Sunday, November 3, 2013

A-Z with F&P

I need to begin this post by giving credit to my Literacy Facilitator, Vicki Douvikas, for sharing this idea at a Balanced Literacy training. She showed us how to create a toolkit to help us have more effective conferences during Reading Workshop. I took her suggestions, added in my own ideas, and created my version of a conferencing toolkit.
The basic idea of this toolkit is to give teachers a readily available set of books and questions to guide your conferences with readers based on their reading levels.

I used a thick, 3-ring binder with plastic pockets. You could choose to color-code your plastic pockets with green for at-level, yellow for strategic, and red for intensive based on your grade level text. I did not color-code mine because I wanted it to be flexible just in case I ever have to change grade levels.


There is one pocket for each letter of the alphabet which corresponds to the Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading Levels. Inside each pocket there is a set of prompts to use when conferencing with your readers, one or two books at the particular level, and questions stems to guide your discussions.
I use books from the website Reading A to Z. I chose these books for a few reasons. They are readily available and you can print as many copies as you need. These books are leveled to the Fountas and Pinnell scale. The books are also part of RAZ Kids, so the students can independently read the books you use during the conference. There are a variety of genres and interesting topics. These paper books are not as bulky as real books.
**Please take note of the inside cover of the book--the correlation is sometimes a letter off.  Make sure you have the books leveled correctly. A Reading A to Z book may be a letter L, but its F&P level may actually be a K.**
I cover the stapled spine of the book with duct tape so it will last through many reads.
I also place jottings inside the book to help guide my discussions with readers. I will be honest and say I do not have all of my books coded with sticky notes yet because it is very time consuming. This binder is an ongoing piece of work. I am sure I will add, delete, and change several things as the year progresses. That IS what good teachers do--we change instruction to meet our learners' needs.


The books I put in my toolkit are not random.  For the lower levels, A-F, I used mostly realistic fiction. With levels G-U I chose to use as many fables, mysteries, and biographies as I could find because these are the genre that my students struggle with the most. I added in some nonfiction books and chose topics my students are interested in such as dangerous animals and the Titanic.

The prompts and question stems come from a couple of different places. One set of prompts is from our TCRWP coach. I'm sorry I do not have these to share with you. They were part of our district's training and I only have hard copies. If you are part of Balanced Literacy with Teachers' College, I would ask your coach for a set of them.You also could use any questioning stems or prompts you are comfortable with such as Marzano's or Bloom's.
The other prompts I use are based on Reading 3D and mClass (you know, the DIBELS people). They are taken from the TRC section. The website has PDF files of the questions broken down into F&P levels. If you look at the screen shot below, the first PDF file will give you a bulleted list of questions and the second one will give you a matrix version of question stems.

bulleted lists

This toolkit was time consuming. I had to use a lot of ink, a lot of paper, and spend a bit of money to purchase the materials. I think it is definitely worth it though! After you create your toolkit, you will have instant lessons tailored to your students' reading levels. You will have talking points all ready for when you conference with your readers.

Thank you again, Vicki, for the great idea.



  1. I am a homeschooling mother learning more about Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop. I realize I won't need to know how to do rotations, since I'm not in the classroom setting teaching multiple children. The focus of my research has been knowing what topic and in what order to do the mini-lessons, as well as how to organize them. The workshop method seems to be a good way for me get a good overview and understanding of what a reading and writing education should be. In other words, I've always struggled with just plugging in what seemed to be random lessons on topics that were hard to see how they fit into the bigger picture. Even when I was a kid in private & public school, Grammar and Writing lessons always seemed so random. I'm hoping to share how all the pieces fit and I am gaining that understanding as I learn more about the workshop teaching method for these subjects. I used Reading a-z and Raz-Kids the first year I homeschooled, then just used Raz-Kids the second year. We couldn't afford it this year and I miss it, as I use a traditional textbook for the main part of her reading. I had learned how to use the features of Raz-kids, such as the Running Records, etc. I did not know about the PDF file resource from Reading 3D and mClass you listed at the end. But, something like this is exactly what I've been hoping for. I didn't even know these types of questions set to corresponding reading levels existed. I think they will be very helpful for me to expand her reading "class" learning experience. I think your pocket folder dividers inside the binder will be an excellent way for me to utilize as a lesson planner for reading & possibly for a writing binder, as well. I'm currently trying to sort and organize all the random resources I've collected over the last couple of years. I had simply added them to a Writing Workshop plastic file folder box, but didn't know how to classify all the what seemed to random lessons. I did lump all the individual files of "Parts of Speech" together. After I collected enough resources, I made a separate binder for "Sentences & Paragraphs". I found a mini-anchor chart (probably on TPT) that listed "Text Structures" as the heading and had a small list and simple graphic depicting of text structures, which helped me see the classification of those individual lessons (description, cause & effect, etc.). I have an AAS education degree in Early Childhood Education, but I never got to finish my teaching degree/certification for the elementary level. So, I'm trying to learn as we go and trying to keep one step ahead, which is always a struggle as my daughter is growing faster than I can keep up. LOL I just wanted to share a little insight into how your blog and resources you've shared helps the untraditional teacher and student. Thanks so much for passing along this information. I'm starting to see a breakthrough in my own understanding of Reader's / Writer's Workshop and their corresponding mini-lesson topics. Happy Teaching!

  2. Hello Wendy, I just discovered your post via a Pintrest pin. Your ideas are super. Thank both you and your literacy coach for the inspiring ideas. I can't wait to implement them.
    I also have a query for you, the link above to the your screen shots to download documents is no longer accurate. Can you give me an idea as to where I can obtain the docs now?
    I hope that your new year is off to a great start. I look forward to hearing from you soon and exploring your blog for great content.