Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Continuum of Literacy Learning

Do you know  this book?
It's The Continuum of Literacy Learning: A Guide to Teaching
by Fountas and Pinnell.
The picture and link above is the book I have.  It was published in 2007.  This link will take you to the second edition pictured below, which was published in 2010.  Both pictures are for the grade 3-8 book, but there is also a preK-grade 2 edition.

If you do guided reading groups or any kind of leveled literacy instruction, I would say this book is a great resource to have on your shelf. So, what's the book about?  It focuses on seven continuum of literacy learning:
1.  Interactive Read-Aloud and Literature Discussion
2.  Shared and Performance Reading
3.  Writing About Reading
4.  Writing
5.  Oral, Visual, and Technological Communication
6.  Phonics, Spelling, and Word Study
7.  Guided Reading

The introduction explains that "This learning continuum. . . is designed to help educators teach from the specific body of understandings that students must acquire to become highly effective users of oral and written language.  With this foundation, you can set clear goals for learning and plan specific lessons across many instructional contexts." (From page 1 of the first edition)

So, what does all that mean?  Let me show you how the book is set up.  It begins with an introduction chapter that explains the seven areas above.  Then, we have the lovely tabbed sections! For the purposes of this post, I am really just highlighting the reading and guided reading information.

Behind the grade level tabs, you will find "a general guide to the kinds of understandings students will need to acquire by the end of each grade."    But, wait! There's more! (Don't I sound like I'm selling Ginsu Knives?) Each grade level give you specific, detailed information on "behaviors and understandings to notice, teach, and support" in bulleted lists.  It will do this for each continuum, 1-6, that I listed above.  As I said, it does it in great detail.  It will guide you in setting grade level specific learning goals, curriculum goals that will have your friends thinking within, beyond, and about the texts they read.

The glossary tab section defines pretty much any literacy term you might ever come across.  It's nice to have because, really, you can't expect every teacher to know every literacy term out there.

Here is my favorite section.

Each level gives you explicit information in several areas.
  • It will describe what you can expect, in general, of readers at that level.
  • There is also a tremendous amount of information on selecting texts for that grade level.  It goes into detail about genres, text structure, content, theme/ideas, language and literacy features, sentence complexity, vocabulary, word decoding, illustrations, and book and print features.
  • Another area of information explains the demands of the text at this level.   Essentially, this is the area that is helpful in planning the different components of your guided reading lesson.
  • The final topic of information covered is how to plan for Word Work at this particular guided reading level.
Honestly, I don't think you could ask for more.  This book is good for everyone.  I think new teachers sometimes have difficulty understanding just what students at different grade levels should know or are capable of.  This comes simply from a lack of experience in the classroom.  This book would give you a good reference of all that information.  If you are new to guided reading or any sort of leveled literacy instruction, this book explains it well.  In fact, in the beginning there is a nice chart explaining the structure of a guided reading lesson.  Finally, for those of us that have experience with guided reading, it's a good resource to have.  Sometimes, it can be easy to fall into planning for the same old learning goals.  This would be a good resource to browse through and see what we haven't focused on lately.  It would also be good for setting remediation or enrichment learning goals.
Here is a sample page from the book to give you an idea of how it is set up.  This is the first page of the section for guided reading level R.  I should note that if you are doing guided reading, but not using the Fountas and Pinnell leveling system, you can still use this book.  The grade level sections are very much on target.  There are also tons of level correlation charts around the web.  You can always just find what the Fountas and Pinnell level is equal to in the leveling system you use. 

I'm sure I have not done this book justice with this review.  There is so much more it's great for than the little bit I've mentioned here.  If you ignore the reading stuff completely, the writing information alone is worth the price of the book.  By the way, if you click the book links it will take you to Amazon.  The books run from  about $25-$32.  Not bad for professional reading!  I should also mention that I haven't seen the second editions in person.  I am assuming it is probably just a somewhat revised version of the first.

If you have this book, please feel free to comment about it.  I would love to know what you think.

By the way, as always, all opinions here are my own.  I am not being paid in any way to endorse this book.  I just like it a lot and wanted to share. :-)


  1. We are currently reading this book at my school for our PLC (Professional Learning Community). It is every bit as awesome as you say it is...a definite must read!
    Hopelessly Devoted to Teaching

  2. I have this book but I have not had time to look at it since this summer. :( I know it's a super useful tool but I just don't have time.

  3. This is one of my favorite "go to" books! I have learned (and continue to learn)so much from Fountas and Pinnell!
    Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies

  4. I have several of their books, but not this one. Need to get it! I have learned so much from Fountas and Pinnell books. Worthwhile investment!

  5. I have several of their books, but not this one. Need to get it! I have learned so much from Fountas and Pinnell books. Worthwhile investment!