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5 Simple Components for a Balanced Literacy Schedule

How many of you have heard about the “science of reading”? If you’re like most educators, you know this is the new craze in education! While this might be new to some teachers, this idea, the science of reading, was how I taught my literacy blocks when I was in the classroom. Because I have always taught this way, I have simple tips to create a balanced literacy schedule that is super simple and follows the science of reading in a way that is so stinkin’ simple! 

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Before Creating a Balanced Literacy Block 

While we all want to, we can’t just jump into creating a literacy block schedule without considering the science of reading. That’s like starting a puzzle without all the pieces on the table! It’s simply not going to work. Therefore, you need to consider the following components to have a balanced literacy block: 

  • Phonemic awareness
  • Phonics
  • Fluency
  • Vocabulary 
  • Comprehension 

Beyond knowing the main components, you also need to be able to recognize where the gaps are in students’ literacy education. From there, you can group students in a way that makes the most sense. If you’re unsure how to group students, make sure you check out last week’s blog!

Starting Your Balanced Literacy Block with Phonics

If your students are struggling with rhyming, compound words, phoneme deletion, or segmenting, you’re going to want to spend some time on phonemic awareness and phonological awareness.  I like to do this as a whole group for the first 10 minutes of my ELA or literacy time. Typically this is just a mini lesson or an activity students can do to get warmed up. A great resource for this is using your…you guessed it…centers activities! 

You can find a year’s worth of literacy center activities that are themed by holiday and season and some that are just fun themes. I personally like to use the digital literacy centers and project them on the board. Not only did this help with phonemic awareness, it also is a great way to introduce activities that your students will be seeing in your centers for those of you who have taken my Centers Made Easy Master Class.

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Your phonics portion of the literacy block needs to be very clear and concise. I like to do this as a whole group. Why?  Because it gives you the opportunity to introduce new ideas which are important when creating a balanced literacy block. 

Increasing Comprehension in Your Literacy Block 

Once you have phonics all figured out, you can start focusing more on comprehension. If you have emerging readers, you might want to focus more on read alouds in your small group instruction. However, for your  independent or fluent readers, you use this time to focus on close readings like the differentiated close readings we have available! You can also find reading passages for first grade as well. The best part about these passages is they are the same ideas. However, they are at different levels. 

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When you are using these close readings, you want to make sure you are focusing on one passage for the entire week. That gives students the opportunity for multiple readings and a chance to focus on different aspects of the text each day of the week. 

On Monday, I like to start with text features like pictures, graphs, etc. Then, on Tuesday, we move on to vocabulary words. This is explicit instruction that focuses on words students might not know. Next, on Wednesday we actually read the passage as a whole. You can do this as a whole group or you can use differentiated levels. On Thursday, we work on a comprehension skill like text evidence for example. Each of the differentiated passages comes with a ton of fun graphic organizers. Finally, on Friday I would review the passage, the skill, and vocabulary. I might give a little assessment on that, or I might have students go back and look at the passage with a different reading strategy. This is also a great time to introduce some nonfiction to build background and expose them to new vocabulary. 

Breaking down the week to focus on a specific aspect of a text is not only great for increasing comprehension, but also for creating a balanced literacy block. 

Focusing on Fluency During Literacy Block 

Whenever we start talking about fluency, you have to know the feedback is really where you’re going to be getting growth. Fluency is all about practice! So, to create a balanced literacy block, you need to work in time to practice fluency into your whole class or small group instruction. 

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When you are teaching fluency, you want to make sure you are modeling what reading should sound like. This will reinforce (along the explicit lesson) that reading should sound like talking. You can do this in a variety of ways from recordings to choral readings. Every teacher and class is different. You simply have to find what works for you when it comes to the science of reading and creating balanced literacy blocks. 

Whoa! How Do I Do It All? 

You might be thinking how am I supposed to do all of this and literacy centers and keep my sanity!? Well I have great news for you! All of these concepts can be focused on when you are working in your literacy centers. If you haven’t checked out my Centers Master Class yet, you really need to give it a shot! In this class you’ll learn not only about the importance of having a rotation and expectations to stay on track in your centers, but HOW those processes start to work. In order for you to have a balanced literacy block, you need to have a specific rotation and specific expectations when it comes to literacy centers (and every other center you might have!). 

  • 10 minutes of phonics
  • 15 minutes of comprehension 
  • 60 minutes of small group instruction and center time 
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Creating a balanced literacy block can seem like an impossible task. It’s not! However, you might mess up here and there. If you do, all you need to do is tweak it here and there to make the formula work for your classroom based on your class size, the time you have, and your district expectations. Even if you flounder the first time or two, make sure you assess and reflect and move forward. Having a balanced literacy block in your classroom will help students not only with literacy, but with organization and routine as well. 

Until Next Time…

Keep Being Educational Rock Stars

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