Why are there controlled-vocabulary texts in Being a Reader?

There are two types of small-group reading texts in the Being a Reader program: controlled vocabulary (used in sets 1-5) and leveled texts (sets 6-12). The leveled texts in Sets 6-12 correspond to Fountas and Pinnell (F&P) levels J through O (DRA levels 20 to 38).

Controlled-vocabulary texts are used in Small-group Reading Sets 1-5. Each controlled-vocabulary text is composed of systematically taught spelling-sound relationships and high-frequency words. In each small-group lesson, the students are introduced to, review, and practice the phonics and high-frequency words that appear in the week’s text. The students then apply what they have learned to fluency practice with the text. In contrast to the early F&P (DRA) levels, CCC’s controlled-vocabulary texts are written so that the students have all of the phonics and high-frequency word knowledge they need to successfully read the texts using decoding skills; they do not need to rely on patterns and illustrations to read the texts.

In writing even the very early books in Set 1, we strove for natural sounding language rather than using repeated patterns. This increases students’ motivation to read and helps students transition more easily into leveled trade books as they move along the continuum of reading development. The Being a Reader Teacher’s Manual introduction provides further information:

All the small-group instruction is organized around high-quality, carefully selected fiction and nonfiction in a variety of genres that are assembled into twelve sets of similarly leveled books. Emerging readers read texts that have been specially written to match a scope and sequence of phonics and high-frequency word instruction. Careful attention was paid to create books with natural sounding language, plot and character development, fiction and nonfiction topics appropriate for young students, and high-quality illustrations. Lessons that accompany these books focus on phonological awareness, concepts of print, phonics/decoding, and high-frequency word recognition, but the goal is always to make sense of what the students read.

At the same time, the controlled-vocabulary books do roughly parallel F&P text characteristics, such as number of words in a sentence or number of sentences per page, excepting pattern recognition and using the illustrations to read words. Because both the DRA and Benchmark assessments rely on pattern recognition and illustrations to assess students’ reading levels, these assessments do not give an accurate placement in Being a Reader small-group levels.

Because our controlled-vocabulary books are written so that students can read them using taught spelling-sound correspondences and high-frequency words, the best way to place students into Sets 1-5 is to use our Placement Assessment. Using our assessment will provide specific information about what phonics skills and sight words each student knows, which will result in accurate placement and optimal progress.

Further information about text design and placement can be found in the Assessment Resource Book and the Small-Group Reading Teacher’s Manuals:

“Reading Levels Correlations” Table

On page xiii of the Assessment Resource Book the “Reading Levels Correlations” table shows the DRA, F&P, and the Teacher’s College Reading Writing Project’s Running Records Assessment levels along with the corresponding CCC Small-group Reading Set correlations for Sets 6-12.

“Lesson Summary” Tables

In the appendices of each Small-group Reading Teacher’s Manual Sets 6-12, there is a “Lesson Summary” chart. Those tables provide the F&P, Lexile, and DRA level of each text included in the set. For an example, see page 56 in the Small-group Reading Teacher’s Manual for Set 6.

“Grade Level Expectations for Reading” Table

On page xviii of the Assessment Resource Book, you will find a “Grade Level Expectations for Reading” table. This table will give you an idea of which sets students should be in at the beginning, middle, and end of the year to be considered “on grade level.”