What is balanced literacy?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by balancedlit, Apr 11, 2011.

  1. balancedlit

    balancedlit New Member

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    Apr 11, 2011

    I post here occassionally but I'm embarrassed to post this under my username. What is balanced literacy? I did not learn about this in my teacher prep program and I really don't know what it is. Is this the same thing as reader and writer's workshop? If not, how is it different?

    I'm looking to apply to a school that is all about balanced literacy but I have zero experience with this and never even learned the term. Anything you can tell me would be very helpful.

    Thank you. :)
     
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  3. cruiserteacher

    cruiserteacher Comrade

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    Apr 11, 2011

    I really don't know the definition, but I would guess it involves guided reading, independent reading, writing, and phonics (or word work). Don't feel bad, I don't know that I've ever heard the term either.
     
  4. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Apr 11, 2011

    I would say that balanced literacy is a philosophy that provides many opportunities for real life reading and writing experiences. . Children read and write each day independently and in group settings. Reading can include:
    Reading aloud to children
    Shared reading - whole class
    Guided reading - small group
    Independent reading
    Writing experiences can include:
    Shared writing - whole class
    Interactive writing - whole class
    Writer's workshop - small groups or individual
    Independent writing


    Word work is also a key component...some balanced lit classrooms integrate centers to differentiate instruction and to have kids engaged in meaningful literacy activities while the teacher works in small groups....
    Balanced lit is about a balanced approach between direct instruction, guided practice and independent practice with a respect for differentiation...there are some balanced lit 'programs' which prescribe specific time requirements, materials, and management techniques....
     
  5. VANewbie

    VANewbie Devotee

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    Apr 11, 2011

    I know they asked me about it in my interview.

    I said it was guided reading, reading workshop,writing workshop which all consists of independent reading, buddy reading, writing conferences.

    I think we all do it but may not know the name for it. I am sure I do a lot of things I just do not know the correct term for it.
     
  6. flyingmickey

    flyingmickey Rookie

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    Apr 11, 2011

    In my area it means

    Speaking & Listening
    Reading & Viewing
    Writing & Representing

    Which of course covers everything.
     
  7. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Here it's a balance between whole language and systematic phonics instruction. I don't think it would be a bad thing to ask exactly what they mean by their definition-obviously there are different definitions.
     
  8. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    I would assume that it meant a balance between phonics and whole language instruction. For years they went back and forth between which was better (at one point about 10 years ago my dad's principal even went into his room and physically took out all of the phonics books, and said that they would only be teaching whole language!) We seem to have finally figured out that students need a balance of both approaches.
     
  9. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Apr 12, 2011

    Here, a "balanced literacy approach" means incorporating modelled, shared, guided and independent reading and writing into the literacy program, not all every day, but each should be present every week.
     
  10. balancedlit

    balancedlit New Member

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    Apr 12, 2011

    Thank you for your responses. So let's say a district asked you to describe your experience with balanced literacy on an application and you had none with a specific balanced literacy program. However, you are familiar and have practiced aspects of reader and writer's workshop, guided reading, independent reading, and reading aloud to students. Can you then say you have experience with balanced literacy?
     
  11. Kat53

    Kat53 Devotee

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    Apr 12, 2011

    Yes, because it's more of a philosophy of teaching reading than an actual program.
     
  12. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I would discuss your experiences, but wouldn't specifically say that you have experience with a balanced literacy approach if you don't. I know that, in my board, if someone indicated that they had experience with balanced literacy, the school would have a certain set of expectations.
     
  13. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Apr 12, 2011

    Because of this it gives very mixed results. Our district LOVES balanced literacy. We have many kids that can't read, or spend most of their time guessing because it is the only strategy utilized, or they can't even tell the sound of vowels. Then you have schools that apply the method appropriately and have much better results because they take the approach and apply it to the STUDENT not he CLASS. There is a balance but some students need more of some things.

    I cringe when I hear balanced literacy. I've seen the devistation it can turn out. I've also heard all of the parents hiring tutors to correct the lack of proper instruction by those schools where the only balance is the phonics is the sound of the first letter. I kid you not.

    There are some great sites out there if you google. Do some research. If you are in a balanced literacy district and interviewing at multiple schools, you will need to really know and think about how to apply it. Also, look at the Florida research site about what is needed in a good reading program (all 5 skills) and incorporate those ideas in the balance.

    But remember if you end up interviewing at a whole language school that is claiming to be balanced literacy (which is basically what my district did - just changed the name and not the practice at most schools) they won't bee too keen on some portions of balanced literacy and will love to hear about learning to love reading by being exposed to language rich books.
     
  14. Kat53

    Kat53 Devotee

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    Apr 12, 2011

    I agree. Many schools and districts use the term loosely.
     
  15. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Apr 12, 2011

    :yeahthat::yeahthat:
    The OP might craft a response along the lines of....'Schools seem to define balanced literacy in different ways. My experience with teaching literacy follows a balanced approach. Utilizing reading and writing workshop has allowed me to differentiate instruction for all learners while meeting core content area standards....etc etc....'
     
  16. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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  17. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    This has been an interesting thread to read. Sort of along the lines of what a2z said, I've seen some people that think balanced literacy is just doing as many things as possible, because more is more. In reality, while balanced literacy may be a good theoretical approach to designing a classroom, as soon as the first student walks through the door, differentiation trumps "balanced."

    Whole language and balanced literacy, have psychological appeals to teachers and parents, which is why - in part - they have been so supported. I won't get into whole language, but balanced literacy is psychologically appealing with it doesn't leave anything out (pleases "everyone"), is comprehensive, and we have a value in our society of things being "balanced." People then start to interpret differently what they are supposed to balance: for example, someone recently linked to FCRR's website and the "Big 5" in reading, both of which I'm a fan of. While it may be seen as "balanced" to cover each of those 5, you could do so through a completely direct instruction approach, and theoretically with whole language (though not in practical reality in my opinion with whole language).

    Still, others might take it to mean multisensory, and still others a balance not of reading paradigms/approaches, but of reading strategies - independent reading, guided reading, direct instruction, etc.

    To the OP - I'd probably start with the wiki article on balanced literacy as a good advance organizer, then visit some sites that specifically talk about it. To your follow up question, I'd say what a few others have said - I'd say you've found that balanced literacy means different things to different people, describe what it means to you, and your experiences with those components. Be open that you haven't used a formal curriculum that is called a balanced literacy model, but that you have essentially crafted your own.

    My blanket suggestion with any interview question is never say you've done more than you have. The most unattractive thing to me when I've done interviewing is when people pull answers out there rear :). It's a double whammy - first, you don't know the answer, and second, you didn't know that you didn't know the answer, or you weren't confident enough to admit you didn't know something and ask for help.

    Anyway, hope some of my rambling helps!
     

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