Creating Balanced Literacy Schools: Developmental Moments

Journey of The New Balanced Literacy Program

The New Balanced Literacy Program began in 1987 with The Roosevelt University Summer Reading Clinic initiative. This clinic, which provides the best practices of literacy education for primary-aged students as well as practicum experience for student-teachers, rocketed forward in 2010 with a federal grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. This grant allowed our team to partner with schools across Chicago and the surrounding area where we have put our time, passion, and empirical expertise, into collaborating with teachers and administrators in creating balanced literacy schools. The extensive developmental moments came with many hurdles and division, but most importantly, a great deal of support, teamwork, and mentoring. Developing partnerships, relationships, and friendships have been most rewarding along with observing schools transforming into places where a culture of literacy permeates through-out the community. Children, teachers, administrators, and parents all played a critical and essential role in making literacy a number one priority. In the following timeline we invite you to follow along our journey to gain an appreciation of the efforts put into this program and an understanding of our long dedication in providing the necessary resources and education to schools and children. 


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Journey of The New Balanced Literacy Program

The New Balanced Literacy Program began in 1987 with The Roosevelt University Summer Reading Clinic initiative. This clinic, which provides the best practices of literacy education for primary-aged students as well as practicum experience for student-teachers, rocketed forward in 2010 with a federal grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. This grant allowed our team to partner with schools across Chicago and the surrounding area where we have put our time, passion, and empirical expertise, into collaborating with teachers and administrators in creating balanced literacy schools. The extensive developmental moments came with many hurdles and division, but most importantly, a great deal of support, teamwork, and mentoring. Developing partnerships, relationships, and friendships have been most rewarding along with observing schools transforming into places where a culture of literacy permeates through-out the community. Children, teachers, administrators, and parents all played a critical and essential role in making literacy a number one priority. In the following timeline we invite you to follow along our journey to gain an appreciation of the efforts put into this program and an understanding of our long dedication in providing the necessary resources and education to schools and children. 



1987: Development of the Tenets of Literacy Model

  • Roosevelt Summer Reading Clinic starts
  • Interactive Teacher Read-alouds implemented
  • Literacy "block" or routine developed
  • School-wide literacy system: Focus on individual teacher experience with students over systematic school changes
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1990-2010: Refining our Model: 


The beginning stages of refining our model of balanced literacy began in 1990 and continued to 2010. 

1990-2010: Refining our Model: 


The beginning stages of refining our model of balanced literacy began in 1990 and continued to 2010. 

2010: IBHE Grant

Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) Improving Quality Teaching Grant Project
The year the Improving Quality Teaching (ITQ) grant began was a year of great milestones for the Balanced Literacy Program. Since receiving a federal grant through the IBHE for ITQ, our work evolved into collaboration with school administrators and teachers at numerous school across the city of Chicago where we have implemented our work from the Reading Clinic into the classroom.


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Roosevelt partners with Chicago-area schools

Multiple in-school libraries began an initial focus which evolved into:
  • The Classroom Library
  • School-wide professional development library for educators and administrators
  • Parent Library (Libraries or "hallbraries"  are developed for guardian's easy access to important books) 
School-wide literacy system shifts to an accessibility system: Focus is on access to books.

Grant Development

Development included: 

  • Schools formed Professional Learning Communities (PLC), comprised of literacy teams and grade-level teams with Roosevelt University literacy coach assistance. See Administrators Creating a Balanced Literacy School for details. 
  • School-wide literacy system: Shift to an organizational system with a focus on literacy and grade-level teams

Teacher and student tools created: 

School-wide literacy system: Shift to an instructional system with focus on the tenets of balanced literacy 

The New Balanced Literacy School: Implementing Common Core4-in-1 Literacy Block110 Minutes of Literacy



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Schools trained to use tenets of New Balanced Literacy which included: 
  1. New Read-Alouds 
  2. New Guided Reading 
  3. New Centers
  4. New Independent Reading and Writing 

Training implemented through various workshops and coaches’ collaboration with individual teachers and school teams. 
  • 2) The New Guided Reading:  Common Core State Standards (CCSS) requires that students in grade two and above read challenging texts during instruction. Students should be reading books independently to build stamina, fluency, and reading skills. In many cases, when the interest of the student is matched, the complexity of the text becomes secondary. Teachers careful selection of challenging texts should also come with more time for students to read and the appropriate scaffolding for students to understand these challenging texts. 
  • 3) The New Centers: Language and literacy centers are areas within the classroom where students work in small groups to explore literacy activities while the teacher provides small-group and guided reading instruction. Centers can introduce a new skill, concept, or idea, or they can be used to reteach and reinforce a skill. The new centers have a clear focus on children solving problems at the centers while working in teams. There is deliberate attention on building arguments and finding evidence within the activity. Having a well-managed and maintained system for center assessment helps the students learn management and organization within the community. 
  • 4) The New Independent Reading and Writing: Within the CCSS of Illinois, there is a call for teachers across all curriculum to develop strategic instruction around literacy skills unique to their discipline. The emphasis on students reading more disciplinary subjects, and the new requirement that the student explain their reasoning through writing in those same subjects, requires that teachers become familiar with reading and writing across subjects.  In our balanced literacy model, there has always been a great emphasis on the reading of complex texts. The new model now fully embraces the new standards and inclusion of more nonfiction as well as authentic classic and contemporary literature.  

2011-2016: Instructional Shifts: Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) defined and implemented:

See Balanced Literacy For Teachers for more details in how the balanced literacy program has adapted to these shifts through the new balanced literacy program. 

School-wide literacy system: Shift to focus on CCSS

Teacher and student tools created: 



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2011-2016: Instructional Shifts: Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) defined and implemented:

See Balanced Literacy For Teachers for more details in how the balanced literacy program has adapted to these shifts through the new balanced literacy program. 

School-wide literacy system: Shift to focus on CCSS

Teacher and student tools created: 




2013-2016: Formative Assessment Defined

Data Collection, Feedback, and Self-monitoring

School-wide literacy system: Shift to an assessment system with focus on Formative Assessment 

Schools begin working with Professional Learning Communities (literacy and grade level teams) to assess and analyze formative data.

Internal impetus: IBHE push for Formative Assessment as a new focus 

Teacher Tools Created:

Formative Feedback for TeachersFormative Feedback: Student to StudentFormative feedback for students

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Formative feedback goes home

Exit slip 4 in 1

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The NBL Conference, Held August 4th, 2017 in downtown Chicago

On August 4th, 2017 The Best of Balanced Literacy and Formative Assessment Practices Conference was held in order to discuss the vital components of the New Balanced Literacy project and the hard work each school put into creating a balanced literacy environment. The conference was a huge success! We thank the support staff, presenters, coaches and others for the effort put forth to bring about such a successful endeavor. Indeed, it was the perfect way to celebrate the last 7 years and show case all of your expertise and experiences. 

Throughout the website you will find links to presentation documents provided at the conference. For quick access to presentation documents, please see the home page at Welcome to the New Balanced Literacy Program. Additionally, we encourage visiting Balanced Literacy Resources to print off classroom resources for the books distributed during the conference. 

Finally, see the slideshow below for pictures taken during this exciting day.  Creating a new balanced literacy school takes close collaboration and dedication among administrators and faculty. Within these images, we hope you can visually encompass the collaboration all of our presenters and attendees created this day. 

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The NBL Conference, Held August 4th, 2017 in downtown Chicago

On August 4th, 2017 The Best of Balanced Literacy and Formative Assessment Practices Conference was held in order to discuss the vital components of the New Balanced Literacy project and the hard work each school put into creating a balanced literacy environment. The conference was a huge success! We thank the support staff, presenters, coaches and others for the effort put forth to bring about such a successful endeavor. Indeed, it was the perfect way to celebrate the last 7 years and show case all of your expertise and experiences. 

Throughout the website you will find links to presentation documents provided at the conference. For quick access to presentation documents, please see the home page at Welcome to the New Balanced Literacy Program. Additionally, we encourage visiting Balanced Literacy Resources to print off classroom resources for the books distributed during the conference. 

Finally, see the slideshow below for pictures taken during this exciting day.  Creating a new balanced literacy school takes close collaboration and dedication among administrators and faculty. Within these images, we hope you can visually encompass the collaboration all of our presenters and attendees created this day. 

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

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