The most productive literacy blocks give students opportunities to work with their teacher in large and small groups, work with small groups of peers, and work independently. Research findings on early literacy development strongly recommend an extended period for instruction—at least 90 minutes. There should be limited interruptions, and all students should have opportunities to engage in different reading and writing activities. The actual number of minutes in a school’s reading block and the needs of students will determine how teachers divide the time devoted to reading and writing.
Reading Block Activities
It is essential that balanced literacy blocks include the following activities:
- Explicit instruction and practice on foundational reading skills such as recognizing and manipulating word parts presented orally (phonemic awareness), understanding letter-sound relationships (phonics), blending letter-sound patterns to produce words (decoding), or understanding common spelling patterns (encoding).
- Targeted, whole-class reading or writing instruction in a teacher-led lesson as a precursor to the longer period of independent or small-group work; during the mini-lesson, the teacher (1) ties new content or skills to what has been learned previously; (2) states the teaching point that will be presented (e.g., use of dialogue in narrative writing); (3) models or explains the teaching point, usually with some textual support; (4) asks students to practice the teaching point with partners; and (5) restates the focus of the mini-lesson; the teacher then sends students to their independent and small-group work.
- Small-group instruction, during which teachers meet with small groups and other students work independently, work with partners, work in centers, or practice their developing skills.
- Print or digital practice activities are available.
- Center work reinforces what students have been learning.
- Teachers check in with and debrief to ensure that students are maximizing their time.
- A variety of interactive and independent reading and writing activities, for example:
- Read alouds, during which teachers model reading and engage students actively in asking and answering questions
- Instruction to build vocabulary and background knowledge
- Writing independently or with a partner
- Engaging in shared reading with a partner
- Reading independently in trade books (~15–20 minutes) with teachers monitoring the reading
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