New teaching method in place at elementary schools

Shenandoah County Public Schools recently tried a new method of teaching reading comprehension in the elementary level called the Balanced Literacy Diet.

Chad Hensley, director of elementary education for Shenandoah County Public Schools, said, “Balanced Literacy offers an opportunity to meet the needs of all students.”

“The balance of skills and strategies provided with materials supports the needs of students as they interact with text. As the students progress in literacy skills, they move to more independent application of skills through realistic opportunities when appropriate,” Hensley said about how this new format works for students.

Because this method has never been used in the county before, teachers will need training in this new teaching method, which is supposed to be completed by the end of the first year.

Hensley said consultants from Heinemann Publications would provide this training on guided reading and instructional components to be used.

“This training will enhance their skills and ability to observe, teach and support a small group of students as they develop an understanding of the reading process and practice their literacy skills,” Hensley said.

According to Hensley, schools will establish classwide routines around high priority skills, which are phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.

The teacher will select a variety of materials, Hensley said, to teach these high priority skills to students.

“Teachers will use a combination of basal materials, leveled books and quality children’s literature during instruction. Throughout the literacy block, students will engage in direct instruction, independent reading and writing as part of the balanced reading program,” he said.

To aid teachers in their learning of the Balanced Literacy Diet, Hensley said the Heinemann Continuum of Literacy Learning, a book given to all core teachers, would provide an easy-to-read outline used in guided reading.

“Teachers will use this resource in professional development sessions provided by Heinemann in their schools as well as in their classrooms throughout the school,” Hensley said.

“This resource provides a common language for the instructional staff in the areas of assessment, evaluation, planning, intervention and parental discussions,” Hensley added.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com