What is balanced literacy?We use a a balanced literacy approach to the teaching of reading and writing. In this approach, reading and writing are not compartmentalized but are combined to support student learning comprehensively. Literature is the mainstay of the reading program. Students read fiction and nonfiction materials that encompass all content areas. Instruction occurs in whole class, small group and individual settings.
Reading instruction is based on assessment information. The information from various assessments helps the student and teacher to identify the level of reading material that is “just right” for the student and the skills and strategies that the student needs to work on. The primary elements of the reading program remain the same in all classes and include: Read Alouds, Shared Reading, Guided Reading, Book Clubs, Independent Reading, and Word Study.
- Read Alouds give teachers and students an opportunity to enjoy literature together. We read to students for the same reasons that we talk with them: to reassure, to entertain, to inform or explain, to arouse curiosity and to inspire. This is when we can offer the most support by modeling strategies and scaffolding while students try them for the first time.
- Shared Reading occurs when several children join in reading a book. This interactive reading experience is led by the teacher. As in Read Alouds, we are able to offer a great deal of teacher support during shared reading.
- Guided Reading is done either with individual students or small groups. In a guided reading group, we are able to focus on particular reading strategies that are needed by that particular group of children. These are flexible groups that are continuously changing based on the needs of the children.
- In Book Clubs, small groups of students read and discuss the same story, poem, or article. The conversations help students deepen their thinking about the text.
- Independent Reading gives students an opportunity to practice all of the skills that they have learned. Students need to learn how to select books that are at their independent reading level, which means that students can read the material with almost 100% accuracy.
- Word Study focuses on decoding skills and deriving meaning from a text. In the upper grades students learn how to examine words to discover the patterns and conventions of English. Word study also focuses vocabulary development.
We use a workshop approach to the teaching of writing. The model helps build a community of writers in which individuals are supported by the teacher and by other students in the classroom. This approach allows students to write about topics of their own choosing, to experiment with their writing style and to practice their revision and editing skills. Like the reading program, differences may exist from grade to grade and class to class, but the primary elements of the writing program remain the same in all classes and include: Shared Writing, Interactive Writing, Guided Writing, Independent Writing, and Word Study.
- Shared Writing is a strategy in which we and the students work together to write stories, messages, or other pieces of writing. The children come up with the ideas and we serve as the scribes.
- In an Interactive Writing lesson, we work with the class or a small group of students to create a written text. The group discusses the issue and agrees on what is to be written. The students sound out the words and write the letters, while we fill in the missing parts.
- Guided Writing groups give us an opportunity to provide instruction to students who have a similar need. Some students have trouble knowing how to get started; others may struggle with a specific punctuation skill like quotation marks. Whatever the need, the teacher can use guided writing groups to address the skills that need attention.
- Independent Writing is the most crucial part of the workshop approach. While students work on their pieces, we use the time to confer with individual students. The assessments that we make during the conferences determine the instruction for the individual student and for the small groups in the class. Word Study is also a part of the writing program. Spelling and the study of grammar and punctuation are part of word study.
The complete Balanced Literacy teaching guide is available on the District website,www.scarsdaleschools org.