Definition of Balanced Literacy

The definition of Balanced Literacy is a balance of instructional format, instructional strategies, and instructional content. There are four key instructional concepts that encompass all learning. They relate to the optimum way that people learn any new skill or information: modeling, sharing, guiding and developing independence. For example, The teacher models a new skill or strategy.

Next, the teacher and student share in the new behavior by doing it together. Then the teacher guides the student with the new skill with less support. The ultimate goal is the student working independently.

This model, based on the work of Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, provides a flexible structure as the teacher assesses what individual children need, giving children the support to learn and practice strategies as they become accomplished readers, writers, listeners, speakers, viewers, and thinkers.
Components to engage students include the following literacy experiences:

Reading Aloud
Shared Reading
 Guided Reading

Independent Reading

Shared / Modeled Writing
Guided Writing
Independent Writing

Components of Balanced Literacy

Reading Aloud: Teacher reads selection aloud to students

  • Provides adult model of fluent reading
  • Develops sense of story/text
  • Develops vocabulary
  • Encourages prediction
  • Builds a community of readers
  • Develops active listening* 

Shared Reading: Teacher and students read text together

  • Demonstrates awareness of text
  • Develops sense of story or content
  • Promotes reading strategies
  • Develops fluency and phrasing
  • Increases comprehension
  • Encourages politeness and respect 

Guided Reading: Teacher introduces a selection at student's instructional level

  • Promotes reading strategies
  • Increases comprehension
  • Encourages independent reading
  • Expands belief in own ability 

Independent Reading: Students read independently

  • Encourages strategic reading
  • Increases comprehension
  • Supports writing development
  • Extends experiences with a variety of written texts
  • Promotes reading for enjoyment and information
  • Develops fluency
  • Fosters self-confidence by reading familiar and new text
  • Provides opportunities to use mistakes as learning opportunities 

Modeled/Shared Writing: Teacher and students collaborate to write text; teacher acts as scribe

  • Develops concepts of print
  • Develops writing strategies
  • Supports reading development
  • Provides model for a variety of writing styles
  • Models the connection among and between sounds, letters, and words
  • Produces text that students can read independently
  • Necessitates communicating in a clear and specific manner* 

Interactive Writing: Teacher and students compose together using a "shared pen" technique in which students do some of the writing

  • Provides opportunities to plan and construct texts
  • Increases spelling knowledge
  • Produces written language resources in the classroom
  • Creates opportunities to apply what has been learned 

Independent Writing: Students write independently

  • Strengthens text sequence
  • Develops understanding of multiple uses of writing
  • Supports reading development
  • Develops writing strategies
  • Develops active independence



Instructional Strategies in literacy include the following:

• Using results of assessment and data for instruction

• Teaching strategies for fluency, comprehension and writing

• Providing focused mini-lessons

• Planning for teaching points

• Scaffolding students for improvement in learning

• Using a variety of literature to teach writing

• Allowing for student choice

• Familiarizing students with standards, checklists and rubrics

• Communicating in literature and writers' circles

• Using word walls and word charts

• Using response journals and learning logs

• Creating meaningful independent activities

• Providing Work Boards and management tools for independent  work

• Fostering questioning in students

• Using the state and district curriculum to guide instruction

• Working with colleagues to professionally further a literate culture in classrooms