Archived Information

Tried and True: September 1997--The information in this publication was current as of September 1997, and has not been updated since. Some services described in the publication may no longer be available.
[Instructional Content and Practice]

Literacy Plus

A Language Arts Framework for Kindergarten Through Eighth
Grade Integrating Reading, Writing, Vocabulary, and Reasoning

Developed and tested by
the Mid-Regional Educational
Laboratory (McREL)

What is the idea behind Literacy Plus?

Literacy Plus is a program that takes a holistic, integrated approach to teaching language arts, including reading, writing, vocabulary, and reasoning. It is based on the stages of literacy development and provides a framework for instruction that supports student-centered learning. A Resource Guide provides teachers with over 180 strategies that are appropriate to different stages of literacy development, organized in such a way as to support the instructional framework. Literature units are available at all K through 8 grade levels and are based on various genres and themes. Although Literacy Plus is a literature-based approach to reading, it can also be used in conjunction with a basal reader.

Unique to Literacy Plus is a semantic cluster approach to vocabulary instruction. Individualized word books contain words in semantic clusters that provide an incidental learning situation, as well as a way for students to collect new words from literature, basal readers, and the content areas. Literacy Plus also shows how to bridge the gap between spelling and word meaning, and provides a framework from which individual spelling lists can be created with words from students' writing, reading, and work in the content areas.

What does research say about how this idea can help teaching and learning?

Literacy Plus is strongly supported by research that suggests that individual language arts should not be taught in isolation of each other nor should skills necessary for reading and writing be taught in isolation of actual reading and writing experiences. Literacy Plus thus attempts to blur the choice between a skills, or phonics, approach to instruction versus a whole-language, or literature-based, approach.

Although current research on vocabulary development supports wide reading and language-rich activities along with direct vocabulary instruction, there is a strong need for a structure that allows direct instruction to reach beyond words taught directly, allowing students a place to store and learn new words within a context. Literacy Plus provides this structure within the classroom for the students.

How was this program tested?

Initially, a pilot site was established in a particular district. Data were collected to determine if student learning improved as a result of the implementation of this program. Studies included assessing student growth in reading comprehension and writing, including a measure of vocabulary growth in both areas.

Subsequent studies in various states have assessed student growth using a variety of measures, including pre- and post-standardized achievement tests, writing samples over designated periods of time, reading and writing performance assessments, teacher observations, running records, student self-assessments, and surveys.

What communities and states are using this program?

Literacy Plus is used in 43 states with the heaviest use being in the states of Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

What's involved in using this program in my school and community?

Literacy Plus literature units can be used with little or no technical assistance or training as they are a fairly prescriptive approach to integrating the language arts. Each unit focuses on specific knowledge and skills and is composed of workshops which contain a mini-lesson, activity, and sharing period. Although each unit is supported by specific pieces of literature, other pieces of literature within the genre can be substituted.

The organizational structure of the Resource Guide is fairly straightforward, and it can be used in a variety of ways. The need for staff development or support will depend on how it is used. Many of the individual strategies can be used in the classroom without further explanation while others are more complex and require additional assistance. For example, the integration of thinking and reasoning skills requires more thought and training and tends to make the planning of units more complex. Similarly, Literacy Plus' approach to vocabulary instruction varies greatly from a traditional approach and therefore requires an initial in service to explain both the philosophy behind the approach as well as the use of the individual student word books.

Costs associated with implementing this program vary, depending on the components of the program being used.


Diane Paynter
2550 S. Parker Road, Suite 500
Aurora, CO 80014-1678
Phone: (303) 743-5543
Fax: (303) 337-3005

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