Even with many high-quality literacy opportunities, some students struggle with literacy learning. An intervention system gets them back on track so they can benefit fully from classroom instruction. Fountas & Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy System (LLI) is a literacy intervention system for students who find reading and writing difficult. Its goal is to give students the boost they need to read at the same level as their peers.
Who is LLI for?
LLI is a rigorous, small-group, supplementary literacy intervention system for students who are not achieving grade-level expectations in reading and writing, and are not receiving another form of literacy intervention. The LLI systems are designed to bring students from the earliest level A (kindergarten level) to level Z, which represents the competencies needed at a middle and high school level.
LLI is based on the F&P Text Level Gradient™. Each level of text makes increasing demands on the reader, but the demands and resulting changes are gradual. By actively participating in intensive lessons on each level, readers have the opportunity to expand their reading and writing abilities. With the support of instruction, they stretch themselves to read more complex texts with accuracy, fluency, and comprehension—and to write with more complexity. With these goals in mind, students effectively engage in the reading and writing process every day, (Fountas and Pinnell 2012).
How does LLI work?
We use the term leveled because leveled books are a key component in helping students become competent readers and accessing texts of increasing complexity. Each book is carefully designed, analyzed, and sequenced to provide enough support and a small amount of challenge so the reader can learn on the text and make small steps towards grade-level goals.
When readers struggle, there is a critical need for highly effective, small-group intervention to get them back on track as soon as possible. There are some basic implementation principles that are essential if the intervention is expected to work effectively, (Fountas and Pinnell 2012).
We want interventions to be short term and intensive, with flexible entry and exit points so that individual needs may be accommodated in a small-group situation. If the intervention is early and effective, then the length will be shorter; however, students who are far behind may need a year or more of effective supplementary instruction. The layers of intervention should be flexible enough that the teacher can group and regroup students.
Lessons must be supplemental to good classroom instruction; it is the combination of high-quality classroom teaching and intensive small-group intervention lessons that enable learners to make accelerated progress, catch up with their peers, and continue to perform at expected levels for the grade.
How long does LLI take?
Lessons must be frequent—five days a week is preferred—so that readers can gain and sustain momentum and acceleration is possible. And, the teacher-to-student ratio must be as low as possible. For the greatest impact in short-term intervention, we recommend a ratio of 1:3 for children performing at earlier levels (kindergarten, grades 1 and 2) and 1:4 for students performing at higher levels (grades 3–12).
Who administers LLI?
Providing excellent intervention lessons depends on the expertise of teachers. The teachers of struggling readers and writers should be exceptionally skilled in systematic observation, in the assessment of reading behaviors, and in teaching for the range of strategic actions that proficient readers use. All teachers of struggling readers (classroom and intervention teachers) need opportunities to continually increase their understanding of the reading and writing processes and the behavioral evidence that reveals competencies. The expert intervention teacher is able to make effective decisions that meet the diverse needs of students.
Excellent communication and teamwork among all who have a role in supporting the students’ progress are required for an intervention to help individual students. Students’ families need to know the goals of the intervention as well as what students will be expected to do for homework. Good communication between classroom and intervention teachers is essential so that they are working toward the same goals. It is critical to have a shared set of curriculum goals like those detailed in The Literacy Continuum,LLI is built on the foundation of the descriptions of text characteristics and strategic actions described for each level, A to Z, in this comprehensive tool, (Fountas and Pinnell 2012).
When basic implementation requirements are in place, we need to dig deeper into research on literacy learning and reading difficulties to inform the design of teaching. What happens in the intervention must affect change. Many struggling students sit in daily 30- to 45-minute intervention lessons, yet little improvement is evident in
what they are able to do independently.
Remember that progress is not enough; struggling readers need to make faster progress than their peers, and that is the whole purpose of intervention. They may be disengaged or bored. They may work diligently at mechanical tasks that they do not connect in a lively way to real reading and writing. To be effective, the intervention lessons must incorporate everything we know about what students need to learn, especially those who are experiencing difficultly.
~Stephanie Tucker, Fountas and Pinnell Marketing Manager
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Leveled Literacy Intervention System Guide. c 2012 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.