Although it sounds so basic, there are many students that struggle with becoming real readers because they rarely spend time reading high-quality literature. According to a study (the name was not given during lecture three), there is a strong correlation between achievement and reading. Students that scored in the 98th percentile on a standardized test read on average 65 minutes per day. On the opposite end of the spectrum, students that scored in the 2nd percentile rank read on average zero minutes per day. Students that scored in the 50th percentile rank, only read 4.6 minutes of reading per day. The study makes it pretty clear that students need to be provided time (along with high-interest literature & a calm environment) to become successful readers. Jim Trelease’s book, The Read-Aloud Handbook, is a great tool for parents to use to learn how and when to read aloud to children. Children will most likely get read to while in school, but Trelease points out the importance of children seeing & hearing their parents reading. When children are read to, “It conditions them to associate reading with pleasure; it creates background knowledge and builds reading vocabulary” (Trelease, 2009). Readers interact with text by having conversations (verbally, in writing or internally) about the text they are reading. Readers should have a constant flow of conversation in their minds as they are reading. The conversations may include connections, predictions, questions, inferences, or summaries. http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/
In order to create real readers and writers within my classroom, I utilize a balanced literacy approach. Students read and write for authentic purposes and partake in many literacy experiences throughout the day. Within a balanced literacy approach, scripted basal series are not employed. Instead, students are provided with quality texts that cover a variety of genres, cultures, and reading levels. By using a balanced literacy approach, students are exposed to many different reading and writing experiences. Students will be assessed both formally and informally. Assessments are on-going and are used to guide instruction. By using a balanced literacy approach, your child will be gaining reading and writing strategies that are differentiated to meet your child’s needs.
Literacy development consumes a large portion of the school day. In order for students to grow into real readers and writers, they need to be provided with ample time to hone their skills. Reading and writing elements are employed in every subject area throughout the day. For example, while the students are in gym class, they may read the rules to a new game or match terms to the correct lines on the basketball court (Free Throw Line card would be placed on the actual free throw line).
“Reading aloud to students is another way to demonstrate how much you value reading, and it also becomes an opportunity to teach students about the rewards that reading brings” (Graves, 59). Readalouds occur throughout the day within a balanced literacy program. During read aloud time, the students gather on the whole group carpet area while a text is read aloud. Read alouds provide time for new genres, cultures, themes, and social issues to be introduced. If read alouds are thoughtfully selected, they can be used to teach reading strategies and vocabulary. According to Teaching Reading in the 21st Century, “What you choose to read aloud can serve to entice students to broaden the scope of their reading interests” (Graves, 59). During read alouds, the students are granted a glimpse inside the teacher’s head when think alouds are used. During the reading, the teacher may pause and share what she is thinking. This serves as a model for the students so that they are aware that real readers have a constant conversation running in their heads. Read alouds are also beneficial in providing a model of quality writing. During writer’s workshop, we often refer to mentor texts to help us improve our writing. By having some trusty texts, students will be able to model their writing after their favorite authors. Lastly, read alouds create a sense of community. “The social nature of reading in the company of others can become a powerful motivating force, encouraging students to read, to read with understanding, and to share their ideas with others. When students have the opportunity to talk with one another about what they read, they come to realize that there are many ways to understand and respond to a text, and they also have the opportunity to enlarge their understanding and repertoire of responses by listening to the responses of others.” (Graves, 60)
Shared reading occurs when a group of students reads aloud with the assistance of the teacher. If there are not enough copies of the text for individual students to have their own copy, big books, charts or the overhead may be used. Students may chorally read poems, books, or charts. As they read, they may be focusing on fluency (pausing, expression, phrasing, intonation…). Shared reading, “is a highly effective technique for developing confidence and building on students’ skills in reading and speaking English.” (Graves, 408)
Guided reading groups provide students opportunities to be engaged with texts that are at their instructional level. Their instructional level is slightly higher than their independent level. Guided reading can be broken into three parts: before reading, during reading, and after reading. Before the students actually read the text, the teacher introduces the carefully selected text, pre-teaches vocabulary in which meaning cannot be uncovered in the context of the text, discusses background
Having time to actually read for pleasure is essential if a child is to become a real reader. During independent reading time, students read texts of their own choosing. The teacher should be knowledgeable about current literature and should be able to assist the students in selecting “good fit” books. At the beginning of the school year, and as needed throughout the year), students need to be taught how to select “good fit” books. During independent reading, the classroom teacher may conference with individual readers. During a reading conference, the teacher checks in to see how the student is doing, teaches a strategy, and a praise point. The teacher may listen to the student’s reading and then give one strategy that the student may use. Or perhaps the teacher will help the student select a “good fit” book. After the teacher shares a strategy, she should give a praise point and then move on to another student. These conferences allow for the teacher to assess the students reading progress and to see which students need help with what. By providing time for the students to actually read, the teacher is showing the student that she values reading. “Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding (1998) discovered that among the fifth-grade students they studies, 50 percent read 4 minutes a day or less; 30 percent, 2 minutes a day or less, and 10 percent not at all” (Graves, 59). If students are to become better readers, they need to be given time to actually read!
We all know the importance of modeling reading. It is just as important to model for the students the qualities of good writers. Modeled writing generally occurs more often in the primary classrooms as the students are beginning to develop as writers. In upper grade classrooms, the teacher may choose to model specific craft or convention lessons. All students may not need the modeled writing lesson, so the teacher may pull just a small group for the writing lesson. Modeled writing generally occurs within Writer’s Workshop time, but it may also occur in content areas also.
Guided writing generally occurs during Writer’s Workshop. When the rest of the class is working independently on their pieces, the teacher may pull a small needs-based group and teach them a specific writing strategy. The teacher informally assesses the students during the writing conference and then uses that information to guide the guided writing group. Interactive writing can take many forms with the classroom. Within the classroom, the students are expected to journal. Often the teacher responds to the child in the journal. If a piece is too personal, the student may choose not to share the piece with the teacher. Interactive writing also occurs when the class writes a piece of writing together. The students and the teacher may “share the pen” and contribute sections of the text. If journals are being used, it is important for the teacher to, “Read and comment on the journal as often as possible” (Graves, 375).
Within the balanced literacy approach, independent writing takes up the majority of the Writer’s Workshop approach. Students are expected
In our 4th grade classroom, phonics are taught primarily during guided reading. Most students have already mastered the basics of phonics and phonemic awareness. Students that are struggling with reading will receive phonics instruction while in a reading intervention group. Students focus on learning new words in small group and during shared reading experiences. To foster word analysis, the students work on making and manipulating words, sorting words into categories, and creating their own definitions of words. When a student truly knows a new word, he is able to read it, understand it in context and use it in his own writing. During our word study time, the students also learn commom rimes. According to Dr. Tancock, if students learn the 36 basic rimes, they will be able to make at least 500 words (according to the lecture in module #6). Again, most 4th grade students have learned the 36 rimes prior to entering 4th grade, so these will be taught only to the students that need further instruction. The students are assessed on five spelling words each week. On Monday mornings, students are given a pre-test of ten spelling words. The first five words will come from the students writing. These are words that are often being misspelled. The second five words share a spelling or phonics pattern. The first five words that a student misses are his words for the week. If a student does not miss five words on the pretest, he is given enrichment words. These words are generally considered sophisticated and are often synonyms for common words.
Students are often informally assessed on their reading and writing development. The informal assessments allow for the teacher to quickly decide which students need remediation, more practice or enrichment with specific skills and strategies. Teachers may informally assess their students by simply listening in as the students are talking with their peers. High level questioning should be used to guide student conversations. Teachers may informally assess the students reading and writing development by utilizing journals. The journals allow a quick peek into the students’ heads and show the students’ strengths and weaknesses. Formal assessment are also used within the classroom. Many of the formal assessments are mandated by the school district or state. The formal assessments are used to guide my instruction. Students will earn their grades by earning points. Many of the scores will come from rubrics. Rubrics are sent home on a biweekly basis so you know how your child is doing in the classroom. Students will be evaluated on the quality and quality of reading journals, reading logs, written responses, active participation during discussions, published pieces of writing, comprehension tests, and quantity of writing produced during Writer’s Workshop.
Many types of grouping are used in balanced literacy classroom. A whole group setting is often used when new information is being presented that everyone needs to know. Mini-lessons are often presented in a whole group setting. Small groups are formed for guided reading and writing. These small groups are often homogeneous and are comprised of 4 – 6 students. Needs-based and ability groups are generally small groups that meet to work on a specific skill or strategy regardless of the individuals’ reading levels. Heterogeneous groups are made up of students that may or may not have similar needs. Heterogeneous groups may be used during group projects. Interest groups meet when the group members share a common interest. Literature circles or book clubs could be considered a flexible or interest-based group. Within our classroom, students are expected to participate in a variety of grouping styles throughout the day.
Parent involvement is essential if students are to become real readers and writers. Please refer to the literacy hand-out for more information on ways that you can help your child become a life-long learner.
By: Lizzie Pope
“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”
real readers by
others read fluently,
and by authentically
Balanced Literacy Consists of…
Spelling and Word Study
Fitting it all in…
Time Subject Balanced Literacy Element
Morning Procedures Independent Writing – Journaling
8:40 – 9:00 Independent Reading Book Selection
Modeled Writing, Interactive Writing, Independent
9:00 – 10:00 Writer’s Workshop
Writing, Guided Writing, & Read Aloud
Shared Reading, Guided Reading, Literature Circles,
10:00 – 11:30 Reading Block Work Stations, Independent Reading, Read Aloud &
11:30 – 12:15 Lunch/Recess
12:15 – 12:45 Word Study Spelling & Word Study
12:45 – 1:05 Independent Reading Self-Selected Reading & Reading Conferences
1:05 – 1:35 Special Area Class Shared Reading, Read Aloud & Word Study
1:20 – 1:50 Intervention Groups Reading Interventions & Enrichment
1:50 – 2:50 Math Shared Reading& Independent Writing
2:50 – 3:20 Content Area Dependent upon the lesson
Benefits of Read Alouds
Students are introduced to a
variety of texts
Students hear fluent reading
Teacher shares her thinking
Students are provided with
quality writing models
Creates a sense of community
Shared reading creates a
safe environment for
students to read aloud a
books, charts, individual
copies or an overhead
transparency of a text
may be used for shared
R guided reading, the teacher reading of
G small groups of students in the
texts that offer a bit, but not too much of a
u challenge for them.” (Graves, 256)
Students read texts that they
Books should be “Good Fits”
Meet their need (to
inform, entertain, or persuade
Match their interests
At an appropriate reading level
Students are given time to
Students are encouraged to
The teacher writes
in front of the
Teacher often shares
her thinking as she
goes through the
In guided writing, the teacher works with
small groups of students and teaches them a
writing strategy. These groups are formed
based on a similar need.
During interactive writing, the teacher
and the students may “share the pen.”
The class may share ideas and write a
piece together. Or, the students and
teacher may write back and forth with
one another, possibly in journals, on
charts or sticky notes.
expected to choose
their own topics.
Students go through
the writing process at
their own pace.
Published pieces are
assessed using a
Students are given weekly
spelling tests. Each child is
expected to learn five new
words each week.
vocabulary in context and
explore word parts, Greek &
Latin roots, and make words
during word study time.
Spelling and Word Study
Turn and Talk
Running Records Formal Assessments
Hand Signals DIBELS
SRI (Scholastic Reading Inventory)
Rubrics are often used to evaluate
students’ academic achievement
How You Can Help
At Home At School
• Read aloud to • Be a guest reader
your child daily • Share your
• Provide a variety expertise
of texts for your • Listen to
child students read
• Write letters and
notes to your
Check out the following websites to learn more ways in
which you can help your child:
Reading Rockets provides many resources for children that are struggling with
Reading is Fundamental contains a lot of research-based strategies on how you
can help your child.
A great website aimed at helping English Language Learners become literate.
Graves, M.F., Juel, C., & Graves, B.B. (2007). Teaching reading in the 21st century.
Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Trelease, J. (2008). Jim trelease's home page. Retrieved from