A Parent’s Perspective: I Know First Hand the Power of Leveled Literacy Intervention

27 Feb

by Melissa Fasten, Project Manager at the Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

Working for the Center in the capacity of project manager, I theoretically am aware of the amazing work and systems our director Irene Fountas and her colleague Gay Su Pinnell develop on behalf of our struggling readers.  This summer/fall, I experienced first hand Leveled Literacy Intervention as a parent.  Read on to learn of our journey with the LLI green system.

When the summer reading list for my six-year son arrived and we were urged to read for 20 minutes each day, I was excited. Yay!  Gabe and I can snuggle while I help him learn to read.  Gabe has enjoyed read-aloud and bedtime stories – this will be great!  Unfortunately, it was a struggle and my child was not interested at ALL in reading with me over the summer before 1st grade.  When I say struggle, I mean the books that were on the summer list for beginning readers were too difficult.  Gabe shut down, crossed his arms, read with no expression when he was able to decode a word, and was literally kicking his feet!  As a parent, I felt defeated.  What and where did I do wrong?

In October, Gabe started the green Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) program.  Immediately, he gained confidence in his reading. With each take home book, I saw his magnificent growth each day.  A milestone for me was when he read to his nine-month old sister totally without prompting!  During our teacher conference, his teacher shared that when asked if he was a reader in September; he stated “No, I am not good at it.”  By December, Gabe’s teacher stated that if she asked that question now, she felt the response would be a much more positive one.  What has changed?  His experience with successful reading in LLI small group instruction (thanks to Ms. Williams) allows Gabe to fully participate in his literacy instruction in his classroom.  He has learned to problem solve if he doesn’t know a word.

His LLI group is wrapping up and although I haven’t seen a progress report yet, I can measure his success through his reading behaviors and development of text preference.  He seeks clues, reads sentences everywhere with fluency, and is in constant exploration of language.  His writing has improved through the take home activities as well.

Thank you to Brookline Public Schools for understanding how important this early intervention is to your students and to the Fountas and Pinnell team for creating these systems to provide this small group instruction!


Writing about Meli from his writing book.  Gabe’s favorite book series are Orsen and Taco, Meli, and Sam and Jessie.

To learn more about LLI, visit our Center’s web page http://www.lesley.edu/leveled-literacy-intervention-training/

Solid research or pseudo-science: How can you tell?

24 Feb

by Wendy Vaulton, Senior Researcher, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

ResearchAlthough there are some red flags that may tip you off to poor scholarship or propaganda disguised as science, sorting the good from the bad when it comes to educational research can be daunting. This topic is important for practitioners and scholars alike. In fact, the most recent issue of Educational Researcher focuses specifically on the question of what should count as high quality education research (http://edr.sagepub.com/content/43/1/7).

So, while the conversation about judging research quality continues, how can you tell if the next study that comes across your desk is worthwhile or belongs in the garbage bin? Let’s start with the easy stuff. Remember those red flags I mentioned? Be very cautious when:

  • A researcher uses inflammatory or insulting language
  • Sources cited are almost entirely from special interest groups or popular media (e.g. Wikipedia)
  • Study limitations and alternate explanations of findings are ignored or sidestepped
  • The author uses logical fallacies and spurious arguments to support a point

It gets trickier when errors and bias in research are subtle or technical. Although not a guarantee of every aspect of quality, research that appears in reputable, peer reviewed journals is generally more credible than articles that appear in other sources. Peer review means researchers who know the field critique and assess an article before it is published to make sure it is accurate, the methods are rigorous, and the topic is relevant to the journal or the publisher. Many government reports are also reviewed by a commission of experts.

Typically, the tone of quality social science is circumspect and judicious. Good research points out its own flaws and limitations rather than obscuring them. Desirable practices including drawing conclusions that are supported by data and avoiding grandiosity and hyperbole. In other words, good research values substance over flash, focusing on the steak rather than the sizzle.

I feel pretty confident saying that to date, there has never been a perfect piece of social science. Bias can enter into a study at any point in its development. What research questions are asked and how they are answered depends on how someone thinks about the issue. Good social science does its best to limit and acknowledge those sources of bias rather than pretending they don’t exist.

A number of people have compiled good checklists of questions for judging the quality of research. Some of the questions that frequently appear on these lists include:

  1. Does the researcher clearly identify a relevant research problem or question?
  2. Is there a theory or framework that guides the study and analysis?
  3. Has the author reviewed the relevant literature thoroughly?
  4. Is the study’s methodology clearly described? This includes the study’s sample selection criteria, data collection instruments and scientific procedures.
  5. Are the results presented in a well-organized, easy to follow format?
  6. Are the limitations of the study discussed?
  7. Do the researcher’s conclusions follow logically from the results?
  8. Are the implications of the research of an appropriate size and scope given the nature of the study?
  9. Does the author have a financial interest in the outcomes of the research?

So take these things into consideration then next time you come across a piece of research. Also, for a good example of bad science, take a look at The Dangers of Bread. This hilarious send-up is a great way to see how easily the trappings of science and statistics get abused to prove a point. You can find it at http://www.geoffmetcalf.com/bread.html

Visit our Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative Research and Outcomes page at http://www.lesley.edu/center-for-reading-recovery/research-and-outcomes/

Wanted: Texts For All Readers

12 Feb

by Heather Morris, Intermediate/Middle School Trainer

This post is the first in a series this winter/spring where we take questions that were asked during our guided reading Twitter chats last summer and answer them in greater length.

Question: I need ideas for upper grade students who read at lower guided reading levels. Texts are babyish.

Answer: A couple years ago, I was meeting with a group of four students in a guided reading group.  During our discussion of the text, one student exclaimed, “Oh, THIS is reading!  I don’t think I have been reading before.”  Mujeeb was in fifth grade reading Super Storms by Seymour Simon, a level M book. Eureka!  He was completely engaged in the book and was enjoying a lively discussion.

As intermediate and middle school teachers, we understand that some students may enter the classroom reading below grade level.  It is our job to observe readers carefully and get to know them in order to select a text to use during guided reading.  We choose books that are at that reader’s instructional level and that students will be interested in reading. Sometimes selecting a text can prove tricky for these readers.

So how might we go about finding these texts to use for our small group reading instruction?  One way is to read, read, read as many books as possible!  As we pour ourselves into children’s literature, it becomes clear what books will engage each of our readers, and the more books we read, the wider the selection from which we have to choose. Another way to find books is to ask your librarian to suggest some titles.  She/he is a wonderful resource!

Remember, you can always turn to a helpful resource to find texts that are written at a lower level but have high interest, like Fountas and Pinnell’s Leveled Books: Matching Texts to Readers for Effective Teaching.  There is also an online version, www.fountasandpinnellleveledbooks.com. On the online version, there is an advanced search option that allows you to look for books with mature content and lower level text demands. As you peruse your students’ instructional levels, you’ll find authors and series that your students will enjoy.

Lastly, creating a community of teacher readers at your school can be an invaluable resource to locate wonderful books to fill our school’s book room to use for guided reading.  Finding and purchasing books of high interest for below-grade level readers could be an agenda item for your school’s Literacy Team. Also, blogs contain a treasure trove of texts that colleagues around the world recommend:






Taking the time to find instructionally appropriate texts that honor a student’s age and interests will unlock the door to reading  – just like it did for Mujeeb!

If you are interested in learning more about guided reading , visit our Center’s NEW guided reading resource pages at http://www.lesley.edu/guided-reading/

Our Favorite Books For Winter

31 Jan

winterbooks2Here in Cambridge we are experiencing some exceptionally arctic temperatures. And what better way to keep warm than to cuddle up with your favorite winter-themed book. Below are some of the Center staff’s favorites. Enjoy!

  • Brave Irene by William Steig– Emily C. (Project Assistant) and Helen S. (Intermediate and Middle School Trainer)
  • Snowmen at Night by Caralyn and Mark Beuhner– Wendy V. (Senior Researcher)
  • Thomas’s Snowsuit by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko– Toni C. (Online Course Faculty)
  • Snow by Cynthia Rylant and Lauren Stringer– Heather M. (Intermediate and Middle School Trainer)
  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost and Susan Jeffers– Diane P. (Assistant Director, Primary)
  • The Hat by Jan Brett– Melissa F. (Project Manager)
  • The Mitten by Jan Brett– Kelly A. (Project Manager)
  • Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton– Candice C. (Project Assistant)
  • Skip Through the Seasons by Stella Blackstone and Maria Carluccio– Averie B. (Project Manager)

Let us know what your favorite winter-themed books are in the comments below!

An Introduction to Infographics

23 Jan

ImageAn infographic is a marketing tool that has become quite popular in recent years. Research reports are not always the most captivating thing to read, so marketing and design companies have figured out a way to visually represent data that may previously have been too complex for mass consumption. Because research and data are so crucial to education and literacy programs, we’re here today to share some information we’ve found useful to get you started.

What is an infographic? According to Mashable.com, an infographic is a “graphic visual representation of information, data or knowledge. These graphics present complex information quickly and clearly, such as in signs, maps, journalism, technical wiring, and education” (http://mashable.com/category/infographics/). Basically, it’s a way to add a visual element to data that can help call out your most important pieces of information.

Why infographics? One reason an infographic is a great tool is it allows you to visually highlight an important piece of data that might have gotten lost on a traditional research report. Another reason to use an infographic is that it’s a great way to quickly make a point with data. Educators are very busy people, so having a way to quickly make an impact can make all the difference.

And don’t be discouraged by some of the infographics you’ve seen out there. You can get extremely involved in the graphic design aspect of an infographic, but the resources here will make it easy to integrate some visual data into your research without having any background in graphic design.

Below are some examples of infographics, as well as some resources for you to create your own. Good luck and have fun!

Infographic Examples
http://issuu.com/literacy_for_all/docs/rr-i3_research_highlights_1_ (This infographic was created by The Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative and is a good example of having a  balance between text and visuals.)

Resources for Creating Your Own
(One thing to keep in mind is that some of the websites that allow you to create infographics require that your infographic be made open to the public.)

Blog Posts January–June 2014

16 Dec

National LC Blog Snapshot

From January-June, we will be featuring our Center’s faculty blog posts from the national Literacy Collaborative blog. The national Literacy Collaborative blog is a collaboration between The Ohio State University and Lesley University, focusing on Literacy Collaborative topics such as coaching, school leadership, and classroom literacy practices in K-8 implementation. We wanted to share this resource with you since the topics may be relevant to our blog audience as well. We hope that you find these posts to be a wonderful resource!

Here is the link to the national Literacy Collaborative blog in case you wanted to check out the wonderful posts from 2013! http://literacycollaborative.org/blog/

Georgia Partnership for Educational Excellence Visits Literacy Collaborative School

11 Dec

The Georgia Partnership for Educational Excellence recently went on its annual Bus Trip Across Georgia that included educators and community and business leaders who are all interested in educational programs happening in the state. We were excited to find out they stopped at one of our Literacy Collaborative partner districts, Dalton Public Schools! Dalton has been implementing Literacy Collaborative and we are are so proud of their commitment and hard work. Below are a few things tour participants said about the schools in Dalton:

“My favorite of the trip! They have this reading thing done right. Love, love, love this! Saw students writing, reading their stories in front of the class and receiving both compliments and suggestions for improvement which were given with complete relevant feedback using the key learning concepts being taught. It was amazing to see 2nd graders articulate their thoughts and be able to give and receive feedback in such a meaningful and respectful manner.”

“After visiting, I believe that the innovation is not the reading program itself. It is the way it is implemented. It is good to see they are empowering teachers, emphasizing professional learning and making a long-term commitment to improving poor teachers and making good teachers great.”

“The amount of literacy used in the classrooms is evident and very astounding—verb charts, “What we’ve read” charts, etc. And I loved guided writing. I would love to implement this in my own classroom, especially for ELL students.”

“Reading program was fabulous. Commitment to all children is superb. Loved seeing it; it was a worthwhile stop.”

To read the whole article, visit https://dpsschools.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/gpee-bus-visits-dalton/

For more information about Literacy Collaborative, visit http://www.lesley.edu/literacy-collaborative/


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,444 other followers