Clarity about Fountas and Pinnell

Mark Seidenberg:

Fountas and Pinnell have written a series of blog posts defending their popular curriculum, which is being criticized as based on discredited ideas about how children learn to read. (See Emily Hanford’s post here; EdReports evaluation here, many comments in the blogosphere.) The question is why school systems should continue to invest in the F&P curriculum and other products if they are inadequate. 

Their blog posts indicate that Fountas and Pinnell (hereafter F&P) have not benefited from ongoing discussions about approaches to reading instruction. They are staying the course. The posts are restatements of their views that add little new information.

Here are some further observations, from a reading researcher who has been looking closely at several curricula that dominate the enormous market for such materials. I’ve summarized basic flaws in their approach and responded to their defense of it. The quotes are from the F&P “Just to clarify” posts.

1. Fountas and Pinnell’s misconceptions about the knowledge and mental operations that support reading, and how they are acquired, make both learning to read and teaching children to read more difficult.

Being able to read and understand words quickly and accurately is the basic foundation for reading, which enables the development of more advanced forms of literacy. 

Because the F&P curriculum doesn’t adequately address the development of these skills, it focuses on coping with the struggles that follow. Beginning readers are seen as plodders who, knowing little about the written code, need ways to figure words out. This can be done by using several “word solving” strategies. There is greater emphasis on teaching children how to cope with their lack of basic skills than on teaching those skills in the first place

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