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                                                                 A Balanced Literacy Program

Language acquisition is the essence of balanced literacy, and the process of acquiring language comes from experiences and interaction. The starting point for all language acquisition is oral language (Cazden, 1972; Garcia, 2000; Loban, 1963; Menyuk, 1984; Ruddell, 1963; Snow et al., 1998 and Wilkinson and Silliman, 2000). It is from oral language, listening and speaking, that vocabulary, concepts and ideas emerge. The acquisition of language, specifically making connections to what PK-12 students read and write, is a complex process. Research and practice have defined how children acquire language, and this research is the basis for a Balanced Literacy Curriculum and Instruction. Specifically, children acquire language:
  • when they have a need that is meaningful and real
  • through interactions with peers and adults
  • by making approximations of real language
  • at varying rates and in various stages – even though all children go through similar phases of development
  • by having language modeled for them directly and indirectly.
A Balanced Literacy Program is grounded in constructivist learning (Pearson, 1993). This is the belief that readers and writers draw on text information and prior knowledge to make inferences and to construct meaning (Anderson and Pearson, 1984). A constructivist view of literacy sees instruction as the active engagement by the learner in constructing meaning rather than a passive acquisition of skills and knowledge. The constructivist view is a shift from the behaviorist view that focused on individual development, learning and cognition (Harste, 1990; Pearson, 1993).

Finally, reading and writing are constructive processes (Pearson and Tierney, 1984). In both modes, the student is a composer. All reading and writing must be centered on a given purpose. The purpose activates prior knowledge. Students begin by thinking about what they already know – and what they need to know – before they read or write.