What is it?
First off, balanced literacy is NOT a curriculum or program. Instead, it is a way of approaching reading and writing in a way that encompasses many teaching and learning styles to meet the needs of all learners.
The common components of balanced literacy are: reading workshop, writing workshop and word/phonics study.
Reading within a balanced literacy framework has many variations, due to the wide variety of teaching methods that are employed. Children will encounter whole group instruction with a specific teaching point, have time to practice independently in a small group, and have the opportunity to share out thoughts and ideas with their classmates. Children will meet several times a week with a teacher within small groups to work with appropriately leveled text to work on targeted reading strategies. Teachers meet regularly with students to confer with them when reading independently to make sure they are transferring their newly learned strategies to autonomous reading.
The teaching of writing spans several components- specifically genre, mechanics, conventions, process and strategy. Children are taught to think and write like authors, keeping the audience in mind to meet their writing goals. Children are instructed within whole group, small group and individual conferencing.
Word study/phonics is where you will encounter “spelling”, however it is integrated with other important skills as well- such as early literacy concepts, phonological and phonemic awareness, letter knowledge, letter sound relationships, spelling patterns, high frequency words, word meaning/vocabulary, word structure and word solving actions.