The Missouri Reader Vol. 41, Issue 2 - Page 31

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In my perspective, multicultural education should not focus only on minorities. All students are equally important, although different ...

Finally, independent reading time is an important way to allow students to apply what they have learned in their instructional groups. Book choice is key to keeping students engaged. Debate often arises about allowing students to choose their own books. Many times, teachers worry students will select books too easy or too difficult for their ability. However, my own classroom-based research demonstrates otherwise (Fresch, 1995). Students choose books for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they want something that will stretch them, other times they choose one they are confident they can read. A friend’s recommendation might entice a student to pick something too difficult, but as in any skill, we need to test our boundaries in safe ways. Independent books can always be changed out. If a student “gave it a go” and discovered it was frustrating, they should know they can pick something else (while we acknowledge their “bravery” to try something they weren’t sure they could read).

Writing brings together our knowledge of vocabulary, spelling, and reading. When independently writing, students demonstrate what they know about how to research to prepare to write (Harrison & Fresch, 2017), features of text, how to encode words, and how to engage a reader. As with reading, there are a number of ways to give students targeted instruction in writing. First, modeled writing allows students to watch as the teacher provides real-life examples of the importance of writing and how we approach the task. Next, students can participate during shared writing. Teachers partially craft a writing piece on a large visual area (chart paper; whiteboard) and invite students to add words or perhaps write a word they know how to spell. The ebb and flow of the strategy allows teachers to watch how and when students participate in writing.

Finally, “Writer’s Workshop is an organized approach to independent writing. The environment supports and stimulates writing” (Fresch, 2016, p. 190). Writer’s Workshop suggests that the reason we learn to spell is so others can read our work…and that reading lots of books gives us mentor texts for crafting our own writing. Students self-select topics and, over time, develop a piece of

Writing

writing. The topics can cross over into content areas (historical fiction, informational writing) and can be of any genre (narrative, fiction, poetry). As students work on their writing, individual or small group conferences can be held. If several students seem to be struggling with a particular strategy for writing (punctuation, capitalization, grammar, sequencing ideas, etc.) differentiated groupings can be created for one-on-one conversations. Modeling, shared writing, and buddy editing can be used in these small groups to provide examples to help students better understand what they need to do to improve their independent work. Before Writer’s Workshop time begins, short whole group lessons can also be provided (thinking about audience, locating resources in the room, seeking assistance when needed, and so on).

Conclusion

Teachers who plan Balanced Literacy instruction promote a student-centered classroom. They believe their students have individual needs within a community of learners. These teachers know that in order to improve skills, students must regularly engage in targeted instruction that demands an application of knowledge that challenges, but does not frustrate them. Balanced Literacy teachers see every lesson and every encounter with a student as a chance for assessment. Formative assessment helps adjust planning based on a student’s immediate needs. Summative assessment helps with long range planning. As well, these teachers strive to engage students in work that asks them to apply their literacy skills in authentic and fun ways. Finally, successful Balanced Literacy teachers recognize that students need to feel motivated to participate and find the joy in learning (Fresch, 2014).