Dr. Margaret Policastro and her team of Balanced Literacy Coaches are ecstatic to present you with the Balanced Literacy Program website created for administrators, teachers, parents, and of course, students. The program, funded by a grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education Grant, was developed to provide quality, creative, efficient, and socially-just literacy education for children.
Read more about the history of the program and how it was developed and refined, using empirical evidence and theoretical ideas, and grown into the expert program it has become today.
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A background of the balanced literacy model:
Literacy has been presented through the lens of numerous theories, techniques, and objectives. Through the close examination of these, literacy education specialists have discovered key components required for literacy development and the value of a balanced approach. These key components, which make up the balanced literacy model, and discussed in The New Balanced Literacy School: Implementing Common Core (2015), include the home and community, library involvement, structured classroom plans, read-alouds, guided reading, shared reading, and independent reading and writing. These practices are all student-centered, individualized, and flexible. Additionally, the approach of balanced literacy, as discussed in Dr. Policastro’s (2015) text, “assumes reading and writing achievement are developed through instruction and support in multiple environments” where the goal is not for children to develop a “skill broken into isolated steps, but as a lifelong learning process that promotes higher-order thinking, problem solving, and reasoning.” Because of this need for support in multiple environments, a balanced literacy approach requires a school-wide initiative including students, teachers, administrators, and parents.
Language and literacy connection:
With the advancement of literacy education came the connection of language to literacy and the rising challenge of the role language development holds within literacy instruction. Halliday’s (1993) language-based theory of learning emphasizes learning through language, i.e. learning about language to inform all of literacy instruction. This awareness encouraged an instructional shift and the development of classroom discourse, or classroom discussion, as a vital tool in literacy education. Implementing discourse within instructional plans allow teachers and students to have rich conversations in small or large groups, pairs of students, and even student-led. Discourse takes on many forms in the classroom and resources such as Word Walls or Language Walls , which can provide the foundation for a debate center discussion. In educating and preparing students about the concepts through the word or language wall, a teacher can introduce and guide students in rich and thoughtful discussions while promoting social dialogue within a safe environment. In summary, the discourse instructional shift and a teacher’s skills in using language to inform, guide, and scaffold all instruction are important and necessary for higher-level thinking and providing a catalyst for constructing meaning and comprehension within the student’s literacy development.
The New Balanced Literacy Model
Instructors have found the traditional model of balanced literacy to be effective for English language learners (ELLs) and those students struggling with literacy development. With the new balanced literacy model, ELLs have more support in language development as the tenets of this refreshed model adopts language and social discourse as a foundation in all instruction. Additionally, the updated approach supports the Common Core State Standards for Illinois and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency by challenging students in reading, comprehending, and analyzing more complex and informational text.
In encouraging language development first, and focusing on culture through utilizing stories, books, or authentic writing, students have more opportunities to hear and use language to improve their skills and comprehension. The new balanced literacy model fulfills these objectives through new Read-Alouds with a focus on social discourse, guided reading, movement from word walls to language walls, and new language and literacy centers to promote team work. All of these new changes center on the use of language, allowing the teacher to observe interactions one-on-one as well as in groups as students use language among each other.
A metaphor for the New Tenets of Balanced Literacy:
Index for common documents
Throughout this website there are numerous presentations and resource guides for developing and maintaining a balanced literacy school. For your easy access, we have also listed these downloadable links below. You may also use the search function found in the menu bar to find specific resources.
Common documents for Educators:
- The New Classroom Libraries
- Social Justice
- Reading Diversity
- Guided Reading
- Discourse Balanced Literacy
- Read-Aloud Classroom Tips and Inventory
- Celebrating the Magnificent Read-Aloud
Policastro, M., McTague, B.(2015). The New Balanced Literacy School: Implementing Common Core. Eau Claire, WI: Maupin House Publishing, Inc. by Capstone Professional.