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You can’t pick out the pieces you like and leave the rest.

Being part of the whole thing, that’s the blessing.

—Natalie Babbit, Tuck Everlasting

What We Understand about Literacy Instruction

Literacy is typically understood as the ability to read and write. The contemporary 21st century definition of literacy has grown to include the ability to gain information, understand that information, and communicate that understanding effectively.

The most effective literacy learning in elementary school is the result of essential, simultaneous instruction in three key areas in the elementary curricula: reading, writing and word study, all fueled by collaboration and conversation.

In each elementary classroom, during each day, you will find students engaging in literacy learning within and across these three integral disciplines. This inter-relationship underlies our fundamental approach to instruction. When all three points on this instructional triangle hold equal weight, and teachers demonstrate for students how learning in one discipline supports their learning in the other disciplines, students emerge from elementary school prepared to lead literate lives.

How We Teach Literacy

In Mamaroneck, we use a balanced literacy approach to instruction. This approach uses a workshop methodology that integrates the literacy instructional practices described above:

  • Reading Workshop includes opportunities for read aloud, shared reading, guided reading and independent reading.
  • Writing Workshop includes opportunities for shared writing, interactive writing, guided writing and independent writing.
  • Word Work instruction focuses on helping students become fluent readers and writers.

All three components provide students with explicit instruction modeled by the teacher, opportunities for rehearsal and checks for understanding, and then independent practice. These effective practices include ongoing assessment and evaluation to monitor student progress and to inform planning and differentiated instruction through whole class, small group and individualized teaching. In a balanced literacy curriculum, reading, writing and word study are not compartmentalized but rather combined to support student learning. The goal for all students is to develop the essential skills and habits of lifelong readers and writers.

How We Support Our Teachers in Literacy Instruction

In Mamaroneck, teachers are supported by administrators and a trio of peer leaders: our literacy ambassador who is responsible for enriching our classroom libraries and meeting the needs of all of our readers, our literacy coach, who supports her colleagues by providing meaningful professional development matched to their needs, and our RTI coach, whose job it is to strengthen the program designed to identify and support students with learning and behavior needs. The ongoing goals for all three of these literacy leaders is to build professional capacity and community while promoting student growth and achievement in reading and writing.