A balanced literacy program is a powerful vehicle that enables children to become successful, independent readers and writers. Our teachers provide a comprehensive program by integrating instruction in reading, writing, listening, speaking, language, and literature. As they model good reading and writing, they connect skills and strategy development across the literacy spectrum.
Other disciplines such as social studies, science and mathematics are integrated as well, providing substance for research, discussion, problem solving, journal writing, oral reports and debates. The textbook alone is not enough; these curricular areas have literature that is rich and abundant and can be used to develop many higher order thinking skills. Providing these experiences ensures children will have a balance of supportive and challenging learning opportunities. Students learn to read, write, speak and listen successfully when a range of instructional strategies are provided to students. The following are core components of a Balanced Literacy Classroom.
Reading aloud introduces students to the joys of reading and the art of listening. Reading aloud provides opportunities to model reading strategies. Through reading aloud students understand that the language of books is different from spoken language, develop understanding of the patterns and structures of written language and learn new words and ideas. They learn about and locate models of particular genres or forms of writing.
The purpose of guided reading is to promote independent reading by helping students develop effective reading skills and strategies, fluency and confidence. Students are matched to appropriate instructional texts (read with 90-95 percent accuracy) determined by performance on a running record or reading inventory. During the lesson the teacher works with small, homogeneous reading groups that are flexible and change regularly based on students' needs. Because guided reading groups are compromised of students at similar stages of reading development, they present ideal opportunities for systematically teaching skills and strategies. Students read texts on increasing levels of difficulty, with each step providing opportunities for the kind of problem solving strategies that build independent reading systems. Students are prompted to use skilled reader's strategies (predicting, questioning, confirming, checking, rereading and self-monitoring).
The more students read materials they can read, the more they improve and progress toward independence. Teachers designate specific daily time for independent reading and provide the rules for quiet reading. Independent reading provides students with the practice needed to gain fluency. Students have access to a wide range of literature from which they can make choices. Teachers teach students how to choose books at their independent level to read successfully. Students need to read independently in not only books but all written material in the classroom. (E.g., poems, songs, pieces composed through interactive and shared writing, signs, directions, non-fiction and fiction books). They read to themselves or with partners. Students may draw and write about the stories they read independently.