School District of Springfield Township

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1 K-5 Reading Instruction and Assessment District Philosophy and Approach The Language Arts curriculum of the School District of Springfield Township is aligned with the Pennsylvania Language Arts Standards and Anchor Standards. We are currently also working to align the curriculum with the new Common Core State Standards. The curriculum is implemented through a balanced literacy approach, which includes writing instruction (encoding) as the partner of reading instruction (decoding/phonics/phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension). Teaching reading in the School District of Springfield Township is grounded in constructivist learning theory the classroom is a laboratory in which students discover, build, and internalize principles of literacy. The teacher provides the resources and structures for this learning process. In order to select the most appropriate resources and instruction for each student, the teacher continually assesses each student s strengths and weaknesses, determines progress, and adjusts accordingly. It is a model that teaches students to become independent readers. Four components comprise the district s reading instruction: Teacher-group interaction o Differentiated instruction (based on interest, readiness, learning profile; through content, process, and product) o Whole class instruction and small, flexible group instruction (guided reading) with systematic attention to individuals o Modeling and authentic text examples o Fostering of peer interaction and assistance Wide range of literacy-related activities (including literacy centers, word work, and independent reading) Systematic assessment, including ways to examine individuals progress within the group and to determine each child s level of need (e.g., benchmarking and reading records). Comprehensive and collaborative approach (e.g., Reading Center personnel) to support all students including those needing greater support (from the work of Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children, Guiding Readers and Writers, and Benchmark Assessment System; and Carol Ann Tomlinson, The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners) Our mission is to support students in their learning and achievement. Our expectation is that every child will make a year s worth of progress in a year s time. Our instruction supports students at all levels, including those who often exceed expectation.

2 Frequently Asked Questions Q: How are students assessed in order to monitor progress and to inform instruction? Students are benchmarked using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarking Assessment System. Accuracy, fluency, and comprehension are the three components for benchmarking focus. Students in grades two through five take the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) two to three times during the school year. According to teacher-determined need, One Minute Reads may be administered two to three times per year. Teachers also regularly assess their students using reading records. Q: What is the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarking Assessment System? The Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarking Assessment System provides materials and procedures for observing the reading levels and reading behaviors of students. Benchmarking is administered during a one-on-one student and teacher assessment conference. Equally important as strong, consistent benchmarking is a strong, consistent reading records system. The Fountas and Pinnell system incorporates both. The results are directly linked to the Fountas and Pinnell leveled readers used for guided reading instruction. Q: Who are Fountas and Pinnell? Irene C. Fountas is a professor in the School of Education at Leslie University in Cambridge, MA. She has been a classroom teacher, language arts specialist, and consultant in school districts across the nation and abroad. Gay Su Pinnell is a professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at the Ohio State University. She has extensive experience in classroom teaching, field-based research, and in developing comprehensive approaches to literacy education. Together, they have authored numerous books that are considered standards in the field of literacy instruction and staff development. Q: Why did the district adopt the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarking System? What are the advantages? An important goal for the restructuring was to provide consistency of curriculum, instruction, and assessment within and across grade levels K-5. Reading staff determined that the current benchmark assessments were not adequate at the upper levels. Fountas and Pinnell assessments are normed at all levels.

3 SDST uses the Fountas and Pinnell leveling system and instructional philosophy; the Fountas and Pinnell benchmark assessment protocol mirrors both. Q: How is the district using the system? Teachers conduct benchmarking in their classrooms. They are assisted by reading specialists. This team administers the benchmarking for all students per an established assessment calendar. Teachers report data to the reading specialists. Q. What are reading records? How do they differ from benchmarks? A reading record is the transcript of the text on which oral reading is coded. This transcript allows a teacher to analyze student errors in order to plan for instruction. Reading records are completed biweekly for students. Beginning in January, it may be determined through consultation with the reading specialist that less frequent reading records are appropriate for grades 3, 4, and 5. Students who are reading above level do not need a biweekly reading record. Benchmarks are reading records given at selected times of the year with books dedicated strictly for this purpose. Q: How are reading assessments individualized? All students are assessed to identify their instructional level using a variety of tools including benchmark assessments, reading records, oral reading, comprehension checks, etc. For example, the One-Minute Read provides a snapshot of reading fluency. The One-Minute Read also provides decoding and comprehension data. All of our assessments contribute to a well-rounded picture of student achievement focusing on decoding (sounding-out), fluency (appropriate rate), expression (prosody) and comprehension (understanding). Q: What are Fountas and Pinnell reading levels? Fountas and Pinnell reading levels range from levels A Z and span grades K through 8. As a student moves up the range, the vocabulary, sentence complexity, text

4 structure, content, language and literacy features, themes, and ideas of the books become more challenging. Q. How is my child s level determined? Each student is assessed during a process called Benchmarking. S/he reads in a one-on-one setting with either the classroom teacher or a reading specialist. The student reads a selection based on his/her previous level. Assessments alternate between fiction and non-fiction. In order to move up the range, a student must meet expectations in accuracy (reading words correctly), comprehension (understanding what was read) and fluency (reading with accuracy and appropriate speed). The expectation for accuracy increases as a student moves up the range. Benchmarking establishes a student s instructional level, which is the level where s/he can read and understand a passage with some support. Q. What is the difference between instructional level and independent level? Instructional reading levels provide teachers with the essential information to choose the appropriate curricular materials to strengthen reading skills/strategies or introduce new ones. Our assessments ensure that instructional needs are targeted. The instructional level is the level at which a student can read the text with teacher support. The independent level is the level at which a student is comfortable reading without adult guidance. Parents can use the independent level information to choose books for their children. Q: How do I know what my child s instructional level should be at different times during the year? Ratings in the report card reading section are based on a student s current instructional reading level, not on grade level. Students vary along the continuum in their instructional levels. The chart below shows the range of reading levels in each grade level. Grade Level Kindergarten Grade 1 Grade 2 Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Fountas and Pinnell Text Levels A-C B-I H-M L-P O-T S-W Q: What happens if my child is reading below level? S/he will be instructed in a small group setting with materials that are at his or her level. The emphasis is on bringing all reading skills up to grade level. S/he may also receive extra reading support through the Reading Center or through a Response to Instruction

5 and Intervention (RtII) group. Reading records are used to monitor each student s progress between benchmarks. Q: What happens if my child is reading above level? S/he will be instructed in a small group setting with materials that are at his or her level. The emphasis is on deepening each student s literacy skills. Q: How does the report card communicate reading levels to parents/guardians? The report card indicates the most recent level, whether it is from a reading record or a benchmark. The report card reports both the instructional level and the independent level. A student s final reading level is reported to parents on the report card as the instructional level for the 4 th quarter. The independent level is also reported. Q. When are students benchmarked? For grades 1-3, all students are benchmarked three times per year (October, January, May). Kindergarten benchmarking begins in January. In grades 4-5, students are benchmarked twice per year (October, May) if they are reading on level. Students in grades 4-5 who are not reading on grade level are benchmarked three times per year (October, January, May). Accuracy, fluency, and comprehension are the three components for benchmarking focus. Windows for benchmarking: September 6 October 17 January 3 January 20 April 23 May 10 Q. Is there a benchmark ceiling for each grade level? No. Q: What can I do to support my child s reading? The best thing you can do to support your child s reading is to read to and with him/her and to listen to him/her read to you. When you read aloud to your child, you are

6 modeling both fluency and an enjoyment of reading. When you read together, the shared reading time gives your child an opportunity to discuss what you are reading and to learn new vocabulary. This will help with comprehension. Reading aloud to you helps your child practice decoding and fluency. When your child reads to you, you can encourage him/her to tap out an unknown word if it is easily decodable, or you can pronounce the word. Also, please keep in contact with your child s teacher. The teacher can offer suggestions specifically based on your child s needs. November 10, 2011 Carol H. Rohrbach, Director of Curriculum and Staff Development

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