Brandi J. Clark

Writer and Educator

Who’s Johnny? This Might Be the Solution to All Reading Problems! Thanks El Debarge!

Please tell me you remember that song. It was from the movie Short Circuit. If not, you are in for a treat!

This video came to mind when I thought about reading only because it reminds me of this famous book, Why Johnny Can’t Read!


What I like about this title, “Why Johnny Can’t Read” is that it focuses on the reader first (Johnny) then the reading process, second.

I believe we need to identify the NOUN – the reader before matching the VERB – reading strategies/instruction.

My first project for the Lead Literacy Society is to come up with the “types” of readers that we see in our classrooms.

Is it possible that if we develop starter profiles for the variety of types of readers, we can then decide on what these readers need?


What I see happening right now is this…one solution fits all.  As seen here…imagine the “wrenches” as one approach.



Right now our one approach, in addition to general classroom reading instruction is Leveled Literacy Intervention. But as I wrote in this article, I don’t think it works for everyone. It can’t,  it is but one approach. It is a really decent approach but it needs to be matched with the right readers.

For this conversation, I would like to hear about the different types of struggling readers that you encounter.

(Note in future posts we will discuss the other readers who are reading at level and beyond. They have their own profiles too and they also need specific strategies.)

Here are some of the categories of struggling readers I have discovered.

  1. Students with Learning Disabilities such as Dyslexia. These students can appear to work to classroom expectations in most other subject areas but struggle with reading. They have average to above average intellectual ability.
  2. Students with Intellectual Disabilities. These students struggle with most other subjects. At times, they seem to present difficulties with memory, remembering sight words, comprehension and decoding.
  3. Students who have low exposure to literacy activities at home. These students could be at the targeted reading level but they have not had follow up support at home.
  4. Students who are inconsistent with their attendance. These students could be at the targeted reading level but have gaps in their learning due to lack of attendance.
  5. Students who are English Language Learners.  Some ELL’s can be expert decoders but lack comprehension.
  6. Students with Autism. These students struggle to relay their comprehension due to communication deficits.

Some students can be in several of these categories too. For example a student who is ELL with attendance issues.

This post addresses…

Step One: Identify categories of struggling readers.

In future posts we will discuss…

Step Two: Create “starter” reader profiles with the established categories

Step Three: Use classroom teaching experiences and research to come up with strategies for each category.

Step Four: Test these ideas out in our classrooms

Step Five: Come up with A Guide to Supporting Our Struggling Readers: Practical Solutions and Advice from the Lead Literacy Society

So PLEASE comment below or own our Facebook page.  I want to hear from you.

Do you have new categories?

Feedback please!

Until Next Time,

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.