There are many different components of the balanced literacy framework. It can be frustrating and confusing to try to take all of these on. I have taught within a balanced literacy framework for 7 years now after being trained in Literacy Collaborative. So, let’s break it down!
This is just one in a series of many blog posts discussing balanced literacy. By the end of this post, you should have gained a very big picture view of the balanced literacy framework. Please ask all of the important questions you have in the comments. This way I can model responsive teaching and meet your needs! Posts will be added to the series every Tuesday. I hope to see you back for even more!
What does “balanced literacy” mean?
Our literacy lives are composed of inputting information and outputting information. Balanced literacy is a framework to allow students equal opportunities to input (read, listen) and output (write, speak). Giving students access to equal opportunities to read, write, listen, speak, etc. allows them to build these critical skills together. It gives them a full picture view as to how the input and output work together. Readers are writers and writers are readers. Listeners are speakers and speakers are listeners. This balance is not something that only pops up once in a while but is a connection made several times a day. The work being done isn’t in isolation so the connections are made in the moment- showing students the full picture of a literate life.
When teaching a balanced literacy framework the teacher to student work ratio is also balanced. Teachers balance out the I do, we do, you do parts of the framework throughout the day. The gradual release model is used to slowly transfer responsibility of skills and strategies from the teacher to the student. The release model allows students to take things on and show pride in their independence.
Keys to Balanced Literacy
There are many important factors of using a balanced literacy framework to teach. These key components will appear regularly throughout this balanced literacy series.
Each and every day there should be a balance between the input and the output work done by students. They should have opportunities to engage in conversations both as a listener and a speaker. Students should have time to read and to write on their own and with teacher help. Students should see their teacher demonstrating these habits throughout their day.
Independence is the goal
The balanced literacy framework operates on the gradual release model. To teach skills, teachers begin with the highest level of support and show students what to do, we call this modeling. Teachers then gradually release support to the students as the students become more capable. Students end their journey able to complete skills independently. Independence is the goal of balanced literacy. We want our students to be able to transfer all of their knowledge to new situations and new contexts without teacher support. In the end, we aren’t teaching a specific book or teaching to a specific writing assignment; we are teaching transferable skills that have longevity.
Teachers who teach using the balanced literacy framework and the gradual release model are responsive to student need. Each lesson is taught with the students’ zones of proximal development in mind. Teachers notice what skills students are taking on, what skills they might be ready for, and which ones they won’t be able to take on yet. Teaching is targeted to the skills students are ready to take on while offering support to the skills that students are already independent in and setting them to take on what they aren’t yet able to.
Student choice is so important in school and it is especially important to a balanced literacy framework. Students need choice within what they read and write. The framework works to personalize learning and give students choices in what they read and write.
Teachers must model what they expect from their students. Modeling is so so so important in the balanced literacy classroom. Modeling must be planned out and intentionally done. When working with a gradual release model students should see things modeled many times before they are expected to take it on themselves. My first literacy coach, Jessica Pelka, always said, “if you aren’t modeling then you aren’t teaching.” If we don’t show our readers and writers what we expect from them, how will they ever know if they get there?
Components of Balanced Literacy
There are many different components of a balanced literacy framework. This is where teachers get overwhelmed. There is no way you can take it on all at once. Let me say that again, there is NO WAY you can take it all on at once. I’m just going to list the various parts here. Read them, soak it in and more details will be coming soon about each area.
- Read Aloud
- Reader’s Workshop
- Writer’s Workshop
- Shared Reading
- Shared Writing
- Read Aloud
- Word Study
- Accountable Talk
What’s next in this series?
Each Tuesday a new post will be added to the series. Use the comments section to ask any lingering questions or leave any comments with things I can do to better help you on this journey to implementing a balanced literacy framework within your classroom. This series is intended to give teachers a simple, yet well thought out guide to teaching a balanced literacy framework. The next post will be all about the components of a balanced literacy framework in the big picture sense.
If this post was helpful to you on your journey to teaching within a balanced literacy framework please take a moment to share this with your teacher friends! I have also created a handout that you can CLICK HERE to download!