Heinemann Fountas And Pinnell Supporting Materials And Critical Thinking

Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman—together with their colleagues at the Heinemann publishing house—have just released a new book entitled Pathways to the Common Core. The book sounds like a useful resource that ELA teachers can use to figure out how to align their instruction to the new standards. Unfortunately, it misses the mark. Part ideological co-opting of the Common Core (CCSS) and part defense of existing—and poorly aligned—materials produced by Heinemann, the book is the leading edge of an all-out effort to ensure that adoption of the new standards requires very few changes on the part of some of the leading voices—and biggest publishing houses—in education.

On page one, the authors explain the book’s mission:

Pathways to the Common Core will help you and your colleagues teach in ways that will bring your students to the Common Core State Standards’ level of work in literacy. This book will illuminate both the standards themselves and the pathways you can take to achieve those ambitious expectations. It will help you understand what is written and implied in the standards and help you grasp the coherence and central messages of them….

…Pathways to the Common Core is written for teachers, literacy coaches, and school leaders who want to grasp what the standards say and imply—as well as what they do not say—deeply enough that they can join in the work of interpreting the standards for the classroom and in questioning interpretations others may make. [emphases added]

And question the “interpretations” others propose, they do, as they often contradict not only the guidance released by the lead authors of the Standards (including that found in the “publishers criteria” for ELA, something the authors outright dismiss), but also the guidance included within the four corners of the CCSS document itself. Of course with any set of expectations there is room for debate on some of the finer points. But the lengths that the authors go to explain away the parts of the standards with which they are least comfortable is breathtaking.

For example, on page twenty-four, Calkins et al. explain:

The low-level literacy work of sound-letter correspondence and so on—work that dominated the National Reading Panel report (2000) that has undergirded NCLB for years—has been, thankfully, marginalized in its own separate section of the CCSS.

That work, the authors go on, “doesn’t even qualify as part of the reading and writing standards. Reading, in the Common Core, is making meaning.”

Continuing in the same vein, on page twenty-nine, the authors list five essential “Implementation Implications of the Reading Standards.” The first is that “The Common Core’s emphasis on high-level comprehension skills calls for a reversal of NCLB’s focus on decoding and low-level literacy skills.”

These statements are patently false and represent a damaging misdirection of the expectations laid out in the Common Core standards.

The truth is that there is an entire section of the standards—a section that is given the same prominence and importance as the Reading Standards for Literature and the Reading Standards for Informational Text—called “Reading Standards: Foundational Skills (K-5).” There, the standards make the importance of student mastery of these supposedly “low-level” skills abundantly clear, not only by delineating precisely what is expected of students, but also by saying that they “are necessary and important components of an effective, comprehensive reading program designed to develop proficient readers with the capacity to comprehend texts across a range of types and disciplines.”

Unfortunately, rather than deal with the uncomfortable reality that programs that marginalize these critical reading skills are not aligned to the Common Core, Lucy Calkins and Heinemann seem to rewrite the standards to match their own interests.

Another example is found in the focus Common Core places on text complexity. The CCSS are unambiguous in their requirement that all students read grade-appropriate texts. Standard 10, for instance, asks all students—regardless of their independent level—to read texts “at the high end” of the complexity band for the grade. Furthermore, the expectations make it clear that it’s the scaffolding, not the complexity of the text, that should bend to meet students where they are.

To help teachers identify which texts are grade-appropriate, the standards reference specific quantitative and qualitative tools that can be used by teachers. It is important to note two things about this guidance. First, it is focused squarely on matching the text to the grade and the task, not to the reader's independent or instructional reading level. 

Second, several tools for judging text complexity are mentioned in the Common Core guidance—Lexiles, ATOS, Flesch-Kincaid, Dale-Chall, etc. Noticeably absent is the best-selling, Heinemann-published and supported, Fountas and Pinnell (F&P) leveling system. Calkins and her coauthors call this absence “puzzling.” But, rather than engage in an honest assessment of why F&P was excluded from the list—and what that might suggest about the alignment of the F&P program to the standards—they simply say:

Because the criteria used by the CCSS to assess text complexity are similar to the criteria used by Fountas and Pinnell, it seems clear that a school that is already assessing students according to Fountas and Pinnell levels should continue doing so.

No doubt Heinemann sales reps can breathe a sigh of relief at that artful parsing of the facts.

Unfortunately...Lucy Calkins and Heinemann seem to rewrite the standards to match their own interests.

Of course, the F&P system may be “similar” to the CCSS criteria, in that they are both used to select instructional texts. But there are several important differences that raise doubts about whether continuing to use the F&P leveling system and its related instructional materials and guidance will ensure teachers are aligning their curriculum and instruction to the level of rigor the Core demands. For starters, F&P is designed to help match books to readers—the precise opposite of what the Common Core demands. And the purpose of the program is to give students “just right” rather than grade-appropriate texts—exactly the practice that the Common Core seeks to end. 

Again, it’s unsurprising that a corporation—Heinemann—whose livelihood is defined by selling books, resources, and professional-development services that are different from what the Common Core now demands would seek to explain away differences so that its programs could continue untouched. It’s troubling, though, that thought leaders like Calkins seem to be such eager participants.

In the end, we don’t all need to agree that the expectations laid out in the Common Core are the right ones to guide instruction in classrooms across America. But we will never have an honest discussion about the relative merits of one approach versus another if publishers avoid the difficult conversations and merely seek to bend the Common Core to their own will—and self-interests.

These classroom resources provide core curriculum and instruction while scaffolding and guiding your professional growth. Heinemann authors such as Nancie Atwell, Lucy Calkins, Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, Stephanie Harvey, Linda Hoyt, and Laura Robb expand on the ideas and methods they introduce in their professional books, model effective instructional strategies from experience in real classrooms, and provide you with "ready-to-use" classroom resources — including teaching materials and lesson plans — written to support your daily instruction.

Curricular Resource Samplers

Read our free collection of #WritingMasters articles with classroom-tested tips from our Curricular Resources authors on how to improve your teaching of writing at any grade level. Each installment in this series shares author insights and practical suggestions on teaching writing in the classroom that you can use the very next day.


Practical Teaching Materials for the Classroom

  • Reading
    Jim Burke50 Essential Lessons

    How do you teach the cognitive and personal skills students need for success in school and the world beyond? That was the question, Jim Burke regularly asked himself as he crafted lessons to meet the varied needs of his students at Burlingame High School. After years of research, experience, and reflection, Jim has answered this question with 50 Essential Lessons. Anchored in standards shared by a range of national literacy documents, these lessons focus on the core academic skills—reading, writing, speaking and listening, taking notes, taking tests, and managing oneself-required to succeed in class, on state tests and college entrance exams, and in future endeavors.

    Georgia Heard & Lester LaminackClimb Inside A Poem

    Children are natural poets. They speak poetry all day long. They say wonderful poetic gems that surprise and delight us and help us look at the world in a new way. In Climb Inside a Poem: Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year, Georgia Heard and Lester Laminack tap into this natural inclination and demonstrate how reading and writing poetry can also support and extend young children's language and literacy development.

    Stephanie Harvey & Anne GoudvisComprehension Toolkit

    "We teach the reader, not just the reading. We want children to be lifelong learners who read actively and independently across the curriculum, who engage their minds and understand what they read. The Toolkit lessons and practices teach kids to use comprehension strategies to 'read to learn' as they encounter information and ideas in a wide variety of nonfiction texts."
    —Stephanie Harvey & Anne Goudvis

    Irene Fountas & Gay Su PinnellFountas & Pinnell Classroom™

    Fountas & Pinnell Classroom™(FPC) is a cohesive, multi-text approach to literacy instruction for all students in grades PreK–6. The System is designed to support whole-group, small-group and independent learning opportunities including: interactive read-aloud, reading minilessons, shared reading, phonics/spelling/word study lessons, guided reading, book clubs, and independent reading collections. Fountas & Pinnell Classroom™ is rich with authentic texts, lessons or conferring cards, minilessons and professional tools & learning for a systematic, transformative approach to literacy instruction.

    Irene Fountas & Gay Su PinnellFountas & Pinnell Leveled Books Website

    The official F&P Text Level Gradient™ insignia is a teacher's powerful guide for planning, organizing and implementing small group reading instruction.

    If you're looking for books suitable for guided reading, consult the only OFFICIAL source for titles meticulously reviewed and leveled by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell in conjunction with their team of hand-selected levelers using the F&P Text Level Gradient™.

    This frequently updated, subscription-based, on-line list contains books submitted by more than 300 publishers.

    Irene Fountas & Gay Su PinnellFountas & Pinnell Phonics, Spelling, and Word Study

    Engage student’s curiosity with systematic instruction in how oral and written language "works."

    Explicit lessons for whole-group instruction and small-group application that help students attend to, learn about, and efficiently use sounds, letters, and words.

    Irene Fountas & Gay Su PinnellFountas & Pinnell Prompting Guides

    The Fountas & Pinnell Prompting Guides are flip-chart tools that you can use to enhance your teaching power in guided reading lessons; intervention lessons; shared reading; independent reading; reading and writing conferences; and dictated, independent, and interactive writing. If you are a classroom teacher, reading specialist, literacy teacher, Reading Recovery teacher, or literacy coach, you can use these flip charts as a ready reference while working with students in several instructional contexts.

    Irene Fountas & Gay Su PinnellFountas & Pinnell Reader's Notebooks

    Now there are three distinct Reader's Notebooks to help students grades K through 8 become better readers through writing: Reader's Notebook: Primary (recommended for Grades K-2); Reader's Notebook (recommended for Grades 2-4); and Reader's Notebook: Advanced (recommended for Grades 4-8).

    Fountas & Pinnell Reader's Notebooks are 8x10 spiral notebooks, similar to what students use every day, but specially designed to promote reflection and dialogue about reading. As described in the authors' best-selling Guiding Readers and Writers, Grades 3-6, the Reader's Notebook is practical and easy to use. In it, students transform traditional book reports into active dialogues. The notebook becomes a personal storehouse of students' thoughts and feelings and a place to access them for later review, reflection, and sharing. It is also a way for teachers to systematically assess students' responses to the texts they are reading independently.

    Irene Fountas & Gay Su PinnellFountas & Pinnell Select

    Respected literacy leaders, Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, hand selected, leveled, and organized COLLECTIONS and GENRE SETS using the popular PM Readers. F&P SELECT COLLECTIONS and GENRE SETS offer books to use for guided, independent, and take-home reading; opportunities to read and reread closely, to think, discuss, and deepen comprehension; fluency practice with increasingly more challenging texts; expansion of academic vocabulary and disciplinary knowledge; and expanded language knowledge for English language learners.

    Linda HoytInteractive Read-Alouds

    Read-aloud time is much treasured in elementary and middle school classrooms as teachers share their favorite children's classics with their young readers. Linda Hoyt's Interactive Read-Alouds will help you make the most of this time by showing you creative ways to use popular children's literature to teach specific standards and build fluency and comprehension.

    Gretchen OwockiLiterate Days

    Gretchen Owocki's Literate Days is a multimedia curriculum resource for preschool, kindergarten, and first-grade teachers looking to enrich and broaden their literacy-related instructional practices. Framed by research notes and kidwatching forms, lessons present ideas for enhancing existing teaching practices and for extending the quality of students' literacy experiences in times that are not typically considered "instructional".

    Nancie AtwellNaming the World

    Harnessing the power of poetry, Nancie Atwell's Naming the World: A Year of Poems and Lessons empowers adolescents to make sense of their personal place in the world while honing their critical reading and writing skills. Naming the World's 200+ poems and accompanying five-to-ten-minute lessons are used by Nancie every day to jumpstart her reading and writing workshops. Poetry is the foundation upon which her students build excellences as writers in every genre. This is your chance to make the first few minutes of your Language Arts class really count!

    Lucy Calkins & Colleagues from the Teachers College Reading and Writing ProjectUnits of Study Reading

    The Units of Study for Teaching Reading offer grade-by-grade reading curricula, K–5, and grade-band units for grades 6–8 to meet ambitious world-class standards. The series includes state-of-the-art tools and methods for teaching reading, undergirded by the Project’s learning progressions in reading for literature and informational texts.

  • Writing
    Jim Burke50 Essential Lessons

    How do you teach the cognitive and personal skills students need for success in school and the world beyond? That was the question, Jim Burke regularly asked himself as he crafted lessons to meet the varied needs of his students at Burlingame High School. After years of research, experience, and reflection, Jim has answered this question with 50 Essential Lessons. Anchored in standards shared by a range of national literacy documents, these lessons focus on the core academic skills—reading, writing, speaking and listening, taking notes, taking tests, and managing oneself-required to succeed in class, on state tests and college entrance exams, and in future endeavors.

    Georgia Heard & Lester LaminackClimb Inside A Poem

    Children are natural poets. They speak poetry all day long. They say wonderful poetic gems that surprise and delight us and help us look at the world in a new way. In Climb Inside a Poem: Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year, Georgia Heard and Lester Laminack tap into this natural inclination and demonstrate how reading and writing poetry can also support and extend young children's language and literacy development.

    Carol JagoCome to Class

    Teaching students to write well is hard. Team teaching with a master writing teacher can make it easier-and more productive. Come to Class offers you that opportunity. In Come to Class, Carol Jago shares the writing lessons and classroom survival skills she honed over 32 years of teaching.

    Stephanie Harvey & Anne GoudvisComprehension Toolkit

    "We teach the reader, not just the reading. We want children to be lifelong learners who read actively and independently across the curriculum, who engage their minds and understand what they read. The Toolkit lessons and practices teach kids to use comprehension strategies to 'read to learn' as they encounter information and ideas in a wide variety of nonfiction texts."
    —Stephanie Harvey & Anne Goudvis

    Tony Stead & Linda HoytExplorations in Nonfiction Writing

    While exploring a range of real-world nonfiction texts, this new writing series will support you as you guide your students to work collaboratively as researchers and develop their skills as writers. In addition to learning how to access, interpret, and publish informational texts, your students will also consider ways to activate their voice and make their nonfiction writing clearer, more authoritative, and better organized.

    Irene Fountas & Gay Su PinnellFountas & Pinnell Phonics, Spelling, and Word Study

    Engage student’s curiosity with systematic instruction in how oral and written language "works."

    Explicit lessons for whole-group instruction and small-group application that help students attend to, learn about, and efficiently use sounds, letters, and words.

    Irene Fountas & Gay Su PinnellFountas & Pinnell Prompting Guides

    The Fountas & Pinnell Prompting Guides are flip-chart tools that you can use to enhance your teaching power in guided reading lessons; intervention lessons; shared reading; independent reading; reading and writing conferences; and dictated, independent, and interactive writing. If you are a classroom teacher, reading specialist, literacy teacher, Reading Recovery teacher, or literacy coach, you can use these flip charts as a ready reference while working with students in several instructional contexts.

    Irene Fountas & Gay Su PinnellFountas & Pinnell Reader's Notebooks

    Now there are three distinct Reader's Notebooks to help students grades K through 8 become better readers through writing: Reader's Notebook: Primary (recommended for Grades K-2); Reader's Notebook (recommended for Grades 2-4); and Reader's Notebook: Advanced (recommended for Grades 4-8).

    Fountas & Pinnell Reader's Notebooks are 8x10 spiral notebooks, similar to what students use every day, but specially designed to promote reflection and dialogue about reading. As described in the authors' best-selling Guiding Readers and Writers, Grades 3-6, the Reader's Notebook is practical and easy to use. In it, students transform traditional book reports into active dialogues. The notebook becomes a personal storehouse of students' thoughts and feelings and a place to access them for later review, reflection, and sharing. It is also a way for teachers to systematically assess students' responses to the texts they are reading independently.

    Nancie AtwellLessons That Change Writers

    In Lessons That Change Writers, Nancie has narrowed and deepened her conversation with teachers, to focus on the minilesson as a vehicle for helping students improve their writing. She shares over a hundred of these writing lessons which are described by her students as "the best of the best."

    JoAnn Portalupi & Ralph FletcherLessons for the Writer's Notebook

    Writer's notebooks can be powerful assets for any writing teacher. They provide a high-comfort, "hot-house" environment where students' writing can flourish. Lessons for the Writer's Notebook by Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi provides a series of proven lessons that will help you introduce the writer's notebook into your classroom, sustain it in your curriculum, and eventually guide students to transition from the privacy of the notebook to public, finished pieces of writing. Whether used as a stand-alone resource in your literacy block, or as an alternative launch cycle in your Teaching the Qualities of Writing (TQW) curriculum, Lessons for the Writer's Notebook will inspire your students to pick up a pen and imagine the writing possibilities.

    Gretchen OwockiLiterate Days

    Gretchen Owocki's Literate Days is a multimedia curriculum resource for preschool, kindergarten, and first-grade teachers looking to enrich and broaden their literacy-related instructional practices. Framed by research notes and kidwatching forms, lessons present ideas for enhancing existing teaching practices and for extending the quality of students' literacy experiences in times that are not typically considered "instructional".

    Nancie AtwellNaming the World

    Harnessing the power of poetry, Nancie Atwell's Naming the World: A Year of Poems and Lessons empowers adolescents to make sense of their personal place in the world while honing their critical reading and writing skills. Naming the World's 200+ poems and accompanying five-to-ten-minute lessons are used by Nancie every day to jumpstart her reading and writing workshops. Poetry is the foundation upon which her students build excellences as writers in every genre. This is your chance to make the first few minutes of your Language Arts class really count!

    Laura RobbSmart Writing

    Laura Robb's Smart Writing offers practical writing units that are uncommonly attuned to middle school writers' social and developmental needs.
    "Having powerful reasons to write and a teacher who motivates—a teacher who's tuned into the emotional and academic needs of young adolescents—is a tough order. But it can be done and it makes all of the difference to middle school writers."
    —Laura Robb

    Sandra WildeSpelling Strategies and Patterns

    Research shows that for long-term retention and real-world application spelling instruction needs to be more than the memorization of word lists. Offering an alternative to the traditional word-list approach, Sandra Wilde's Spelling Strategies and Patterns brings joy and teaching to spelling instruction. Sandra's inquiry-based approach to spelling instruction engages children in exploring the spelling patterns they are already starting to internalize and developing the strategies that will help them fine-tune their spelling as they write.

    Carl AndersonStrategic Writing Conferences

    Although conferences appear to be informal conversations, they are in fact highly principled teaching interactions designed to move writers along learning pathways. Used strategically, conferences can be powerful interventions that address individual writing needs. Carl Anderson’s Strategic Writing Conferences is a curriculum resource and diagnostic guide for writing teachers looking to use conferences to move young writers another step forward. These conferences will enhance your current writing curriculum and help you confer with greater purpose and clarity.

    JoAnn Portalupi & Ralph FletcherTeaching the Qualities of Writing

    Teaching the Qualities of Writing (TQW) is a ready-to-use writing curriculum that provides you with the instruction students need to improve the quality of their writing and at the same time develops your ability to read and assess your students’ writing. These hands-on lessons explore the qualities of writing—ideas, design, language, presentation—and show how, when each is infused with voice, the writer’s personality energizes the writing.

    Lucy Calkins & Colleagues from the Teachers College Reading and Writing ProjectUnits of Study Writing

    "At the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, we have been working for three decades to develop, pilot, revise, and implement state-of-the-art curriculum in writing. This series—this treasure chest of experiences,theories, techniques, tried-and-true methods, and questions—will bring the results of that work to you."
    —Lucy Calkins

  • Math
    Susan O’Connell & ColleaguesMath in Practice: A Grade-by-Grade Guide for Teachers


    —Susan O’Connell

    Catherine Twomey Fosnot & ColleaguesContexts For Learning Math

    The new Contexts for Learning Mathematics series by Catherine Fosnot and colleagues uses carefully crafted math situations to foster a deep conceptual understanding of essential mathematical ideas, strategies, and models. Building on the ideals of a math workshop, each unit provides a two-week sequence of investigations, minilessons, games, and other contexts for learning.

  • Assessment
    Irene Fountas & Gay Su PinnellFountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment Systems

    The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment Systems are accurate and reliable tools to identify the instructional and independent reading levels of all students and document student progress through one-on-one formative and summative assessments.

    Irene Fountas & Gay Su PinnellOnline Data Management Systems

    Collect, analyze, and share data on individual and class progress over time. Record, graph, and report weekly progress and monitor fidelity of implementation for Fountas & Pinnell's K–12 reading systems.

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