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The Components of Balanced Literacy (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 19, 2013

Looking at Components that Connect

When Patricia Cunningham came to speak to an audience of teachers at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (2003), she talked about how people learn new things. “Learners,” she said, “need to know what they are doing and why they are doing it. They need to have cognitive clarity.” And although this doesn’t surprise me, it is at the forefront of my mind as I write this chapter. You’ll see that I’ll describe each component so that you, the learner, will have cognitive clarity. You’ll see what each component is and why you would do that particular component with your students—specifically, which sources of information are being addressed.

Teachers who have read this article suggested that I provide examples of strategies you might teach in different components. When I tried to make a list, I realized that everything we could teach students about reading and writing could be categorized underneath particular components. What I’ve tried to do instead is give you a short list of other strategies you might teach in different components, knowing that over time you’ll add many new ideas to each of these lists. I also tried to match strategies across reading and writing components. For example, you’ll see that Shared Writing and Read-Aloud share many similar strategies; however, Shared Writing will approach the strategy from a writing angle and Read-Aloud will of course approach the same strategy from a reading angle. Finally, you’ll see the connection between the reading and writing components and how each component enhances and adds to the others. Hopefully, seeing this will help make your planning for the components of balanced literacy more efficient and more effective.

Shared Writing: Highlighting meaning and structure sources of information.

In Shared Writing, the teacher composes a variety of texts with her students. This is different from language experience in that the teacher is not simply acting as a scribe for her students, but is jointly composing the text with her students. The goal of Shared Writing is to help students develop composing strategies that will move them from using oral language to more literary language.

The teacher models her thinking aloud as she writes, so that the students see an experienced writer’s thought process. The students participate by listening to the teacher’s thought process. Then, they often speak (either in partnerships or in whole-class discussions), trying out those same strategies with the teacher’s assistance. The teacher acts as a scribe; therefore, she is doing the visual (or graphophonic) work of writing so that students can focus on strengthening the ways in they use meaning and structure as they speak. This work will certain improve the ways in which the students use meaning and structure while writing independently.

Often when I describe Shared Writing in this manner, teachers look perplexed. “I’ve never used Shared Writing as a place to teach the composing process,” they’ll say. “I’ve used it to model spelling strategies. I’ve used it to model how what we say can be written down. I’ve used it to model capitals, lowercase, periods, commas, but never to just teach students how to write in detailed, structured ways.”

In Shared Writing, the teacher’s job is to write the text for the students and scaffold what the students say. The students’ job is to use both meaning and structure sources of information while speaking to compose meaning.

Read-Aloud: Highlighting meaning and structure sources of information.

Just as Shared Writing develops students’ understanding of how to use meaning and structure when they write, Read-Aloud strengthens students’ understanding of how to use meaning and structure when they read. Because these two components are so similar, they will enhance or improve one another. During Read-Aloud, the teacher reads aloud various types of texts. She often models her thinking aloud as she reads. The students participate by listening to the text and the teacher’s thinking strategies. They often talk about the book (either in partnerships or in whole-class discussions), trying out the similar types of thinking that their teacher previously modeled. The teacher reads the text; therefore, she is doing the visual (or graphophonic) work of reading. The students can then focus on listening using meaning and structure to help them comprehend the text. Next, let’s take a look as Millie conducts a Read-Aloud with her first grade class.

The teacher’s job during Read-Aloud is to read the words of the text and extend what students say. The students’ job is to listen and use talk to further their comprehension.

Shared Writing and Read-Aloud are similar because they both help develop students’ understanding of how to use meaning and structure as they read and write.

Because they are similar they have the potential to enhance or improve one another. For example, if Maria wanted to enhance the work that she did with putting like information together, she might conduct a Read-Aloud asking students to listen to like information and try to comprehend it. If Millie wanted to enhance the work that she did in her Read-Aloud, she might conduct a Shared Writing session in which they would work together to compose a text that was elaborated upon.

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