Balanced literacy involves language arts acquisition using a program consisting of word study, small strategy groups, and interactive read aloud, along with shared, independent, and guided reading. These essential components help a learner to understand written and spoken communication by emphasizing on reading, writing, listening, speaking, and viewing. Literacy is an important aspect everyday activities and modern social networks emphasize this, people cannot “Tweet” and comment if they do not write.
Yet even with increasing trends in globalization some children are more advanced, and some need to learn solutions to their education challenges. Balanced literacy instruction supports students’ need by integrating learning instruction as part of the school curriculum. Teaching children how to read and write proficiently is a strong predictor of academic achievement. Literacy classes help children understand language deeply, so they gain the ability to decode words on their own and become independent readers.
Today’s learners today have numerous challenges associated with their educational quality, and the way they use language in a social context. Teachers sometimes do not always have time for individualized instruction. This leaves children who are slow learning one area of language behind at times. The best way to address this problem and help children stay current with their peers is with a balanced literacy approach to reading. This program provides students with the necessary materials and components required to succeed in all phases of their education.
The framework of balanced literacy in early elementary education incorporates phonics with guided independent and shared reading. Interactive read-alouds provide an essential element by allowing teachers the opportunity to monitor individual progress in a group setting. Teachers play a vital role by implementing these components daily as part of the literacy block and ensure learners make progress in the right direction. According to A. Iaquinta “guided reading has continued to assist a large number of learners since its acceptance into the education system as a form of helpful reading instruction.”
This makes a guided reading component in balanced literacy largely used in the primary education grades. At the early education levels, students need additional teacher attention along with explicit instruction on reading strategies.
Illiteracy levels are major contributors to any nation’s educational underdevelopment and poverty in a country. This can foster a vicious cycle in areas when uneducated parents are relegated to living in districts with poor education facilities. In these situations, the parents lack the resources to educate their children.
Quality teachers and education programs could break this cycle so the students and the country as a whole experiences higher levels of literacy. This would lead to a drop in high unemployment rates. Countries that lack the necessary knowledge to compete in the diverse global economy face falling further and further behind with each generation.
With guided reading programs, children gain the opportunity to obtain the education and knowledge they need to promote their society into the modern literate world. Children from poor backgrounds lack exposure to expensive educational materials. A guided reading approach has the capacity show their parents the importance of education. Balanced literacy classrooms eliminates the problem of teachers concentrating on specific children because it advocates for equality for all children, . This is particularly important to consider in the light that no one is good at everything, not even the teacher. By experiencing learning as a group activity students are freed to encounter obstacles without fear of failure disappointment. They can accept problems as part of the process, with the assurance that there is a solution.
In 1997, balanced literacy instruction program for early education in the primary grades were being explored as an effective approach. . By the early 21st century the term had gone more mainstream, however in practice many researchers, instructors and institution of learning embraced the idea of balanced learning without truly putting it into practice. These learning programs involved strong skills practice or holistic interaction, with small amounts of other learning modalities included.
A balanced learning program means just that, a strong skills foundation that supports, and is supported by holistic learning. This combination not only educates children in the literary arts it enhances the entire education process. Literacy is necessary to all other subjects. Therefore, a balanced practice puts literacy skills into focus throughout the day as students engage in their other studies. Having a firm foundation in their reading and writing skills helps them focus on their other studies without having to overcome the barriers imposed when an inability to read and comprehend make subjects like science and history unduly difficult.
Presentation of the Literature
Published in the March 1997 Edition of The Reading Teacher Effective primary-grades literacy instruction = Balanced literacy instruction is a study by Ruth Warton-McDonald, Michael Pressley, Joan Rankin, Jennifer Mistretta, Linda Yokoi, and Shari Ettenberger, explores what constitutes effective primary grade reading instruction. They spent seven months observing five outstanding Albany New York Grade I teachers because they believed that watching effective teachers in action would provide more accurate information that a theory based empirical study would. At the end of their observation period, they determined that these effective teachers had common characteristics that included:
Extensive use of scaffolding
Encouragement of self-regulation
Through integration of reading and writing activities
Masterful classroom management
High expectations for all students
Awareness of purpose .
Based upon their study they concluded that excellent primary-level reading instruction was a complex process that worked best in a blended practice where reading instruction is both a subject in itself and a part of the entire education process.
Michael Pressley along with Alysia Roehrig, Kristen Bogner, and Lisa M. Raphael,returned to the topic of Balanced Literacy Instruction for the January 2002 edition of Focus on Exceptional Children. In that article the writers start off by observing that since the original writing on this topic the term has gone mainstream. Many researchers, instructors and institution of learning now embrace the idea of balanced learning. .
Although this is clearly truer, when examined more closely it is obvious that often these practice are often far from balanced. Many times the learning programs involve strong skills practice at the expense of more holistic interaction, or conversely a great deal of holistic learning without a strong skills foundation development. Neither one of these approaches can rightly be called a balanced learning program.
This paper concluded that a balanced literacy education process proved itself successful in those situations where its potential was fully utilized. Future challenges would be to find teachers who were skilled in this type of instruction, or where willing to learn it. They also recognized that more needed to be done in order to promote and develop balanced literacy engagement and achievement.
The ongoing research has almost universally proved a balanced education process successful. This method is now so universally accepted that in 2013 when Gary E. Bingham, and Kendra M. Hall-Kenyon introduced their article Examining teachers’ beliefs about and implementation of a balanced literacy framework in Issue I 2013 of The Journal of Research in Reading they no longer questioned if it might prove to be an effective technique. Instead, they decided to look into how to find the greatest benefits from it. This can be determined from their leading paragraph that starts “While many embrace balanced literacy as a framework for quality literacy instruction, the way in which teachers operationalise the tenets of balanced literacy can vary greatly” .
This study is based on surveys completed by 581 teachers across the United States that responded to questionnaires regarding their beliefs and practices of a balances literacy practice. Although they observed their research was limited by the fact that the teachers who chose to provide reports and how the responses consisted of self-reports that may include bias they believe that their study still supports a validation of the demonstrated value of balance literacy practices. The responses received were from approximately 30% of the teachers who were initially sent questionnaires. Because of this, there is no way of knowing from this study alone how broadly a balanced literature program is instituted and used. One of their repeated observations is the need for further future research. .
L. Mermelstein addresses what Balanced Literacy actually means in a white paper published on the Education.Com site entitled The Components of Balanced Literacy. This paper represents an excerpt from Reading/Writing Connections in the K – 2 Classroom: Find the Clarity and Then Blur the Lines. After looking at several different definitions of balanced literacy Mermelstein decides that “in order to get the appropriate balance in balanced literacy, you must make thoughtful decisions each day about the best way to help your students become more skillful readers and writers.” .
Mermelstein breaks down the components of balanced literacy to:
Reading Workshop .
Each one is described in detail in the paper along with how and why to use them. With the components set out, the next step examines the connections of which there are many, as is appropriate for this form of education.
Education web sites that offer multiple options for educators and administrators to investigate and learn about implementing the latest teaching techniques now frequently provide information on balanced literacy education. The Western Region Education Service Alliance (WRESA) operates one of these sites. . It offers easy to follow PDF Slide Shows such as the one prepared by C. Bennett, for WRESA. In 2014 and titled. What is Balanced Literacy? This slide show is a very clear presentation that not only defines Balanced Literacy as “a comprehensive program of language arts acquisition.” and goes on to state, “It contains all of the components necessary for students to master written and oral communication.” . From there it provides a step by step approach to balanced literacy.
Instructional Strategies Online has a page devoted to balanced literacy that also starts off with a definition that considers “Balanced Literacy incorporates all reading approaches realizing students need to use multiple strategies to become proficient readers.” .
Its component list is similar to Mermelstein and includes
Modeled Reading (Reading Aloud) and Modeled Writing
hared Reading and Shared Writing
Guided Reading and Guided Writing
Independent Reading and Independent Writing. .
Like the other writers it breaks it down to workable components with clear descriptions and strategies to implement them. It aksi addresses assessments and evaluations with the following suggestion “Assessment should be on going and both formal and informal. Teachers should use assessment to guide future instruction. Some methods could include: graphic organizers, journal entries, projects, rubrics, running records, conferencing, book talks, book reports, book logs and checklists.” .
Instructional Strategies Online goes further and provides additional resources for teachers and parents including:
Balanced Literacy – Teaching the Thrills and Skills of Reading
Components of a Balanced Literacy Program
Balanced Literacy Background Knowledge
Balanced Literacy - A Parent’s Guide
Matching Books to Readers in a Balanced Literacy Program -an excerpt from Chapter One of Matching Books to Readers by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell.
The links to other pages such as Balanced Literacy - Practical strategies to help you build a truly balanced classroom literacy program, By Dorothy Strickland provide suggestions that include teacher tips like “how you teach is as important as what you teach” . This page from the Scholastic Instructor site helps educators find their way through the process of balancing teaching the basic skills, effective grouping and planning, covering content and dealing with assessment.
It also has an excellent one page break down of the Components of a Balanced Literacy Program that has all the features and benefits available at a glance. This is included as Addendum A at the end of this paper.
Purpose of the Study and Rationale
This study focuses on the benefits and effects of using a balanced literacy approach to reading that corresponds to students’ successes in other educational areas. This will be analyzed in relation to children in early elementary grades as they begin to get formal language skills. The research will compare the performances of children who have a balanced literacy framework and those taught using a different program. This will enable researchers to determine the impact of a balanced literacy approach. It will also provide insights into how a balanced approach compares with other methods. The conclusion will incorporate suggestions on literacy teaching techniques to mitigate the problem of illiteracy in the present society.
The findings will play a significant role in the field of early childhood education and linguistics. The specific focus will be in the area of language acquisition. Language is vital to all other areas. Students cannot succeed educationally if they lack the necessary fundamental language skills when they get to higher levels of learning. Early intervention to increase literacy among children allows them to apply these learned skills throughout their lives. This not only improves their education it helps eliminate communication barriers among people from different ethnic groups. An in depth analysis of this problem will also help linguistics and language teachers in primary schools gain the time to educate students who already have some knowledge on language norms and grammar rules. This study is significant for future researchers, because the recommendations lays the foundation to address additional more problems on this topic in the future.
Every scholar who writes on this topic emphasis the need for further research to fill in the gaps as to how best to employ these practices. This study is aimed at doing just that.
Questions or Hypotheses
How does a balanced literacy approach to reading influence student success?
Balanced literacy uses language arts acquisition as part of a program incorporating word study, small strategy groups, and interactive read aloud, along with shared, independent, and guided reading into a holistic education process. The essential components help a learner to understand written and spoken communication by emphasizing on reading, writing, listening, speaking, and viewing and showing students how they can be used in the classroom and in everyday life.
The balanced literacy framework used in early elementary education combines phonics with guided independent and shared reading. The interactive read-alouds are essential because they give teachers the opportunity to monitor individual progress in a group setting. This frees teachers from having to site with individual students separately in order to monitor their progress. It also can provide teaching moments for other student who may be struggling with the same or a similar problem. The teachers themselves are then free to play their essential role by implementing these components daily as part of the literacy block to ensure learners make progress in the right direction.
The challenge today is not to determine if balanced literacy should be used. Instead, researches are now looking at the best ways of employing these techniques. One of the problems researchers face is the same as the assessment process teachers encounter. These programs, because they very naturally incorporate a variety of teaching methods are extremely difficult to evaluate. This individualized study makes a broad evaluation extremely difficult. Not everyone agrees on the evaluation details, or the best way to implement these programs but the one thing everyone agrees on is that additional research and sturdy is needed.
Bennett, C., & WRESA. (2014). What is Balanced Literacy. Retrieved from Western Region Education Service Alliance (WRESA): http://www.wresa.org/ERR/Module%201.pdf
Bingham, G. E., & Hall-Kenyon, K. M. (2013). Examining teachers’ beliefs about and implementation of a balanced literacy framework. Journal of Research in Reading, 14 - 28.
Bukowiecki, E. M. (2007). Teaching children how to read. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 58 - 65.
Ford, P. M. (2008). A national survey of guided reading practices: What we can learn. Literacy Research and Instruction,, 309 - 331.
Fountas, I. C., & Pinnell, G. S. (2010). Guided reading: The romance and the reality. The Reading Teacher,, 268 - 284.
Iaquinta, A. (2006). Guided reading: A research-based response to challenges of early. Early Childhood Journal,, 413 - 418.
Instructional Strategies Online. (2002 - 2009). What is Balanced Literacy? Retrieved from Instructional Strategies Online: http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/instr/strats/balancedliteracy/index.html
Mermelstein, L. (2006 Updated 2013). The Components of Balanced Literacy. Retrieved from Education.Com: http://www.education.com/reference/article/components-balanced-literacy/
Newman, S. B., & Dickenson, D. K. (2011). Handbook of early literacy research. New York, NY: Guliford Press.
Pressley, M., Roehrig, A., Bogner, K., & Raphael, L. M. (2002). Balanced Literacy Instruction. Focus on Exceptional Children, 1 - 14.
Secker, J. (2010). Information literacy education in us libraries. Journal of Information, 1 - 9.
Shoebottom, P. (2013). The factors that influence the acquisition of a second language. Retrieved from FIS.edu: http://esl.fis.edu/teachers/support/factors.htm
Strickland, D. (2014). (Balanced Literacy - Practical strategies to help you build a truly balanced classroom literacy program,. Retrieved from Scholastic Instructor: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/balanced-literacy
Warton-McDonald, R., Pressley, M., Rankin, R., Mistretta, J., Yokoi, L., & Ettenberger, S. (1997). Effective primary-grades literacy instruction = Balanced literacy instruction. The Reading Teacher, 518 - 521.
Western Region Education Service Alliance (WRESA)-Staff. (2014). Western Region Education Service Alliance (WRESA). Retrieved from Western Region Education Service Alliance (WRESA): http://www.wresa.org/