Balanced literacy provides each child with the strategies to become a competent reader and to enjoy reading. Balanced literacy also provides students with a variety of approaches that encourage and support the development of language: reading, writing, oral (listening and speaking), and visual (viewing and presenting).
Balanced Literacy is a framework for instructional planning and implementation not a program for reading. Balanced literacy incorporates the five foundational elements of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary development and comprehension, into an instructional framework that is based on the Gradual Release of Responsibility Theory of Vygotsky.
The teacher's goal is to support the reading growth and development of students so that they are independent learners. This involves the use of observation and assessment to make instructional decisions. Based upon these decisions the teacher uses a structure of whole group, small group, and individual learning settings to identify and support students at their specific area of challenge. The teacher provides focused instruction incorporating a balance of quality fiction and nonfiction materials to support and expand the learning for each student.
The Anoka-Hennepin School District initiated the Blueprint for Literacy in the fall of 1999-2000 with the goal of ensuring all children will be able to read independently and well by the end of third grade. The Blueprint for Literacy grew out of the district's Focus on Reading effort. This initiative began during the 1996-97 school year, shortly after the first results of the Minnesota Basic Standards Tests were released. Results for Anoka-Hennepin students tested in 1996 revealed that fewer than half of eighth graders were reading as well as they should. At that time the district called on every staff member, as well as parents and the community, to take a role in helping children improve their reading skills.
Reading scores on the Basic Standards Test have improved dramatically every year since that time; however, success on basic standards alone is not adequate. The results of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA's) indicated the need to focus on higher standards of literacy at an earlier age. Children begin developing the language skills they need for reading from the very first months of life. If children are not reading well by age nine-when most complete third grade-they have a difficult time catching up with their peers. Initially the Blueprint for Literacy focused district attention directly on students from birth through grade three. It has now been expanded to include students through grade twelve.
The Balanced Literacy graphic explains the instructional strategies that support balanced literacy.
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