Welcome to the New Balanced Literacy Program!

Dr. Margaret Policastro and her team of Balanced Literacy Coaches are ecstatic to present you with the Balanced Literacy Program website created for administrators, teachers, parents and of course, students.  The program, funded by a NCLB grant since 2010 from The Illinois of Higher Education Grant (IBHE), was developed with goals of providing quality, creative, efficient, and socially-just literacy education for children.

For important details about implementing a Balanced Literacy Program in your school, including why balanced literacy is so important, visit our pages for: AdministratorsTeachers, and Parents 

For more information on this program and the IBHE grant, please visit our history page. Here you may follow the timeline in how the New Balanced Literacy program has been developed and  refined, using empirical evidence and theoretical ideas, and grown into the expert program it has become today. 

For those interested in pursuing a Master's in Reading with Roosevelt University, you may find more information here.
For a review of the August 4th NBL Conference, please go to Creating Balanced Literacy Schools: Developmental Moments. For those who attended, be on the look out for your picture!
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A background of the balanced literacy model:

Literacy has been presented through the lens of numerous theories, techniques, and objectives. Through the close examination of these, literacy education specialists have discovered key components required for literacy development and the value of a balanced approach. These key components, which make up the balanced literacy model, and discussed in The New Balanced Literacy School: Implementing Common Core (2015), “Include the home and community, library involvement, structured classroom plans, read-alouds, guided reading, shared reading, and independent reading and writing (Fountas and Pinnell, 1996) which centers on the idea of student-centered, individualized, and flexible instructional practices. Additionally, the approach of balanced literacy, as discussed in Dr. Policastro's (2015) text, “assumes reading and writing achievement are developed through instruction and support in multiple environments” where the goal is not for children to develop a “skill broken into isolated steps, but as a lifelong learning process that promotes higher-order thinking, problem solving, and reasoning”.  Because of this need for support in multiple environments, a balanced literacy approach requires a school-wide initiative including students, teachers, administrators, and parents.

Language and literacy connection:

With the advancement of literacy education came the connection of language to literacy and the rising challenge of the role language development holds within literacy instruction. Halliday’s (1993) language-based theory of learning emphasizes learning through language, i.e. learning about language to inform all of literacy instruction. This awareness encouraged an instructional shift and the development of classroom discourse, or classroom discussion, as a vital tool in literacy education. Implementing discourse within instructional plans allow teachers and students to have rich conversations in small or large groups, pairs of students, and even student-led. Discourse takes on many forms in the classroom and resources such as  Word Walls or Language Walls , which can provide the foundation for a debate center discussion. In educating and preparing students about the concepts through the word or language wall, a teacher can introduce and guide students in a rich and thoughtful debate discussions while promoting social dialogue within a safe environment. In summary, the discourse instructional shift, and a teacher’s skills in using language to inform, guide, and scaffold all instruction is important and necessary for higher-level thinking, and in providing a catalyst for constructing meaning and comprehension within the student’s literacy development. 


The New Balanced Literacy Model:

Instructors have found the traditional model of balanced literacy to be effective for English language learners (ELLs) and those students struggling with literacy development. With the new balanced literacy model, ELLs have more support in language development as the tenets of this new model adopts language and social discourse as a foundation in all instruction. Additionally, the new approach supports the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Illinois and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) by challenging students in reading, comprehending, and analyzing more complex and informational text.

In encouraging language development first, and focusing on culture through utilizing stories, books, or authentic writing, students have more opportunities to hear and use language to improve their skills and comprehension. The new balanced literacy model fulfills these objectives through new Read-Alouds with a focus on social discourse, guided reading, movement from word walls to language walls, and new language and literacy centers to promote team work. All of these new changes center on the use of language, allowing the teacher to observe interactions one-on-one as well as in groups as students use language among each other.

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The New Balanced Literacy Model:

Instructors have found the traditional model of balanced literacy to be effective for English language learners (ELLs) and those students struggling with literacy development. With the new balanced literacy model, ELLs have more support in language development as the tenets of this new model adopts language and social discourse as a foundation in all instruction. Additionally, the new approach supports the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Illinois and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) by challenging students in reading, comprehending, and analyzing more complex and informational text.

In encouraging language development first, and focusing on culture through utilizing stories, books, or authentic writing, students have more opportunities to hear and use language to improve their skills and comprehension. The new balanced literacy model fulfills these objectives through new Read-Alouds with a focus on social discourse, guided reading, movement from word walls to language walls, and new language and literacy centers to promote team work. All of these new changes center on the use of language, allowing the teacher to observe interactions one-on-one as well as in groups as students use language among each other.

A metaphor for the New Tenets of Balanced Literacy: 


Tenets of New BL

Index for common documents

Throughout this website there are numerous presentations and resource guides for developing and maintaining a balanced literacy school. For your easy access, we have also listed these downloadable links below. You may also use the search function found in the menu bar to find specific resources such as "formative feedback" or "exit slips". 

Common documents for Educators: 

Common documents for Administrators: 




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Index for common documents

Throughout this website there are numerous presentations and resource guides for developing and maintaining a balanced literacy school. For your easy access, we have also listed these downloadable links below. You may also use the search function found in the menu bar to find specific resources such as "formative feedback" or "exit slips". 

Common documents for Educators: 

Common documents for Administrators: 




Reference: 

Policastro, M., McTague, B.(2015). The New Balanced Literacy School: Implementing Common Core. Eau Claire, WI: Maupin House Publishing, Inc. by Capstone Professional.