Today’s classroom is an active hub of learning. Students are absorbed in literacy and numeracy as well as social responsibility. The effective teacher is able to balance the variety of student literacy needs by providing a balanced literacy program. If you are a new teacher just starting out or a seasoned teacher who has taught Language Arts in a more compartmentalized fashion (each component is taught separately) and you want to integrate the literacy components for a more balanced approach, then this post is for you!
Teaching literacy can be quite overwhelming if you look at all the components. Just teaching students to read is a big deal! Add to reading, writing, oral language and word work and that’s a whole lot of teaching and learning!
According to Joan Moser and Gail Boushey (The authors of the popular Daily 5 Cafe) :
There are 4 main components of an effective reading program: read aloud, shared reading, small group instruction and independent reading time.
Kids really love word work. It’s one of the ways they can play with letters and words and construct their own learning. When it is focussed, the learning increases even more. Some modeled word work ideas include making words using magnetic letters on a magnetic whiteboard or the document camera, or using the pocket chart to match words with pictures. Kids love to come up to the camera or pocket chart to demonstrate their learning. This can then become a center once they get the hang of it. There are some commercial word work ideas like “Words Their Way” and “Making Words” which are effective ways to teach vocabulary and word skills.
In a small group, the teacher may want to take some of the above ideas and reinforce them in a small group. Sometimes I do rhyming puzzles with my students in small groups and it’s a great time to reinforce the words aloud and create an environment for small group learning.
Interactive word work with older students might include playing some games where students can come up with synonyms or homonyms in teams. Vocabulary work can be fun. Students can try to find the common link between a group of words. (All synonyms) or can do some interactive poetry where they practice poetry skills. All of these ideas can be worked on in small groups as necessary with older kids.
It’s really a great feeling watching students become independent in their learning. I just love to watch students interacting with each other and participating in interactive lessons with me because I know they are engaged in their learning and they feel so proud. When learning is too teacher directed or worksheet based, students rely on the teacher too much for the acquisition of their skills. Literacy learning is a multifaceted and very social process. In the world beyond school, I want my students to feel confident in their reading, writing and communication skills and a balanced literacy program helps them to do that. Do you teach in a balanced literacy classroom? What is your favorite thing about it?
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