Balanced Literacy: Activities & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

With all the different ways to teach reading and writing, things can feel overwhelming. In this lesson, we'll look at one way to combine disparate ideas about literacy instruction and how to apply it in the classroom.

Teaching Reading

Kelly is a new teacher and he's really excited to start the school year. He has his classroom organized and can't wait to teach his students how to read.

There are many different ways to teach reading. One teacher in Kelly's school says that the best way to teach reading is with good old-fashioned phonics instruction. Another counters that that's outdated; whole language is the way to go.

Kelly's a little confused. He knows that whole language and phonics are two different ways of teaching reading and that people have different ideas about which is better. But what, exactly, is involved in each type of reading instruction? And could Kelly do both?

To help Kelly explore his teaching options, let's look closer at balanced literacy and how it combines phonics and whole language.

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: What Is Language?

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 Teaching Reading
  • 0:50 Balanced Literacy
  • 2:25 Five Elements
  • 5:02 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Balanced Literacy

One of the teachers at Kelly's school says that phonics are the better way to teach reading, while another teacher counters that whole language instruction is better. Kelly doesn't know what to think!

Phonics involves explicit instruction on the parts of language. It is a way of teaching reading and writing that focuses on teaching the parts of language first. In phonics instruction, children learn their letters, and then letter blends (like 'sh'), and then learn words.

In contrast, whole language instruction involves teaching reading through the act of reading. Instead of spending time focusing on sounding words out and other phonics-related lessons, children in a whole language classroom are surrounded by lots of different types of written language, and they choose the books and texts that they want to read.

Both phonics and whole language have strengths and limitations, and Kelly wonders if there's a way to combine them so that his students can get the best of both worlds.

Balanced literacy is a combination of whole language and phonics. Just like the name implies, balanced literacy is about balancing explicit language instruction with independent learning and language exploration. For example, in a balanced literacy classroom, Kelly might read aloud to the class and offer an explicit phonics lesson, like different words that include the blend 'ch' in them. Then, he'd give the students plenty of time to read on their own or in small groups, allowing them to discover language and reading on their own.

Five Elements

Balanced literacy sure sounds right to Kelly! He can combine phonics instruction with whole language in order to help his students succeed. He can't wait to get started.

There are five elements of balanced literacy that Kelly can use in his classroom to help his students learn to read. They are:

1. Read aloud - This is exactly what it sounds like; Kelly, the teacher, will read aloud to the whole class.

2. Shared reading - In a read aloud, Kelly has a book and reads it to the class. But in shared reading, the whole class has copies of the book and follows along with him. In essence, the difference between a read aloud and shared reading is that a read aloud is about reading to the class, while shared reading is about reading with the class.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it now
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account