Balanced Literacy

Balanced Literacy incorporates all reading approaches realizing that students need to use numerous devices in order to become proficient readers.  It provides and improves the skills of reading, writing, thinking, speaking and listening for all students. A Balanced Literacy program not only balances the reading philosophies, it also balances reading and writing instruction.  In a balanced literacy program, students read in order to write and write in order to read.  

Differentiation occurs through product, process, content, and interest.

Differentiated Instruction

There are different learning styles and levels among students in classrooms and teachers look for instructional strategies to reach all students. Differentiation at Whiting occurs in four main areas:

Product - What the student produces at the end of the lesson to demonstrate the mastery of the content: tests, evaluations, projects, reports, or other activities. Based on students' skill levels and educational standards, teachers may assign students to complete activities that demonstrate mastery of an educational concept (writing a report), or in a method the student prefers (composing an original song about the content, or building a 3-dimensional object that explains mastery of concepts in the lesson or unit). The product is an integral component of the differentiated model, as the preparation of the assessments will primarily determine both the ‘what’ and ‘how’ instruction will be delivered.

Content - The most basic content of a lesson should cover the standards of learning set by the district or state. Some students in a class may be completely unfamiliar with the concepts in a lesson, some students may have partial mastery of the content - or display mistaken ideas about the content, and some students may show mastery of the content before the lesson begins. The teacher may differentiate the content by designing activities for groups of students that cover different areas of Bloom's Taxonomy. For example, students who are unfamiliar with the concepts may be required to complete tasks on the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy: knowledge, comprehension, and application. Students with partial mastery may be asked to complete tasks in the application, analysis and evaluation areas, and students who have high levels of mastery may be asked to complete tasks in evaluation and synthesis.

Process - How the material in a lesson is learned may be differentiated for students based on their learning styles, taking into account what standards of performance are required for the age level. This stage of differentiation allows students to learn based either on what method is easiest for them to acquire knowledge, or what may challenge them most: some students may prefer to read about a topic (or may require practice in reading), and others may prefer to listen (or require practice in listening), or acquire knowledge by manipulating objects associated with the content. Information may be presented in multiple ways by the teacher, and may be based on any available methods or materials.

Interest - Students are allowed to design multiple areas of the learning. They guide what they want to learn, how they want to learn, and how they will prove that the learning happened. This can be done by allowing students choices.


Fluency is defined as the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. In order to understand what they read, children must be able to read fluently whether they are reading aloud or silently. When reading aloud, fluent readers read in phrases and add intonation appropriately. Their reading is smooth and has expression.

Children who do not read with fluency sound choppy and awkward. Those students may have difficulty with decoding skills or they may just need more practice with speed and smoothness in reading. Fluency is also important for motivation; children who find reading laborious tend not to want read! As readers head into upper elementary grades, fluency becomes increasingly important. The volume of reading required in the upper elementary years escalates dramatically. Students whose reading is slow or labored will have trouble meeting the reading demands of their grade level.

Rocket Reading

Fluency Rubric

Reading Recovery

Question, Answer, Relationship (QAR)

QAR basically defines itself.  It is the relationship between questions and their answers. There are four basic types of question and answer relationships.

  1. Right There -- In this type of QAR, the answer is found in the text.  Also, the words in the question and the words in the answer are usually in the same sentence.  The reader can point to the answer.

  2. Think and Search -- In this type of QAR, the answer is found in the text.  However, the words in the question and the words in the answer are not found in the same sentence.  The reader must put together different parts of the text to get the answer.

  3. Author and Me (or Author and You) -- The answer is not found in the text.  The reader has to put together the information the author provides with information the reader already knows to come up with the answer.  

  4. On My Own (or On Your Own) -- The reader does not use the text at all to answer the question.  The answer is based on the reader's opinions and experiences.  

Below are several sites with information and/or sample problems for QAR.  Some have graphics or visuals as well.  It's worth looking at each site to see the different ways the material is presented.

Using Question-Answer Relationships • This page, from Lincoln High School, provides an overview of each type of question and clue words to help identify the type.  It is unique in that it also provides a correlation for each type to Bloom's Taxonomy. 

Instructional Reading Strategy: QAR • This page, from Indiana University, provides a description of QAR, how to use QAR, graphics, and sample questions.

Question-Answer Relationships • This page, from Reading Quest, provides definitions, samples, and a downloadable chart and concept map.

Question/Answer/Relationship • This page, from FCAT Express, explains QAR and gives descriptors for each type.

Read Alouds

A read aloud is a planned oral reading of a book or print excerpt, usually related to a theme or topic of study. The read aloud can be used to engage the student listener while developing background knowledge, increasing comprehension skills, and fostering critical thinking. A read aloud can be used to model the use of reading strategies that aid in comprehension.

How to Effectively Read Aloud

  • Introduce the text with a short sentence or two that relates the book to the students
  • Set a purpose for listening by sharing the reason you selected the book.
  • Ask a conceptual question to the students.
  • Interrupt your reading at selected points to emphasize a planned focus point. 
    • Hint: Mark these points with sticky notes so that you remember to stop and your reason for stopping.
    • Sticky notes can also be used to quickly note student reactions or queries.
    • Stop to do a think aloud, ask a question of yourself or of your students, provide opportunities for students to make personal connections
    • Do not overdo the stopping points-- keep in mind your audience, time limits and purpose for the reading and for the stopping. You do want to maintain a sense of story as you read-- too many stopping points will lose that.
  • Discuss what students learned. Through discussion students can synthesize and extend their understanding of the reading. They can connect their prior knowledge to the new information presented in the reading. They can make intertextual connections to other literature. This time for reflection is the key to making the reading an instructional activity.

Resource and Credits: