Brandi J. Clark

Writer and Educator

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.



Help! I Have to Teach Language Arts: A Language Arts Survival Mini-Course Part 2


You’re back!

Of course you are!

Here is the link to lesson 1 in case you missed the party.

Now…Lesson 2

In the last lesson we discussed the six language arts.

language artisits

Today’s Lesson: The Organization of the English Language Arts Program of Studies (K-9)

The English Language Arts program of studies is….

what you NEED to teach and what the students NEED to KNOW and be able to DO by the end of their grade level.

Each grade level has specific outcomes and we will get to that later.

BUT first let’s explore the whole document.

Let’s look at what is the same across the grade levels.

There are five general outcomes. So general, in fact, that they span from Kindergarten to grade 12.

Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to:
General Outcome 1: explore thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences
General Outcome 2:comprehend and respond personally and critically to oral, print and other media texts
General Outcome 3: manage ideas and information
General Outcome 4: enhance the clarity and artistry of communication
General Outcome 5: respect, support and collaborate with others

In order to make this clear, for comparison these are the general outcomes for Mathematics (grade 3).

General Outcome: Develop number sense

General Outcome: Use patterns to describe the world and to solve problems.

General Outcome: Represent algebraic expressions in multiple ways.

General Outcome: Use direct and indirect measurement to solve problems.

General Outcome: Describe the characteristics of 3-D objects and 2-D shapes, and analyze the relationships among them.

General Outcome: Collect, display and analyze data to solve problems.

Makes more sense now…right?  Language arts can be confusing because it lacks the obvious content that we find in most of the other subject areas.

Now let’s zoom in on parts of general outcome one as example to understand the organization of the entire program of studies.

This is general outcome one.

Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to explore thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences.

In case you didn’t notice, I underlined the six arts.

Clever! You bet!

Let’s look at the ending of general outcome one.

Explore thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences.

Here is a sample from the Program of Studies unpacking the word exploratory and referring back to the six arts.

“Exploratory language is often oral.  Through talk and conversation, students make observations, ask questions, hypothesize, make predictions and form opinions.  Exploratory talk is often spontaneous. Sometimes students discover what they think at the point of utterance.  Exploratory writing also helps students clarify their thinking.  When students can see their ideas, thoughts, feelings and experiences in writing, they can reconsider, revise and elaborate on them in thoughtful ways. Representing is also used to explore ideas and interrelationships in diagrams, thought webs, charts and other visual media.  Exploratory listening, reading and viewing enable students to gather and verify information, identify areas for further inquiry or research, and develop support for opinions.”

As you can imagine, this outcome is all about students unpacking ideas, feelings and experiences whether this happens at the beginning, middle or end of a unit or lesson.

What processes match up with this outcome?

Some that come to my mind are brainstorming, webbing, mind mapping, KWL charts, think-pair-share, anticipation guides, graffiti walls, place-mat activity, four corners, free writing, and quick writes.

Each of the General Learning outcomes have subheadings. These subheadings further refine the general outcome and are the SAME from kindergarten to grade 9. In grades 10 to 12 the subheadings are different.

The subheadings for general outcome one are:

1.1. Discover and Explore

1.2  Clarify and Extend

Under each subheading there are side headings. These are the SAME for kindergarten to grade 9. In grades 10 to 12 the side headings are different.

SUB HEADING – 1.1 Discover and Explore

SIDE HEADING – Express ideas and understanding

SIDE HEADING – Experiment with language and forms

SIDE HEADING – Express Preferences

SIDE HEADING – Set goals

SUB HEADING -1.2 Clarify and Extend

SIDE HEADING – Consider the ideas of others

SIDE HEADING – Combine ideas

SIDE HEADING – Extend understanding

Let’s look back at the processes again.

Here they are…brainstorming, webbing, mind mapping, KWL charts, think-pair-share, anticipation guides, graffiti walls, place-mat activity, four corners, freewriting, and quick writes.

Can you see where these processes might match up with the side headings?

For example:

Brainstorming with Combine ideas

Quickwrites with Express ideas and understanding

Placemat Activity with Consider the ideas of others

These processes, with some modification, work across kindergarten to grade 9.

So if the general outcome, subheadings and side headings are the SAME what is DIFFERENT?


The specific outcomes are different and UNIQUE to each grade level.

For example:

General Outcome 1

Subheading: Discover and Explore

Side heading: Set Goals

Specific grade level outcomes as follows…..
Kindergarten: talk about own reading and writing experiences
Gr. 1 : choose to read and write for and with others
Gr. 2: recognize and talk about developing abilities as readers, writers and illustrators
Gr. 3: discuss areas of personal accomplishment as readers, writers and illustrators
Gr. 4: identify areas of personal accomplishment and areas for enhancement in language learning and use
Gr. 5: reflect on areas of personal accomplishment, and set personal goals to improve language learning and use
Gr. 6: assess personal language use, and revise personal goals to enhance language learning and use
Gr. 7: use appropriate terminology to discuss developing abilities in personal language learning and use
Gr. 8: examine and reflect on own growth in effective use of language to revise and extend personal goals
Gr. 9: reflect on own growth in language learning and use, by considering progress over time and the attainment of personal goals

The specific outcomes BUILD on the each other as students progress through the grades. Keep this mind as in future lessons we will discuss differentiation.

This marks the end of today’s lesson.

I know.

You want me to keep going.

But I want you to digest today’s learning.

Know the Organization of the English Language Arts Program of Studies (K- 9)

Think about the grade level you are planning to teach, are there some processes you are already familiar with?

Trust me…everything else makes sense if you understand how the program of studies is organized.

Until Next Time,

Coach Brandi!

Next Lesson: Developing an Understanding of the Five General Outcomes