Creating Balanced Literacy Schools: Developmental Moments

The new Balanced Literacy Program began in 1987 with The Roosevelt University Summer Reading Clinic initiative. This clinic, which provides the best practices of literacy education for primary-aged students as well as practicum experience for student-teachers, rocketed forward in 2010 with a federal grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. This grant allowed our team to partner with schools across Chicago and the surrounding area where we have put our time, passion, and empirical expertise into collaborating with teachers and administrators in creating balanced literacy schools. The extensive developmental moments came with many hurdles and division, but most importantly, a great deal of support, teamwork, and mentoring. Developing partnerships, relationships, and friendships have been most rewarding along with observing schools transform into places where a culture of literacy permeates throughout the community. Children, teachers, administrators, and parents all play a critical and essential role in making literacy a number one priority. The following timeline highlights the efforts put into this program and an understanding of our long dedication in providing the necessary resources and education to schools and children.

1987: Development of the Tenets of Literacy Model

  • Roosevelt Summer Reading Clinic Starts
  • Interactive Teacher Read-Alouds Implemented
  • Literacy “Block” or Routine Developed
  • School-Wide Literacy System: Focus on individual teacher experience with students over systematic school changes

1990-2010: Refining Our Model

The beginning stages of refining our model of balanced literacy began in 1990 and continued to 2010.

2010: Illinois Board of Higher Education Improving Quality Teaching Grant Project

The Improving Quality Teaching (ITQ) grant created many milestones for the Balanced Literacy Program. Since receiving a federal grant through the IBHE for ITQ, our work evolved into collaboration with school administrators and teachers at numerous school across the city of Chicago, and we have implemented our work from the Reading Clinic into the classroom.

Roosevelt Partners with Chicago-Area Schools

Our partnership initially focused on multiple in-school libraries, but our vision grew to include:

  • Classroom Libraries
  • School-Wide Professional Development Library for Educators and Administrators
  • Parent Library (Libraries or “hallbraries”  are developed for guardian’s easy access to important books)

The goal of this work on a school-wide literacy system was to increase access to books for all children.

School-Wide Literacy System: Shift to focus on accessibility to books.

Grant Development

Development included:

  • Schools formed Professional Learning Communities (PLC), comprised of literacy teams and grade-level teams with Roosevelt University literacy coach assistance. See Administrators Creating a Balanced Literacy School for details.
  • School-Wide Literacy System: Shift to an organizational system with a focus on literacy and grade-level teams

Teacher and student tools created: 

School-Wide Literacy System: Shift to an instructional system with focus on the tenets of balanced literacy.

Schools Trained to use Tenets of New Balanced Literacy

Materials include:

  • New Read-Alouds
  • New Guided Reading
  • New Centers
  • New Independent Reading and Writing

The New Read-Aloud: Focus on deliberate text-selection, interactive strategies, and questioning techniques to aid children in constructing meaning and encouraging discussion. Read-alouds are offered several times throughout the day instead of one reading. Read about Dr. Policastro’s work in Celebrating the Magnificent Read-Aloud, taken from Comprehensive Literacy Basics: An Anthology by Capstone Professional

The New Guided Reading:  Common Core State Standards (CCSS) requires that students in grade two and above read challenging texts during instruction. Students should be reading books independently to build stamina, fluency, and reading skills. In many cases, when the interest of the student is matched, the complexity of the text becomes secondary. Teachers careful selection of challenging texts should also come with more time for students to read and the appropriate scaffolding for students to understand these challenging texts.

The New Centers: Language and literacy centers are areas within the classroom where students work in small groups to explore literacy activities while the teacher provides small-group and guided reading instruction. Centers can introduce a new skill, concept, or idea, or they can be used to reteach and reinforce a skill. The new centers have a clear focus on children solving problems at the centers while working in teams. There is deliberate attention on building arguments and finding evidence within the activity. Having a well-managed and maintained system for center assessment helps the students learn management and organization within the community.

The New Independent Reading and Writing: Within the CCSS of Illinois, there is a call for teachers across all curriculum to develop strategic instruction around literacy skills unique to their discipline. The emphasis on students reading more disciplinary subjects and the new requirement that the student explain their reasoning through writing in those same subjects require teachers become familiar with reading and writing across subjects. In our balanced literacy model, there has always been a great emphasis on the reading of complex texts. The new model now fully embraces those standards and inclusion of more nonfiction as well as authentic classic and contemporary literature.

2011-2016: Instructional Shifts – Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) defined and implemented:

See Balanced Literacy For Teachers for more details in how the balanced literacy program has adapted these shifts.

School-Wide Literacy System: Shifts to focus on CCSS

Tools Created for Teachers and Students include:

2013-2016: Formative Assessment Defined

Data Collection, Feedback, and Self-monitoring

School-Wide lLiteracy System: Shift to an Assessment System with Focus on Formative Assessment

Schools begin working with Professional Learning Communities (literacy and grade level teams) to assess and analyze formative data.

Internal Impetus: IBHE push for Formative Assessment as a new focus

Teacher Tools Created Include:

Visit Balanced Literacy For Teachers for tips in how to implement these tools with students
Print and use these tools in your classroom by visiting the Balanced Literacy Resources page or by selecting the images below.

The NBL Conference, August 4, 2017, Chicago

On August 4, 2017, The Best of Balanced Literacy and Formative Assessment Practices Conference was held in order to discuss the vital components of the New Balanced Literacy project and the hard work each school put into creating a balanced literacy environment. The conference was a huge success! We thank the support staff, presenters, coaches and others for the effort put forth to bring about such a successful endeavor. Indeed, it was the perfect way to celebrate the last 7 years and show case all of your expertise and experiences.

Throughout the website you will find links to presentation documents provided at the conference. For quick access to presentation documents, please see the home page. Additionally, we encourage visiting Balanced Literacy Resources to print classroom resources for the books distributed during the conference.

The slideshow below for pictures taken during this exciting day. Creating a new balanced literacy school takes close collaboration and dedication among administrators and faculty. Within these images, we hope you can visually encompass the collaboration all of our presenters and attendees created this day.

Photos from the 2017 NBL Conference

The Best of Balanced Literacy and Formative Assessment Practices Conference

Reference: Policastro, M., McTague, B.(2015). The New Balanced Literacy School: Implementing Common Core. Eau Claire, WI: Maupin House Publishing, Inc. by Capstone Professional. 

Skip to toolbar