Taking a balanced literary approach.
The components of a balanced literacy approach to reading and writing include: reading workshop, read alouds, shared reading, guided reading, word study, writing workshop, and interactive writing.
In a balanced literacy program, students see reading and writing modeled, share in the reading and writing process with the teacher, are coached, practice skills independently, and actively engage in word study. This approach to instruction, a workshop model developed by Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, is designed to support individualized learning by knowing each child’s readiness, interests, and learning style. The workshop model provides a responsive approach, where the teachers are planning instruction and creating goals that address the needs of the individual or group of students in the class.
Workshops are deliberately designed to be simple and predictable. Students spend the larger part of their time developing the skills, strategies, and tools they need to become avid readers, writers, and inquisitive learners. Conversely, teachers spend the majority of the time working with small groups and conferencing with students. This instructional practice allows for teachers to personalize instruction and create the academic rigor we provide our students.
First graders use a variety of strategies, as well as fluency work, to support their reading and writing growth. Students meet and create characters through the lens of bringing them to life in the books and stories they create. They are introduced to the process of researching by extracting and synthesizing information.
Third graders delve deep into research projects, making choices about topics and seeking answers to questions. They share their knowledge with the larger community through presentations, dramatizations, discussions, and writing. They also engage in book clubs, learning how to prepare for meaningful conversations by reading and takings notes. Students talk to each other about what they find interesting and follow the path that speaks to them within the text.
Fourth graders read various genres of literature at Penn Charter, from fantasy to realistic fiction, within book clubs and individual, self-selected books. These units of study allow for our students to discuss complex story plots with multidimensional characters who develop and change over time. Fourth grade students write with multiple purposes to share what they know about a research topic with an emphasis on sequentially and succinctly organizing their writing.
Fifth graders engage in complex topics around social justice and historical fiction. Fifth grade students understand perspectives different from their own, as well as various settings and characters in distant geographies or time. They work on noticing bias, and on critiquing texts in terms of authenticity and believability.