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Balanced Literacy

Daily Instructional Framework

In learning to read and write, students need time to practice. Classrooms need to be structured so 
that children are given daily access to extended periods of time to read, write, and practice 
language and word study. Literacy research shows an effective literacy program should include 
the following:

  • Phonics and Word Study Block (20-30 minutes)
  • Reader’s Workshop including read-aloud, mini lesson, practice time, and reflection (60 minutes)
  • Writer’s Workshop (45-60 minutes)

Components and Definitions of District 68’s K-5 Reading Program

Balanced Literacy: A curricular methodology that integrates various modalities of literacy
instruction. Assessment-based planning is at the core of this model. The balanced literacy 
approach is characterized by explicit skill instruction and the use of authentic texts. Through 
various modalities, the teacher implements a well-planned comprehensive literacy program that 
reflects a gradual release of control, whereby responsibility is gradually shifted from the teacher 
to the students.

Reader’s Workshop: An organizational framework for balanced literacy that provides 
opportunities for students to authentically engage as readers. Reader’s Workshop includes 
modeling, shared reading, guided reading, conferring, independent reading, student discussion, 
and written response to reading.

Gradual Release of Responsibility: The Gradual Release of Responsibility is an overarching 
framework for how children move from the early stages to independent application of learning. 
This Balanced Literacy Framework is designed to align with the gradual release continuum and 
includes the following stages: demonstration, guided practice, and independent practice.

Levels of Teacher Support and Learner Control Graph

Guided Reading: Small-group reading instruction in which the teacher meets with small 
groups of students for fifteen to twenty minutes, two to three times per week. Groups are 
organized based on the students’ instructional reading level. Each student has a copy of the text 
and the teacher works with the students to become strategic readers of both fiction and 
informational texts. The students also engage in meaningful discussions using a wide variety of 
texts. There is an ongoing assessment of students and the teacher makes modifications of groups 
based on student growth.

Independent Reading: Students self-select and independently read appropriate books based on 
reading level and interest. During this time, students practice reading strategies that were 
explicitly taught during read aloud, shared reading, and guided reading.
Read Aloud: Common Core reading lists guide teachers to choices for read aloud as a model 
for rigor. At times, teachers choose texts for read aloud that are used in conjunction with shared 
reading and writer’s workshop. At other times, teachers use think aloud as an instructional focus 
during read aloud to model thinking, good reader behavior, fluency, expression, the joy of
reading, and to foster rich conversations about literature.

Reading Conferences: A conversation between the teacher and student about the student’s 
progression as a reader. The focus of reading conferences may be on any of the following: 
selecting “just right” books, using reading strategies, reading across varied genres, reading 
fluency, or decoding unknown words. The teacher may also choose to assess students during 
reading conferences through the use of running records or reading inventories.

Shared Reading: 10-15 minutes whole class lesson that focuses on a specific reading strategy, 
such as: comprehension strategies, literary terms, context clues, character development, story 
mapping, or figurative language. Teacher reads text to students while students follow along with 
their own text. Teacher models various strategies while reading.

Word Study: 10-15 minute differentiated, hands-on activities in which students compare and 
contrast categories of word features and discover similarities and differences within and between 
categories. Students sort words and pictures during word work routines in order to examine, 
discriminate, and make judgments about letters, speech sounds, word structures, spelling 
patterns, and meanings. 
Phonemic Awareness + Phonics + Spelling + Vocabulary Instruction = Word Study

Creating a Supportive Literacy Environment

Several elements of a supportive literacy environment foster a connection among listening, 
reading, writing, thinking, and sharing.

  • Relationships: It is essential for teachers to bond with students. Teachers need to have knowledge of students’ individual lives and interests to provide meaningful learning opportunities in the classroom. Likewise, teachers need to share their lives to connect with their students and create an atmosphere in which individuals are valued so that students feel safe and able to take risks. Creating a collaborative student-to-student and teacher-to-student environment is essential.
  • Ownership: A sound learning community allows for plenty of student choice. Students need opportunities to self-select in order to develop a love of learning and inquiry while becoming independent thinkers and learners. In this kind of classroom community, children and teachers take an active role in planning, assessing, and reflecting their learning. They are not passive recipients. Teachers use the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model when discussing options and choices with students. 
  • Opportunities to Share: Classroom interactions need to include regular opportunities to share and celebrate learning experiences with others (teacher/student, student/student, small group, whole group). In addition, social skills must be explicitly taught—skills like respect and active listening. In order to foster a collaborative culture, expectations for behavior need to be clearly stated and taught.
  • Physical Environment: Classrooms that foster a truly collaborative climate have developed a classroom library, posted student-generated resources, arranged space in the room for sustained reading time, displayed student-created work, and created an area designated for group sharing.
  • Home/School Connections: Appropriate leveled books to practice at home will help development of proficient readers.
  • Classroom Libraries: Students need access to a rich supply of text. It is critical for students to read books with which they can be successful — text in which they perform with a high level of accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. Students also need to be provided opportunities for choice with regard to which books they read. It is essential to provide a classroom library to support individual student needs for independent reading, classroom, and curricular goals. Books can be categorized by topic, author, series, genre, and/or level--all for the purpose of facilitating appropriate independent book choice by students.