A comprehensive balanced literacy approach addresses reading, writing, and word work. Successful implementation requires careful planning using a backward design model to ensure that teaching matches desired learning outcomes.
There is a plethora of research, including the National Reading Panel’s findings and recommendations, supporting that a strong reading program provides explicit instruction and practice within all 5 pillars:
- Comprehension–ability to make meaning from print using background knowledge, making predictions, making connections (text-to-text, text-to-self, text-to-world), and making inferences.
- Vocabulary–instruction and repeated contact with vocabulary words is important to the continued development of reading comprehension and fluency. Vocabulary instruction can also serve as a springboard for meaningful word study.
- Phonemic awareness–awareness of the sounds that make up spoken words. There are 2 levels of phonological awareness. Phonemic awareness is the more advanced level and is characterized by a sensitivity to large units of sound such as words, syllables, and syllable parts (onset and rime). According to the National Reading Panel, the 2 phonemic awareness skills that have the greatest impact on learning to read are segmenting and blending.
- Phonics–a way of teaching beginning reading and spelling that emphasizes the relationship between letters and sounds.
- Fluency and expressiveness–ability to read orally with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. There are two instructional approaches usually used to practice reading: guided repeated oral reading and independent silent reading. The National Reading Panel determined that guided repeated oral reading has a significant and positive impact on word recognition, reading fluency, and comprehension for students of all ages.
Reading and writing are intertwined processes and both have their foundation in oral language development. As students learn about reading, their writing improves and vise versa. To become successful reading and writers, young children, even preschoolers, need to have lots of experience with oral language, phonological awareness, alphabetic principle, concepts about print, and comprehension.
This video provides examples of whole group balanced literacy instruction in a primary classroom.