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How to Reach and Teach All Children Through Balanced Literacy

Sandra F. Rief, Julie A. Heimburge

ISBN: 978-0-787-98805-0 August 2007 Jossey-Bass 352 Pages


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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About This Book vii

About the Authors ix

Acknowledgments xi

How This Book Maps to Standards xxv


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

Components of Balanced Literacy 2

Balancing Quality Literature and Other Resources in Our Libraries 3

Balancing Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, and Word Study 3

Integrating Content in the Literacy Block 3

Balancing Instructional Approaches 4

Balancing Learning Style Preferences of Students 4

Balancing Grouping in the Classroom 5

Balancing Teacher Talk and Student Talk 5

Balancing Teacher-Directed and Student-Directed Activities 6

Balancing Formal and Informal Assessments 6

Establishing a Community of Learners 6


The Look of the Classroom Library Today 12

Selecting Books 12

Choosing Quality Books 12

Newbery Award Books 12

Picture Books and the Caldecott Award Winners 13

Young Readers Choice Awards 13

Choosing Books that Are ‘‘Just Right’’ 13

Involving Students in Book Selection 16

Obtaining More Books for Your Library 16

A Classroom Visit to a Bookstore 17

Making Space for Reluctant Readers’ Needs 17

Organizing the Classroom Library 18

Categorizing Books 18

Enlisting Student Help for Categorizing 19

Labeling Books That Fit 20

Keeping Books for Yourself 20

Knowing Thy Books 21

Displaying Books 21

Lending and Keeping Track of Books 21

Introducing New Books 22

Marking Books 22

Protecting Books 23

Keeping a Fresh Look to the Library 23

Dealing with a Tired-Looking Library 23

Checking Up on What Students Are Reading 23

Tips for Parents 23

Not-So-User-Friendly Public Libraries or Bookstores 24


Activity 2.1. Independent Reading Books: Selection and Evaluation 25

Activity 2.2. Reading Log 26

Activity 2.3. Home Reading Log 27


Setting Up the Reading Workshop 30

Setting Goals for Reading 30

Managing the Literacy Workshop 30

Assessment in the Literacy Workshop. 30

Selecting Quality Books 31

Strategies for Reading 32

Whole-Class Instruction 32

A Deeper Look at the Read-Aloud 32

A Deeper Look at Shared Reading 33

Guided Reading 34

Literacy Stations 35

Strategies to Help Students Improve Literacy 37

Accountable Talking 37

Graphic Organizers 38

Conferring with Students 38

Conferring Baskets 39


Activity 3.1. Conferring Notes for Reading 41

Activity 3.2. Book Recommendation Form 42


Setting Up the Writing Workshop 44

The Six Traits of Writing and How They Help Direct a Writing Program 47

Balancing Teacher-Directed and Choice Writing 47

Developing Writing Stamina 48

Writing Essentials 48

Establishing Audience 48

Writing in Different Genres 49

Helping Students with Topic Sentences 49

Conventions: How Important Are They? 49

Wall Reading 50

Word Banks 50

Spelling Difficulties 51

Demonstration of Writing 51

The Writing Conference: The Importance of Talk 51

Writing Conference Guidelines 52

Tips for Volunteers 53

Use of the Rubric 53

Publishing 54

Student Reading and Writing Portfolio 55

Raising the Bar 56

Keeping Parents Informed 56

Celebrating Writing 57

Handwriting for Older Students 58


Activity 4.1. Conferring Notes for Writing 59


What Is Nonfiction? 61

Why Teach Nonfiction Explicitly? 62

Entry Points for Nonfiction 62

Learning About Text Structures 64

What Are Common Text Structures? 64

Teaching Text Structures 65

A Deeper Look at Description 66

Sequence or Time Order Through Biographies 66

The Structure of Cause and Effect 68

Text Features 69

Delving into Text Features 69

Instructional Activities to Ensure Understanding of Text Features 70

Skills and Strategies for Accessing Nonfiction 70

Vocabulary in Nonfiction 70

Skimming and Scanning 71

Highlighting and Using Sticky Notes 72

Technology: Benefits and Challenges 73

Supporting Struggling Readers and Writers During This Study 73

Nonfiction Assessment Practices: Baseline and Finale 74


Activity 5.1. Text Feature Activity 75

Activity 5.2. Do You Know Your Text Structures? 76

Activity 5.3. Feature and Structure Search 77

Activity 5.4. Text Structure or Text Feature for a Children’s Book 79


What Is Word Study? 81

The Teacher’s Role in Word Study 82

Spelling 83

Developmental Stages of Spelling 83

Characteristics of Proficient Spellers 84

High-Frequency and Commonly Misspelled Words 85

Instructional Activities 86

Vocabulary 90

Instruction: The Big Picture 90

Strategies, Activities, and Scaffolds 91

Vocabulary Charts and Lists 93

Reading Fluency 94

Factor That Contribute to Fluency 94

Strategies to Build Fluency 95

Interventions 96


Activity 6.1. A Study in Homophones 97

Activity 6.2. Vocabulary Detective Work 99


Speaking and Listening: Natural Skills? 102

Communication Skills as Part of the Core Curriculum 102

The Whole Group: A Scary Place 102

The Magnificent Seven. 103

Start Small, with Opportunities for Students to Speak 103

Strategies for Practicing Oral Language 104

Quick Talks 104

Prompts for Talking with Partners or Small Groups 104

One-on-One Conferencing 105

Accountable Talk 105

Book Talks and Book Clubs 105

Commercials 106

Fishbowl for Peer Modeling 106

Talking Before, During, and After Writing 106

Use of a Microphone in the Classroom 107

Writer’s, Author’s, or Reader’s Chair 107

Storytelling or Acting Out A Scene 107

Hot Seat 108

Tongue Twisters 108

Performing Poems 108

Guidelines for Performing a Poem 109

Group Poetry 109

Newscast Creation 110

Interviews to Build Confidence in Speaking 110

Oral Language with Puppetry 111

Reader’s Theater for Literature and History Presentations 111

Fun with Role Playing 112

Teaching Board Games to Peers 112

Demonstrating Science Experiments 112

Formal Speeches 112

Accommodations for Reluctant Speakers 114

Oral Language Assessment 114

An After-School Speakers’ or Drama Club 114


Activity 7.1. Cereal Box Book Report and Persuasive Commercial 115

Activity 7.2. Interview Planning Sheet 116

Activity 7.3. Science Experiment Planning Sheet: Oral Presentation 117

Activity 7.4. Speech Plan Sheet 118

Activity 7.5. Monthly Oral Language Presentations 119

Activity 7.6. Oral Language Presentation: A How-to Speech 120

Activity 7.7. Oral Language Teacher Evaluation 122


Establishing a Theme 123

Getting Help from Other Teachers 124

Involving Parents 124

Modifying to Meet the Needs of Students 124

Getting Started 124

Survival as a Theme 125

Why Survival? 125

Fitting Survival into the Curriculum 125

Getting Started with Grade-Level Novels 125

Comparing Books to Movies 126

Island Survival: A Sample Plan 127

Supplementary Activities 129

Using Fact Cards 130

Organizing a Survival Book Club 130

Keeping a Response Journal 130

Incorporating Nonfiction 131

Using Audiobooks and Compact Discs 131

Tying In Other Subject Areas 131

Other Resources for a Survival Theme Study 133


Activity 8.1. A Group Newspaper About Brian Robeson’s Adventure in Hatchet and The River 134

Activity 8.2. A Letter from Character to Character 136

Activity 8.3. Prejudice and Discrimination Based on The Cay 137

Activity 8.4. The Perfect Island 138

Activity 8.5. World War II Project Based on Number the Stars by Lois Lowry 140

Activity 8.6. World War II Project Teacher or Student Evaluation 143

Activity 8.7. Survival Theme: Critical Reading and Interviewing 144


Author Studies to Produce Stronger Readers and Writers 145

Chris Van Allsburg, Author and Illustrator 145

Avi: A Versatile Writer 147

Katherine Paterson: Comparing and Contrasting 148

Digging Deeper into Story Elements 148

Character Study 149

Developing Character Sketch Cards 152

Symbolism in Because of Winn Dixie 153

Similes in The Thirteenth Floor 155

Genre Studies 155


Activity 9.1. Creating a Flip Book: Story Elements 156

Activity 9.2. Flip Book for Charlotte Doyle: Story Element Response to Literature 157

Activity 9.3. Compare and Contrast Two Books by the Same Author 158

Activity 9.4. Just a Few Reading and Writing Terms You Should Know 159

Activity 9.5. Character Chart 163

Activity 9.6. Character Sketch Card (Front) 164

Activity 9.7. Character Sketch Card (Back) 165

Activity 9.8. Author’s Writing Tools and Story Elements 166

Activity 9.9. Monthly Genre Study Schedule 168

Activity 9.10. Book Jacket 169

Activity 9.11. Picture Book Study: Caldecott Books Recording and Information Sheet 170


‘‘Literature Circles’’ or ‘‘Books Clubs’’: What Shall We Call Them? 173

What Is a Book Club? 174

The Benefits of Book Clubs 174

Putting Book Clubs into Practice 175

Timing for Book Clubs 175

Ideas for Grouping 175

Choosing Materials to Read 176

Getting Started 177

Setting the Schedule 177

Student Roles in Book Clubs 178

Managing Book Clubs 178

Rules of Etiquette 178

Book Club Folders. 179

Questions to Bring Out the Voices 179

Keeping the Discussion Moving 180

Using Sticky Notes 180

Response Journals and Literature Logs 180

Charting 181

Troubleshooting 182

Accommodations for Special Needs 182

Culminating Activities and Assessment 183

Variations of Book Clubs 183

Building a Schoolwide Reading Community 184

Buddy Classes 186

One Big Book Club 186


Activity 10.1. Book Club Reading Schedule 187

Activity 10.2. Book Club Roles 188

Activity 10.3. Book Club Daily Evaluation Sheet 190

Activity 10.4. Book Club Discussion Notes 191

Activity 10.5. Book Club Group Planning Sheet 192

Activity 10.6. ‘‘Fat Questions’’ to Keep Your Book Club Conversation Going 193

Activity 10.7. Book Club Culminating Activities 194

Activity 10.8. Rubric for Book Club Presentation and Project 198

Activity 10.9. Book Club End-of-Unit Student Evaluation Sheet 199


Reading Problems and Research 202

Struggling Older Readers 203

Learning Disabilities and Other Brain-Based Reading Problems 204

Dyslexia 204

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) 205

The Gender Gap in Reading 206

Strategies for Working with Struggling Readers 206

Struggles with Writing 207

Planning and Organization 208

Memory 208

Language Processing 208

Graphomotor Skills 209

Spelling 210

Other Mechanics 210

Editing 210

Self-Monitoring 211

Speed of Processing 211

The Teacher’s Role 211

Strategies for Bypassing and Accommodating Writing Difficulties 211

Research-Based Literacy Intervention Programs 213


Characteristics of Good Readers 217

Metacognitive Readers 218

Prereading Comprehension Strategies 219

Prereading Instructional Strategies 219

Prereading Metacognitive Strategies 219

During-Reading Comprehension Strategies 220

During-Reading Instructional Strategies 220

During-Reading Metacognitive Strategies 221

After-Reading Comprehension Strategies 224

After-Reading Instructional Strategies 224

After-Reading Metacognitive Strategies 225

Cognitive Reading Comprehension Strategies 226

Graphic Outlines or Graphic Aids 227

Text Structure 228

Expository or Informational Text Structure 228

Narrative Text Structure 228

Active Reading and Discussion Formats and Activities 229


Activity 12.1. Mapping What I Read 230

Activity 12.2. Narrative Text Organization Chart 231

Activity 12.3. Narrative Text Organization Script 232


The Importance of Modeling 234

Guided Writing 234

Strategies to Help with Writing 234

Prewriting 234

Checklists 236

Planning Forms and Graphic Organizers 236

Drafting 237

Revising 237

Editing 239

Publishing 239

Formats and Genres 239

Paragraphs 239

Powerful Leads and Closings 240

Summaries 240

Response to Literature 241

Letters 241

Narrative 241

Story Grammar 241

The Narrative Organizer Chart 242

Expository Writing 242

Research Papers 243

Persuasive Letters and Essays 243

The Use of Rubrics 244

Note Taking 244

Lecture Notes 245

Textbook Notes 246


Activity 13.1. Persuasive Five-Paragraph Essay Rubric 247


Programs for Use in the Classroom 250

Prewriting Software 250

Word Processing 250

Desktop Publishing 251

Multimedia 251

Uses for PowerPoint in Balanced Literacy 252

PowerPoint Web Sites 256

Audiobooks 256

Electronic Books (E-Books) 257

Electronic Mail (E-Mail) 257

The Internet 258

Online Instruction (E-Learning) 258

Handheld Devices 259

Visual Technology 259

Digital Cameras 259

Digital Video. 260

Video Streaming 260

Document Cameras 261

Interactive Whiteboards 262

Sound-Field Classroom Amplification 262

Assistive Technology 266

Portable Word Processors 266

Word Predictors and Spell-Checkers 266

Text-to-Speech Software 267

Scanned Books 267

Speech Recognition Systems 267

Software for Students with Reading and Writing Disabilities 267

Scanner Pens 268

Sources for Assistive Technology 268

Appendix A Sixty Recommended Web Sites for Teachers and Students, Grades 3 Through 8: A Wealth of Resources for Enhancing Literacy 269

Appendix B Building Community: A Two-Week Unit of Study 275

References 287

Name Index 299

Subject Index 303

"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.