PS 84 incorporates all the approaches to teaching literacy through a balanced program. This framework acknowledges that children do not all learn in the same way and provides meaningful and appropriate instruction to support a variety of learning styles.
Our curriculum embraces both a workshop model and a constructivist approach to literacy. Students are exposed to different genres in reader’s and writer’s workshops such as: personal narratives, informational texts, realistic fiction, poetry, etc. Through these different genres and the various components of the balanced literacy approach—read aloud, guided reading, shared reading and writing, interactive writing, reading and writing workshops, word study—students develop literacy skills and learn new strategies that help them navigate their way through reading and writing across all content areas.
Our school has adopted the Teachers College Reading and Writing Program, which encourages students to become eager readers and passionate writers. The program fosters the idea that reading books of students' choosing and at their skill level, as well as writing and revising multiple drafts of work on a variety of topics, will not only build their stamina but will also give them the tools to take control of their own learning.
During our 90-minute literacy block, students engage in a variety of activities either as the whole class, small group, with a partner, or independently.
Components of balanced literacy
The mini-lesson is delivered by the teacher to the whole class. The teacher explicitly states the teaching point which may be a skill or strategy in reading or writing. The teacher gives direct instruction and models the skill or strategy for the students. Following the concept of gradual release of responsibility, teachers guide students in practicing before the students have the opportunity to practice independently.
The students and teacher work together in a small group based on students’ needs. The teacher’s role is to be the bridge from one level to the next. The teacher guides and supports the students while providing feedback.
Every day, the teacher reads aloud materials that are at the students’ listening level, but above their independent reading level. The purpose is to improve students’ listening skills, reading comprehension, and attitudes toward reading, and to build vocabulary.
Students are provided with time each day to practice word recognition/decoding, fluency, and comprehension skills and strategies while building stamina with books on their independent reading levels.
Teachers and students also have access to various literacy focused programs such as Kids A-Z and MyOn, which offer an array of resources that help students practice their individual literacy skills at home.
The teacher and the students read the enlarged or projected text together. This provides an opportunity for the students to demonstrate reading strategies within meaningful text. The texts are strategically matched to the students' needs.
The teacher composes an enlarged text with the students. Students participate by writing parts of the text. The teacher and students share the pen. The teacher writes what is too easy or too difficult for the students, while thinking aloud about the piece as a whole. At the end, together they have produced a text that is conventional (spelling and punctuation are correct).
The teacher models thinking aloud as he or she writes, so that students see how a good writer’s thought process works. Students participate by listening to the teacher’s thought process and speak in partnerships or whole class discussions to try out writing skills and strategies with the teacher’s assistance. The teacher acts as a scribe with student participation and collaboration.