Brandi J. Clark

Writer and Educator

Back on the Literacy Track! Who’s with Me?

It was on one of those Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah days…

The kind where you sit down to eat lunch and your lunch partner subtly says something that puts your life back on track.

Yes…a Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah-AWESOME day….

I was telling my lunch partner that I was missing my literacy people. I was missing those deep discussions I used to have daily.

She said, “Oh, you just need to find your tribe, again.”

“Oh, OK,” I said pondering that for a quick second.

And then the conversation swung over to This Is US and how much we were not enjoying season 2.

Anyway…I let the idea about “finding a tribe” simmer for a few weeks.

I wondered, “How do I do that?” I knew that it had to be something I created and managed. Something bigger than what I was doing.

A few weeks later…just before Christmas…lightning struck…twice…on the same day.

I was at a Professional Development session, early, because I love that time in the city before everyone is stirring. Besides, I wanted to discuss a project with the presenter.

In conversation…these words she said hit home, “You know…it’s a perfect time for anyone to have their stuff out there.”

Out there! Right! Like I used to be. EVERYWHERE on the net!

Then the other presenter while reflecting on Literacy said, “And we have expertise in the room.” He looked over at me and I thought, true and I had worked hard for that literacy expertise.

Later on at home, I went through my digital past and was reminded of the excitement of being part of something bigger. Something outside the walls of my job. Even when I was in a district position, I was, at one time, beyond those walls too.

Back in 2009 – 2014, I earned a Master’s degree in Education. The focus was on Language Arts with some Library Technology courses. I started a blog and began interacting with classmates. Realizing for the first time that I could write entertaining nonfiction and make people laugh. I continued to blog, engaging with other bloggers and building a literacy brand,

For about 4 years I was on twitter daily…participating in EDCHATS every Tuesday, communicating with educators around the world.

I began creating Livebinders and even got nominated for top 10 Livebinder of 2012.

I presented locally on numerous occasions and internationally in San Antonio. I knew those experiences were to be treasured and I can honestly say, in those moments I treasured them.

I began to submit my writing, first published locally in  Literacies, Learning and Libraries …. and then internationally in Educational Leadership. Seeing my work along side my literacy idols was thrilling.

I was on my way…I was building momentum…

… so what happened?

I got small. Played small. For whatever reason, I thought that being in a school offered me the chance to work with less people, more often, and go deeper. But that’s not how it works. On any staff, you will only find a few who are literacy obsessed and willing to invest their time learning more. Which makes sense…on any staff you will have a collection of talents and passions for all subject areas not just literacy. Any educator who wants to find a tribe does need to look beyond their own school.

So I know I need to find a larger tribe. I thrive on discussing literacy with people who are equally passionate. These people are everywhere, it runs in their blood too, regardless of age and experience.  But in a school, they are a very small number. Too small to play with.

The conversations I loved most recently, are the ones through e-mail. Former colleagues reaching out to discuss literacy strategies for our schools. Sometimes it is at professional development sessions. Those powerful exchanges that remind you that your “people” might not be your day to day colleagues but they are still very much apart of your professional learning plan.

So I have decided to live larger…

I have created the Lead Literacy Society (LLS). It is for those that love literacy…that’s it. I can’t even explain the criteria to you because you either feel that passion for literacy or you don’t.

I have subscribed to The Reading Teacher for current up to date information trends and practical ideas.

I have embraced new opportunities. Namely, a district opportunity to earn Level one and Level two Google Certification. I need to be part the Google world if I am ever to bridge literacy and technology platforms effectively.

The passion to immerse myself in literacy has stirred up new “wonderings” about the state of curriculum changes in my province. I would like to take more of an active role in that process and discussing ideas with all you join the LLS.

Will there be a shirt …maybe?


Discussion and debates…for sure!

So, if you are interested click like and follow on the LLS Facebook page. I can’t wait to get started.

I will leave you with the words of Cheryl Strayed (author of the book Wild and Brave).

“Ask yourself, ‘What is the best I can do? And then do that.’

Talk to you soon!

Coach Clark



Leveled Literacy Intervention: When to Jump on Board and When to Get Off the Bus!

It’s approaching the half-way point in my summer vacation and yes, I should be relaxing but, I hear questions about literacy whenever I am.  I don’t like confusion so I will clear this matter up today. Here is my take on Levelled Literacy Intervention. By the way,  I assume that you are an educator reading this. If you need to go into greater depth, please visit this link.

What is Leveled Literacy Intervention?

Here is the definition from the website.

“The Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention System (LLI) is an intensive, small-group, supplementary literacy intervention for students who find reading and writing difficult. The goal of LLI is to lift the literacy achievement of students who are not achieving grade-level expectations in reading.”

Is LLI for the Whole Class?

No. It is for students who struggle and more specifically,” for students who find reading and writing difficult.” When we see the word, intervention attached to anything else in life, we know it is for a select group and literacy is the same.  Fountas and Pinnell suggest LLI is a tier 2 or tier 3 strategy. See image for details. It is not for the whole class.

What does Intensive Mean?

  • Daily: All the LLI systems are to be used as a daily support for students.
  • Small groups -Ratios of 1:3 up to 1:4 with the higher-level kits.
  • Time consuming – 30 minutes to 45 minutes with the higher-level kits.

Is LLI Guided Reading?

Not exactly. It is a form of it, an “intensive” form. Guided reading in the general sense, is for all students from struggling readers to students reading beyond grade level. Guided reading does not follow an “intensive” structure and is flexible to the needs of the students and the classroom teacher. Guided reading is usually 15 minutes long, allowing teachers to fit in more groups and the other components of a balanced literacy program.  Students not in “intensive” intervention programs do not need to meet in guided reading groups daily.

Is LLI a Literacy Program?

No. If used as it is intended, LLI is an intervention program for select a group of students in the classroom. The definition of LLI includes the words “supplementary” for a reason.

What Also Helps Struggling Readers? (All readers…actually)

A finely-tuned balanced literacy program which naturally includes universal supports to help all readers. Here is a link to a document that explains Balanced Literacy in depth. Balanced Literacy is not outdated or out of favor, though I feel at times it has been forgotten in its entirety. I’ve noticed teachers relying on other systems (or books) claiming to be a balanced literacy program but the resources are missing balanced literacy components.

What Would You Suggest for a Classroom-Wide Resource?

Curriculum in Alberta is undergoing an overhaul but our current curriculum continues to be alligned to resources such as Literacy Place and Moving Up (Scholastic), Nelson Literacy and anything by Lucy Calkins.

How Soon Can You Use LLI in the School Year?

In grade one, wait until November at least.  Students in grade one are still learning routines and need to be fully immersed in an engaging literacy classroom. All students, even those that are suspected as being behind, can still read one-to-one with teachers and participate in guided reading groups before November. My belief is that grades ones are, with some *exceptions, getting a handle on letters, sounds and basic sight words at the start of the year. In fact, an appropriate fall assessment for grade ones is the Observational Survey by Marie Clay. (I would not suggest and Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment for grade ones in the fall either…same reasons.)

*Exceptions, are students that are reading beyond early grade one level. We do need to assess them to find out how to support their needs too.

Should LLI be Done in the Classroom?

Maybe. If you have no student behaviors. What? Sorry. Just adding some humor to the topic. Let’s face it, struggling readers are not known for their stellar focusing habits. In my experience, the “intensive” requirements of LLI work best in a quiet environment. How you provide that “quiet environment” is up to you but it needs to be a space that respects the needs of the struggling readers.

Does LLI Work for All Struggling Readers?

In my experience, no. It does not work with students who have behavioral needs or students that present with Dyslexia. In our district they are trying out Empowering Readers, a specialized program for students with Learning Disabilities.  In my opinion,  a student with learning disabilities and a student who is a struggling reader are not fully synonymous. When selecting students for LLI, in addition to the reading level, view the whole student profile to see if LLI will be a match for their needs and the needs of the group.

So, that is what I think. I hope it helps with planning decisions for the fall.

As always, any questions…Please let me know.