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Making Balanced Literacy Work for YOU Part 1

“Balanced Literacy…”

If there is one thing our dear profession loves, it’s buzz words.

I mean right?? Last year a group of us swore that if we heard the word “rigor” ONE more time…

But friends, I implore you,  don’t let this term be one that falls on deaf ears! If you teach a (Lucy Calkins-based ) reading and/or writing workshop then this could be the answer to a lot of your workshop-prayers!

I’ve taught reading and writing workshops for about 7 or 8 years now. One of the frustrations I’ve had in the past was feeling like workshop wasn’t rigorous (<–ha!) enough to meet the needs of my lower performing learners. I would go on about how a ten minute mini-lesson just wasn’t going to get the job done.

I was so wrong.

I was missing the critical components of Balanced Literacy. Before I go on, let me blatantly state what I mean by components of Balanced Literacy. 

Balanced Literacy includes the reading and writing workshops (of course) but also, there are times in your day where you teach via:

*Shared Reading (I’ve seen this done K-5)
*Interactive Read Alouds w/ Accountable Talk
*Story Time (nope, they aren’t the same)
*Shared Writing
*Interactive Writing
*Word Study

It is through these “vehicles” that I am able to meet the needs of ALL my learners. I am able to teach them the skills they need to transfer over into their reading and writing workshops as well as their real reading lives outside of school.

I feel like this is one of those things that will seem like, “well, I already do these things…what is she talking about?” And I get that. BUT I will ask you: Are you doing them in service of your workshops?

What I mean is…

*Do you haphazardly pick stories to read aloud or do you pre-read and sticky note the pages where your students can turn and talk about character changes because you might be in a reading unit about tracking how characters can change?

*Do you grab a shared reading poem for the kids to read in the name of fluency (which is totally awesome, by the way) OR do you select a poem or big book that allows kids to practice the word solving skills that you taught in the last unit but seem to be slipping? The fluency can still be taught BUT you are being responsive to the needs that you notice in your class without interrupting the current unit that you are in. I’ve had times where we were knee-deep in a nonfiction unit of study but I noticed that my students weren’t using their comprehension strategies like they once had when I would read with them. I immediately knew that I needed to use my read aloud with accountable talk slot and intentionally pick a text where we could practice those skills again.

*Or lets say you are reading your students’ writing workshop pieces and you notice that a lot of students are neglecting punctation at the ends of their sentences. Instead of giving up one of your workshop lessons to go back to basics, why not intentionally plan to do a shared or interactive writing piece together as a class? The skills can be brushed up and practiced OUTSIDE of your workshop.

See where I’m going at all? I hope so, because it changed everything for me where workshop was concerned. So, with this post, I just wanted to get on the same page and give a quick overview. The next post, I’ll chat about the differences in the reading components and what skills can be easily taught/practiced during that slot.

Also, here is a document I created awhile back that I thought I’d include for good measure.

It’ll be fuuuuunnnnnn! I hope you’ll come and read along!!



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