The Truth About Balanced Literacy


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Balanced Literacy is not a new program for use in schools. Many teachers look at this as something new they have to learn. Many of them equate it with the whole language movement and dismiss it before they even look at what it entails. Balanced literacy is a framework within which students learn all the facets of Language Arts to help them all learn to read and write. The basis of the model is that all children can learn to read and write, though not all will do so at the same rate. The students receive the teaching they need to take them from where they are to the next highest level. During the process, students work at their instructional level, rather than their frustration level, which is what turns many students off from reading and writing. There is no doubt that teachers may have to change the way they deliver instruction and the way in which they organize their classroom, but it is to the benefit of all students.

Within the Balanced Literacy framework, there are several models. All of these models, though seemingly separate all combine to create a model for the teacher in the classroom to teach all facets of Language Arts and to reach all students. The aim is to have all students reaching their independent reading and writing levels.

This model is based on the research and writings if several prominent leaders in the field of education. These include Marie Clay, Regie Routman, Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Children read and write on a daily basis in the classroom setting, sometimes with the teacher, sometimes on their own and sometimes in collaboration with other students. There are four types of reading experiences in which children are engage:

  • Teacher reading aloud to the class
  • Shared reading with the whole class
  • Guided Reading with a small group
  • Independent Reading

    There are also four types of writing experiences within this framework:

  • Shared writing with the whole class
  • Writer’s Workshop
  • Guided writing
  • Independent writing

    Phonics is not forgotten because within the Guided Reading and Writing Workshops, teachers focus on phonemic awareness with the students that need this help.

    Frances Stanford is a retired teacher who has taught reading and writing for more than 30 years. She also writes novel study guides for the classroom teacher.

    Check out the list of guides at

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