Essay on Approaches to/Models of Balanced Literacy Instruction (BLI)


It is known that a Balanced Literacy Instruction is an effective curricular methodology that is specially designed to integrate different modalities of literacy instruction. The core of this model is an assessment-based planning (Cowen, 2003, p.7). The balanced literacy approach/model can be characterized by the use of authentic texts and the explicit skill instruction. The teacher develops and implements an effective and well-planned comprehensive literary program which reflects a gradual control. In this case, responsibility is shifted from the teacher to the students during the process of learning. According to J. David Cooper, Nancy D. Kiger, Michael D. Robinson, Jill Ann Slansky, and Kathryn H. Au (2011), the balanced, comprehensive approach to literacy instruction ensures that all the students in the group, including native speakers and second language learners can achieve success in literacy (p.16). Today researchers propose different approaches to/models of Balanced Literacy Instruction. The major goal of this paper is to discuss a BLI approach/model that meets the needs of a certain group of students, its foundation theory and the way an effective teacher would implement an instructional program based on this approach/model.


It is clear that each group of learners requires its balanced literacy approach/model because different students have different educational abilities, skills and level of training. According to Vicki L. Cohen and John E. Cowan (2007), by using balanced approach teachers should implement “specific activities that promote literacy within the classroom”ť (p.37).  In this case, literacy classroom will support all the students in the group in literacy development. The students will have an opportunity to use special techniques. According to the research, an effective balanced literacy program is focused on three categories of knowledge that the learners need to know. First of all, it is the so-called local knowledge about reading, including phonics, sound-symbol relationships to read and understand the meaning of words. Secondly, it is global knowledge about reading process, including understanding, interpretation, and responding to the text and the use of some strategies to help in understanding the text. Thirdly, it is the so-called “affective knowledge or love of reading”ť, including positive attitude and feelings and the great desire to read (Cohen & Cowan, p.37).

In our case, the Balanced Literacy Instruction approach/model meets the needs of the group of elementary students because the use of balanced literacy addresses the students’ learning styles. The BLI approach is based on such essential components as word study, guided reading, writing, comprehension strategy instruction, fluency and vocabulary instruction. Word study is focused on the students’ phonemic and phonological awareness skills that should be taught through systematic and explicit instruction.  Phonemic awareness gives an opportunity to notice and effectively work with individual sounds in different spoken words. Writing for elementary students is taught in a special Writer’s Workshop format, in which all students in the group learn to write daily using different activities that help the students in the organization of their thoughts to write on some topic. It may be a personal narrative, or an imaginative story, or writing about some non-fiction topics taken from science and social studies. In guided reading, students are divided into small groups and provided with a high level of support which is focused on the individual reading needs of each student. During guided reading, the students are guided in using not only the context, but also visual cues and structure cues in the stories in order to generate meaning.  Reading strategy instruction is based on comprehension.  The elementary students learn such strategies as visualizing, connecting and predicting, inferring and summarizing. They are asked to read daily for practicing the above mentioned strategies independently with different texts. They learn the major story elements: characters, setting, plot, etc. They work in whole group and small groups, and use paired reading and individual reading. (Metsala & Wharton-McDonald, 1997, p.518).

In our case, it will be better to use Bruner’s spiral curriculum (Kridel, 2010, p.808). Bruner’s model of the spiral curriculum is an effective element of educational philosophy which suggests that the students of this or that group should constantly return to the basic ideas as new concepts and subjects are added to the curriculum.

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