Striving for Balance

Teaching children to be literate is a complex undertaking. It requires hours of study, observational work, critical analysis, and ongoing practice. That is the truth, and Jill and I are just teachers working in a school. Sure, we are engaged, we are educational writers, and we are in constant search of ways to better our practices. Since we really are educators working in public schools, we know full well that when it comes to teaching nothing remains static.

We prefer to stay out of the fray of political pundits who advocate for reform. Jill and I both know that when it comes to teaching children how to read, how to write, there is a process. Teaching into a process requires many different approaches. Some children need to increase their volume, others need specific skill work, while others could benefit from short term strategy use. Learning how to be a strong teacher requires a lot of time. So, we would much rather put our energy into learning more about instructional practice than participating in divisive discourse that feels tribal and unproductive. However, after Jill and I read a recent NY Times Opinion piece, we thought we would lend some practical wisdom.  

We agree that phonics instruction and language learning are important; however, it is our experience that they are not the only two pieces for comprehension. Readers make meaning from what they already know and using their unique perspectives. There is not only one way to learn.  This is why Balanced Literacy works. It is a flexible framework that accommodates students’ needs in a variety of settings. This approach underscores the thinking that when teachers draw from a wide repertoire of strategies, they will be more responsive.

Join us Thursday at 8:30 pm est to chat about Balanced Literacy on #G2Great

3 Comments on “Striving for Balance

  1. “We agree that phonics instruction and language learning are important; however, it is our experience that they are not the only two pieces for comprehension.”
    If you have only read the short articles that highlight the differences between Blended Literacy and Structured Literacy, I can see there being concerns about the other pieces needed for comprehension being left out. Reading is much more complex than phonics and language learning, yet that seems to be the focus of articles such as those written by Emily Hanford.

    If you dig deeply into the research Structured Literacy is based upon, you will see there is SO much more than phonics. You will also understand why mastered phonological awareness and phonemic awareness skills are needed to access phonics skills proficiently. You learn why phonics (specifically defined and different than phonological awareness or phonemic awareness) itself is not sufficient for reading. You learn why visual memory is not sufficient to acquire the many tens of thousands of words needed as an educated reader. You learn about how they have come to these conclusions. There is so much more about how words are stored in the brain, types of memory used, connections to language, what goes into comprehension, etc.

    When you dig into David Kilpatrick, Mark Seidenberg, Linea Ehri, Lousia Moats, The Reading League, and many more, you learn so much more than phonics. You may see the push to label this camp as “phonics-centric” or that the focus is JUST on phonics may be a way to distract you from the full conversation. The full conversation is very enlightening.

    • You said that so well. The important thing is to keep the conversation going. We have to be open minded to learning new things.

      • Yes. I know I have more to learn. I think it is good to always be a student.

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