- December 1, 2021
What is a ‘Balanced Literacy’ approach & how does UMS implement this? Balanced literacy promotes and provides a complete approach to language instruction with a focus on independent pace and wide scope of learning. This is achieved through creating layers of language exploration through instruction, experience, and connection. Our aim is to build upon prior learning of phonics while blending it with the principles of the whole language approach. The strongest facets of each are paired together to successfully provide a well-rounded style of teaching to meet the particular and individual needs of all students. The elements which are combined in our literacy program include: read aloud, guided reading, shared reading, independent reading, and word study; through scaffolding, the end result is students who enjoy the journey of reading and who are intrigued and excited to learn. Upon grade one entry, all students are assessed by using a series of levelled books which allows for a baseline reading assessment of accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. (DRA Developmental Reading Assessment).
What is the role of the teacher when teaching reading? The goal is to scaffold literacy which allows for students to enhance their understanding while making meaningful connections while they read. The role of the teacher is to help their students navigate their individual courses while building upon individual reading skills. Through drawing specific attention to features of the text and demonstrating and encouraging students to draw connections, students will build their confidence to not only read the words that are on the page in front of them, to have a deeper understanding of these words, and finally to connect with and apply the words within their own world.
Reading is not just a ‘Language Arts’ activity! At UMS, we create learning opportunities to build upon the fundamental skills as outlined above through a variety of programs. Our Nelson Literacy program is a fully integrated, comprehensive resource, designed to support literacy learning which ensures student success as literacy learners. Our program is comprehensive and coordinated to include many facets of subjects of the curriculum, supports student engagement, has varied assessment formats, allows for differentiation, develops oral communication, reading, fluency, connection to text patterns and features, word study, writing development, media literacy connects, critical thinking and problem solving, metacognition and interconnectedness of all learning elements.
We utilize a variety of tools for reading assessments. Our STAR reading assessment is a ‘computer-adaptive assessment that measures key aspects of a student’s knowledge of reading and language’. This assessment adjusts to the level of difficulty of each question in real-time depending on the students’ earlier responses. A reading level is assigned to students and they are able to select appropriate material to read, geared to their individual language level. From this, students enjoy a variety of school library books fiction or nonfiction which they can sign out of our school library. Our Renaissance Accelerated Reader program motivates, monitors, and manages students’ independent reading practice. Upon completion of their reading material, students may then complete an AR test which assesses their knowledge and understanding of the content which they have read. Our Senior Casa and Grade One students also use ‘Raz Kids’, an online reading program that offers hundreds of interactive, levelled eBooks and eQuizzes. Students progress through each level and celebrate their individual reading accomplishments.
Many of our teachers have shared the joy of exploring research through the use of our Encyclopedia Online Britannica subscription, which allows for students to research a given subject and all material that is retrieved will be at the students’ individual level. The MyOn online library subscriptions again allow for students to explore hundreds of thousands of online books of their interest.
Overall, a balanced literacy approach allows for creating learning opportunities within all subject areas, connecting them with practical and relatable resources and lessons. Our goal is that students not only learn to read for joy and purpose, but they will also embrace a commitment to lifelong, practical, and experiential learning.