What is Balanced Literacy?

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The debate over the best way to teach reading is far from being new. The question of which approach (Whole Language vs. Phonics) has been a source of contention throughout much of the 20th century. The birth of Balanced Literacy has been a direct result of the arguments for and against as well continued research. Balanced Literacy is an instructional program that incorporates whole language and phonics. The goal of Balanced Literacy is to include the strongest elements from whole language and phonics. The components of a Balanced Literacy Program are:

  • Read Alouds - the teacher reads a selection aloud to students, introduces reading strategies through a think aloud while modeling fluent reading.
  • Shared Reading - the teacher and students are engaged in a text together. Shared reading allows teacher to model reading strategies. It also provides the students with the opportunity for students to see themselves as readers as they join in the reading of familiar texts.
  • Guided Reading - the teacher introduces students to text on their instructional reading level and guides them in practicing reading strategies.
  • Independent Reading - students are allowed to choose texts that are interesting to them so that they can employ the strategies they have learned.
  • Word Study - is an alternative to spelling as students are given the opportunity to explore patterns in word making them strong decoders.
  • Modeled/Shared Writing - the teacher and students collaborate to write the text. Most often the teacher acts as the scribe and models the connection between sounds, letters and words. Modeled and Shared Writing are also intended to develop writing strategies.
  • Interactive Writing - the teacher and students write interchangeably and allows students to apply the strategies that they have learned.
  • Independent Writing - students have the pen and write on their own employing the strategies that they have learned.

Some visible evidence of Balanced Literacy in the classroom include: homogenous guided reading groups reading with the teacher and work stations providing authentic tasks to support students' learning experiences and a classroom library for students to choose books that not only interests them but allows them to utilize their strategies.