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How to Reach and Teach All Children Through Balanced Literacy

How to Reach and Teach All Children Through Balanced Literacy

Sandra F. Rief, Julie A. Heimburge

ISBN: 978-0-787-98805-0

Aug 2007, Jossey-Bass

352 pages

Select type: Paperback

In Stock



How to Reach and Teach All Children Through Balanced Literacy offers you a handbook for teaching literacy to diverse students in grades 3-8. The balanced literacy method combines the best practices of phonics and other skill-based language instruction with the holistic, literature-based approach in order to help you teach reading, writing, and speaking in a clear and approachable format.

This dynamic resource offers an easily accessible research-based approach to balanced literacy that is grounded in the innovative ideas developed by authors Sandra F. Rief and Julie A. Heimburge. The book includes detailed descriptions of what a balanced literacy classroom looks like and shows how to create a program from the ground up or give your existing program a boost. The book can be used across content areas and is filled with reproducible worksheets, activities, and other handy classroom tools. Some topics covered include:

  • Shared book experiences
  • Reading aloud
  • Oral language and vocabulary development
  • Guided reading for comprehension
  • Modeled writing
  • Reading and writing conferences
  • Book clubs
  • Content area reading and writing
  • Ongoing assessments
  • Enhancing literacy through technology

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1. Balance and the Challenges of Reaching and Teaching Diverse Readers and Writers.

Components of Balanced Literacy.

Balancing Quality Literature and Other Resources in Our Libraries.

Balancing Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening and Word Study.

Integrating Content in the Literacy Block.

Balancing Instructional Approaches.

Balancing Learning Style Preferences of Students.

Balancing Grouping in the Classroom.

Balancing Teacher Talk and Student Talk.

Balancing Teacher-Directed and Student-Directed Activities.

Balancing Formal and Informal Assessments.

Establishing a Community of Learners.

2. Setting Up a Balanced Literacy Environment.

The Look of the Classroom Library Today.

Selecting Books.

Choosing Quality Books.

Newbery Award Books.

Picture Books and the Caldecott Award Winners.

Young Readers Choice Awards.

Choosing Books that Are "Just Right".

Involving Students in Book Selection.

Obtaining More Books for Your Library.

Making Space for Reluctant Readers? Needs.

Organizing the Classroom Library.

Categorizing Books.

Enlisting Student Help for Categorizing.

Labeling Books that Fit.

Keeping Books for Yourself.

Knowing Thy Books.

Displaying Books.

Lending and Keeping Track of Books.

Introducing New Books.

Marking Books.

Protecting Books.

Keeping a Fresh Look to the Library.

Dealing with a Tired Looking Library.

Checking Up on What Students Are Reading.

Tips for Parents.

Not-So-User-Friendly Public Libraries or Bookstores.

Activity 2-1 Independent Reading Books--Selection and Evaluation.

Activity 2-2 Reading Log.

Activity 2-3 Home Reading Log.

3. Reading in the Literacy Workshop.

Setting Up the Reading Workshop.

Setting Goals for Reading.

Managing the Literacy Workshop.

Assessment in the Literacy Workshop.

Selecting Quality Books.

Strategies for Reading.

Whole-Class Instruction.

A Deeper Look at the Read-Aloud.

A Deeper Look at Shared Reading.

Guided Reading.

Literacy Stations.

Strategies to Help Students Improve Literacy.

Accountable Talking.

Graphic Organizers.

Conferring with Students.

Conferring Baskets.

Activity 3-1 Conferring Notes for Reading.

Activity 3-2 Book Recommendation.

4. Writing in the Literacy Workshop.

Setting Up the Writing Workshop.

A First Hand Account of Julie's Classroom.

Starting the Year with Personal Narrative.

Establishing a Writing Environment.

Pre-Assessing Student Writing--What Do They Already Know?

The Six Traits of Writing and How They Help Direct a Writing Program.

Modeling the Process.

Balancing Teacher-Directed and Choice Writing.

Developing Writing Stamina.

Writing Essentials.

Establishing Audience.

Writing in Different Genres.

Helping Students with Topic Sentences.

Conventions: How Important Are They?

Wall Reading.

Word Banks.

Spelling Difficulties.

Demonstration of Writing.

The Writing Conference: The Importance of Talk.

Writing Conference Guidelines.

Tips for Volunteers.

Use of the Rubric.


Student Reading/Writing Portfolio.

Raising the Bar.

Keeping Parents Informed.

Celebrating Writing.

Handwriting for Older Students.

Activity 4-1 Conferring Notes for Writing.

5. Nonfiction and Its Place in Balanced Literacy.

What Is Nonfiction?

Why Teach Nonfiction Explicitly?

Entry Points for Nonfiction.

Learning about Text Structures.

What Are Common Text Structures?

Teaching Text Structures.

A Deeper Look at Description.

Sequence or Time Order through Biographies.

The Structure of Cause and Effect.

Text Features.

Delving into Text Features.

Instructional Activities to Ensure Understanding of Text Features.

Skills and Strategies for Accessing Nonfiction.

Vocabulary in Nonfiction.

Skimming and Scanning.

Highlighting and Using Stickie Notes.

Technology: Benefits and Challenges.

Supporting Struggling Readers and Writers During This Study.

Nonfiction Assessment Practices--The Baseline and Finale.

Activity 5-1 Text Feature Activity.

Activity 5-2 Do You Know Your Text Structures?

Activity 5-3 Feature and Structure Search.

Activity 5-4 Text Structure/Text Feature Children's Book.

6. Strengthening Word Knowledge and Fluency.

What Is Word Study?

The Teacher's Role in Word Study.


Developmental Stages of Spelling.

Characteristics of Proficient Spellers.

High-Frequency and Commonly Misspelled Words.

Instructional Activities.


Instruction: The Big Picture.

Strategies, Activities and Scaffolds.

Reading Fluency.

Contributing Factors to Becoming Fluent.

Strategies to Build Fluency.


Activity 6-1 A Study in Homophones.

Activity 6-2 Vocabulary Detective Work.

7. Making Oral Language a Priority.

Speaking and Listening: Natural Skills?

Communication Skills as Part of the Core Curriculum.

The Whole Group: A Scary Place.

The Magnificent Seven.

Start Small, with Opportunities for Students to Speak.

Strategies for Practicing Oral Language.

Quick Talks.

Prompts for Talking with Partners or Small Groups.

One-on-One Conferencing.

Accountable Talk.

Book Talks and Book Clubs.


Fishbowl for Peer Modeling.

Talking Before, During and After Reading.

Use of a Microphone in the Classroom.

Writers'/Readers' Chair.

Storytelling/Acting Out A Scene.

Hot Seat.

Tongue Twisters.

Performing Poems.

Guidelines for Performing a Poem.

Group Poetry.

Newscast Creation.

Interviews to Build Confidence in Speaking.

Oral Language with Puppetry.

Reader's Theater for Literature and History Presentations.

Fun with Role Playing.

Teaching Board Games to Peers.

Demonstrating Science Experiments.

Formal Speeches.

Accommodations for Reluctant Speakers.

Oral Language Assessment.

An After-School Speakers or Drama Club.

Activity 7-1 Cereal Box Book Report & Persuasive Commercial.

Activity 7-2 Speech Plan Sheet.

Activity 7-3 Oral Language Monthly Presentations.

Activity 7-4 An Oral Language Presentation: A How-to-Do Speech.

Activity 7-5 Oral Language Teacher Evaluation form.

Activity 7-6 Interview Planning Sheet.

Activity 7-7 Science Experiment Planning Sheet -- Oral Presentation.

8. Using a Thematic Approach: Survival.

Establishing a Theme.

Getting Help from Other Teachers.

Involving Parents.

Modifying to Meet the Needs of Students.

Getting Started.

Survival as a Theme.

Why Survival?

Fitting Survival into the Curriculum.

Getting Started with Grade-Level Novels.

Comparing Books to Movies.

Island Survival: A Sample Plan.

Sample Lesson Plan.

Supplementary Activities.

Using Fact Cards.

Organizing a Survival Book Club.

Keeping a Response Journal.

Incorporating Nonfiction.

Using Audiobooks and Compact Discs.

Tying in Other Subject Areas.

A Final Project to Enhance the Survival Theme Study.

Other Resources for a Survival Theme Study.

Activity 8-1: A Group Newspaper About Brian Robeson’s Adventure in Hatchet & The River.

Activity 8-2 A Letter from Character to Character.

Activity 8-3 Prejudice and Discrimination Based on The Cay.

Activity 8-4 The Perfect Island.

Activity 8-5 World War II Project in conjunction with Number the Stars, by L. Lowry.

Activity 8-6 World War II Project Teacher Evaluation/Student Evaluation.

Activity 8-7 Theme: Survival -- Critical Reading/Interviewing.

9. Special Units of Study.

Author Studies to Produce Stronger Readers and Writers.

Chris Van Allsburg, Author/Illustrator.

Avi: A Versatile Writer.

Katherine Paterson: Comparing and Contrasting.

Digging Deeper into Story Elements.

Character Study.

Getting to the Depth of Character.

Developing Character Word banks.

Developing Character Sketch Cards.

Symbolism in Because of Winn Dixie.

Similes in The Thirteenth Floor.

Genre Studies.

Activity 9-1 Creating a Flip Book: Story Elements.

Activity 9-2 Flip Book for Charlotte Doyle: Story Element Response to Literature.

Activity 9-3 Compare/Contrast Two Books by the Same Author.

Activity 9-4 Just a Few Reading & Writing Terms You Should Know.

Activity 9-5 Author's Writing Tools/Story Elements.

Activity 9-6 Character Chart.

Activity 9-7 Character Sketch Card (front).

Activity 9-8 Character Sketch Card (back).

Activity 9-9 Genre Study Monthly Schedule.

Activity 9-10 Book Jacket.

Activity 9-11 Picture Book Study: Caldecott Books Recording & Information Sheet.

10. Book Clubs and Literature Circles.

Literature Circles, Books Clubs--What Shall We Call Them?

What Is a Book Club?

The Benefits of Book Clubs.

Putting Book Clubs into Practice.

Timing for Book Clubs.

Ideas for Grouping.

Choosing Materials to Read.

Getting Started.

Setting the Schedule.

Student Roles in Book Clubs.

Managing Book Clubs.

Rules of Etiquette.

Book Club Folders.

Questions to Bring Out the Voices.

Keeping the Discussion Moving.

Using Stickie Notes.

Response Journals and Literature Logs.



Accommodations for Special Needs.

For Struggling Readers.

For Advanced Readers.

Culminating Activities and Assessment.

Variations of Book Clubs.

Building a School-Wide Reading Community.

Wilma Unlimited: Activities & Projects.

Buddy Classes.

One Big Book Club.

Activity 10-1 Book Club Reading Schedule.

Activity 10-2 Book Club Roles.

Activity 10-3 Book Club Daily Evaluation Sheet.

Activity 10-4 Book Club Discussion Notes.

Activity 10-5 Group Book Club Planning Sheet.

Activity 10-6 "Fat Questions" to Keep Your Book Club Conversation Going.

Activity 10-7 Book Club Culminating Activities.

Activity 10-8 Rubric for Book Club Presentation & Project.

Activity 10-9 Book Club Student End-of-Unit Evaluation Sheet.

11. Reading and Writing Difficulties in Students.

Reading Problems and Research.

Struggling Older Readers.

Learning Disabilities and Other Brain-Based Reading Problems.


Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (AD/HD).

The Gender Gap in Reading.

Strategies for Working with Struggling Readers.

Struggles with Writing.

Specific Writing Difficulties.

Planning and Organization.


Language Processing.

Graphomotor Skills.


Other Mechanics.



Speed of Processing.

The Teacher's Role.

Strategies for Bypassing & Accommodating Writing Difficulties.

Research-Based Literacy Intervention Programs.

12. Reading Strategies, Supports, and Accommodations.

Characteristics of Good Readers.

Metacognitive Readers.

Pre-Reading Comprehension Strategies.

Pre-Reading Instructional Strategies.

Pre-Reading Metacognitive Strategies.

During-Reading Comprehension Strategies.

During-Reading Instructional Strategies.

During-Reading Metacognitive Strategies.

After-Reading Comprehension Strategies.

After-Reading Instructional Strategies.

After-Reading Metacognitive Strategies.

Cognitive Reading Comprehension Strategies.

Graphic Outlines or Graphic Aids.

Text Structure.

Expository or Informational Text Structure.

Narrative Text Structure.

Active Reading/Discussion Formats and Activities.

Activity 12-1 Mapping What I Read.

Activity 12-2 Narrative Text Organization Chart.

Activity 12-3 Narrative Text Organization -- Script to Accompany Chart.

13. Writing Strategies, Scaffolds, and Accommodations.

The Importance of Modeling.

Guided Writing.

Strategies to Help with Writing.



Planning Forms and Graphic Organizers.

Instructional Tips.





Formats and Genres.


Powerful Leads and Closings.


Response to Literature.



Story Grammar.

The Narrative Organizer Chart.

Expository Writing.

Research Papers.

Persuasive Letters and Essays.

Activity 13-1 Persuasive 5 paragraph essay rubric.

The Use of Rubrics.


Lecture Notes.

Text Book Notes.

Teaching and Enhancing Literacy through Technology.

Programs for Use in the Classroom.

Prewriting Software.

Word Processing.

Desktop Publishing.


Uses for PowerPoint in Balanced Literacy.

PowerPoint Websites.


Electronic Books (E-Books).

Electronic Mail (E-Mail).

The Internet.

Online Instruction (E-Learning).

Handheld Devices.

Visual Technology.

Digital Cameras.

Digital Video.

Video Streaming.

Document Cameras.

Interactive Whiteboards.

Sound-Field Amplification.

Motivating Students through Technology and Integrated Learning.

Steve's Writer's Workshop Lesson.

Assistive Technology.

Portable Word Processors.

Word Predictors and Spell Checkers.

Text to Speech Software.

Scanned Books.

Speech Recognition Systems.

Software for Students with Reading and Writing Disabilities.

Scanner Pens.

Sources for Assistive Technology.

Appendix A. Sixty Recommended Web Sites for Teachers & Students Grades 3-8: A Wealth of Resources for Enhancing Literacy.

Appendix B. Building Community: A Two-Week Unit of Study.


"I enthusiastically endorse Rief and Heimburge's new book. It provides research-based practice that is reader friendly with strategies perfect for classroom use. A wealth of information for the new and experienced teacher is dealt with in this book."—Lesley Mandel Morrow, Ph.D., professor of literacy, Rutgers, and past president, International Reading Association

"An excellent resource in helping teachers become experts at what they are teaching, what the intended student learning is, and the skills, concepts, and habits we want our children to develop. This is a true must-read for all teachers of literacy."—Sonia Menendez, New York City Department of Education, local instructional superintendent, Region 1, Bronx, New York

"I enthusiastically endorse Rief and Heimburge's new book How to Reach and Teach All Children. The volume is comprehensive dealing with important issues about literacy instruction. It provides research-based practice that is reader friendly with strategies perfect for classroom use. It is a pleasure to see topics such as setting up the classroom environment, making oral language a priority, a thematic approach to literacy instruction as part of a book that deals with children in grades 3 to 8. Most often they are not dealt with in the upper elementary grades and are so important. A wealth of information for the new and experienced teacher is dealt with in this book."—Lesley Mandel Morrow, Ph.D., professor of literacy, Rutgers, and past president, International Reading Association

"It truly is a pleasure to have a ‘how-to’ guide to support teachers in implementing the components of the reading and writing workshop. The authors clearly scaffold teachers' learning by describing what each component is and how to provide concrete instructional strategies that will develop independent, life-long readers and writers. How to Reach and Teach All Children Through Balanced Literacy is an excellent resource in helping teachers become experts at what they are teaching, what the intended student learning is, and the skills, concepts, and habits we want our children to develop. This is a true must-read for all teachers of literacy."—Sonia Menendez, New York City Department of Education, local instructional superintendent, Region 1, Bronx, NY

"Is it possible to meet the needs of every student in the upper-grade language arts classroom? This dynamic book details every aspect of a balanced literacy program, as well as provides a wealth of strategies and activities that work! A must for any teacher trying to bridge the gap between slower-progressing and advanced learners."—Nancy Fetzer, M.A., author, Writing Connections and Reading Connections

"Sandra Rief and Julie Heimburge's years of experience teaching diverse learners have uniquely informed their work on balanced literacy, effectively addressing the ever-widening spectrum of needs in classrooms today. All my staff, both general and special education, will want to read this latest book."—Dayla Sims, Ed.D., principal, Roosevelt-Carson Elementary School, Lawndale, California

"This book should be on every teacher's desk; it is an invaluable resource for effective reading and writing strategies and helpful classroom ideas! Like a good piece of chocolate cake, it's rich in texture, has many delicious layers, and is chock full of tasty advice." —Arlyne Skolnik, reading teacher, Long Beach School District, New York

"Brimming with effective approaches to word study, vocabulary, and fluency development. Rief and Heimburge provide a menu of effective word study strategies; each one is instructionally sound and reliable. Collectively, this menu provides a blend of skill practice and challenge, while at the same time allowing for the social interaction children and young adolescents need. Offers a wealth of useful tips for teachers."—Susan Ebbers, reading specialist and author, Vocabulary Through Morphemes

"Sandra Rief and Julie Heimburge detail the complexity of reading and writing difficulties from a balanced view of research and the reality of teaching students who struggle to learn. Teachers will greatly benefit from the thorough coverage of the struggling reader within this text." —Joyce Wheaton, professor, Frostburg State University, and chair. Balanced Reading Instruction Special Interest Group, International Reading Association

  • An easily accessible research-based approach to balanced literacy.
  • Includes detailed descriptions on what a balanced literacy classroom looks like and how to create/enhance one.
  • Includes practical worksheets, activities, and other tools for classroom use.
  • Presents content reading strategies across subject areas.