group that read about the parts of the plants and their functions, one student from the Expert Group that read about the life cycle of a plant, and one student from the Expert Group that read about adaptations of plants.
Each member of the Home Group is expected to learn about each topic or skill learned by the Expert.
You may wish to prepare a summary chart or graphic organizer for each Home Group as a guide for organizing the Experts' information into a report of some sort.
Facilitate a whole class discussion to summarize the students’ learning. Ask Home Groups to report out about what they learned from each other!
OR try this variation to the Jigsaw Reading Cooperative Learning Strategy:
And there you have it!
You taught your students to work together to learn together! (Oh, and you taught content you didn’t even know you had time to teacher AND you did it all in one lesson!)
"I Can’t Remember or Understand What I Just Read!"
Here’s a teaching strategy to improve recall and overall comprehension of a text:
Begin by asking the students to visualize (imagine, picture) what they read in their heads as they read, stopping periodically to first, model what you are visualizing (“I’m picturing her face looking angry. It’s red and her fists are clenched…”). Ask the students what they are picturing. Stop after each part of the story (beginning, middle, end). At each stopping point, ask the students to verbalize the part (beg., mid., end) as they visualize it. Then, have them draw what they visualized. After reading the whole text, ask students to use their drawings to retell the story’s beginning, middle, and end. Lastly, write a sentence or two next to each picture in order to produce a complete retelling. (Tip: For added support, give students sentence frames… i.e. In the beginning, ___.)
The text can be read round robin style of reading with a small group or as a mini-lesson with the whole class.
Scaffold the approach by gradually releasing responsibility (i.e. allow the student to identify the beginning, middle and end, instead of explicitly stating it and determining it for students).
You can also use this approach with non-fiction. Vary the strategy by stopping after reading each section, and model what you visualized (i.e. “I pictured the frog in my head changing from an egg to a…”). Ask the students what they pictured. Then, have them draw what they visualized. After reading the whole text, ask students to use their drawings to retell the main idea and supporting details. Lastly, write a sentence or two next to each picture in order to produce a complete retelling. (Tip: For added support, give students sentence frames… i.e. Frogs change from ___.)
Check out my "See & Say" Reading Comprehension Strategy:
AND compatible graphic organizer for retellings...
Tip: I have my students complete retelling sheets after each book we read ...BUT... since paper is a hot commodity along with a teacher's time which can be saved from copying, I place my retelling sheets inside these pockets so I can have them for the ENTIRE school year... yes, you read that correctly!
Hi! I'm Miss Rae! I'm a Special Education Coordinator with a passion for creating research-based resources for DiVeRSe learners and helping teachers make their lives easier! #teacherrealtalk #missraesroom