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The future success of our children is dependent on their ability to read (Scola, 2002). This is the beginning of the pathway that leads to the journey of life. Every aspect of living requires having the ability to read. Even though the development of language is obtained through growth and experience, children acquire much of their language by imitating what they hear from adults. Literacy is an important aspect in developing language and is an avenue to help educators identify and develop strategies in the classroom to help students of all levels learn to read. The purpose of this paper is to introduce our proposed Balanced Literacy Program called, Read Express And Discovery (R.E.A.D.) This program focuses on the elementary grade school levels K-6. In order to ensure that everyone understands the basics, this paper will expound on the meaning of balanced and literacy. We will also discuss the essential components of an effective literacy program, provide examples of specific types of activities and describe our literacy assessment practices. Lastly, we will address how the diverse population in our school system will be served through this program.
What is Balanced?
Balance is defined as having different parts or elements properly or effectively arranged, proportioned, regulated, considered, etc., (Webster, 208). Regarding literacy, all the different parts and elements that make up a balanced literacy program consist of various components such as phonemic awareness, phonics, text recognition, reading, spelling, and handwriting. All of these variables create a regulated proportion that provides a balance for literacy learning.
What is Literacy?
Literacy is the ability to read, write, listen, speak, compute and think strategically (Common Core State Standard for Literacy, 2018). It is a vital element in a child’s learning and it begins during infancy when they listen and begin to repeat sounds and then words? In this infancy, stage children are learning to formulate words, learn the meaning of things and give names to objects by watching what adults do and say. Some might call this the beginning of literacy as children learn words, vocabulary, and sounds, some may even learn to recognize words when they see them which we refer to as reading. This learning is further developed while the child is in school making Early Childhood Education detrimental to early literacy. The most common understanding of literacy is that it is a set of tangible skills – particularly the cognitive skills of reading and writing.
What is a Balanced Literacy Program?
By analyzing the terms “balanced” and “literacy” we can now merge these analyses to further explain what a balanced literacy program consists of. A balanced literacy program uses the whole language along with phonics. The goal of an efficient balanced literacy program incorporates the strength of both language and phonics. The main purpose of balanced literacy is to provide students with a different way of learning to read and write. It helps to develop skills that help them to become better students. The balanced literacy programs teach students strategies such as sequencing, comparing and contrasting, summarizing, problem-solving and finding the main idea and supporting details. A strong balanced literacy program should include the following components: read-aloud, guided-reading, independent reading, small-group, and assessment (Biggart, Kerr, O’Hare, & Connolly, 2013).
Components of an Effective Literacy Program
Now that we have a good understanding of what a balanced literacy program means, we will now focus on what elements are involved to produce an effective program. The Read Express And Discovery (R.E.A.D.) program is a well-rounded literacy program that would be beneficial to utilize in our school district. We will have literacy coaches on staff who will, not only spend time with the students but provide training to our teaching staff. Reading is a skill that must be taught in an organized, systematic and efficient way by an experienced and knowledgeable teacher (Scola,2002).
It takes a skilled instructor to teach literacy, yet it takes a well-rounded and literacy program as well. Therefore, a balanced literacy program should include every aspect of learning activities and strategies. We have invested time and knowledge in developing our literacy program. We have incorporated all of these variables in order to be successful. Some of the significant components consist of the following:
- Phonemics Awareness – A Phoneme is a particular set of sounds produced in a particular language and distinguishable by native speakers of that language from other (sets of) sounds in that language (English Language & Usage, 2018). In other words, it is the study of the way we understand those sounds. Phonemic awareness is the key to a child becoming a fluent reader.
- Word Study: Study of the alphabetic symbol system. It also involves the encoding, which is the reading process, and decoding which is the spelling process, of our symbol system. This involves understanding the relationship between letters and sound.
- Interactive Read Aloud: This involves the teacher reading quality writing aloud to the entire class. There are moments when the teacher stops to ask questions while the students respond. Children learn to listen with intent and comprehension. They also learn to listen to others and develop their own thoughts about what they hear.
- Shared Reading: The responsibility is shared between the teacher and the students. The text is shared with groups of students to follow along while others are reading as well. The teacher uses this time, evaluate the students reading and use strategies and skills that teach the children what they need to know about reading.
- Strategy Groups: This is also known as guided reading groups. The teacher will meet with small groups of students who have similar reading levels, and work on a specific strategy while the students are reading.
- Independent Reading Workshops: Students read at their self-regulating reading level. Teachers will prompt them with questions about the text. You might see students writing journals or feeling about the text.
- Independent Reading Conference: Teacher works with students one on one. Teachers use this to access student’s needs.
All of these components along with structure teaching will provide for an effective and balanced literacy program. The R.E.A.D. program that we plan to institute contains all of these strategies. This program will be delivered through various activities that will encourage the students to read and help with their confidence.
Activities as part of the program
Activities make learning experiences more enjoyable and turn everyday routines into meaningful experiences which encourage children to participate. We have designed the activities to be enjoyable for the students, the teachers, and even the parents and it helps them become skilled readers. It is our goal to focus on ensuring that our students develop a love to read as opposed to a fear of getting it wrong.
One example of a learning activity that we use in this program is called R&R which stands for repetition and rhyme. When we read a story that has a repeated concept, the familiar content makes the story become more and more familiar, and the children and the children get excited when they know what’s coming up next in the story. For example, a repetitive phrase from a story that we all grew up with says:
(Wolf voice:) “Little pig, little pig, let me come in.”
(Little pig:) “Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin.”
(Wolf voice:) “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in! (Public Domain)
Another example of an effective activity is called Simple Recognition which involves getting the children familiar with the alphabet by helping them to recognize the shapes of letters and connect the shape to the sounds of the letter. This activity will practice the concept of what the letter looks like and what it sounds like. This can be done by using flashcards, allowing the children to make an alphabet book and learning the alphabet song. Lastly, another example which could be directed to the older children is called “A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words” (PapaJan, 2018). This activity involves encouraging children to find books that have no words, just wonderful and exciting pictures. Then, encourage the student to use their imaginations to create their own stories to go along with the pictures in the book. Through this activity, students can expand their vocabulary, improve their language skills and exercise their imagination. There are numerous activities that can be used to promote the success of this effective literacy program. The beautiful thing about these concepts is that it doesn’t end at school. Parents can practice these concepts at home with there children. Therefore, the educational process continues uninterrupted. Also, it does not matter what ethnic group one comes from nor physical disabilities that one may have, this process can be successful across the board.
Addressing the diverse population served through this program
Diversity among the student population is something that should be address in every aspect of child’s learning experience. It is our goal to make this program all inclusive. No matter the culture or disability, every student will be given an equal opportunity to learn and achieve in our balanced literacy program. In addition, English as a Second Language student’s will be provided the extra help they will need to stay on track. In turn, each student is assessed at their own level.
Assessment is a very important process in any educational setting. Without accurate analysis, we would not be able to assure that each student is receiving the help that they need, no matter what the level. Our R.E.A.D. Literacy program ensures that all of the necessary assessment tools are in place.
The definition of ‘balanced’ is providing our students with all the tools they need to succeed. Many programs only focus on one aspect of the reading process as opposed to focusing on each aspect and how it applies to the outcome. The outcome of any literacy program should be to create a reader. The definition of ‘literacy’ is being literate, having the ability to read and write. Our new literacy program is balanced and designed to help all students at any level on their path to becoming a better reader.
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- Common Core State Standard for Literacy in All Subjects, (2018). What is Disciplinary Literacy? Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/ cal/pdf/section2.pdf
- English Language & Usage, (2018). Stack Exchange Inc. Retrieved from https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/104224/what-is-the-difference-between-phonetic-and-phonemic
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- Merriam-Webster, (2018). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/ dictionary/balanced
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- PapaJan.com, (52018). Retrieved from http://www.abc-read.com/write.html
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- Voltz D.L., Sims. M.J. & Nelson, B. (2018). Connecting Teachers, Students, and Standards. ASDC.
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