Balanced literacy instruction includes Guided Reading, Writing, Phonics, Word Study, Shared Reading, and more.

Literacy instruction at Emerson includes the following program components: Phonological awareness; Phonics and word recognition; Fluency; Spelling and Word Study; Vocabulary; and Comprehension. These components are taught through a combination of Interactive Read Aloud and Literacy Discussion; Shared Reading/Performance; Writing about Reading; Independent Writing; Oral, Visual and Technological Communication; and small group reading instruction. During small group reading the teacher provides explicit instruction and support using all of the skills and concepts mentioned above for reading increasingly challenging texts. At the upper grade levels, book clubs replace explicit small group instruction for most students.

In addition to direct and explicit instruction, literacy at The Emerson School is taught and practiced throughout the day and across the curriculum. The children learn to read, write, speak, and listen in a variety of settings. During Project work, both in the classroom and out in the field, students apply reading and writing skills and learn by listening to experts. In math class, children write about their findings and thought processes and talk about solving problems. As they sing and create, they read along and express themselves. And, as class meeting participants, students listen to each other and share their ideas aloud.