The Power of Balanced Literacy

Sunday, November 23, 2014

     In our 2nd year of Reading Workshop in D100, we have really started to find the value of seeing things in more of a Balanced Literacy approach at Hiawatha.  Our days can be really segmented and choppy, teaching 15 minutes of this, and 15 minutes of that, and feeling disconnected and out of sync.  But, if we see all those 15 minute pieces as pieces of the puzzle, things start to "fit" and flow can be found in our days.

     I was recently at a 5th grade ELA planning meeting, and I was struck with just how much more their unit has flowed this time around.  We got through the 1st year of workshop last year, but we were just struggling to get through it all.  Anytime you adopt anything, that is what you do the first time around.  Our kids struggled with the content, we struggled with the content, but we got through it.  The 2nd year is here, though, and with a balanced literacy approach things have gotten easier.

What changes did they make this year?

1.  They have a common read aloud across the grade level.  This has helped immensely when it comes to assessment.  They have used their read aloud (The Apprentice) to design mid book and final assessments around the CCSS standard 3, as well as the Calkins Unit of Study.  

2.  They use their read aloud as their shared reading and close reading experiences.  If we see shared reading and close reading as separate times in our day, like we did last year, they learn the skill, but don't always apply it.  When they hand every kid a copy of the novel, the kids start to see how to apply those lessons while they are actually reading.  Kids started re-reading the chapters on their own during Read to Self!  

3.  They used their read aloud to set up their Reading Response Journals.  What a great way to make them accountable for their listening, and still model the types of entries we hope to see in our journals. 

4.  They are using their current theme, the Renaissance, and their current novel, The Apprentice, to set up their predominant genre: Historical Fiction.  This work is going to set them up for book clubs, for sure!  Establishing the importance of setting in historical fiction through a shared read aloud is a great way for students to really understand the importance of time and place in historical fiction.  

5.  They were also able to build content area vocabulary around their theme.  By using The Apprentice to teach about the Renaissance, it was easy enough for them to build content area vocabulary.  They then used that vocabulary to do short, focussed research writing about the time period.  They also used quick writing ideas, like Wordles, to explore the important vocabulary of the Renaissance.

6.  They use big ideas, mini lessons, and vocabulary from their unit within guided reading.   When I observed a group performing below level, they were still using some of the concepts the class had been introduced to in workshop and read aloud to spark conversation in guided reading.  They used text that was at their instructional level, but elevated the conversation with grade level discussion around it.  

     My favorite moment of the unit so far, though, was when those fabulous teachers practiced a new lesson idea using the book during their ELA plan time.  Kate Cardelli had found a new structure to use post it notes with groups, so they all practiced using post it notes together.  They then realized that they were answering the question as teachers, not their students, and re-did their responses.  What a powerful moment for them!  By using the shared read aloud, they were not only able to talk about a shared text, but they used that text to really think about what their kids are able to do in class.  It is that type of thinking that will really move our students forward.  We have to start where they are at.  Always.

So, what is the one sentence summary of this post?

Use a shared read aloud to help teach the big ideas of your unit, your reading workshop mini lessons, and writing, creating flow in balanced literacy.

1 comment:

  1. Just tweeted your post! Fabulous, Leah. Thanks for sharing, you gifted gal, you! :)
    Literacy Loving Gals