By: Lourdes B. Viterbo, PhD
Matalatala Elementary School
Literacy is a word that we always use as educators. This simply means the ability to read and write. Reading and writing are skills that go hand in hand. If you would notice, a child learns to speak first through listening, followed by reading then last is writing. As per research conducted in the USA, it has been found that a child becomes fully literate and numerates between 550 and 600 hours of instruction.
With that being said, teaching reading and writing must be done through different and varied approaches as there is no one size fit for our children to learn. A specific language approach is needed as not all languages are equal – specifically in English – where there are more than 44, with some variation dependent on accent and articulation. These 44 English phonemes are represented by the 26 letters of the alphabet individually and in combination.
One technique to consider in teaching literacy is what we call a balanced literacy approach, which as they say, is the perfect combination between whole language and phonics. According to eleducation.org, “Balanced literacy” is a term that grew out of the “reading wars” of the 1980s between the “whole language” and “phonics-first” camps, with the idea that a combination of the two approaches would work best.
To be able to apply this in our classroom, we need to consider teacher-led reading, writing instruction, and independent learning. Through the balance of teaching the learners the basics of reading – from phonological awareness to combining sounds; then letting our students write and work and learn on their own, balanced literacy is going to give our learners the best of both ways of learning – one that is guided and the other – independent.
Several components are to be considered in using this approach in the classroom which are: read-aloud, shared reading, guided reading, independent reading, and word study. Imagine a baby being guided by their mother in learning their first set of words, in this case, students are to learn new words by hearing them first from their teachers. Learners are also to do a word study where they are to write and learn different phonetic sounds, spelling, and vocabulary. Through this, they would be able to compare and contrast the features of each word and what are its similarities and differences.
After reading aloud, students are to do shared reading with their teacher. An interactive reading experience that lets the students share the reading of a book – which was chosen independently by the learner – then be guided and supported by the teacher. In turn, the teacher shall demonstrate the skills of proficient readers, including reading with fluency and expression.
Another strategy within a balanced literacy approach is independent reading. This is where it gets to the exciting part of letting our learners apply their strategies and skills in reading a text while at the same time developing their love for reading and discovering their interests.
We all want as educators our learners to master these skills that would benefit them in the long run as these are essential to function well in our society. As a teacher, what has been discussed here is just one approach among the hundreds that we could apply to our learners. The most important thing that we need to remember is that whatever approach we choose, we should all have the same result and that is literate students who are ready to face and conquer the world with their skills.