By Stacey Bomser
Students enter kindergarten with varying degrees of reading readiness. At Indian Trace Elementary, teachers have adopted a balanced literacy directive to ensure all students develop fundamental reading skills.
Kindergarten Team Leader Jennifer Damas says examples of balanced literacy are evident inside – and outside – of each classroom. One of the most notable examples is the hallbraries.
“When the students walk in to their building in the morning, they are given an opportunity to pick a book from the hallbrary to read quietly while they wait for the bell to ring,” explains Mrs. Damas. “Kindergarten students who are not reading yet are encouraged to tell the story based on the pictures in the book. This teaches students that anyone could be a reader and introduces students to a love for reading.”
Teachers further foster that love of reading inside the classroom using leveled classroom libraries, interactive read-a-louds, small and whole group reading instruction, literacy centers and writer’s workshop.
“Each component of our reading block is essential in meeting the needs of every child and ensuring that each child reaches their full potential by the end of their kindergarten year,” states Mrs. Damas, explaining that teachers use the Benchmark Assessment System to determine students’ reading level and then work with small groups of no more than four students at equal level on appropriate instructional activities.
While the teacher is working with a small reading group, the other students work at the daily five/literacy centers. “These are carefully planned and include the following five choices: read to self; read to someone; word work; work on writing; and listening to read,” explains Mrs. Damas. “These are all choices that students work on independently.”
The classroom library is another important component of the balanced literacy program. Each teacher has cultivated a library that includes picture books, ABC books, counting books, nursery rhymes, realistic fiction books, folktales, poetry books, nonfiction books, and much more. Each library contains books of different degrees of difficulty, so students can choose books based on their reading level.
Mrs. Damas says despite the teachers’ best efforts, reading readiness also develops at home. “Parents can help their children by reading a bedtime story daily. It is important for children to have a role model at home to guide them towards the love of reading. Stopping periodically while reading a story and asking questions will help enhance the child’s reading comprehension.”