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Responsive Teaching: Meeting Our Students’ Needs Through Comprehensive, Differentiated Instruction

Responsive Teaching Blog Header Nov 2020We are sometimes asked about the science behind our materials and the research that influenced our design for literacy instruction. Educators often want to be able to point to the ways in which our resources are explicit and systematic, and to see specific evidence to show they lead to literacy success for students across the country. Today we are launching the final blog in a 4-post blog series to do just that. Read all the blogs in this series where we unpack the pedagogy, research base, and evidence of efficacy that sit behind the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ brand.

Blog 1: Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™: Where Research Meets Practice
Blog 2: Elevating Expertise: Why Teachers Are the Single Most Important Classroom Factor In a Child’s Learning Achievement
Blog 3: Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™: Systematic, Explicit, and Sequential
Blog 4: Responsive Teaching: Meeting Our Students’ Needs Through Comprehensive, Differentiated Instruction

Blog 4: Responsive Teaching: Meeting Our Students’ Needs Through Comprehensive, Differentiated Instruction

Every learner is different, and every learner takes a unique path to becoming literate. This simple truth is something we’ve intentionally kept in mind as we developed each of the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ (FPL) resources. And we know that in order to teach to the strengths and needs of each child, educators within a single district and within each school need to work in the same direction so the child’s literacy opportunities are coherent. The research supports this idea, showing that a mismatched district with a piecemeal approach to literacy education will not meet the needs of all students (Fullan and Quinn 2016). This is why we designed our materials as a cohesive, comprehensive literacy suite that all ties back to the very same curriculum—The Literacy Continuum.

Fountas & Pinnell Classroom™ (FPC), Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI), and the Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) all rely upon, and have been derived from, the learning goals defined in The Literacy Continuum. This document is the roadmap for how literacy develops in children over time and serves as the instructional anchor for assessment, planning, and teaching. With each Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ System, you teach toward the same goals and use the same language found within that Continuum, allowing for cohesive teaching across the grades and the ability to build on the child’s strengths and respond precisely to the child’s needs. The Literacy Continuum, and therefore all Fountas & Pinnell LiteracySystems, carve a path for each learner—providing the teacher the specific behaviors and understandings to notice, teach for, and support in each grade and at every level. The educator then is able to identify the student’s competencies and plan for the kind of responsive teaching that leads each child forward.

In this way, responsive teaching and differentiated instruction go hand-in-hand. Research shows that teachers must continuously observe and assess reading behaviors to identify areas of difficulty and tailor instruction for individuals, groups, and whole classes (Bell and Dolainski 2012; IES 2016; NCTE 2013; Denton (nd). Careful observation of students and a deep knowledge of the literacy process have always provided the foundation on which good instruction sits. All of our FPL resources rely upon the moment-to-moment decisions that teachers make as they observe their students, noticing different behaviors that might show them where that student is on the continuum of literacy learning and adjusting their teaching to expand each child’s competencies.

Read the research behind each of the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy™ Systems.

- Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell


Bell, K., and Dolainski, S. 2012. “What Is Evidence-Based Reading Instruction and How Do You Know It When You See It?” U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Adult Education Great Cities Summit. Washington, DC.

Fullan, M., and Quinn, J. 2016. Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin


Topics: Fountas & Pinnell Classroom™, Guided Reading, LLI, Phonics Word Study, Research, Book Clubs, Independent Reading, Intervention, Professional Development, Shared Reading, Featured Posts, Home, Interactive Read-Aloud, The Literacy Continuum

Fri, Nov 20, '20

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