Balanced Literacy and Hard Work

WHAT IS BALANCED LITERACY?  Balanced literacy came along in response to the more    extreme teachings of whole language and heavy phonics-based instruction. In the whole language approach, literacy skills were mostly taught IN the context of real reading and writing. Phonics-based instruction swung the opposite direction to teach literacy skills mostly out of the context of real reading and writing.

Balanced literacy includes balancing these 3 important components when teaching reading and writing:

1- Teacher MODELS (I do)

2- Teacher SUPPORTS learners as they practice it (we do)

3- Learners WORK INDEPENDENTLY  (you do)

WHAT IS WORD WORK?  Word work is a hands-on time to explore the spellings and/or meanings of words (vocabulary). Making time for word work is vital because it helps patterns and words move into long-term memory. Word work can help our students become better readers, spellers, and writers. Depending on our learners’ developmental stages, teachers might use this time to focus on letters and their sounds, read and spell words, or work on word meanings. At the same time, learners have time to explore sight words.

Here at Hillsboro Elementary, we incorporate Word Work in at least 6 different ways/areas:

1. Before a Small Group Reading Lesson

2. After a Small Group Reading Lesson – The same “warm up” ideas can be used as a “cool down” after the reading lesson is over.

3. As the Focus of a Small Group Lesson – Sometimes, our teachers have “strategy lessons”  just to focus on a particular phonics or spelling strategy, especially if we notice several learners struggling to understand the same thing.

4. Whole Group Instruction – mini lessons are recommended within simple phonics lessons for all learners in the classroom each day. This isn’t a long lesson (10-15 at most).

5.  Separate Spelling Time - Some teachers like the idea of having a separate spelling time, teaching to the developmental needs of learners with a word study approach.

6. Center/Word Station Time – Literacy stations and centers are a great place for learners to really explore spelling, phonics, and sight words.

Our teachers also look for opportunities to integrate spelling and phonics right into their routines. Great opportunities occur for mini lessons during the morning message, morning meeting, shared reading, writing instruction/Writer’s Workshop, and sometimes even on the playground with sidewalk chalk!