When teaching students to read, there are a variety of factors that contribute to reading proficiency. Of these factors are teacher-led instruction and independent exploration and practice. Though both items are important to achieve literacy success, heavily relying on one versus the other may not be the best option. When these factors are properly balanced, literacy instruction has the power to transform and enhance student outcomes.
What is Balanced Literacy?
Balanced literacy refers to an instructional approach that involves a balance between teacher-led reading and writing instruction and independent learning. Typically, a balanced literacy framework consists of opportunities to:
- Read aloud
- Engage in guided reading
- Participate in shared reading
- Experience independent reading
- Gain exposure to authentic text
What Strategies Are Included in a Balanced Literacy Approach?
Many balanced literacy models are composed of three major components: Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop, and Word Work.
1. Reading Workshop includes opportunities for Shared Reading, Guided Reading, and Independent Reading.
During Reading Workshop, teachers provide opportunities for whole group and small group instruction and independent practice to help readers develop proficiency.
Shared Reading: This interactive experience typically involves a student joining in on reading a book with the guidance of their teacher. During this process, students are able to learn the relationship between written and spoken language.
Guided Reading: Guided reading refers to a small-group practice in which students read texts at their reading level. This practice provides one way for teachers to support each reader’s development as they process texts that appropriately challenge them.
Independent Reading: Independent reading provides students the opportunity to apply reading strategies and skills in a text while developing their own personal interests.
2. Writing Workshop includes opportunities for Shared Writing, Guided Writing, and Independent Writing.
During Writing Workshop, teachers provide instruction on the various forms of writing, and students learn the basics of Process Writing.
Process Writing: Writing Workshop begins with teacher-directed lessons followed by time for students to write. Teachers confer with students and guide their writing development.
Shared & Independent Writing: Writing workshops offer opportunities for students to both collaborate with their teacher to write a piece and independently write their own piece. When engaging in shared writing with a teacher, the teacher acts as a scribe to support students as they come up with the meaning of the text. Due to the fact that the teacher is doing the writing, the text tends to be more complex than what a student would be able to accomplish on their own. Independent writing, though, is extremely important, as it demonstrates their understanding of lessons.
3. Word Work with the goal of guiding students to become more fluent readers and writers.
Phonemic Awareness and Phonics: Phonemic awareness and phonics help the youngest students learn letter-sound relationships. As they do so, they become better equipped to read new words that they may be unfamiliar with.
High-Frequency Words and Vocabulary: Students build on a foundation of word knowledge by emphasizing word structure and vocabulary, and extend their vocabulary in order to apply it in the context of reading.
What are the Benefits of Balanced Literacy?
Balanced literacy instruction involves a combination of instruction with independent practice to truly reinforce what was learned in the classroom. When paired together, students are able to form their own connections between what they have learned and what they have read. In doing so, students form a deeper understanding of the text and their own internal motivation to read, helping them develop their own interests and elevating their reading levels.
What Tools Do I Need to Adopt a Balanced Literacy Approach?
Building proficient readers involves detailed reporting, teacher-led instruction, strategic assessment, and independent student practice. As a teacher, it can be quite difficult to have the time to create lesson plans, select developmentally appropriate resources, and purposeful small group or independent practice activities, but you are not alone! At Learning A-Z, we understand that you need tools that work as hard as you do. That’s why we offer a flexible suite of solutions that help teachers meet the needs of their students. Offering detailed reporting on an individual student or whole-class basis, student assessments, standards-aligned lesson plans, and a plethora of books and reading resources, we have everything you need to take a balanced approach to literacy instruction.
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