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Balanced Reading and Literacy Block Cause Problems in Intermediate Division (Middle School)

by Kay
(Ontario)

There are lots of articles preaching the glory of balanced literacy. I will leave the praising to them! To create a balanced debate about balanced literacy, one should also consider the following, particularly in the upper grades:

1-Much of the time which used to be devoted to other subjects, such as history, geography, and science has been gobbled up to accommodate balanced literacy blocks of time. Only five or six years ago, history and geography had a combined total of 250 minutes per week. Now we are expected to cover the same content in a mere 80 minutes. (True, to some extent it is possible to integrate language and history, but this is always required have a literacy focus.)

2-Unfortunately, usage of multiple intelligences seems to go by the wayside when guided reading groups occur; after all, it is difficult for the teacher to teach a guided lesson to one small group and oversee a "louder" activity like drama or an activity requiring materials at the same time.

Comments for Balanced Reading and Literacy Block Cause Problems in Intermediate Division (Middle School)

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Flaws of Balanced Literacy
by: Anonymous

I am a kindergarten teacher, I have resented the fact that this approach has been taken as the main resource of learning. I have had in the past many of my students developed reading and comprehension skills to a higher level than kinder. Why? this was done thanks to the freedom I was given in the past years to teach my little ones. Now, I have been asked to level and label every book in my classroom library; by doing this of course, I was asked to removed any books that are not at lavel for my students. What I know for a fact is that children are always interested in science books that are way up of their reading or comprehension level. My question is, why should I as an educator stop and discourage my students from learning even if is not a text that they can read? I believe that guided reading should take place in cases like this, to help the students understand what is that interesting book about.

Time Constraints
by: Karen

Kay brings up several important points made by classroom teachers using balanced literacy. (I'm assuming you are a middle school teacher, Kay, since you used the term "we are expected to.")

The first is the biggest complaint made about balanced literacy: time. It takes time to do all the additional reading and that time needs to come from other subjects. In Kay's school, geography gets less priority now; as the time allotted to it is only one-third what it used to be.

Obviously, if a child is truly a struggling reader that would be appropriate; because without a solid reading ability history and geography would not be as useful to an individual. However, most middle school student's are NOT struggling readers.

Kay's other point, which is also related to time, indicates that student's have less options for activities during the time frame when the teacher is reading with another group. Teachers often have to assign worksheets and silent reading activities to the other students. By the end of the day, all students have had less time to pursue artistic, verbal, or dramatic modes of learning.

This brings up other questions related to balanced literacy:
1. How long should it last? Is it possible that a school system could use balanced literacy in Kindergarten to 3rd grade without using it through all grades?

2. How do we decide how much time and resources should be dedicated to below-average students compared to average or above-average students. If my student was in the bottom 20% for reading ability, I would be glad to have the additional time spent on balanced literacy. But what about the other 80% of students. Should they be held back from other subjects and modes of learning?

For those homeschooling, these questions are easier to answer since one-on-one attention is given to each student. However, since many homeschoolers use curriculum that is modified from that used in classrooms, these issues will affect homeschool families indirectly.

Kay, thank you for sharing your thought-provoking insights based on your experiences.

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