Balanced Literacy Essentials: Weaving Theory into Practice for Successful Instruction in Reading, Writing and Talk is a comprehensive overview of an effective classroom literacy program. And when I say comprehensive, I mean comprehensive. Authors Michelann Parr and Terry Campbell give an overview of the goals and methods used in the classroom literacy block, provide ideas and lessons for building a classroom community that fosters literacy learning and instruction, explain how to set up a classroom for literacy workshops, examine how to promote accountable talk, explain how to deliver effective modelled reading lessons, and how to move effectively from modelled to independent reading, how to run an effective writers’ workshop, how to teach poetry and drama, and how to turn students into storytellers. And they do all that (and do it well) in 144 pages.
In addition to the theory and practical lesson plans listed above, Parr and Campbell offer classroom management tips, assessment techniques, sample success criteria, strategies for teaching struggling students, and lists of relevant texts (including non-fiction and visual texts) for each topic.
How I wish I could have read Balanced Literacy Essentials the summer before I started teaching. It not only would have consolidated and organized what I had learned in teachers college, the practical advice would have given me so much confidence as I entered the classroom.
For an experienced teacher, some of this book will be review, but that’s not a bad thing. Reading this book was like a check-up of my teaching. It allowed me to reflect on my practice, tweak some things that I was letting slip, and gave me many new ideas and strategies that I am eager to try. I was especially excited by the extensive list of reading response tasks, which are organized according to the Multiple Intelligences.
Parr and Campbell point out that “teachers must have a large bank of strategies at their fingertips”. This book gives us those strategies in a concise and effective format that will work well for any teacher, new or experienced.
Rosemary Renton is a member of the Simcoe County Teacher Local.