Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Balanced Literacy Model

What is balanced literacy?
Balanced literacy is a teaching framework aimed to assist every student learn to read and write effectively. A balanced literacy program places emphasis on the numerous components needed to become a proficient reader. By engaging students in language and literature-rich activities in combination with explicit teaching of the comprehension skills, students are improving their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.  The balanced literacy approach to reading instruction integrates numerous reading strategies to meet student’s individual needs.

What are the benefits of using a balanced literacy approach? 
Balanced literacy has proven to be an effective format for building proficient readers, writers, and speakers in our ever changing world. Through the use of explicit modeling and practice, students reinforce skills necessary to succeed.

Below are the proven benefits of adapting the balanced literacy model in the classroom:
  • Students develop vocabulary.
  • Students increase comprehension.
  • Students develop active listening skills.
  • Students develop fluency and phrasing.
  • Students are provided with a model of a good reader and writer.

What skills are targeted in a balanced literacy lesson?
A balanced literacy plan is successful when students are given direct instructional support and an array of daily reading and writing experiences. By planning lessons that revolve around the key skills, students are more likely to succeed as readers and writers.

The following are the key proficiencies necessary in the development of becoming an independent reader and writer:
  • Word Recognition- the ability to decode text. This includes utilizing phonemic strategies to make sense of print across genres.

  • Language and Vocabulary the ability to comprehend written and spoken words. This includes reinforcing listening comprehension, oral expression, dictionary use, inferring meaning from context, and proper word usage.

  • Fluencythe ability to read with speed, accuracy, and expression. Learners are able to apply their decoding strategies to infer meaning and word recognition.

  • Comprehension the ability to read, write, and understand fiction and nonfictional text. Learners are not just reading written text, but they are making connections and understanding as they read.

What are the components of balanced literacy?
In planning a balanced literacy lesson, educators must create a balance between direct and indirect instruction in reading and writing. This includes explicit instruction modeling strategies, but also having ample time for students to practice the strategies they have learned.

he following components comprise a balanced literacy lesson: 
  • Shared reading-During a read aloud, the instructor reads a variety of text aloud. As instructor reads, he models his thinking. Students then participate by answering questions and modeling reading strategies.  
  • Guided reading-During guided reading, the instructor meets with a small group of students to help them learn strategies for understanding text. Students are grouped based on their reading levels and instructional needs. The purpose of guided reading is to provide the instructor the opportunity to assist students in becoming proficient readers.

  • Independent reading- During independent reading time, students are able to select a text of their choosing. They are required to read for approximately 20 minutes with little to no adult help. This time is set aside for students to practice their reading strategies.
  • Shared writingDuring shared writing, the instructor writes an assortment of text with the students. The instructor models the thought process behind composing a written text aloud. Students participate by assisting the teacher write a piece of text. During this portion of the lesson, the instructor prompts students thinking by redirecting their attention to acquired strategies.
  • Guided writing- During guided writing, the instructor is engaging students in questions and discussions concerning the traits of good writers. The role of the instructor is to facilitate the writing process for the students by giving them the opportunity to write, while encouraging students to practice strategies.

  • Independent writing- During independent writing, students are able to select a topic and write for a sustained period of time. During this time, the instructor is conferencing with students individually reviewing students writing pieces. The instructor gears a students understanding by walking him through the writing process. The goal is for students to practice skills and strategies obtained through shared writing.

How are students assessed?
In order to better meet students individual needs, educators must use an array of assessments to target students strengths and weaknesses. By knowing students academic standing, educators can provide support to enable students to move to higher levels of reading and literacy development.

The following are assessments educators can conduct to collect data regarding a students academic standing:
  • Summative Assessments- are assessments used to assess mastery of goals and objectives taught in a given time frame. Usually in the form of a test that is administered at the end of a unit. 

  • Portfolios- include various student work samples that show growth, effort, and mastery of goals and objectives. Portfolios are used to monitor progress and change over a period of time.

  • Writing Assessments- include student produced finished writing pieces. Used to assess student understanding of writing process. 

  • Anecdotal Notes- are notes taken by an instructor during walkthroughs, small groups, and observations. Anecdotal notes assist the educator document student progress, growth, and individual proficiencies.

  • Oral reading samples- include Reading 3D, Dibels, and DRA. Oral reading samples are used to assess a students oral reading fluency. By using these form of assessments, instructors can target students individual strengths and weaknesses for further reinforcement and guidance. 

What does balance literacy look like in the classroom?
In the following clip, an instructor in an elementary school models the key components of a balanced literacy lesson. As the video unfolds, viewers are given examples of what lessons should like in Reading and Writing in the classroom.

Below are articles for educators containing additional resources pertaining to balanced literacy:

Instructors should consider using the balanced literacy model to produce proficient readers and writers.By adapting this model, instructors make learning to read and write easier but also more meaningful. Instructors are providing students with the learning experiences and support needed to extend their instruction.


"Balanced Literacy." Mrs. Caro's Class Website. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <>.

"Balanced Literacy Framework." Laura Candler's Teaching Resources. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <>.

"Balanced Literacy." Object Moved. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <>.

"TEACHERS." Balanced Literacy:. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <>.

1 comment:

  1. Great post - very clear and easy to follow - will be using this with a team of teachers who are just beginning the workshop process. Thanks!