This paper outlines a sample balanced literacy program and how it is organized for second grade students. In addition, the paper explains instructional approaches that can be integrated in the balanced literacy program to improve students' reading and writing skills. Moreover, the paper gives an insight of school practices that when initiated can improve students' classroom learning. The paper further notes components of balanced literacy program that the instructional approaches satisfy.
Recently there has been a downhill trend in reading and writing among students in second grade. This is due to establishment of literacy programs providing students with little phonemic awareness. Additionally, the balanced literacy programs are poorly designed; often lacking effective educational support for students (Mermelstein, 2005). Furthermore, teachers undertake improper training on implementation of learning instructions such as phonics; often prodding the students to memorize lessons. Given this, integration of instructional approaches with literacy programs to provide successful learning experiences for students are necessary. These programs would benefit students having low reading and writing skills by providing them with rich literature for reading thus improving their literacy levels.
Classroom Balanced Literacy Program
A balanced literacy block will be established prior to the institution of a literacy program in this classroom setting. The block comprises of reading comprehension and writing subsections each taking a maximum of two and half hours of uninterrupted time. The students will be divided into small subgroups based on their literacy levels; allowing reading and writing groups to be taught simultaneously.
Once the students have been apportioned to their literacy levels groups, the teacher will institute a spelling checking system to gauge the students writing capabilities. Based on the outcomes of the writings, the students will be absorbed in a 4-stage process to help them improve their writing and reading skills.
The first stage will be for the students who are starting to write but, have not yet known how to read. In this stage, the teacher will give the students basic letters and alphabets to assist them understand how to write and read.
The next stage is for the students having little understanding of the learning process and can note down alphabets and letters. The students attempt to write down alphabetical letters and words spelled to them by their teachers.
In the third stage, the children are conversant with letters and can write words easily but with minor strains. The children are increasingly aware of the use of word and tackle spelling exercises to improve their writings.
The final stage students are able to construct correct sentences, pronounce words correctly with minimal spelling and grammatical errors. The students additionally are able to use syllables and phrases properly though, with some little problems.
After the students have been put into any of the four stages, the learning process begins to offer students with the required skills in the areas they are weak in. Moreover, students faring better than their fellows will the promoted to higher learning stages. In addition, weekly evaluation will be conducted to gauge the learning level of each student. In situation whereby the students fail to understand lessons taught, they will be re-taught the following week but, with totally different words. Similarly, if a teacher introduces a new idea, students will be taught the concept for at least two weeks to ensure they have a firm understanding of the topic. Outlined below is a sample weekly literacy program plan for the classroom.
Weekly Literacy Program
Teacher introduces new words, demonstrates their spelling and sort students into groups
Teacher explains the words to the students
The students then given the new words to read and write in their study notebooks
Students who do not write and read Monday's words correctly are made to repeat the words
Students who pass are given new words
They pick 10 new words to read and write
Students given new words to read and write with a partner
They check each other's work and discuss any difficulties
Students pick words to read and write using literatures issued by the teacher
The teacher may assist in issuing easier and understandable words to students
Review of the week's reading and writing by the students and the teacher
Teacher issues tests to gauge students abilities
Assessment of familiarity with the words and areas to improve upon
Other additional instructional approaches that can be included in the balanced literacy program for the second grade students include; Phonic instructions, Curricular-based method, and Novel approach.
Phonics instructions are essential for the literacy program in improving pronunciation and fluency levels among the students. Research has ascertained that improved learning outcomes are realized by using phonics since it provides learners with vocabulary to use through a structured approach (Vadasy, Sanders, & Peyton, 2006). The main purpose of the phonics instructions is to cultivate a reading culture among students by motivating them to read a wide array of literature. Since school children are known to experience reading phobias, phonics curbs this problem by providing them with a strong foundation of letters and sounds in their daily learning activities. This assists the students recognize the meaning of words as they read; the result being improved fluency and writing capabilities.
This instructional approach encompasses several features of literacy responses in teaching to help teachers teach students better. In addition, the approach looks at building a correlation between reading skills and learning requirements in promoting literacy development among students (Camilli & Wolfe, 2004). This method goes beyond mere reading by including note making, question asking and group discussions in enhancing literature understanding among the students. Besides, the students are also given topics to pursue in enhancing their reading abilities outside classroom settings.
In this instructional approach, students engage in reading and writing jointly. The students work as a group and by reading a novel; below or above their grade they improve their reading and writing skills (Lapp, Flood, Fisher, & Brock, 2006). This approach is beneficial to learners since it encourages students to participate in teacher-led discussions thereby improving their skills a great deal. However, in the novel approach, students are not liable to choose reading materials to use; a factor that may cause reading problems for established and upcoming readers.
Satisfaction of Balanced Literacy Program
The additional educational approaches that are used in the balanced literacy programs gratify the various components of a balanced literacy program. The integration of phonics instructional approach in the literary program exposes students to several literatures helping them become independent and affluent readers. In addition, the phonics approach encourages accountability and student control of learning processes thereby improving their learning capabilities (Fresch, 2003). The novel and curricular based approaches when integrated in any literacy program greatly improves the students' reading and writing skills. These instructional approaches nurture reading cultures among students by motivating them to read a wide array of literature. Additionally, they ensure students record improving pronunciation and fluency levels. In spite of the advantages, these methods when used alone lead to low literacy improvements among students.
How Students Learn Best
For proficient balanced literacy programs, phonemic awareness should be incorporated by teachers for students in second grades. Phonemic awareness among students is essential as it improves their literacy achievements thus inculcating a reading culture among them.
In addition, integrating phonics instructions and other instructional approaches in literacy programs can help students improve their learning. The incorporation of phonics approach is essential in improving students learning abilities.
Additionally, educational approaches that encompass child-centered learning environment can greatly improve students' learning (Altieri, 2011). In line with this, a constructive classroom environment is essential for student productivity and success in all subject areas as far as learning is concerned. Thus, teachers are required to…