April 30, 2006

The Reading Wars--NY Magazine

In today's installment we're going to take to task the article "A is For Apple, B is for Brawl" in New York Magazine. The article is about the ongoing reading wars in NYC between phonics and whole language balanced literacy, but there's much more subtext than that. And, that's what we'll be analyzing in this six part series: When Losers Won't Surrender.
  1. Part I: Severed Ears
  2. Part II: Getting the Teams Wrong
  3. Part III: Fun With Memorization
  4. Part IV: Opinion vs. Fact
  5. Part V: Misinterpreting Research
  6. Part VI: The Homestretch
One of the salient points in the article hinges on the definition of Balanced Literacy. The article makes the point, and I agree, that for all intents and purposes BL is whole language with a different name and hiding behind a supercial veneer of phonics.

In the comments, TMAO defines BL as "balance of phonics instruction, instructional reading, authentic reading at an independent level, vocabulary instruction, comprehension skill development, response and H.O.T. development, and finally writing."

I think many teachers would agree with this definition. But, I think it includes things that are typically included in any good phonics program (vocab, comprehension, reading of authentic texts reading at an independent level, response and H.O.T.) and doesn't sufficiently specify the all important interplay between phonics, intructional reading, and use of authentic texts which determine whether the program is really phonics or whole language.

Anyway, I want to write about this later this week, but for now I'd like to hear how others, especially early reading teachers, define Balanced Literacy.

Anyway, onto Part I of the Reading Wars.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

As a first grade teacher, to me balanced literacy means that they're getting each of the five areas: phonics, fluency, comprehension, phonemic awareness, and the other one that I can never remember. Our basal series (Houghton Mifflin) does a great job of working in all of the areas, and when I structure the week I try to hit all of them. It doesn't turn out equal, typically--fluency instruction often gets short shrift--but they are all identified and used thoughtfully.