Elementary classrooms across DeSoto County provide robust reading and writing curriculum through a balanced literacy framework. Gone are the days where the teacher stands at the front of the class calling on individual students to read sentences then assign reading and writing related activities. In this one-size-fits-all curriculum, struggling students tend to fall further behind while high achieving students are not pushed to their fullest potential.
Desoto County Schools shifted to a balanced literacy framework in 2006 after much research; it was a slow transition due to the funds required to purchase high quality texts that children would find engaging. With the implementation of the new standards, the money needed to make the full transition became a reality. Schools were provided funds to purchase the needed classroom libraries, teacher resources, and establish school bookrooms.
Teachers continue to provide instruction in reading (comprehension), writing (composition, grammar and conventions), and word study (phonics, spelling, morphology). A balanced literacy framework refers to literacy practices, which encompass teaching methods for whole group, small group, and individual instruction. Throughout the day teachers teach their core subjects through a series of workshops where they systematically model reading and writing strategies. Students then have opportunities to practice strategies in small groups and pairs before being expected to demonstrate mastery independently. The goal is to gradually release responsibility to students.
Students are provided extensive time to read and write independently. In the primary grades, students also spend time in workstations practicing literacy rich concepts. During this time teachers are either working with small groups or conferring with individual students.
DeSoto County Schools district leaders, principals, and teachers have attained degrees from the finest universities in our country. At these institutions they were taught to design units and lessons based on student interests, needs, and standards. Teachers plan systematic lessons with supports from teacher-created resources as well as purchased resources aligned to the Mississippi Standards.
“No one approach to literacy is guaranteed to work at all times and in all settings. Rather, in order to ensure success, teachers and principals must participate in a system of continuous improvement, monitoring students’ work and their progress, and adapting instruction accordingly,” stated author and educator, Lucy Calkins. Teaching students to successfully read and write is the primary goal for all DeSoto County School teachers. Through a balanced literacy framework teachers have the ability to focus their instruction on the needs of their individual students in order to assist each child in reaching his/her potential.