Thursday, July 10, 2014

Balanced Literacy is a Lot of Work

If you live near NYC, you've heard of Carmen Farina, the head of NYC Public schools.  She is a proponent of Balanced Literacy and is insisting that teachers focus on teaching kids to be readers and writers rather than just literacy as a test prep genre! 

I share Farina's passion for teaching that balances skills and practice.  I share her passion for preparing students to be life-long readers and writers who find reading comforting, empowering and informative.  

Yet, I worry that Balanced Literacy is a LOT of work and takes a LOT of prep during every single one of the 180 days of school.  The secret is right in the name: balance: shared reading, shared writing, interactive writing, word study, interactive read-aloud, working independently, working in whole-class settings, thoughtful mini-lessons, conferring, and small groups are part of every single week - all year through. 

Like many other teachers, I believe balanced literacy is best - even for the kids who have limited literacy experience, smaller vocabularies, and less focus. I know that balanced literacy is also more work than any scripted unit of study could imagine.  I worry that we might end up doing scripted programs rather than empowering learners.  

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