How to Set up a Balanced Literacy Classroom

Books on shelves inside room.jpg

A balanced literacy classroom is an environment that is aesthetically pleasing, engaging and educationally sound. Students should be exposed to a wide range of literacy materials, engaged in small group as well as whole group instruction and encouraged to take responsibility and ownership for their own learning. As a teacher, you must pay careful attention to how the balanced literacy classroom is set up in order to ensure that you are able to effectively facilitate learning and growth.

  • Desks
  • Bean bag chairs
  • Library books
  • Shelves
  • Baskets
  • Rug
  • CD or tape player with headphones
  • Construction paper or card stock
  • Lined paper
  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Crayons
  • Scissors
  • Scrap paper

1 Arrange student desks in groups of four to six

Arrange student desks in groups of four to six. Seating children in groups will facilitate group work, small group instruction and pair sharing activities, and allow you to maneuver easily around the classroom for more effective classroom management.

2 Set up a classroom library

Set up a classroom library. The classroom library should include a variety of reading materials including books, magazines and periodicals. Diversity is key. Reading material should encompass a wide range of genres and reading levels. It is essential for students to have access to reading material that captivates their interest and fits their reading level. Place books in plastic baskets and organize them by author, genre, subject or reading level. Consult your school administrators, as they may have a predetermined requirement for how the classroom library should be set up. Be sure to have plenty of reading material. The Teacher's Network suggests that teachers have 20 books per student. Therefore, a class of 30 students should have about 600 books.

3 Designate a reading corner

Designate a reading corner. This is essential for reading with the whole group, smaller reading groups or independent reading. The reading corner should be cozy and comfortable. Create an environment in which students look forward to spending time. Decorate the area with a comfortable rug and bean bag chairs. Choose a space that is near the library for easy access to the books.

4 Set up a writing center

Set up a writing center. The writing center is the area in the classroom where students explore their own creativity as an author. It should include student writing and publishing materials such as lined paper, construction paper or card stock for covers, pencils, pens, crayons, glue and scrap paper for decorating.

5 Create a research center

Create a research center. The research center should include computers for online research, as well as encyclopedias and other written reference materials. Ensure that computers are not situated in direct sunlight to avoid glare on the screen, which would make it difficult for students to see.

6 Provide a listening center

Provide a listening center. The listening center should consist of a chair, CD or tape player and headphones. Listening materials should include books on tape that are also in the classroom library so that children may read while they listen.

Based in Los Angeles, Bridgett Michele Lawrence began working as a freelance writer in 2008. She is an accomplished screenwriter, teacher and blogger. Her articles appear on the Sixth Wall and other websites. Lawrence holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in screenwriting from New York University and a Master of Science in childhood education from Brooklyn College.