This past week I had the honor of presenting three sessions at the annual conference of the Colorado Council of the International Reading (CCIRA). It so happened that my three sessions were on the same day, so it made for a very LONG day, but in retrospect, it was probably better as that was my entire focus for the day. This post will be the first of several covering the highlights of each of my presentations.
First up, balanced literacy! Depending on where you look, there are many different definitions of balanced literacy. Here are the ones I used in my presentation, and the ones I agree with based on my training and experiences.
In my district literacy training sessions for the Douglas County School District in Colorado, I trained hundreds of teachers on a total of TEN balanced literacy elements! WOW! The number one question I received… “How do you fit all of these into your daily literacy block?” The answer…you DON’T! In order for all of the elements to receive the same amount of attention, teachers MUST use these elements in ALL parts of the day…every content area! This should continue into secondary schools with content area and elective teachers using literacy in their classes as well. The importance of content area literacy cannot be stressed enough!
In this first post, I’m going to define each of these elements for you…some, of course, you will be very familiar with, but others may be new to you.
ALL OF THE ELEMENTS BELOW WILL BE DISCUSSED IN FURTHER BLOG POSTS!
Read Aloud with a Purpose (I Do): This is a separate time from the “sit on the floor in front of the teacher and listen to her/him read a great children’s book”…which IS always important to do in classrooms, especially primary, as it instills a love of reading and introduces genres and authors to kids. However, Read Aloud with a Purpose is used in short increments several times during the school day. It’s defined as:
- The teacher chooses a read aloud based on a specific teaching purpose (strategy).
- As the teacher reads aloud, she/he “thinks aloud” about the reading and offers explicit instruction on the strategy.
- Students then will practice the modeled strategy in guided and independent reading.
Shared Reading (We Do): In shared reading, the text is once again chosen by the teacher for a specific strategy. The students and teacher all look at a projected or enlarged piece of text together and read in unison. If this sounds like choral reading, it’s not, because again, the teacher is using that text for a specific teacher purpose and a lesson comes during or after the choral reading. The bonus is that students are practicing fluency skills and hearing a fluent reader read with them. Shared reading works especially well when the text is a bit more complex than the usual text students read. (Image from this website.)
Guided Reading (We Do): I’m sure readers of this blog have different understandings of what guided reading is…I am using the most common interpretation popularized by Marie Clay and Fountas and Pinell, among others. Guided reading is a time for strategic teaching based on the needs of the students, ones who have been grouped together because they have similar strengths and weaknesses. There is a specific purpose for the lesson each day, and the teacher works with both the entire group, as well as individuals as needed. This is also an excellent time for teachers to observe reading behaviors in their students.
Book Clubs (We Do/You Do): Just as with adult book clubs, these are small groups reading and discussing works of literature that are appropriate for them. I’m torn between “we do” and “you do”. Teachers do have to provide the initial guidelines and structure, but then he/she must be willing to step away and be a part of the book club, as both a participant and observer. This is an excellent opportunity to just enjoy reading and discussion without specific teaching strategies, but the teacher can gain a great deal of information on both students’ reading behaviors, as well as comprehension and vocabulary skills.
Independent Reading (You Do): Most students should now be ready to take the skills and strategies learned in the previous elements and apply them to their own independent reading. The teacher is either observing reading behaviors among his/her students or conducting individual reading conferences.
Modeled Writing (I Do): This is the teacher’s time to write in front of the students using a specific teaching purpose. The teacher uses a write-aloud to let the students know the process he/she is using. In addition to being a model for good writing, it’s also important that the students see mistakes and frustration from the teacher and how he/she works through that.
Interactive Writing: (We Do): This is sometimes called Shared Writing. The teacher and students negotiate the wording in a planned piece of text and then share the pen to create the writing. Once again, the teacher has a goal and purpose with this element, although often when the students have the pen, many other teaching opportunities may arise. This is an excellent way to create anchor charts of the classroom instead of the teacher creating one or purchasing one. The students have much more ownership and understanding of the chart if they are involved in the creation.
Guided Writing (We Do): Just as in guided reading, the teacher has created groups of students that reflect strengths and weaknesses observed in students or obtained from data. The teacher has a specific teacher purpose and collaborates with the students on creating a piece of writing. Often this writing can be used as a model when the student continues independent writing on their own.
Independent Writing (I Do): The student takes all of the strategies and new learnings from the teacher modeling and group collaborative work and uses them in his/her own writing. The teacher should use this time to do 1-1 writing conferences so he/she can observe the student’s writing behaviors, as well as provide support in difficult areas.
Interactive Editing (We Do:) This is probably the element that you are least familiar with, and it has nothing to do with the type of “editing” done in writing. In this element, the teacher guides students in using higher-level thinking, as well as creativity, in transforming a piece of text into another format, such as a summary, three column notes, a text, message, etc. This is an element that is already used in content areas!
Independent Centers or Independent Work: While the teacher is working in Guided Reading or Writing groups, the students can be engaged in independent work or centers…and the centers do not just have to be literacy-based; they can be based on any content areas!
In future posts, I will share more ideas on how you can use all of these balanced literacy elements in not only reading but in all content areas!
Featured Image: Pixabay
All other photos, unless otherwise noted, from my personal photo files