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The Components of Balanced Literacy (page 3)

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

Interactive Writing: Highlighting visual sources of information.

Moira McKenzie, warden of the Inner London Education Authority, created an approach that she called Shared Writing (now called Interactive Writing). McKenzie built on Holdaway’s work in Shared Reading by providing a similar structure for writing with students. Typically in Interactive Writing, the teacher composes an enlarged text with the students. The students participate by writing parts of the text. The teacher and student share the pen. The teacher writes what is too easy or too difficult for the students.

The teacher begins an Interactive Writing session by building up the students’ meaning and structure; that is, she brainstorms (or simply tells the students) what they’re writing that day, so that students can more easily bring in the visual (or graphophonic) sources of information as they compose meaning into a text. At the end, the teacher and the students have produced a text that is conventional (the spelling and punctuation are correct). Because students are writing parts of the text, they will sometimes write something that is not conventional. Many of the teachers that I work with use white masking tape to cover up the error. They then give the students a chance to try again.

Shared Reading: Highlighting visual sources of information.

Just as Interactive Writing focuses on the visual sources of information, so does Shared Reading. In Shared Reading, the teacher reads and rereads enlarged texts aloud. These texts could be big books, poems, and/or rhymes. You should of course choose different texts, for different reasons, but the text should be enlarged (just as in Interactive Writing) so that all students can follow the print.

Different Shared Reading sessions are for different purposes. Early sessions, which Don Holdaway calls discovery (1979, p. 71), feel more like Read-Aloud because most conversations focus on what the text is about, therefore just like in Read-Aloud, the students are focusing on the meaning and structure sources of information. What makes Shared Reading in this instance different from Read-Aloud is that the text is enlarged and the teacher is running a pointer underneath the words as she reads. The students (even in these early discovery sessions) might notice that there is a one-to-one relationship between oral language and written language.

Later Shared Reading sessions, which Don Holdaway calls exploration (1979, p. 72), focus on rereading these same texts. Because the meaning and structure have been built up, students can more easily bring in the visual sources of information. The students now participate by reading along, using meaning, structure, and visual strategies when they encounter difficulty. Any Shared Reading session could have elements of discovery and exploration in it—that is, the teacher might begin by reading a new text and focus on meaning and structure and then move on to an old favorite where they bring in the visual sources of information.

Interactive Writing and Shared Reading are similar because both are working on the visual sources of information. Because they are similar they can be used to enhance or improve one another. For example, if Millie wanted to enhance the work that she did during Interactive Writing, she might conduct a Shared Reading session in which she focuses on skills such as being able to read a word quickly or looking at the ends of words to make sure they look right. If Shawn wanted to enhance the work that she did in Shared Reading, she might conduct an Interactive Writing session where she has the students say the word and listen for the first sound and then record the corresponding letter.

Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop: Putting it all together.

In Reading and Writing Workshop students are using meaning, structure, and visual sources of information all at once. When I practice yoga, I’ve come to realize that the first three poses (Half Moon, Awkward, and Eagle) are warm-ups for the Triangle Pose. Essentially, in Triangle Pose your body takes everything it learned during Half Moon, Awkward, and Eagle and puts it together into one pose. Reading and Writing Workshops have the same purpose in the components of balanced literacy. Shared Writing, Read-Aloud, Interactive Writing, and Shared Reading are essentially the warm-ups for Reading and Writing Workshop: In Reading and Writing Workshop students must use what they’ve learned in the other components and put it together. The teacher gets a chance during Reading and Writing Workshop to assess what the students have learned in the other components and where their confusions still lie.

Both Reading and Writing Workshop have the same structure. They begin with a short minilesson during which you teach one new skill or strategy. (In writing, it’s a writing skill. In reading, it’s a reading skill.) Then, there is a work time where students work independently or in partnerships. During this time teachers are conducting one-on-one conferences and small group instruction by carefully assessing their students and teaching based upon their individual needs. The teacher then closes up the workshop by conducting a share session in which both students and teachers share and reflect upon their reading and/or writing work.

Many teachers that I work with make sure that for the first two or three minutes of Reading and Writing Workshop they are watching students read and write by themselves rather than talking with students. Watching students will help you help you assess their strengths and needs so you can effectively plan for the other components of balanced literacy.

Keep in mind that during Reading and Writing Workshop your students will have fewer scaffolds than they do in the other components; therefore, you cannot expect them to perform at quite the same level as they do during the other components. In Part III of this book, I will examine more of the specifics pertaining to minilessons, conferences, and small group work.

Putting the Reading/Writing Connection into Action

Here are some possible skills/strategies that you might teach during reading and writing workshop.

 

Writing Workshop Reading Workshop
  • How to choose a topic for writing.
  • You use pictures to help you when you write.
  • What do you do when you get to a hard word in writing? What strategies can you use?
  • What do you do when you think you're finished writing?
  • You write a variety of forms and genres.
  • How to choose a book for reading.
  • You use pictures to help you when you read.
  • What do you do when you get to a hard word in reading? What strategies can you use?
  • What do you do when you think you're finished reading?
  • You read a variety of forms and genres.
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