A Message from Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell:
We have long advocated for collaboration over polarization, rationales over labels, observation over rigidity and what we, as educators, need to continue to assure equitable literacy instruction for all children. In support of teachers, school leaders and children, this 10-post blog series offers clarity around mischaracterizations of our work. Throughout the series, we will address these misconceptions in order to set the record straight and offer a space for the education community to hear directly from us. Continue to join us here, on the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ blog, as together we navigate to a place of clarity.
Question 3: Some have suggested that you support the use of guessing. Can you comment on this?
We do not use the word guess in our writing, nor with children in instruction. As readers process texts, they often make attempts at difficult words, using their experience and knowledge. They make predictions based on information in the text and information they bring to the text. Early in their school careers, children learn that they read print, not pictures. Not one in a hundred children can read even the earliest easy books accurately by looking at the pictures alone. They learn that pictures are not enough, but that good pictures can help them think about the meaning of the text and learn more about the print.
For example, a child who cannot yet sound out the word elephant from his knowledge of syllables and the “ph”digraph can read a story about one following print, left to right, and making sense of his reading and using the letter-sound knowledge within her power. When she uses the picture information, the letter sound information actually becomes more available to her. Calling this “guessing” fails to recognize the complexity of what she is really doing. Again, the goal for the teacher is to demonstrate and encourage the reader to persist in using all sources of information together; meaning, language, and letter-sound information.
This blog is part of the Just To Clarify FAQ audio blog series. Click below to navigate to other blogs:
Q1. Why have you chosen not to participate in the latest debate about how to teach children how to read and what advice do you have for teachers?
Q2: Can you clarify what MSV is and why you believe it is important?
Q3: Some have suggested that you support the use of guessing. Can you comment on this?
Q4: How does guided reading and the use of leveled texts advance the literacy learning of children and what role does guided reading play within a comprehensive literacy system?
Q5: In your view of early literacy development, what is the role of decodable texts?
Q6: Could you speak to the role of phonics and teaching children to read, and clarify your approach to phonics instruction?
Q7: Some people have referred to your work as “balanced literacy” or “whole language.” Do these labels accurately describe your work?
Q8: What do you mean by “responsive teaching” and why is it important?
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