By: Karie Gladis; Educational Consultant & Parent Educator
Unleash Your Balanced Literacy Superpowers
Have you unleashed the power of balanced literacy in your classroom and experienced its impact on students’ literacy achievement? Balanced Literacy is a dynamic framework for language arts instruction that encompasses all the elements needed for students to master reading, writing, and oral communication skills. The approach came from a need to marry the teaching of phonics with elements of a whole-language approach in the teaching of reading. The power of the balanced literacy framework lies in four key areas:
- Integrates all the essential elements of English language arts instruction including word study, phonics, reading comprehension, close reading, fluency, and writing.
- Uses assessments throughout to drive and inform instruction.
- Provides the infrastructure to systematically differentiate instruction to meet students’ needs.
- Creates the opportunity to deliver powerful instruction that develops readers’ strategic actions and moves them along the ladder of text complexity.
Let’s take a look at each component and a few strategies to maximize the superhero powers of the balanced literacy framework in your classroom!
“Up, up, and away with word study!” Word study includes phonics, spelling and vocabulary instruction. It provides students with the skills and strategies to decode, analyze, and solve words when reading and writing. Try these superhuman strategies!
- Rhyme Time (Grades K–2)—Read aloud a simple rhyming poem or nursery rhyme to students. Emphasize those words that rhyme. Point to the words that rhyme and have students listen. Have students help you identify the parts of the words that rhyme. Have students think of more words that rhyme with the ones from the poem.
- Make-a-Word (Grades 3–8)—Create word cards with prefixes, bases, and suffixes on them. Have students sort the cards into the three categories (prefixes, bases, and suffixes). Have students combine the bases and affixes to create real words. Have the students choose a word they made and define it in their own words. Reveal the answers.
Read Alouds and Modeled Reading
“Shazam!” Read alouds are important at any age and are a great way to show the fun of reading! They provide the perfect setting to model fluent reading and the use of reading comprehension strategies. These types of modeled read alouds will save the day!
- Share a book above the majority of the classes reading level.
- Share a book as an introduction to a theme, unit, or text set.
- Share a book that stimulates an interesting discussion.
- Share a book you personally enjoy.
Browse Balanced Literacy resources that will engage and captivate students.
“You have greater powers than you know with shared reading!” Shared reading is a time for teachers and students to engage in an interactive reading of a book or text together. During this time, the teacher provides instruction and models reading comprehension strategies. This is also a time to model close reading of complex texts. Close reading is a structured approach that enables all students to develop deep comprehension of complex, grade-level texts. In close reading, students read the text multiple times each with a different purpose to uncover key ideas and details, craft and structure, and integration of knowledge and ideas.
“With great power, comes great responsibility!” As you forge ahead on a close reading experience with your class, consider how to best support and scaffold close reading to meet the standards and achieve the learning goals you have established. Use these questions to create a plan for teaching close reading.
- How many times do students revisit the text?
- Does any frontloading need to occur?
- How should the text be chunked?
- What types of annotations should be used?
- What types of student resources are needed?
“Avengers assemble for Guided Reading!” Guided Reading is small-group instruction and support to help students take on more challenging texts by developing students’ strategic actions as readers to meet the demands of the text and effectively process the text. Students who are similar in their reading development and read at the same instructional or independent levels are grouped together. This strategy is a great way to engage each child in the reading process, while listening in and providing individual scaffolding, prompting, and questioning.
- Repeated Readings (Grades K–5)—Using PVC pipes construct personal phones for each student in the group. Use two elbow pieces connected by a short straight piece. Make these long enough to have the end of one elbow reach a student’s ear and the other reach their mouth. Ask students to read the chosen text aloud at their own pace, whispering into the phone. The phone amplifies the sound, so students can focus on their own voices and still read quietly. Lean in and listen to each student read. After listening to a student read a section of text, prompt the student’s use of a reading comprehension strategy, ask questions about the text, or work on word-solving or fluency skills.
Use the WhisperPhone Duet to support Guided Reading.
“Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s independent reading!” Sustained independent reading allows students to immerse themselves in texts of their choice—where they can feel successful and maybe even stretch their new skills. It is also about reading for pure enjoyment. Introduce independent reading time to students and establish expectations. Students are to:
- be in charge of their own reading selections.
- find a comfy spot to read.
- record on their reading log what they are reading.
- give new choices “a fair shot.”
- choose a new text if they do not like their choice or if they finished their current selection.
- read for enjoyment. They will not be tested or expected to perform an extension activity for the book, unless they voluntarily do so.
“Cowabunga!” You also have superhero strength in writing! The writing portion of the balanced literacy framework has several components to help students see the range of texts they can compose. Modeled and shared writing provide the instruction and support for students to develop skills in writing across the genres and across the curriculum. Try these writing mini-lessons during modeled and shared writing!
- Concept of a Word (Grades K–2)—Help students develop concepts about word spacing. Project a piece of writing with correct spacing, so students can see it. Discuss how spacing helps us tell one word from another when we read. Show students the sample with incorrect spacing, and ask students where the spaces should go. Suggest to students that they put a finger on the paper at the end of each word to give enough space to begin writing the next word. Have students assist you in creating a sentence about the importance of word spacing. Have students count the number of words and the number of spaces in the sentence.
- Consider the Potential Audience (Grades 3–5)—Go to YouTube and search for “commercials for kids”. Choose a video of interest to your students. Ask students to help you define audience and what it means to have one when writing. Tell students that as they watch the commercial they should think about the following questions: Who is the audience for this ad? How does the ad draw in the viewer? What does the ad use to persuade the viewer? Show the video then discuss the questions. Discuss the use of emotions and facts to persuade. Have students write ads for their favorite foods. Ask students what their favorite foods are, why someone should try it, who their audiences are, and what words will persuade their audiences. Extend the lesson with accompanying video ads.
“You’re the best there is at what you do!” Hence go forward and capitalize on the superhero powers of balanced literacy and experience the great impact on student learning!
About the Author:
Karie Gladis is an educational consultant and parent educator who has extensive professional development training experiences with administrators, teachers, and parents across all content areas. Karie has implemented balanced literacy and Guided Reading in her own classroom, as well as delivered balanced literacy and Guided Reading workshops and coaching to schools and districts domestically and internationally. Karie is the author and editor of several mathematics and language development resources. During the course of her teaching career, Karie taught all content areas at the elementary and middle school levels. While teaching in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Karie was recognized by the Miami Herald Newspaper as the City of Miami “Super Teacher for 2003.” She has a Master’s Degree in Urban Education with an emphasis in Teaching English as a Second Language from Florida International University and a BS in Elementary Education with a minor in Teaching Spanish from the University of Wisconsin. Karie is as passionate about the Wisconsin Badgers as she is about teaching and learning! Karie is a mom of two boys, ages four and ten months who keep her in constant motion!