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Prior to her retirement in 2019, Green Park’s Reading & Math Specialist,Mrs. Debbie Prange, worked to improve the already successful Balanced Literacy curriculum.  GP’s K-8 Language Arts teachers spent the past year reviewing different curricula, listening to presentations, and visiting classrooms to help make the best possible decision for our students.

“This is another step to improve our students’ writing skills.  All the way through 8th grade.” reports Mrs. Prange.  “We’re still doing Balanced Literacy but this will enhance that writing piece.”

Lucy Calkins and her colleagues have drawn on their work from more than three decades to develop a state-of-the-art curriculum in writing.  This curriculum will teach opinion/argument, information, and narrative writing; foster high-level thinking; develop strategies for writing across the curriculum; support greater independence and fluency; provide performance assessments to help monitor students’ progress and differentiate instruction; provide model writing progressions across grades K-8.

The Balanced Literacy Difference

There’s a shift among educators across the country and it involves change within reading. Gone are the days when we were kids – “we’ll all get through the story together” to today’s philosophy of differentiated instruction. Teachers at Green Park Lutheran School are along the forefront meeting each child at their reading level and taking them to the next.

The curriculum allows students to read actual literature and not just short stories in textbooks. For example, one student may be working on spelling, one on fluency and the other on comprehension. Each student is reading a book that helps his or her learning. Students are then broken into groups for more individualized instruction based on the strategy needed. This allows a first grader to go ahead read a third grade level book as he or she advances. The curriculum runs from kindergarten to eighth grade.

Balanced Literacy is a curriculum adopted by Green Park within the past ten years. While Mrs. Debbie Prange earned her Master’s degree she became a Reading Specialist. During that time Webster University professors visited our campus and helped set up our Reading Library. This library is separate from the school library and allows teachers to pull actual books for each student to help enhance their reading.  A rare find for a small private setting.

Kindergarten teacher, Miss Stephanie Torbeck, conceptualized and wrote a grant marrying the wildly successful reading program with iPad technology for our younger students. The result? Kindergarten, first and second grade students at Green Park have their own school issued tablets for the year complete with content to take them to the next level in reading: “The iKids Balanced Literacy.”

The Daily 5

Green Park supports the Balanced Literacy program through the Daily 5 Tasks for K-2 students.
These concepts include:

  1. Read to Self – The best way to become a better reader is to practice with “Good-fit” books everyday.
  2. Work on Writing – The best way to become a better writer is to write each day…and keep it fun!
  3. Read to Someone – Partner reading provides opportunities to practice strategies, improve fluency, check for understanding and hear your own voice.
  4. Word Work – Expanded vocabulary leads to greater fluency in reading and therefore increasing comprehension. Becoming a proficient speller leads to writing fluency.
  5. Listen to Reading – Just hearing fluent and expressive reading of good literature expands your vocabulary, helps build stamina and will make you a better reader.

While Balanced Literacy isn’t a new concept, effectively running the program requires a cohesive group of professionals. Because we have a smaller setting at Green Park, teachers know each student, can work closely together from grade to grade and individualize the instruction. This deeper level thinking and working together fosters a healthy environment for learning and reading. Our teachers continue education and training on the concept and are dedicated to staying on top of curriculum changes. This is the Balanced Literacy difference.

1970s 1980s 1990s Now
Purpose We will all get through the story Kids must feel good about themselves. We will all get through the story with help Every child deserves to be taught on their level at some time during the day Students learn reading strategies to access text
Structure Seat Work Centers Workshop Daily 5
Resource Basal
One anthology
One anthology
Class sets of trade books
Basal anthology
trade books children could read
Basal anthology
“leveled books”
book rooms
library books of choice
Classroom Library None 100 books Larger, leveled Goal of over 1,000 books in each class library, organized by genre
Grouping Whole-group
Reading groups
Whole-group heterogeneous reading groups Whole-group guided reading
Walk to read
Whole group
small group
guiding readers one on one
Access to Text Round robin – student may not be able to read text Round robin – student might not be able to read the text Each student reads text he or she can read Teach skills and strategies so student can read any text.
Each student has text he or she can read independently.