I currently work at a magnet school for gifted and high-ability learners and the #1 question asked by our teachers has been, "What about all of the gifted resources? How do they fit in with balanced literacy?" It's an excellent question and one that can't just be Googled! The same questions are often brought up during monthly Talent Development meetings, too.
The gifted curricular resources we have access to are high quality and rich. I have used many of them with success as both a classroom teacher and a Talent Development (TD) teacher. William & Mary literacy units, Junior Great Books, and Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension program are particularly powerful and have always been some of my favorite literacy resources to use with students. How can we still use those resources within the framework of balanced literacy? How can we merge the Units of Study by Lucy Calkins with gifted resources?
I think I am beginning to figure out how to mesh these two items to meet the needs of our gifted and advanced readers.
I am scheduled to teach writing in a Third Grade classroom every day. We just recently wrapped up our Writing Workshop unit and I knew we would not have enough time to complete a full Writing unit before our End Of Grade assessments. Therefore, I decided that I would use the time for supplemental reading and integrate writing as much as possible.Lately, I have exposed my 3rd graders to complex texts in Jacob's Ladder & William Mary Units in a mini reading unit on fables, folktales, and myths.
The photograph on the left provides you with an example of how I planned one selection to use as an interactive read aloud. You will notice that different student engagement methods are used, such as thinking aloud (TA), stop & sketch (S+S), stop & jot (S+J), and turn & talk (T+T). My students love how I "mix" things up and you could literally hear a pin drop when it's time to sketch or jot. Conversely, when it is time to turn & talk, the room buzzes! I love seeing kids getting excited about reading, responding to reading, and learning!
Word of Caution: Each skill ladder should be modeled with the whole group before having students work in pairs or independently on tasks for each rung.
Here is a SMART board file I have used to introduce Jacob's Ladder and Ladder A with students as a model. You can see that plenty of time is included for teacher modeling, students are given time to process with a partner, and then independently record their answers on their sheets. We then debrief and share responses as a whole group. It definitely takes time to "train" your kids, but it is important to invest that time.
Bonus: The ladders lend themselves really well to integrating Thinking Maps!
I look forward to collaborating with more teachers to mesh gifted resources with balanced literacy components. I'd love to work on creating "hybrid" units for Reading Workshop where gifted resources are utilized while staying true to the balanced literacy framework. Any takers?
Has anyone else found a way to merge gifted best practices and curricular resources with a balanced literacy approach? Comments, ideas & suggestions are welcome!