A teacher recently sent me this question:  I am using your triangle method for ensuring that students have received enough exposure to books at a level before moving onward.  I have students who seem to be inconsistent or STUCK at Fountas and Pinnell level M.   What should I do?

This is a common problem for most struggling readers.  And if you examine the stages from Bonnie Campbell Hill, remember that students are moving from a Beginning Stage of reading (HIJK) to an Expanding Stage of reading (LMNO).  What are they expanding?   Close examination of the criteria under the stage shows that students are shifting from an understanding of Fiction/Nonfiction structure to organize content for comprehension while they read, to using GENRE specific structure within both.  Hence, DO NOT RUSH through Fountas and Pinnell LMNO!  EXPAND their genre study!

But how can you systematically control text difficulty within genre?  And, show progress for the struggling reader?  This is where publishers who correlate with F&P, but split difficulty between their levels, are most useful.  If you examine the correlation charts between Fountas and Pinnell and the various publishers who wish to augment classroom libraries, but use a different system of leveling, you will notice that most publishers split the initial A and also the letters between J (2.0 RL) and Q (4.5 RL) of Fountas and Pinnell.  They have recognized that students have trouble across the country in mastering these levels of reading. So they have task analyzed what might be considered a leap at these levels and offered teachers a chance to teach and show increments of improvement systematically.

Reading (RAZ) is one commonly used set of leveled books correlated to Fountas and Pinnell that helps in that regard.  They have divided A into aa and A, with different numbers of words expected at each level. This is an important consideration when students are still improving their skills in one to one correspondence from 1-2-3 to 4 or 5 words to track with look-point-say.

Likewise, they have split the 8 levels in Fountas and Pinnell between J and Q (RLs 2.0 to 4.5) into 13 RAZ  levels (J-V)!  In particular, F&P Level M is the only one divided into three levels of RAZ difficulty, confirming teacher observation that this must be a level to be careful about teaching thoroughly.  If you use Fountas and Pinnell in your triangle, as Dr. Ilda’s triangle method (copyrighted) describes, you might have to sidebar to a series like RAZ to control for difficulty.  If you do so, here is one way I regularly suggest to proceed from F&P triangle JKL and LMN using RAZ:

  1. First, draw the equivalent RAZ triangle to F&P JKL. This would be RAZ KLM.  You go through this RAZ triangle three times through as usual.
  2. The next RAZ triangles are LMN, MNO and NOP. These you do one time through each, then move to next triangle.
  3. The next RAZ triangle would be NO, PQ, R, which is equivalent to Fountas and Pinnell MN. With this triangle and forward from here, decisions are at your discretion as to student benefit from continuing with sidebars to RAZ (as it still splits difficulty until F&P Q) and also how many times through each triangle, 1, 2, or 3.

As always, I am available for individual consult on your particular student’s needs and how to make adjustments.  Send me an email if you need the criteria and script for assessing Levels A-D, Levels EFG, or Levels H and up.

Why is my students’ performance so inconsistent when reading Fountas and Pinnell Level M books?