Tag Archives: Irene Fountas

Chatting with Irene

InteractiveWritingI just returned from a visit to Boston where I was able to catch up with colleagues and friends. During my visit, I got to chat with Irene Fountas (of “Fountas of Pinnell”) and we talked about Interactive Writing and its profound impact on K-2 students’ literacy development.

In case you didn’t know, interactive writing was developed by educators at The Ohio State University (where Gay Su Pinnell is on faculty). Unlike shared writing in which students compose messages and the teacher acts as a scribe, interactive writing involves a “sharing of the pen” (as illustrated in the image above) between teacher and students. The interactive writing process focuses students’ attention on:

  • concepts and conventions of print
  • the sounds in words
  • how those sounds connect with letters

Unlike the traditional “morning message,” students are involved in the planning and construction of text, and, to the greatest degree possible, students control the pen for the writing of the text. Moreover, interactive writing builds students’ confidence and experience with writing because they are equipped with a variety of encoding strategies. When I shared with Irene my plans to introduce interactive writing as a component of a public school district’s kindergarten literacy intervention program, she exclaimed, “I COMPLETELY AGREE!”

I asked Irene if she knew of any recent studies on the impact of interactive writing, but all we could locate was Sharon Craig’s 2003 study published by The Reading Teacher. It’s an impressive small-scale study, but we both wish more robust research was done around it since so many students have thrived from this daily practice. If you know of any recent studies, please let me know!


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Special Guest Blogger: Katherine Casey

I am thrilled to have my esteemed colleague, Katherine Casey, as my first guest blogger! Katherine is a nationally-acclaimed literacy coach and author of Literacy Coaching: The Essentials, and will lead the Promise of Coaching Institute in Seattle (January 8-9, 2009) and Portland (January 29-30, 2009).

For her first guest blog, I have asked Katherine to share a little bit about what she’s been reading:

What professional texts are you currently reading?  Your thoughts on them?

My stack of professional texts keeps growing as I try to keep up with the fantastic new titles being published.  Right now I’m reading texts to shore up some of my areas of weakness – early childhood and high school.

Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover’s Already Ready: Nurturing Writings in Preschool and Kindergarten brought tears to my eyes within a few pages.  What I found moving is the deep respect Ray and Glover have for very young children as readers, writers, and learners.  This book is a must read for all educators who come in contact with young children.

I’m a big fan of Emily Kissner’s Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Retelling:  Skills for Better Reading, Writing, and Test Taking and just received her newly published The Forest AND the Trees:  Helping Readers Identify Important Details in Texts and Tests I’m only a third of the way through the text and it looks like a post-it pad and highlighter exploded on the pages.  There are many practical, elegant lessons to try.

Do you ever find yourself mourning the education you wish you could have had?  I attended an “excellent” public high school in a town with “outstanding” test scores, lots of AP classes, and college bound students.  I was expected to read and write a great deal, yet was not actually taught how to read critically and write effectively.  Harvey Daniels, Steven Zemelman, and Nancy Steineke’s Content-Area Writing: Every Teachers Guide made it painfully obvious how lacking my high school education was.  Their lesson ideas are fantastic!  I taught a few while coaching at a high school this summer and not only did my students learn to write more strategically, I learned as well and actually looked forward to working with the high school students each day so that we could learn together.

A number of the school districts with which I work are using Fountas and Pinnell’s The Continuum of Literacy Learning, Grades K-8: Behaviors and Understandings to Notice, Teach, and Support.  What a rich, valuable resource!

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