For students in elementary school, literacy is a key to lifelong learning and opportunities for success. Effective elementary literacy instruction develops students’ linguistic and cognitive abilities through the explicit integration of reading, writing, speaking, and listening into instruction across all content areas and activities. Oral language, reading, writing, and content instruction support and enrich each other. Students must be provided with experience in all these areas if they are to achieve success!
In the primary grades (K-2) balanced literacy includes instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling; writing; and reading. In grades 3-5, balanced literacy instruction includes reading, writing, spelling, and phonics.
When you look into a balanced literacy classroom, you may see the following:
Children participating in shared and interactive reading and writing experiences
Children involved in comprehension-building activities
Teacher providing ongoing informal and formal assessments to monitor student progress
Teacher modifying instruction based on children’s needs
Children discussing books and working with peers
Teacher conferencing with children to discuss their work
Teacher using a variety of methods and materials to teach reading and writing
Children working in whole-group, small-group, and individual settings
In the elementary school, guided reading, 100 Book Challenge, and a basal reading program are all used for literacy instruction.
In guided reading, the teacher introduces a text to a small group of students, works briefly with individuals as they read the text, selects one or two skills or strategies to focus on after reading, and provides opportunity for a response to reading. Through guided reading a child’s instructional reading level is monitored as he/she problem-solves and uses strategies for decoding and comprehension. The ultimate goal of guided reading is to help children learn how to use independent reading strategies successfully (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996).
In guided reading, the child’s instructional reading level is determined. The child’s ability to problem-solve and use strategies for decoding and comprehension is also monitored. Guided reading also measures how students process texts at increasingly challenging levels of difficulty and at what rate they progress through those text levels.
100 Book Challenge is a system designed to get all of our students into the habit of successful independent reading every day. This habit requires access to the right books, at the right times, with the right kinds of social supports. 100 Book Challenge gets students, their families and their teachers to develop the avid reading lifestyle for the rewards it brings. What does 100 Book Challenge measure? 100 Book Challenge measures student improvement over time, both across marking periods and from one school year to the next.
The basal reading program enables teachers to move children through “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Through a specific sequence of prioritized objectives and explicit strategies, the basal reading program helps every child to master grade-level reading skills. Test preparation is built into the program to help students learn key tested skills and test-taking strategies to ensure success on standardized tests. What does the basal reading program measure? The basal reading program measures the child’s ability to read and respond to grade-level literature selections. Formal and informal assessments monitor the child’s progress to meeting the benchmarks of the grade level.
Book clubs are designed to create opportunities for all students to engage with age-appropriate materials, whether reading at grade level, above grade level, or below grade level. Students develop critical thinking and literary analysis skills during group discussions and community share. All components of the book club program support students’ small-group discussions. Explicit teacher instruction in reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills help students succeed in all areas of the curriculum.
Book club lends itself to more frequent, informal assessments that take place any time. The teacher listens during group discussions to monitor students’ participation and conferences with individual students to determine if additional support in certain skills and strategies is needed. Reading logs, task sheets, and written responses to reading are used to formally assess the students’ progress in reading skills and comprehension.