Nature Play On Vancouver Island

Nature Kindergarten On Vancouver Island

A Balanced Literacy Program

I was asked yesterday what does a  balanced literacy program include. So I am putting the question out there for you. What do you include in your literacy program?

I love my literacy program but also know that there are still lots of great strategies that I can learn and integrate into my program. So even though I am happy with my literacy program part of my summer professional reading includes two books Talking, Drawing and Writing by Martha Horn & Mary Ellen Giacobbe and In Pictures and In Words by Katie Wood Ray.

I believe that a strong, balanced literacy program includes
-independent reading and writing (choice of topic/book)
-shared reading and writing
-guided reading and writing
-modeled reading and writing
-reading to someone, with someone and being read to
-oral language
-support family literacy
-student choice
-word study
But as Katie Wood Ray says, it is not just what you teach but how you teach that is important. I love my literacy program because it is fun to teach and also elicits a powerful response from the students. Right up until the final day of school my Kinders wanted to continue with writing workshop, had a big stack of books in the read aloud bin and did not want to give up their reading folders. Change is good-- so here is what I have been reading and liking in Talking, Drawing and Writing

Begin with stories. Modeling and then guiding students to tell stories shows them that they have something to write about. I had
not thought to do that. Yes, I tell stories and so do the kids. But I
had not linked them explicitly to their writing. In the book
the teacher spent eleven minutes guiding a student to tell a story
that he could write. They practised every day with the teacher
scaffolding using paraphrasing, repeating and reorganizing the
oral story alongside the speaker. It sounds powerful.

Here's my dilemma. When will I do this? I see that it is important but my writing workshop is pretty tight and I'm not sure that I want to give anything up.

There are way too many words and no pictures (yet??) but here
are highlights of my literacy program for Kindergarten. I'm wondering if it would be useful to have one blog about each component of a literacy program accompanied by tips to organize, introduce, photos and examples.

Support family literacy. Once our routines are established families (including younger siblings) are invited into the classroom every morning for family reading. Then in October I begin to send home weekly bookbags with about six books in each bag. I have thirty bags that rotate through each family. My blog also has a link to a family literacy site.

Teach letter names and sounds. I have a few approaches that I use throughout the day. For example, we have daily printing practice using dry erase boards. I begin the year with drawing lines, zig zags and circles before I introduce letters.

Letter names and sounds are revisited during interactive writing, guided writing and writing workshop. I make a name chart in abc order that I use during interactive writing. I also create a name word wall that stays up all year and constantly reference it. We have daily literacy stations that include letter names and sounds.

Interactive Writing begins with a mini lesson and then writing a story together. The year begins with me drawing a picture and the students helping me to compose the story. The year ends with students drawing the picture and writing the story. This is an excellent strategy for teaching letter sounds, sharing the pen, scaffolds students with both reading & writing as well as teaches concepts of print. It is collaborative and very popular.

Guided Writing begins once the Kinders understand their job, know the routine and where resources are that they may need. This leaves me free to work with small groups doing guided writing.

Reading and Writing student conferences begin in January when students are starting to mature and manage themselves during play. This enables me to meet briefly with students to nurture self assessment using classroom generated critera. They can set goals, reflect upon what they have accomplished.

Literacy Stations begin in October and run until mid-June. The early stations include lots of alphabet work like bingo, stamping, sorting letters, alphabet puzzles. Later the stations include letter sounds work, small words, rhyme and patterns. Students work with a classmate for about ten minutes. I try to run literacy stations before or after a break.

Read Aloud happens many times a day. I have a focus story that I read aloud and then sometimes later for shared reading. This is an excellent opportunity to model fluent reading, expose the Kinders to superb literature, build a community of readers, encourage conversations about books, words, prediction and much more!

Shared Reading also happens many times a day but I always have one focus story that I read over a few days. I like to use oversize books for shared reading but regular trade books are fine as well. I also like to put small copies at the listening centre and on the book shelf to provide multiple levels of support for the Kinders.

During shared reading, we may read the text together, do my turn/your turn, I may read and pause and they will end my sentence. We have conversations about the story or elements that they have notice such as rhyme, compare the story with another or summerize what we have learned later during interactive writing. This strategy promotes reading comprehension, word knowledge and contributes to a sense of story structure.

Storytelling is a powerful method to introduce stories and is non-threatening way for younger students to retell stories. I always begin with stories about myself during Community Time (a part of our day where each child can share one short story) and when I am modeling during Interactive Writing. But over the past few years I have taken many storytelling workshops including Mother Goose and have integrated it into my daily practice. Children love to hear simple stories which include repetitive phrases, actions and noises. Storytelling helps children with language acquisition, recognizing patterns, active listening, story structure and nurtures a love of stories.

Independent Reading happens every day at least once formally but many times by choice. By October my Kinders have reading folders or boxes which hold about five small emergent readers that we have practiced together. They spread out all over the room and find a quiet spot, spread out their books and then practice reading.

The reading boxes enable me to provide books at all different levels so that they are reading books which they know about 95% of the words. I use a variety of books some from sites like Hubbards Cupboard, Pre-Kinders, classroom resources, district book bins and our school book room. The consumable books are sent home for family reading and continued independent practice when the folders starts to fill up.

Peer Reading happens every day at least once formally but many times by choice. The kinders can choose books from their boxes or from classroom book bins or displays. They choose a classmate and sit together anywhere in the room to read for a few minutes. Over the year their stamina grows and they read for longer periods.

Performance is a powerful motivator for Kinders to re-read text. I have songs that we read together and then they sing without me. My job moves from teacher to audience very quickly. We keep the songs and sing them all year even though the pile grows thick. I also have two pocket charts with fun poems that we read together and then once they know them they read alone or with partners.

Books practised together during Shared Reading often become performance pieces and pairs of Kinders choose to read the books independently. The Kinders perform for me, their parents, big buddies, classroom volunteers and guests like our administrator.
I also have authors/readers chair where a Kinder can choose to read to their peers. But I don't usually begin until the class is reading. Sometimes it begins in October but often not until January.

We do emergent reader's theatre and love to perform for visitors.

Peer Conversations happens once daily and is used as a transition after lunch. The Kinders sit knee to knee, lean in and just have a conversation. Although there are many focused talking strategies  such as ab partner talk used during teaching moments, this is just self directed conversation.

We all seem to be on the same page and are blogging about literacy. Here are two "must visit" sites with super great tips.

Classroom-libraryHere is a link for excellent tips to strengthen your classroom collection of books for both independent and guided reading. This site has plenty of literacy, science and math advice. Very easy to follow and lots of pictures.

Thanks, Kathryn.

Kindergarten Kindergarten

Kathleen over at Growing Kinders has written an excellent post about evironmental print word walls. Hop over to her site for an informative and helpful read.  Thanks Kathleen

abc come learn with me                           Growing Kinders          



  1. Wow - this is a great post! I need to print it and re-read it. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Thank you, I always worry when there is so much print! (and not photos)

    Liz :)

  3. I am definitely saving this post. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Heather (

  4. You're welcome.If you have any questions please ask, I will be expanding on each piece one at a time during the summer.

    Liz :)

  5. Can I tell you how long I have been waiting to find a post like this. I've been looking for a way to improve my literacy program, and you have given me such great ideas. Thank you :)


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