K-4 professional development activities focus on balanced literacy
Over 300 Hamilton Southeastern K-4 teachers, instructional assistants and media specialists attended professional development sessions Wednesday afternoon to strengthen their balanced literacy skills for small group instruction. According to Elementary Curriculum Director Dr. Flora Reichanadter, the balanced literacy approach, based on a model out of Ohio State University, is reading and language arts instruction designed around the needs of students. It breaks instruction into lessons for the whole group that address grade-level standards and those for small groups planned around the needs of individual students.
“The reason we have shifted is because of the way it addresses high, average as well as low performing students,” said Dr. Reichanadter. “It is differentiated learning at its best. The model allows students to stretch their reading ability at the same time that it supports students who need the extra help to read.”
HSE adopted the Rigby’s Literacy by Design textbook series for grades K-4 last year, which follows the balanced literacy design. “The materials they use are ‘leveled’ for small group instruction. In addition, students learn to apply different reading strategies as they are exposed to a variety of types of reading materials,” said Dr. Reichanadter. This helps students develop independent reading strategies that they can apply when they move toward more challenging texts as they go through the grades.
She said balanced literacy has three parts: reader’s workshop, writer’s workshop and word work. Teacher’s professional development this year will focus on the reader’s workshop. Teachers read aloud to model fluent reading and discuss comprehension. Students read on their own to practice their skills. They also read within small groups and with the whole group. Plus, they meet in book clubs called literature circles. “In many of our fully-implemented reader’s workshops, it is not unusual to see first grade students reading at a variety of levels including some already working with chapter books,” said Dr. Reichanadter.
“Balanced literacy approach helps me as a teacher to be able to better support the wide variety of learning styles and reading abilities in my classroom,” said Courtney Midkiff, Durbin Elementary teacher and a presenter. “The leveled texts level the playing field for all readers in my classroom. By using Interactive Read Alouds and Shared Reading, the students are able to think about, talk about and respond to text not only with each other but as a whole group and individually. As a teacher, balanced literacy has allowed me to be more creative with lesson planning.”
A Harrison Parkway kindergarten teacher and presenter Laura Moos thinks it has enhanced her ability to evaluate students’ skills. “In a balanced literacy classroom, students are encouraged to participate in rich and purposeful conversation about print. During these conversations, I am able to assess through observation what my students know and where I need to focus my instruction.”
Wednesday provided opportunities for teachers to continue to refine strategies with sessions tiered for the teacher’s grade and implementation levels. Twenty-two HSE presenters and two from Literacy by Design offered instruction for beginners, transitional learners and fully-implemented teachers. Many HSE teachers attended classes about the new approach last spring and summer while others are just learning the new strategies.
Dr. Reichanadter said with the new approach parents will see different types of reading materials coming home. “Rather than one large reader, students will bring home small paper books and other text packets that supplement the program.”
Demonstrating her use of a puppet with a text, Geist Elementary teachers Elicia Davis, first grade, teams with Deb Ramos, second grade, in a session entitled “Surviving Balanced Literacy.”
Sand Creek Elementary’s Amy Bousman, first grade teacher, partners with Harrison Parkway’s Laura Moos, kindergarten teacher, to demonstrate an ongoing approach with “Digging Deeper with Literacy Stations.”
Sharing a leveled book, Cumberland Road kindergarten teachers Julie Walters and Kristen King discuss ways to use it in small group instruction.