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Series Editors: Evan Ortlieb and Earl H. Cheek, Jr
Previous Volume:
Volume 1: Utilizing Informative Assessments towards
Effective Literacy Instruction

Monash University, Victoria, Australia

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA

United Kingdom – North America – Japan

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First edition 2013

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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-1-78190-503-6
ISSN: 2048-0458 (Series)





B. P. Laster 3


Debra Coffey, Daphne Hubbard, Marie Holbein and 21
Stacy Delacruz


Tammy Ryan 43


Michelle Kelley and Taylar Wenzel 63


Rose Marie Codling 87


Evan Ortlieb, Wolfram Verlaan and Earl H. Cheek, Jr. 117



Belinda Zimmerman, Timothy Rasinski and 137
Maria Melewski


Cheryl Dozier and Julie Smit 161


Mary Anne Prater, Nari Carter and JoAnn Munk 181


Stephanie L. McAndrews and Shadrack G. Msengi 197


Patricia Paugh and Mary Brady 219



Lee Ann Tysseling and B. P. Laster 245


Erica Bowers, Ula Manzo, Ann Tarantine and 265
Melissa Base
Contents vii


Joan A. Rhodes 283


Lynn E. Shanahan, Mary B. McVee, Jennifer A. 303
Schiller, Elizabeth A. Tynan, Rosa L. D’Abate,
Caroline M. Flury-Kashmanian, Tyler W. Rinker,
Ashlee A. Ebert and H. Emily Hayden



Vicki Collet 327


Sherrye Dee Garrett and Lucinda Marie Juarez 353


Cheryl Dozier and Theresa Deeney 367


Tammy Milby 387

Melissa Base California State University, Fullerton,

Erica Bowers California State University, Fullerton,
Mary Brady University of Massachusetts, Boston,
Nari Carter Brigham Young University, Provo,
Earl H. Cheek, Jr. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge,
Rose Marie Codling University of Maryland, College Park,
Debra Coffey Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw,
Vicki Collet University of Arkansas, Fayetteville,
Rosa L. D’Abate University at Buffalo, State University of
New York, NY, USA
Stacy Delacruz Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw,
Theresa Deeney University of Rhode Island, Kingston,
Cheryl Dozier University at Albany, State University of
New York, NY, USA
Ashlee A. Ebert University at Buffalo, State University of
New York, NY, USA


Caroline M. Flury- University at Buffalo, State University of

Kashmanian New York, NY, USA
Sherrye Dee Garrett Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi,
H. Emily Hayden University at Buffalo, State University of
New York, NY, USA
Marie Holbein Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw,
Daphne Hubbard Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw,
Lucinda Marie Juarez Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi,
Michelle Kelley University of Central Florida, Orlando,
B. P. Laster Towson University, Towson, MD, USA
Ula Manzo California State University, Fullerton,
Stephanie L. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville,
McAndrews Edwardsville, IL, USA
Mary B. McVee University at Buffalo, State University of
New York, NY, USA
Maria Melewski Kent State University, Kent, OH, USA
Tammy Milby University of Richmond, Richmond,
Shadrack G. Msengi Southern Illinois University Edwardsville,
Edwardsville, IL, USA
JoAnn Munk Brigham Young University, Provo,
Evan Ortlieb Monash University, Victoria, Australia
Patricia Paugh University of Massachusetts, Boston,
List of Contributors xi

Mary Anne Prater Brigham Young University, Provo,

Timothy Rasinski Kent State University, Kent, OH, USA
Joan A. Rhodes Virginia Commonwealth University,
Richmond, VA, USA
Tyler W. Rinker University at Buffalo, State University of
New York, NY, USA
Tammy Ryan Jacksonville University, Jacksonville,
Jennifer A. Schiller University at Buffalo, State University of
New York, NY, USA
Lynn E. Shanahan University at Buffalo, State University of
New York, NY, USA
Julie Smit University at Albany, State University of
New York, NY, USA
Ann Tarantine California State University, Fullerton,
Elizabeth A. Tynan University at Buffalo, State University of
New York, NY, USA
Lee Ann Tysseling Boise State University, Boise, ID, USA
Wolfram Verlaan University of Alabama, Huntsville,
Taylar Wenzel University of Central Florida, Orlando,
Florida, USA
Belinda Zimmerman Kent State University, Kent, OH, USA

As the second volume in the book series, Literacy Research, Practice and
Evaluation, this text was envisioned to disseminate salient information
about literacy clinics. From historical perspectives to cutting-edge practices,
this compilation fills a void in existing literature as it relates to best clinical
practices. Advancing the mission of literacy clinics requires their relevancy
to be widely recognized by literacy professionals; this volume serves to
springboard clinical practices back into the limelight.
Volume II – Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom
has been scripted to inform literacy professionals about the multitude of
benefits and services provided by thoughtfully designed literacy clinics,
functioning to serve youth experiencing difficulties in reading and writing,
teacher education programs, universities, and nearby communities. This
text includes four sections: (1) foundational elements of literacy clinics,
(2) reading and writing elements, (3) technological elements, and (4) com-
plementary elements, inclusive of attention devoted to subgroups of the
population. By addressing concerns from the conception of the literacy clinic
to the day-to-day ongoings of clinic operations, readers garner complete
perspectives on how to create and/or improve their clinic and in turn, provide
efficient, real-world teaching and learning experiences.
Particular focus is bestowed to various reading and writing components.
The varied foci of literacy clinics highlight that there are numerous ways to
promote literacy in clinical settings; all have the common goal of improving
literacy skills and abilities for transfer to school experiences and beyond.
Techniques that can be applied in multiple settings (clinic, classroom, or
home) and utilized independently are highlighted throughout the volume.
With current shifts toward common learning standards and new literacies,
it is timely to focus on the many literacy proficiencies of students (print,
digital, interdisciplinary) as they serve as the backbone to efficiently learn,
communicate, apply, and create knowledge. Various assessment practices
are also mentioned to provide readers with information on how to improve
upon current abilities and levels of literacy proficiency, track progress over
time, and provide evaluation feedback to families.
Diverse student populations require that teachers establish rapport and
explore their students’ unique characteristics, including their interests,

motivations, likes, dislikes, communication styles, and background knowl-

edge. Attention is given to both elementary and adolescent students as well as
urban, multilingual, and those with learning disabilities in various chapters.
Clinical literacy practices are often structured yet flexible, aimed at
addressing the individual student’s needs, not necessarily the curricular
framework. As a result, immediate progress is feasible with a team approach
of reading improvement, as the clinic director scaffolds the learning of the
teachers, and the teachers scaffold the learning of their students (all the
while the clinic director learns too!). Advanced Literacy Practices: From the
Clinic to the Classroom provides a fresh examination of current issues and
trends salient to those interested in assorted issues around literacy clinics.
Evan Ortlieb

B. P. Laster


Purpose – This historical perspective highlights the evolution of reading

clinics (also called literacy labs, centers, etc.) from medical-type clinics
to instructional powerhouses for struggling readers. Of particular interest,
also, is the development of teacher expertise while participating in reading
clinics, particularly in the areas of reflection, a critical view of
assessments, and using assessment to inform instruction. Furthermore,
this chapter traces the history of research that has come out of reading
Design/Methodology/Approach – A brief history of reading clinics since
the 1920s is followed by a deep examination of some of the themes that
have shaped more recent reading clinics and research that has emerged
from the clinics: assessment, mandates, teacher reflection, and twenty-
first Century Literacies.

Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom

Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Volume 2, 3–20
Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2048-0458/doi:10.1108/S2048-0458(2013)0000002004

Practical implications – This chapter offers key information for

stakeholders who are designing, establishing, or refining a reading clinic,
either university-based or K-12 school-based.
Social implications – Struggling readers and writers deserve and need
experiences that help them acquire literacy skills, including reading and
writing for twenty-first century purposes. Teachers need support as
they navigate mandates from educational policy-makers, enhance
their skills as literacy leaders and literacy coaches, and reflect on
best practices.

Keywords: Reading clinics; literacy research; struggling readers

A busload of middle schoolers and their parents tentatively stepped off of the bus at the
university. Most had never been out of their urban neighborhood; they were coming to
the university to attend the reading clinic, and they were excited, hesitant, and curious.
The adults who greeted them (mostly classroom teachers enrolled in a graduate degree
program to become reading specialists) had many goals for these students who struggled
with reading or writing. Yet, as it turned out, the teachers had as much to learn from
the children and their parents as the children and parents had to learn from the

Since Dr. Grace Fernald at UCLA established the first continuing reading
clinic in 1921, reading clinics, whether based in universities, in schools, or on
virtual platforms, have always been sites of intensive assistance to struggling
readers. The reading clinic has evolved to become a site drawn from the
community or communities rather than being separate from them. It is a
place that is free from mandated assessments, adopted curricula, or a
specific set of materials. A reading clinic is a place for active, reflective
learning for all participants. In many instances, current engagement with
less-than-proficient readers is a secondary purpose of reading clinics, as a
focus on concentrated teacher development is the principal objective. In
clinic, teachers learn targeted approaches to assisting students (Freppon,
1999) that have an impact on countless students beyond the reading clinic. A
third goal of many reading clinics has been to provide bountiful laboratories
for literacy research.
This chapter will provide a brief historical picture of all three of these
strands. Of particular interest is the last purpose: the importance of reading
clinics as centers for research about teacher learning and about literacy
learners’ development. As I will present a historical perspective of research
A Historical View of Student Learning and Teacher Development 5

in reading clinics, I will give illustrations from a variety of research studies

of how that research has had both an immediate impact on the students in
clinic, wider dissemination to other students, and longer term influence on
the teachers (and the future students of those teachers).


A note is in order about terminology. A ‘‘reading clinic’’ by any other name

may be a variation on the theme or exactly the same entity of which we are
speaking. Some have recently chosen the term ‘‘literacy center’’ since
‘‘clinic’’ sounds so medically oriented. Or, others argue that we should stay
with ‘‘clinic’’ as it is a place to focus on reading competencies and help boost
students’ abilities, much like a soccer clinic or basketball clinic aims to
advance skills. Is ‘‘literacy clinic’’ more appropriate since most practitioners
focus on oral language, writing, and viewing, as well as reading?
For example, the University of Virginia’s McGuffey Reading Center was
established in 1946. The Cappi Wadley Center for Reading and Technology
opened at Northeastern State University, Oklahoma, in 2011. The Donald
D. Durrell Reading and Writing Clinic is at Boston University. The
University of Albany (SUNY) has the Literacy Lab. The reading clinic has
had many names both in the past and currently. For the sake of brevity, we
will use the generic term ‘‘reading clinic’’ to describe a site for focused
assessment and intensive instruction in reading and writing, usually one-on-
one or in small group, that is based either at a university or as an extra-
curricular activity at a school or community organization (Fig. 1).


Early reading clinics were led by some of the pioneer researchers in the field
of literacy. At the University of Chicago were William S. Gray and Helen
M. Robinson; Iowa State University’s reading clinic was run by Samuel
Orton; and Johns Hopkins University had a clinic led by Mary Dougherty
(Laster, 2000). There was a proliferation of reading clinics during the 1960s
and 1970s. The Educational Development Laboratories, Inc. published a
directory of reading clinics in 1960; according to Kolson and Kaluger (1963)
that contained a list of 234 clinics that served more than just one public or
private school. Since reading clinics had multiple titles – Reading Institute,

Joan Rankin-Erickson, Guy Trainin & Kathleen Wilson

1980 University of Illinois–Chicago Eugene Cramer

1985 University of Cincinnati Victoria Purcell Gates

1958 Northern Illinois University Eugene B. Grant

1968 Towson University Dr. Joseph P.Gutkoska

2008 New Mexico State University Koomi Kim

1953 University of Pittsburgh Donald Cleland

1972 National Louis University Bob Hillerich

1945 University of Chicago William S, Gray

1966 Califomia State University – Fullerton

1994 Texas A&M University Daniel Pearce

1946 University of Virginia Ullin W. LeaveII
1937 New York University Stella Center

1956 University of Georgia lra E. Aaron

2006 Georgia State University–Atlanta

1966 Harvard University Jeanne Chall

2004 University of Nebraska-Lincoln

1939 Rowan University Marion Little
1907 Northeastern State University

1932 Western Michigan University

1921 UCLA Grace Fernald

Joyce Many & Lori Elliot

Harrell E. Garrison

Hazel Miller Croy

Homer J.Carter

1900 2012

1920–1950 1950–1950 1960–1970 1980–2010

Beginnings: Special Peel off of Trending with “What’s Hot”
The Medical Reading Special
Model Teachers Education
as a
Teachers as Reflective Practitioners
Social Contexts of Literacy Learning

Reading Specialists as Literacy Coaches

Disentangling from the Mandates

Infusing 21st century literacies

Fig. 1. Timeline of Reading Clinics.

Reading Laboratory, Reading Center, etc. – it was hard to track them

down, so it may well be that this was only a fragment of the total number of
clinics. In 1984, Bates reported on her survey of 242 reading clinics that they
were challenged to maintain the status quo because of lack of administrative
support. Bader and Wiesendanger’s (1986) survey of reading clinics reported
on 151, and Irwin and Lynch-Brown (1988) discuss 163 clinics that were part
of their survey. By the time of Zalud’s (1993) study, he could find only 145
reading clinics. Although the number of reading clinics diminished during
the late 1980s and into the 1990s because of financial constraints and
unsympathetic administrators (Michel & Dougherty, 1999), there has been a
resurgence of interest in clinics and the establishment of multiple new sites
during the last decade (Ortlieb, 2012). Because funding was a major
challenge to reading clinics in the latter part of the twentieth century, some
were placed in school sites. A 1997 survey found that 71% were still based at
a university, 5% were at a school site only, and 24% were at both university
and school sites (Teale & Hester, 1997).
A Historical View of Student Learning and Teacher Development 7

Through the many versions of reading clinics across the decades, one
consistent purpose has been to provide a refuge and a source of help for
struggling readers. As we look at the history of reading clinics, we see an
evolution of the missions and visions of the reading clinic for these children
or adolescents. Furthermore, the missions/visions of clinics involve other
essential stakeholders: teachers, literacy specialists or coaches, and
caregivers/parents/extended family.
In the 1920s, the first university-based reading clinic opened at UCLA.
The focus was on remedial readers. The skeletal template of reading clinic
that Dr. Fernald set up there has persisted for more than 90 years. By
offering an exemplary practicum for aspiring reading teachers or reading
specialists while providing direct service to students, the reading clinic has
become a place where new techniques and research emerges. Furthermore, it
was, also, the site for the development of the Fernald Technique (Fernald,
1943), which is a whole word memory technique for word recognition.
Research within reading clinics continues to provide leadership in theory
and policy, assessment and instruction, and other components and contexts
of literacy instruction.



Early reading clinics were a step forward from a time when students who did
not progress were labeled as dumb or lazy. So, as reading clinics took on the
essence of medical clinics, they tried to solve the puzzle of readers who had
deficits and tried to ‘‘cure’’ them. A variety of theories of why some students
struggle with reading dominated the decades of 1920–1960 and the flavor of
those discussions permeated the walls of the reading clinics. Orton (1928, as
cited in McCormick & Braithwaite, 2008) popularized the idea that lack of
cerebral dominance is the cause of reading delay. Delacato (1959) built on the
notion that neurological problems are the basis for reading problems and had
children crawling, throwing balls, etc. In the 1940s, much attention was given
to the idea that visual problems are the primary cause of reading difficulties
(McCormick & Braithwaite, 2008). Except for a very small minority of
readers, research demonstrated, though, that visual correction or vision
therapy does not ameliorate their challenges. Emotional disturbance was
proposed as a cause of reading failure. Others later explained that emotional
distress is sometimes the result of reading problems rather than a cause

(McCormick & Braithwaite, 2008). Since the 1950s, though, more and more
practitioners, theorists, and researchers have articulated that there are multiple
causes of children’s delay in becoming proficient readers. In fact, it is now
widely accepted that the causes of delayed reading may vary from child to
child. Furthermore, many practitioners note the progression of reading
proficiency in stages of development (Kucer, 2009).


The establishment of special education as a separate discipline had a major

impact on the entire field of reading education and on the reading clinic
(Zigmond & Kloo, 2012). By 1968, the Federal government had provided
impetus and funds to train more than 30,000 special education teachers
(U.S. Department of Education, 2012). As special educators became distinct
from general education teachers and reading specialists, their divergent
practica resulted in separate silos of professional practice (Lipson &
Wixson, 2010). The separation between special educators and general
educators leaves us now with the challenge of bridging different
philosophies of language and literacy (e.g., ‘‘bottom up’’ vs. ‘‘top down’’
understandings of the reading process). Sometimes, special educators and
teachers of reading use distinct language (e.g. ‘‘progress monitoring’’ vs.
‘‘ongoing assessment’’) as well as pedagogies.
With the movement toward Response to Intervention (RTI) established
by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) law, there
is some movement toward some conjoining of special education and general
education (NJCLD, 2005). As the communication between these divergent
teacher education paths starts to converge, the reading clinic can again
become a useful site of collaboration across professional practice. The clinic
is an ideal place for teacher development in the areas of appropriate
assessment, responsive teaching, differentiating instruction, and collabora-
tion among multiple stakeholders (IRA, 2010).


The reading clinics shifted from a stance that looked to ‘‘curing’’ what was
wrong with particular students to a focus on what is the most effective
instruction to advance all readers who struggle. Johns (1992), in fact, wrote
about how the reading clinic’s new focus was as a ‘‘wellness center.’’ From
A Historical View of Student Learning and Teacher Development 9

the 1990s onward, the clinics were more in the main flow of research, theory,
and praxis in literacy. Big waves of change in the field of literacy, or in the
philosophy of education generally, moved through reading clinics. When
there was a swing in the main discussions of the field of literacy or
educational contexts in general, ripples circulated into reading clinics.
Several examples of this are given below.
Dr. Jack Cassidy, former director of several reading clinics (Cassidy &
Hanes, 1992), has for multiple years published annual list of trends in
literacy education (1999, December/2000, January). This yearly list is a
metaphor for how reading clinics are both affected by the political,
economic, and research forces in the larger society and how the reading
clinic – as a site of research and practice – influences the larger world of
literacy education.
For example, the texts used for literacy instruction are tangible reminders
of how reading clinics have both responded to and influenced the field of
literacy instruction. The artifacts found in reading clinic book or resource
rooms exemplified the current research and beliefs of literacy professionals.
Many clinic directors spent the 1980s and the early 1990s cleaning out
reading clinic closets filled with tachistoscopes, controlled readers, and
commercial skills-based kits – which assisted teachers looking at word level,
sentence level, and skill level processes of reading. In dramatic contrast,
Carr, who was clinic director at Central Missouri University, summarized
how authentic children’s literature was the mainstay of instruction at her
clinic (Carr, 2003). Freppon also pointed out that many clinics, such as the
University of Cincinnati’s Literacy Center, provide a literature-based
approach (Freppon, 1999).
Basal readers were – early on – focused on skill development and
controlled vocabulary; later they were anthologies of literature (Pearson,
2000). Some years, non-fiction has gotten more focus in literacy instruction,
other years digital texts are ‘‘what’s hot.’’ Not surprisingly, the book closets
or resource rooms of the reading clinics have changed along with the times.
Many now contain leveled readers, themed text sets of trade books, and
IPads, as reading clinic directors forage into the field to find a variety of
texts and approaches that reflect the latest best practices.
The conversations during the 1980s and 1990s about how best to teach
beginning reading in clinic and classroom offer another example. Dr. Jeanne
Chall, who directed the Harvard Reading Laboratory from 1966 until 1991,
supported the teaching of phonics in explicit and systematic ways for
beginning readers. Clymer’s (1963) article about the limitations of phonics
generalizations turned the focus of clinics toward the work of Goodman

(1965). Goodman coined the term ‘‘miscues’’ to describe deviations from the
text; miscues clarify for the teacher how readers make sense of the text.
Many reading clinics began to use miscue analysis as a central method of
assessing students’ reading processes. On the other hand, Chall (1967)
continued to promote the explicit teaching of phonic generalizations and
this had an impact on some clinics. In most cases, the reading clinics –
crucibles of experience – were a moderating force as the controversy raged
about how best to teach beginning reading. Considering the clinic as a
laboratory to observe close examination of student progress, the reading
clinic gives teachers and researchers a chance to experiment with multiple
variables, each of which, or a combination of which, may create positive
learning impacts for students.


We now turn to four major themes, which have influenced reading clinics
during the last two decades and continue to dominate. These themes have
had important consequences for struggling readers in their classrooms and
communities, as well as in the clinics: (1) literacy assessment that informs
instruction, (2) the impact of mandates, (3) teacher reflection, and (4)
twenty-first century literacies.


Reading clinics have been a laboratory to bring clarity to issues of

assessment. Using multiple assessments to inform reading instruction –
assessments that provide information about many different aspects of
reading, writing, motivation, attitude, and self-efficacy – drove the clinics in
the last half of the 1990s and throughout the next decade. Earlier leveled
passages laid the foundation for many other informal reading inventories,
which grew out of the work in clinics. Among others, Dr. Jerry Johns’s Basic
Reading Inventory (2010) and the various editions of Leslie and Caldwell’s
Qualitative Reading Inventory (2001) became widely used and are still
popular (Garrett, Pearce, Salazar, & Pate, 2007). The University of Nevada
at Reno’s Center of Literacy and Learning was one of the sites for the
development of Words Their Way (Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton, & Johnson,
1996, 2000, 2004, 2008), including many assessments for spelling. Cobb and
Allen (2000) created a Volunteer Tutor Instructional Practices Checklist
A Historical View of Student Learning and Teacher Development 11

(which is used to document a tutor’s growth over time and to provide useful
feedback to a tutor) when they worked together at the reading clinic at the
University of North Texas.
Over several years, a group of reading clinic directors examined what
teachers learned in reading clinic that they transferred to their classrooms.
They collaborated to develop a national electronic survey in 2005 and an
interview protocol in 2006 to examine the issue of transfer of practice from
the reading clinic to literacy professionals’ roles in schools. The team of
researchers developed the survey questions focused on teacher practices
after they left reading clinic in the areas of assessment, instruction, coaching,
and leadership (Freppon et al., 2007). The request for respondents went out
to 500 practicing reading teachers/reading specialists/educators across 10
different sites. The subjects who completed the survey (n=150) spanned 10
sites (NY-2 sites, RI, MD, TX, NM, IL, UT, OK-2 sites). Because of the
nature of the survey, all participants were able to answer anonymously, and
even the e-mail solicitations for participants did not come from the directors
of their local program. One of the key findings of this research was that
teachers did transfer from clinic to classroom techniques for assessing
learners’ strengths and needs that were critical and purposeful; they used
assessments to inform their day-to-day instruction.



Since 2000 the reading clinic has become an oasis in a desert shielded away
from high stakes testing and mandated curricula legislated by politicians
(Cobb, Sargent, & Chitamba, 2012). For parents/guardians who bring their
children or adolescents to reading clinic, they find professionals who are
discussing the specific strengths and needs of their child.
For teachers, the reading clinic is a place where they can learn, practice,
and grow in their competencies as practitioners also away from the pressures
of mandated assessments, pay-for-performance, and high stakes observa-
tions by administrators. McCormick and Braithwaite (2008) state that one
of the purposes of clinical education is to help teachers be aware of
immoderate swings that have plagued literacy education and prompt
teachers to seek ‘‘research, rather than fads, as their guide’’ (p. 158). In
reading clinic, teachers choose assessments based on the profile of the
literacy learner (Carr, 2003; Deeney et al., 2011). They choose instruction

based on specific assessment results, including the interests of the learner.

This is in contrast to what most teachers must do in their classrooms/
Political and business interests, a call for accountability, and minimalist
research have driven many of the changes in schools during the last 15 years
(Allington, 2012; Altwerger, 2005). The reading clinic is a refuge from these
forces, although it often has to confront the pressures that teachers face in
their schools. For example, a parent/guardian might say, ‘‘But will he pass
the state-mandated test?’’ A teacher who is a clinician in reading clinic might
say, ‘‘Well, I could use a DIBELS test with my client because that is what we
do at my school.’’ Usually, the supervisor in reading clinic will suggest
student-specific assessments (Deeney, 2008). The development of teachers as
literacy leaders in an age of accountability (Coburn, Pearson, & Woulfin,
2011) has forced clinics to address issues within a wider context.
Sometimes, struggling readers come to reading clinic to ‘‘fix’’ what is
askew in the school district. In a review of the needs of the elementary-aged
clients at the Towson University Reading Clinic, 35% needed assistance
with comprehension in 1995. Yet, in 2000, 68% had a primary need in the
area of comprehension. This is likely the result of an emphasis on discrete
skills and a shift away from comprehension-focused instruction in the
surrounding school districts (Wilson, Wiltz, & Lang, 2005). The increased
push toward seeing reading as reading words and reading them quickly
overshadowed the focus on reading for meaning (Table 1).

Table 1. Major Needs of Students Who Came to Towson

Reading Clinic.
Component Fall Fall Fall Fall
1995 2000 2005 2010

Number of students N=17 N=26 N=16 N=25

Confidence/Self-esteem 0% 7.69% 0% 0%
Motivation 5.88% 0% 12.5% 0%
Word recognition, decoding, and 52.94% 61.54% 56.25% 40%
Fluency 11.76% 3.85% 43.75% 24%
Comprehension 35.29% 65.38% 56.25% 96%
Research strategies 17.65% 0% 0% 0%
Writing 5.88% 15.38% 0% 28%
Handwriting 0% 3.85% 0% 0%
A Historical View of Student Learning and Teacher Development 13


The goal of exceptional professional development of teachers as literacy

coaches, collegial mentors, and appropriately sensitive educators has cycled
through reading clinics. The teachers who participated in reading clinic
during the 1990s and beyond were encouraged to be reflective practitioners
(Miller & Grant, 1995). Supervisors in reading clinics promoted and helped
sustain the professional development of teachers as they coached the
teachers to use reflection as they planned instruction, made adjustments as
they taught, and looked back at their teaching segments (Dozier, 2006). One
strand of research, known as the Teacher Learning Instrument, asked
teachers to transcribe a segment of their lesson before they reflected
(Rosemary, Freppon, & Kunnican-Welsch, 2002). Close examination of
teacher talk continues to be a focus of research coming out of reading clinics
(2010). Sometimes video recording assisted with the conversations that
occurred as teachers examined their own practice during reflections (Laster,
Reflection by teachers (‘‘clinicians’’) and by clinic directors themselves
was addressed by Kibby and Barr, clinic directors at University at Buffalo
and University of Chicago, respectively (1999). Blachowicz et al. (1999)
found, from their research, that clinicians reveal four types of reflection:
technical, practical, conceptual, and critical. Even earlier, Miller and
Grant (1995) described cycles of reflection in their reading clinic at the
University of Maryland and stressed that reflection must not occur only
after the act of teaching, but also during the processes of planning and
during teaching.
Hill (2000), at the reading clinic at the University of Houston-Clear Lake,
examined the critical incidents that teachers identify and reflect upon that
changed them from being teacher-centered to being child-centered.

y through careful analysis of data from both informal and formal assessments which
inform teaching strategies; from standardized assessments to use of retellings, think
alouds, running records or miscue analysis; and from multiple choice assessments to
elaborate, thoughtful, and research rubrics y through careful analysis of videotaping
and transcriptions, tutors can develop constructive means for instruction and measures
for further assessment where they can chart and examine shifts, changes, and progress.
Where the clinic was once an isolated tutoring situation, we now draw on many
resources at the university, within the community, and include the parents in the entire
instructional process (Hill, 2000, p. 1).

Going deeper into the topic of reflection, Laster, Hill, and Freppon
(1997) looked at the critical incidents (Tripp, 1993) that change the

thinking and/or practice of teachers at three clinic sites. Critical incidents

are not dramatic incidents but the interpretation placed on the event when
reflecting upon it. In reading clinic, teachers have time to carefully examine
their own practice, consider changes in their pedagogy, their attitudes, and
their perspectives toward their students, the families of their students, and
their colleagues. Teaching demonstrations followed by extensive peer
feedback help teachers unpack their practices and extend their expertise
(Dozier, 2006; Rosemary et al., 2002). Furthermore, Dunston (2007)
described key elements of clinic that advance teachers and teaching.
Specifically, she observed how moving teachers beyond their comfort zones
and encouraging teachers to self-evaluate and reflect are essential elements
of reading clinic.


Students’ multimodal literacy practices are currently valued as powerful in

non-school settings (Alvermann & Hagood, 2000; Lewis & Fabos, 2005),
but print-based texts continue to dominate classroom instruction because of
a lack of understanding of and training in the advantages of technology and
because of the reality of high stakes testing-driven curricula (Alvermann,
2008; Alvermann, Huddleston, & Hagood, 2004). However, the reading
clinic can still function as the intersection between young people’s everyday
and school-based literacies.
The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)’s (2008) definition
of twenty-first century literacies states that students must be able to use
technology and possess related competencies such as the ability to create,
critique, and analyze multi-media texts. In line with these goals, subsequent
chapters in this book give many suggestions for infusing technology into
literacy instruction in productive ways – ways that give the most agency to
the learner. Whether text-based or digital, the goal should continue to be
assisting students to be critical literacy learners. Readers who struggle, in
fact, need acceleration for full, active participation in the twenty-first
century in these crucial skills:

 critical evaluation of information;
 flexibility/adaptability to changes in the technological and social
A Historical View of Student Learning and Teacher Development 15

 the creation and production of texts using multiple modes;

 critical thinking;
 responsibility; and
 the ability to maintain and leverage interpersonal/social relationships
(NCTE, 2008).

Although the national survey described above in the section on

assessment provided windows into literacy professionals’ thinking and the
range of ways they ‘‘took up’’ practices from the literacy lab/reading clinic
(Freppon et al., 2007), the limited nature of the survey (i.e., Likert items and
open-ended questions) did not allow for further exploration into current
practices. Thus, we designed an interview protocol, and conducted and
transcribed interviews of clinic graduates from 11 sites (n=28). Interview
questions were designed to further our understanding of the topical areas we
identified in the electronic survey – assessment, instruction, leadership, and
coaching. We also asked interviewees to identify and discuss three self-
selected artifacts that exemplify their practice. Furthermore, we found that
the survey data revealed that federal, state, and district mandates had an
overarching effect, and so we prompted our interviewees to talk more about
them. Finally, we wanted to explore how reading teachers/specialists
integrate technology, so we added two questions on that topic. This second
research project involved systematic face-to-face interviews of graduates of
reading clinics and followed this sequence: At each site we had graduates
who were novices and veterans, had a range of roles in the schools from
classroom teacher to literacy coach, and served elementary or secondary or
special school populations. In the end, we included a vast range of voices.
We visited schools to interact with the respondents in their own classrooms
and to see first-hand what artifacts of their jobs, as reading teachers/reading
specialists/literacy coaches, were prized.
This more recent study provides some evidence about the prevalence of
technology used in reading clinics/literacy labs, and adds to the knowledge
base concerning technology integration (Dubert & Laster, 2011). One
interviewee said, ‘‘I use technology as a tool not the tool.’’ This sums up
the critical stance that she learned in reading clinic where she was
challenged through questioning, contesting, evaluating, improving, and
building upon previous ideas concerning assessments, new instructional
materials including technology, and pedagogy. This teacher knows that the
breadth of possible instructional approaches is always expanding (Deeney
et al., 2011).


Cambourne (2009) provides a broad and supportive theoretical under-

pinning for much of the work in reading clinics when he says that the theory
of natural learning is aligned with these three assumptions: Meaning is an
internal cognitive construction; making sense of the world is essential for the
individual and society; and the human mind is capable of constructing
meaning using a variety of language (and symbolic) systems. Freire and
other critical theorists have long noted that literacy has the potential to
empower and liberate but also to dominate and repress citizens of a given
society (Freire, 1985). This stance resonates with many directors of reading
clinics; yet, they also take a pragmatic approach that results in the presence
of a range of models of the reading process. In fact, flexible, pragmatic
models of assessment and instruction within a frame of natural learning and
critical literacy seem to be the norm in reading clinics during the second
decade of the twenty-first century. A spotlight on struggling readers
continues as a central focus of reading clinics.
There is growing concern that unless we transform our literacy priorities
and practices, this generation of students will be ill-equipped with the critical
reasoning and high-level competencies needed for full, participatory, critical
citizenship in the global community. Lack of instructional attention to
development of critical literacy skills is often most apparent with students in
urban systems (Morrell, 2008), such as we find in the Metropolitan
Baltimore region and who attend Towson Reading Clinic.
A safe space for teachers to develop their approaches to literacy teaching
is an equally important purpose for reading clinics. We should continue to
advance the research looking into the best practices of reflective teaching
and teacher development. The reading clinic is also an ideal laboratory to
explore the challenges of the role of literacy coach.
Furthermore, as discussed throughout this chapter, the 90+ years of
reading clinics has provided a rich laboratory for research and praxis
concerning literacy assessment, effective instruction, and contextual issues.
The use of different print genres and technology has become a significant
center of attention. Clinics are responsive to legislated mandates and, as
such they have become testing grounds for new approaches. Specifically,
instead of a deficit model, reading clinics have moved from a medical model
to an RTI (Response to Intervention) approach that assumes differentiated
instruction (IRA, 2010; Lipson & Wixson, 2010).
Reading clinics have expanded and contracted and are, in some cases,
now becoming virtual. Earlier, Michel and Dougherty (1999) viewed the
A Historical View of Student Learning and Teacher Development 17

future of reading clinics with optimism. More than a decade later, we

assume the same stance, as we observe more reading clinics being
established, their service to struggling readers continuing, and their offerings
of research results gifted to the field of education. We call, though, for more
support for research in clinical settings that examines the links between
teacher learning and student learning and that explores the social/cultural
contexts of literacy learning including digital environments. It is important,
also, to continue the research in reading clinics that has a lens that is wide
enough to capture intergenerational literacy in families from diverse
backgrounds. The future of literacy education will be brighter with answers
to the questions necessarily raised by investigating those topics central to
reading clinics.
The adults who greeted the busload of middle schoolers reflected back on the semester at the
university reading clinic. Looking over the in-depth case reports, it was clear that the
students were more poised about spending time out of their urban neighborhood; they knew
their way around the university campus and considered it a possible venue for future studies.
Most importantly, the students had made great gains as readers and writers, as evidenced in
the thick case reports written about each student. The teachers, also, had learned much
from the children and their dedicated parents, and their own reflections. The teachers had
learned how to use powerful assessments, utilize a variety of instructional pathways, and
change their pedagogy according to the strengths and needs of their students. Back in their
own classrooms they could do the same for their future students.

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Debra Coffey, Daphne Hubbard,

Marie Holbein and Stacy Delacruz


Purpose – This chapter provides the reader with an overview of the

process involved in creating a Literacy Center to help students to rise
above challenges and flourish academically. It focuses on instructional
planning that brings the curriculum to life for P-12 students and
emphasizes their strengths and interests.
Methodology/Approach – The authors describe the process of creating a
Literacy Center that focuses on students’ strengths and enhances student
achievement. They communicate the factors involved in (1) initiating the
planning process, (2) designing a policy manual, (3) creating instruc-
tional frameworks, and (4) enhancing literacy development through
support from home.
Practical implications – This chapter includes a detailed overview of the
creation of a Literacy Center, a process that could be replicated by the
educators who read the chapter. This description provides educators with
insights that could facilitate the planning process and provide ideas for
lesson planning and curriculum development in a Literacy Center.

Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom

Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Volume 2, 21–42
Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2048-0458/doi:10.1108/S2048-0458(2013)0000002005

Social implications – The chapter suggests how faculty could work

together to create a Literacy Center to enhance student achievement in
the community. This could potentially help P-12 students in many
locations to acquire the skills and strategies they need in order to turn
challenges into strengths. This will help Literacy Centers to provide
effective, research-based literacy instruction and promote outstanding
literacy leadership in our schools.

Keywords: Individualized instruction; policy manual; interest

inventories; Common Core State Standards; formal assessment;
informal assessment

Reading is a powerful tool for successful achievement. Classroom teachers

often identify the needs of students and want to differentiate instruction
more creatively to help them become successful readers. Instructional time
frames and an array of expectations often limit their opportunities to meet
students’ needs and match students’ interests with engaging literature.
Literacy Centers provide unique opportunities for teachers to focus on one-
on-one instruction and meet students’ needs with meaningful curriculum
opportunities that promote higher levels of achievement (Houge, Geir, &
Peyton, 2008).
The literature on social interaction and discourse reinforces the power of
learning through collaboration and communication (Vygotsky, 1962). Teacher
talk and dialogue during informal assessment can impact the interpretation of
student performance during informal assessment (Holbein & Harkins, 2010).
Parents are key stakeholders and are participants in their children’s learning.
Teachers advocate for students, work across grade levels, work with special
education teachers, and learn to reflect on their own practice. A new vision
shared between P-12 partners and university teacher preparation programs
places children at the center and teachers as observers, instructors, and
instructional leaders (Carr, 2003; Dunston, 2007; Johnson, 2006).
A major shift has occurred over the past three decades with respect to the
philosophy and purpose for Literacy Centers. Contemporary nomenclature
reflects the change. Educators refer more frequently to facilitating children’s
literacy acquisition rather than teaching reading. The medical model of
years past focused on deficits of struggling readers (Carr, 2003; Dunston,
2007). The changing perspective from fixing readers to supporting them in
their leaning has profound implications for what educators do and how they
do it both in the P-12 classroom and in graduate and undergraduate teacher
education programs. Pre-Service and In-Service teachers often acquire and
Creating a University-Based Literacy Center 23

hone their instructional skills through undergraduate and graduate

programs where their classroom learning is augmented through authentic
experiences working with children in university-based Literacy Centers.
A review of the literature suggests a number of varying models for
Literacy Centers ranging from summer practicums to more extensive labo-
ratory experiences linked to formal coursework (Carr, 2003; Dunston, 2007;
Johnson, 2006). While those models vary in structure and delivery, they all
hold to common elements: assessment, instruction, communication, and
Proper intake is critical to meaningful and strategically focused
intervention. Parent interviews and applications are generally directed
toward collecting information related to student health and physical
factors, achievement history, developmental status, personal preferences,
and family histories (Carr, 2003; Rosner & Cooper, 1982). Diagnostic
measures often include informal inventories, phonemic awareness assess-
ments, and student interest inventories. Instruction more effectively occurs
in authentic ways through emersion in literature-based models where
comprehension and word recognition skills are taught through the
language arts. Emerging literature suggests promising learning support
from strategic innovations, such as assistive technologies (McKenna &
Walpole, 2007). The research literature resounds with the benefits of
collaborative support during various designs for individualized instruction
(Houge et al., 2008).


Initial meetings: Two years ago an Institution of Higher Education in the

Southeast embarked on a journey to develop a Literacy Center. As the
Dean of the College initiated meetings, interest in the endeavor was
widespread throughout the teacher education preparation faculty. A group
composed of approximately 25 faculty and administrators from various
disciplines met for two years researching, exploring, deliberating, and
speaking with P-12 partners to establish a clear purpose and vision for a
Literacy Center.
Teamwork: The vision for the Literacy Center evolved slowly and
eventually led to the consolidation of a small group of faculty whose
expertise was in language and literacy. The group melded into a smaller
strategic committee whose primary objective was to create the proposal for
the Literacy Center (Strieker et al., 2010). Over the next year, the

committee’s solidarity and diligent work led to the design of the Center’s
infrastructure. Collaboration was hallmark among the stakeholders. The
state’s approved reading endorsement standards were infused into language/
literacy courses taught by faculty in three departments. Extensive meetings
were held to align the priorities of various programs in each department
with the Literacy Center schedule.
These variations and diverging agendas did not deter the groups’ mission.
The Literacy Committee was committed to respecting the autonomy of
programs within each department while finding common ground and
purpose. Communication and collaboration among faculty subsequently
yielded fruitful results. Challenging issues were negotiated: Curriculum
objectives were uniform and accreditation assessments were strategically
embedded into the courses aligned with the Literacy Center’s structure. All
the while, the committee’s attention was primarily, appropriately, and
essentially directed to the needs of students who would eventually seek
learning support from the Literacy Center.



The Leadership and Planning Team started working on the policy manual
after the Center was officially approved and the infrastructure was
established in 2010. The mission, vision, and goals identified by the
committee formed the guiding framework for the policy manual. The Center
for Literacy and Learning was designed to ‘‘serve as a collaborative model
for preparing practicing teachers to effectively assist P-12 learners in the
improvement of their literacy through the use of research-based practices’’
(Strieker, Coffey, Delacruz, Holbein, & Eaton, 2011, p. 3).
The mission of the Center for Literacy and Learning states that ‘‘The
Center promotes the acquisition and use of literacy strategies, fosters
independent learning, and motivates learners to value all forms of literacy
and lifelong learning.’’ The guiding policy of the Center ‘‘focuses on meeting
the needs of diverse populations and learners with special needs by
providing service to the community at large and to the education
community from both P-12 schools and the university setting’’ (p. 3).
As the Center Director, Associate Dean, and Leadership and Planning
Team began drafting the manual, Action Plans (Strieker, Coffey, Harrington,
Heckert, Hubbard, & Robbins, 2011) became the focus of each biweekly
Creating a University-Based Literacy Center 25

planning meeting. These Action Plans featured goals that focused on the vision
and mission of the Center. They provided the critical intersection for the
strategic plan in the original proposal, the manual, and program evaluation.
These Action Plans, which revolved around teacher preparation, research, and
service, included columns for (1) critical questions, (2) decision-makers, (3)
actions and member(s) responsible, (4) projected timelines, and (5) outcomes.
The first goal was to open the Literacy Center in an age-appropriate space
that was well supervised. Critical questions were generated by the
Leadership and Planning Team:
1. What are the procedures for enrolling new students?
2. What procedures will be used for parent orientation and participation?
3. How will the advisory board be established?

The second goal was to develop a cadre of practicing teachers, enrolled in

the reading endorsement, to teach P-12 students in the Center of Literacy
and Learning. Two critical questions for this goal included:

1. Which students will work in the Center?

2. Which faculty will teach the courses in the endorsement program?
The third goal of the plan focused on the establishment of a governance
system to guide daily operations and foster communication among all
parties. In this process the Action Plan was a management tool that bridged
planning, operations, and evaluation. The Center Director and the
Leadership and Planning Team created systems using five critical questions:
1. How will attendance be taken in the Center for teachers and P-12
2. How will assessments be checked out of the Center?
3. What will be the procedures for leveling and circulating books and other
4. How will fees be collected through the university online account?
5. Who will be the constant contact for information?

The fourth goal of the Center was to develop a system for recruiting P-12
students to attend the Center when it opened in 2011. The Center Director
spoke at the Annual Conference on Literature for Children and Young
Adults to announce opportunities in the Center. This message was
reinforced with flyers and a Facebook page to utilize social media. Over
1000 flyers were distributed to area school districts and schools. Members of
the Leadership and Planning Team visited with principals in area schools

and leaders of various community organizations to share opportunities in

the Center.
The fifth goal of the Center was to assure that the university students who
worked with the P-12 students demonstrated competencies consistent with
the Center’s program evaluation and unit NCATE requirements. The
questions, which aligned with goal five, emphasized motivation, data
collection, and storage of information.
The sixth goal was to design and implement research procedures and an
evaluation model of P-12 students’ learning that was consistent with the
vision and mission of the Center. The Leadership and Planning Team chose
common assessments and the research methodology for the Center. Then
the Center Director developed an Individualized Student Reading Plan
(Strieker, 2011) and a template for progress reports, which were shared with
As they discussed the Action Plans, the team wrote sections of the policy
manual collaboratively. The Leadership and Planning Team decided to
begin the manual with the mission, policy, and goals for the Center. Faculty
members took lead roles in writing sections of the policy manual that
focused on (1) information for parents and caregivers, (2) cognitive coaching
and comprehensive staff development, (3) the budget and a description of
the Center faculty, (4) faculty workshops, and (5) the summer program.
The table of contents for the policy manual began to emerge during
bimonthly meetings with a series of revisions. The initial section of the
policy manual included the mission statement and policy goals. The vision
and mission statements presented ways the Center would enhance the
literacy development and achievement of P-12 students while serving the
community. This section was followed by a written policy for a safe and
comfortable learning environment that informed parents and caregivers
about the facility, the organizational structure, the budgetary process, and
personnel who would be working in the Center.
The policy manual emphasized the teacher development opportunities in
the Center. The Leadership and Planning Team determined that graduate
students in reading endorsement programs would work in the Center, and
the syllabi for those courses aligned with the expectations for the Center.
Literacy research efforts and goals were highlighted in the manual.
This section was divided into six program evaluation areas that included
(1) teacher development, (2) student achievement, (3) summer programs,
(4) customer satisfaction, (5) personnel, and (6) operations.
The final sections of the manual included the appendices with student
service information. Forms for the Center, the budget outline, and
Creating a University-Based Literacy Center 27

information regarding reading endorsement courses associated with field

experiences in the Literacy Center were highlighted in the final sections.


Once the policy manual was complete, it was time to design the space for the
Center and select resources. The Center Director worked along with a faculty
member in the Elementary and Early Childhood and Education Department
to order furniture that would be student-friendly. After consultation, chairs
and tables, bookcases, a technology cart, cabinets, and white boards were
purchased for the Center. We titled, leveled, organized, and created a circu-
lation system for 2000 titles of literature for children and young adults.
Members of the Leadership and Planning Team strategically planned the
facility in relation to the developmental needs of the P-12 students, the
current assessment of the literature, and emerging digital literacy.


The original outline and focus of the individualized student literacy plans for
one-on-one instruction in the Literacy Center were designed in the summer of
2011. The original Individualized Student Reading Plan (Strieker, 2011) was
very fluid and addressed the following research-based reading, writing, and
motivation strategies and components: (1) the dimensions of reading,
(2) student reading levels, (3) word study, (4) reading strategies, (5) engaging
texts, (6) reading broadly at the independent level, (7) writing, (8) motivational
strategies, (9) social interaction/group work, and (10) ongoing assessment and
progress monitoring (Houge et al., 2008).
The original plan gave graduate students an overview of instructional
components that was readily accessible during the sessions. This planning
template was strongly grounded in the role of reading engagement and
motivation on reading outcomes and other research-based diagnostic,
reading, and writing strategies (Graves, Juel, Graves, & Dewitz, 2011;
Wigfield et al., 2008). Graduate students engaged in extensive reflection after
each session of individualized instruction. This helped them to enhance their
lesson planning and meet individual needs more readily. See Appendix A to
review the original Individualized Student Reading Plan.

As the work progressed in the Literacy Center and graduate students

progressed in the reading endorsement, the reading faculty determined that
the graduate students should plan the one-on-one sessions more intention-
ally by closely examining the Georgia Performance Standards and the
Common Core State Standards relative to individualized instruction to
support what the P-12 students were learning in their respective grades. To
help graduate students fulfill this purpose, reading faculty provided a guided
reading template with additional scaffolding for the reading process as they
encouraged graduate students to create individualized instructional plans
that were more structured, intentional, and rigorous. The Individualized
Student Literacy Plan (Hubbard, 2011) featured these research-based
components and connections with the research literature:

Individualized Student Literacy Plan

Research-Based Components Research Connections

Selecting interesting engaging texts Wigfield et al., 2008
based on tutee preferences
Determining a specific outcome for Gunning, 2010; Walker, 2012
each tutoring session
Addressing motivation levels Gambrell and Marinak, 2009
Scaffolding instruction in a guided Fountas and Pinnell, 1996; Graves
reading workshop model et al., 2011
Opportunities for word work/ Johnston, Bear, and Invernizzi, 2006;
vocabulary building Marzano and Pickering, 2005
Comprehension instruction Graves et al., 2011; Harvey and
through guided questioning and Goudvis, 2000; Ruddell, 2006
the use of graphic organizers
Interesting and engaging writing Cunningham and Cunningham,
prompts 2010; McCarrier, Pinnell, and
Fountas, 2000
Suggesting plans for home and Graves et al., 2011; Trelease, 2006
family support
Planning for ongoing assessment Gunning, 2010; Walker, 2012
and progress monitoring
Reflecting and planning next steps Graves et al., 2011; Houge et al., 2008
Creating a University-Based Literacy Center 29

See Appendix B to review a completed sample of the Individualized

Student Literacy Plan using the guided reading template for lesson planning
in the Literacy Center.


In preparing the individualized student literacy plans, teachers in reading

endorsement classes considered many factors while planning for each session
of individualized instruction. To support what the P-12 students were doing
in their respective grade levels in school, the reading faculty determined that
it would be beneficial for the teachers in the Literacy Center to review the
Georgia Performance Standards and the Common Core State Standards in
language arts and reading for each student’s grade level. By addressing
grade level standards within each individualized session, the teacher could
support and enhance what the student was learning in school. By addressing
the standards in each session, the teachers were also able to familiarize
themselves with the more rigorous Common Core State Standards and
prepare to implement those effectively in their own personal classrooms
(Graves et al., 2011).


Another factor to consider in preparing the Individualized Student Literacy

Plans was the data provided on formal and informal assessments. Students
were administered the Gray Oral Reading Test-4 (GORT-4) (Wiederholt &
Bryant, 2001) or the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test (GMRT) (MacGinitie,
MacGinitie, Maria, Dryer, & Hughes, 2002), depending on their grade
levels. Teachers administered the Qualitative Reading Inventory-5 (QRI-5)
(Leslie & Caldwell, 2011) to determine students’ instructional, independent,
and frustration reading levels, so appropriate texts could be secured
for each session. Other informal assessments, such as interest inventories,
surveys, and interviews, were completed by teachers, parents, and students
to determine motivation to read, beliefs about teaching reading, and
literacy practices in the home. To add to the data for the individualized
instruction, whenever possible, the reading faculty in the Literacy Center
collected information from students’ current classroom teachers and
obtained school assessment data to further inform and individualize the
instructional process.



Before planning the actual content of instructional sessions, teachers

carefully considered the texts, the desired outcome, the skill focus, the
students’ motivation levels, and strategies to increase motivation. According
to the research, selecting the right text is highly motivational during reading
instruction (Guthrie & Wigfield, 1997). Initially, the teachers selected high-
interest, recreational literature at the students’ instructional level to begin
the instructional process and to provide a context to address ways to
improve phonemic awareness, phonics instruction, fluency, vocabulary, and
comprehension instruction (Ambruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2001). As the P-12
students’ needs changed, the teachers were encouraged to increase rigor and
broaden their use of a variety of texts that included different genres of
recreational literature as well as expository and informational texts.
It was important to establish specific outcomes for each session of
individualized instruction. The teachers considered the standards, the
students’ data from formal and informal assessments, skills, and strategies.
It was important to lay the groundwork to specifically and methodically
address the data and the students’ needs on a session-by-session basis. To
keep each session focused, the teachers determined an outcome for each
session. An outcome was defined as what the teachers wanted the student to
know and be able to do at the end of the session. Standards are broad and
encompassing, and students’ needs may be vast as well. Establishing an
outcome helped each teacher to stay focused and to plan a session to
specifically meet this desired outcome (Gunning, 2010; Walker, 2012).
To keep motivation and motivational strategies in the fore of planning for
each session, the teachers were asked to consider the motivation levels of
their students and articulate specific strategies to increase motivation within
the session. According to Guthrie and Wigfield (1997), motivation is defined
in terms of an individual’s beliefs, values, needs, and goals. According to
Pitcher et al. (2007), ‘‘y the closer that literacy activities and tasks match
these values, needs, and goals, the greater the likelihood that students will
expend effort and sustain interest in them’’ (p. 378).
To inspire motivation, it was important for teachers to know their
students’ interests and activities the students enjoyed outside of school.
Then they found literature, games, and technology that addressed P-12
students’ individual interests. Extrinsic rewards were not used in the instruc-
tional sessions to increase or sustain motivation; however, a genuine and
heartfelt interest and one-on-one time with teachers certainly helped create
Creating a University-Based Literacy Center 31

and sustain students’ motivation to move forward and improve reading

levels. Additionally, the incorporation of engaging vocabulary, reading, and
writing strategies throughout each instructional session enhanced motiva-
tion (Gambrell & Marinak, 2009; Wigfield et al., 2008).



The first phase of the actual session consisted of word work or vocabulary
instruction using a specific and engaging strategy. The teachers listed a
specific vocabulary strategy, the words and terms that would be covered,
and the procedures for carrying out this phase of the lesson. The procedures
for lessons were written by the teachers and included enough detail for
anyone to teach the lesson. The reading faculty stressed that vocabulary
instruction and word work should be reinforced throughout the lesson and
not taught in isolation (Johnston et al., 2006; Marzano, & Pickering, 2005).



During the lesson, the teachers specifically stated a pre-reading strategy that
would promote interest in the text, and they listed the procedures for this
strategy. To prepare for the actual reading of the text, the teachers created
four chunks of texts and pre-determined stopping points to ask comprehen-
sion questions at every level of comprehension for each chunk. Then they
designed the procedure for recording information on a graphic organizer.
The teachers determined what graphic organizer would be appropriate and
useful for the stated outcome and the skill focus determined in the planning
phase for each session. In an authentic guided reading session, the students
do all of the reading aloud while the teachers listen, prompt, or record
During the sessions for individualized instruction in the Literacy Center,
this was not always possible. Many times the teachers and the P-12 students
would take turns reading aloud, which gave the teachers opportunities to
model what good readers do (Florida Council on Reading Research, 2012;
Fountas & Pinnell, 1996, 2001; Graves et al., 2011; Harvey & Goudvis,
2000; International Reading Association, 2002; Ruddell, 2006).



Due to the varying ages and literacy abilities of the tutees, the teachers used
an engaging writing strategy and prompt or allowed the students to
illustrate some aspect of the reading after the lesson. The teachers were
encouraged by the reading faculty to be very creative and engaging when
selecting a writing strategy and prompt. Summarization in any subject is
valid and necessary; however, it is often overused and boring to students.
Thus, the teachers were asked to reflect on their own motivation to write
and determine what affected their levels of motivation before determining a
writing strategy and prompt. In determining an appropriate and engaging
writing prompt and strategy for each session, the teachers were encouraged
to ask themselves, ‘‘Would I want to complete this writing activity?’’
In workshops and peer editing during class sessions, the teachers were
often surprised that their writing strategies and prompts were not engaging,
nor would they want to personally complete the writing activity or be
inspired to grade them. This realization led the teachers to think critically
and to conduct research to discover compelling and motivational writing
strategies to incorporate after the lesson in each tutoring session. The
writing strategy and prompt were also designed to informally measure and
assess the outcome of the lesson, thus allowing the teacher and student to
come full circle in the individualized instructional process (Cunningham &
Cunningham, 2010; Graves et al., 2011; McCarrier et al., 2000).



In projecting to the end of the session, the teachers needed to pre-determine

what advice or support for parents and students would be useful in
sustaining motivation, skill improvement, and the focus of the session until
the next session. The teachers were encouraged to infuse technology,
websites for games and further skill enforcement, and sustained silent
reading for pleasure on a daily basis for 15–20 minutes as part of the home/
parent/family support component that is vital to improving the literacy
abilities of all students. The teachers were also charged with planning the
next formal or informal assessment as a form of progress monitoring. They
Creating a University-Based Literacy Center 33

reflected on the lesson and planned the next steps for the next session
(Graves et al., 2011; Gunning, 2010; Houge et al., 2008; Trelease, 2006;
Walker, 2012).


The development of the Literacy Center was a comprehensive and time

intensive process. It involved the input and commitment from many
stakeholders within the college community who were well aware of the
potential for meeting the learning needs of children in the community
and the possibilities for enhancing the teacher preparation program.
The early phases focused on establishing long- and short-terms goals
followed by developing a framework within clearly established policies and
The goal setting phase moved to the implementation phase where the
focus was on (1) acquiring proper space conducive to communication and
learning; (2) structuring effective instructional learning strategies linked to
state standards; (3) selecting assessments that included a broad range of
solidly established formal and informal measures; and (4) establishing a
powerful home connection.
The promises of new initiatives are sometimes accompanied by challenges.
Although the Individualized Student Literacy Plan template seemed
laborious and daunting to the teachers at first, they quickly and eagerly
saw the value in its intentionality and rigor. It was very telling to see how the
plans for individualized instruction developed and increased in quality over
the course of the semester. The reading faculty will continue to refine the
Individualized Student Literacy Plan template as areas of need or
improvement are noted. After the first year of operation, the data from
pre-testing and post-testing the tutees indicates that gains were made in
student reading levels and in motivation. We will continue to refine our
methodology and delivery of individualized reading instruction in the
Literacy Center.
The Literacy Center faculty and staff are committed to providing the
most effective, research-based literacy instruction and promoting out-
standing literacy leadership in our schools. In the final analysis, the measure
of success will be in the collective success stories of students whose literacy
needs are met and whose learning is enriched.

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for teaching children to read. Washington, DC: Partnership for Reading.
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based practices across the elementary curriculum. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Dunston, P. (2007). Instructional practices, struggling readers, and university-based reading
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MA: Allyn & Bacon.
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understanding. York, ME: Stenhouse.
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administration of an informal reading inventory. Association of Literacy Educators and
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one instruction with research-based practices. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy,
51(8), 640–650. doi: 10.1598/JAAL.51.8.3
Hubbard, D. (2011). Individualized student literacy plan. Unpublished student programming
Template. Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA.
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National Reading Panel Report into practice. Newark, DE: International Reading
Johnston, F., Bear, D. R., & Invernizzi, M. (2006). Words their way: Word sorts for derivational
relations spellers. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Johnson, M. (2006). Preparing reading specialists to become competent travelers in urban
settings. Urban Education, 41(4), 402–426.
Leslie, L., & Caldwell, J. S. (2011). Qualitative reading inventory-5 (5th ed.). Boston, MA:
MacGinitie, W. H., MacGinitie, R. K., Maria, K., Dryer, L. G., & Hughes, K. E. (2002). Gates
MacGinitie reading test (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Riverside Publishing.
Marzano, R. J., & Pickering, D. J. (2005). Building academic vocabulary teacher’s manual.
Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
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McCarrier, A., Pinnell, G. S., & Fountas, I. (2000). Interactive writing: How language and
literacy come together, K-2. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman.
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doi: 10.1002/pits.20307


Individualized Student Reading Plan

Date: _________________________

Student Name:__________________Teacher Name:__________________

Student Goal(s):________________________________________________

 Dimension of Reading

 Reading Levels: Independent ____ Instructional ____ Frustration ______

Word Study

Reading Strategy

Creating a University-Based Literacy Center 37

Read Broadly at Independent Level


Motivational Strategies

Social Interaction/Group Work

Assessments (Attach)

 Performance Monitoring of Reading

 Performance Monitoring of Written Work

Source: Strieker (2011).



Individualized Student

Literacy Plan

KSU Candidate: Mr. H

Student Grade Level: 5

Student Reading Level: 3

Georgia Performance Standard(s)

ELA5R1: The student demonstrates comprehension and shows evidence of

a warranted and responsible explanation of a variety of literary and
informational texts.

SS5H5: The student will explain how the Great Depression and New Deal
affected the lives of millions of Americans.

Source: Retrieved from

Creating a University-Based Literacy Center 39

Common Core Standard(s)

RL.5.5: Explain how a series of chapters, scenes, or stanzas fits together to

provide the overall structure of a particular story, drama, or poem.

RL.5.2: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the

text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or
how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

Source: Retrieved from


Text(s): Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Materials Needed: blank paper, novel, colored pencils

Date of Last Formal Assessment: 10/2011

Date of Last Informal Assessment: 12/2011

Student Goals and Outcome: The student will determine the characters and
setting of a given text.

Skill Focus: Comprehension, summarizing, elements of a novel or short


Level of Motivation: Good

Strategy to Increase Motivation: YA Lit/WebQuest


Lesson Outline Procedures for Teaching

Before the Lesson Word Work/Vocabulary

Name of Strategy: Acrostic Poem for the word Setting
1. Label a blank piece of paper with the word setting listed
2. Brainstorm and record adjectives that describe the word
setting for each letter in the word setting.
3. Review all the elements of short story or novel: plot,
setting, theme, characters, and point of view.
During the Lesson Guided Reading with Key Word Search
Preview the text and create Name of Strategy: Skim/Scan Text
motivation to read. Procedures:
1. After skimming and scanning the layout of the text, how
does this book look similar or different from other novels
you have read?
2. What do you think the title of the book means?
First Phase Read Chunk 1: Page 3
Student reads text orally. 1. Literal Question: What time of year was the narrator
Teacher stops the reading at born? What is the narrator’s name?
strategic points to ask 2. Interpretive Question: Why does the narrator make this
questions to monitor statement?
comprehension at each level
of comprehension. Student ‘‘Red’s the color I’ve stayed ever since.’’
and teacher complete a
graphic organizer following 3. Applied Question: What would you say to people if you
each chunk to reinforce a had been born at home on a wooden floor?
specific skill. 4. Creative Question: How would your family describe you?
5. As you read each stanza, write down three interesting or
challenging words on sticky notes to add to the word wall.
Second Phase Read Chunk 2: Page 4, Stanza 1
Student reads text orally. 1. Literal Question: What does the narrator look like?
Teacher stops the reading at 2. Interpretive Question: How does her father feel about
strategic points to ask her?
questions to monitor 3. Applied Question: What skills would you need in order to
comprehension at each level know how to drive a tractor and work on a farm?
of comprehension. Student 4. Creative Question: If you lived on a farm far removed
and teacher complete a from people, what would you want to have there with you
graphic organizer following to have fun?
each chunk to reinforce a 5. As you read each stanza, write down three interesting or
specific skill. challenging words on sticky notes to add to the word wall.
Creating a University-Based Literacy Center 41

Appendix B. (Continued )
Lesson Outline Procedures for Teaching

Third Phase Read Chunk 3: Page 4, Stanza 2

Student reads text orally. 1. Literal Question: How many characters are in the story so
Teacher stops the reading at far, and who are they?
strategic points to ask 2. Interpretive Question: Can you explain this quote?
questions to monitor
comprehension at each level ‘‘There is not much family to speak of.’’
of comprehension. Student
and teacher complete a 3. Applied Question: How many relatives do you have living
graphic organizer following close to you? Do you have family to speak of?
each chunk to reinforce a 4. Creative Question: How would you stay busy on a farm if
specific skill. you were the only child?
5. As you read each stanza, write down three interesting or
challenging words on sticky notes to add to the word wall.
Fourth Phase Read Chunk 4: Page 5
Student reads text orally. 1. Literal Question: How old is the narrator?
Teacher stops the reading at 2. Interpretive Question: How do you know her father
strategic points to ask wants a boy? What does ‘‘mean as a rattler’’ mean? What
questions to monitor state do you think she lives in?
comprehension at each level 3. Applied Question: How did you feel when you knew your
of comprehension. Student mom or another relative was expecting a baby? How did
and teacher complete a your family prepare for it?
graphic organizer following 4. Creative Question: If you were born like the narrator on a
each chunk to reinforce a wooden floor, what would you do to make sure your little
specific skill. brother or sister had a better situation for being brought
into the world?
5. As you read each stanza, write down three interesting or
challenging words on sticky notes to add to the word wall.
After the Lesson Writing or Illustrating
Student writes or illustrates in Name of Strategy: Character and Setting Sketch
response to the text. Writing Prompt: In your mind, what does this character/
narrator look like, and what are her personality traits.
1. Draw a picture of the character.
2. Surround the character sketch with adjectives that
summarize the character and the setting based on the text
and your own inferences.
Home/Parent/Family Support What can the family and student do at home to support the
student’s reading goals?
1. WebQuest:
2. 15–20 minutes daily of sustained silent reading for
pleasure at home. Discuss the book.
3. Conduct research on the Dust Bowl.

Appendix B. (Continued )
Lesson Outline Procedures for Teaching

Assessments Ongoing Performance Monitoring of Reading and Writing

1. Informal reading assessment scheduled for late January.
2. Informal writing assessment scheduled for late January.
Reflection Following the What went well?
Lesson What would you do differently?
Did you meet your outcome?
What are the next steps?
What data supports your next steps?
To be written following the lesson.

Tammy Ryan


Purpose – The chapter describes how teacher preparation programs can

design effective off-campus clinical programs. Information provided is
applicable to clinical practicums, capstone experiences, and to individual
course assignments at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Methodology/Approach – The author describes the foundational
components involved in designing a high-quality off-campus clinical-
based program. These components include selecting and building a
partnership with an off-campus site, using forms, fees, space, and
materials, engaging families, aligning assignments to course content,
grading, supervision, and acquiring funding.
Practical implications – In addition to the foundational components
involved in designing an effective off-campus clinic, the chapters describes
a university-based model that uses two different off-campus clinical-based
experiences that support community-based programs and local area
Social implications – The chapter addresses the need for teacher pre-
paration programs to build partnerships with off-campus community-based

Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom

Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Volume 2, 43–61
Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2048-0458/doi:10.1108/S2048-0458(2013)0000002006

programs to better prepare teachers to meet the literacy demands of all

students, particularly students living and learning in urban communities.

Keywords: Designing reading clinics; off-campus reading clinics;

community-based programs; teacher preparation programs; pre-
service teacher training

The education of teachers in the United States needs to be turned upside down. To
prepare effective teachers for 21st century classrooms, teacher education must shift away
from a norm which emphasizes academic preparation and course work loosely linked to
school-based experiences. Rather, it must move to programs that are fully grounded in
clinical practice and interwoven with academic content and professional courses
(National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 2010, p. ii).

This statement included as part of the executive summary report of the

Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improved
Student Learning (NCATE, 2010) clearly articulates the need for teacher
education programs to design high-quality clinical-based programs to better
prepare prospective teachers to face the challenges involved in educating
today’s children to learn, work, and contribute to society. By redesigning
programs with high-quality clinical practices, prospective teachers are more
capable to meet the literacy demands of all students, particularly students
living and learning in urban communities. With today’s classrooms
increasingly pulsating with varying degrees of racial, cultural, linguistic,
and socioeconomic backgrounds, it is essential that prospective teachers
receive, through supervised clinical experiences, extensive opportunities to
work with K-8 students in real situations. When doing so, prospective
teachers more deeply connect to educational theory, pedagogical practices,
and sociopolitical factors affecting the academic, linguistic, and social-
emotional development of all students.
What constitutes a clinical practice, in general, is not well-defined in the
literature (NCATE, 2010) and experiences vary greatly among teacher
preparation programs (IRA, 2003; Levine, 2006; Roskos, Vukelich, &
Risko, 2001). Yet, clinical practices are conducted in reading clinics on and
off college and university campuses, in district schools, in professional
development schools, and during student teaching. Clinical experiences
range from lightly supervised course assignments completed in classroom
settings to lab-based simulated case studies to extensive clinical practicums
(NCATE, 2010). These experiences occur in undergraduate four to five year
initial teacher preparation programs, in graduate programs, and in reading
Designing an Off-Campus Literacy Clinic 45

endorsement certification areas, with most occurring at the graduate level

(Barnes et al., 2008; Bevans, 2004; Bosse, 2006).
High-quality clinical practices offered off-campus carefully integrate course
content, pedagogy, and assignments to train prospective teachers to become
skilled practitioners in the areas of theory and pedagogical knowledge. When
trained to critically examine the relationships between diversity, curriculum
materials, programs, and policy affecting teaching and learning (International
Reading Association, 2003), prospective teachers develop essential attributes
of highly effective teachers to bring positive change to K-12 student’s academic
futures (National Research Council, 2010).
Specifically, well-designed reading clinics offered off-campus in urban or
rural schools and in community-based programs provide robust opportunities
for prospective teachers to experience through real-life situations the academic
struggles, motivational challenges, and societal constraints affecting teaching
and learning. Such settings provide unique experiences for prospective teachers
to grapple with the complexities involved in educating diverse populations of
students (Rogers, Marshall, & Tyson, 2006). For instance, when working with
K-8 students in urban settings, prospective teachers learn to negotiate ‘‘issues
of cultural diversity and social justice’’ (p. 202) affecting language and literacy
development. At the same time, these teachers learn to critically examine any
personal biases and abilities to work in high-needs schools. Further, these
experiences expose any disjunctures between socioeconomic conditions,
between discourse patterns, and between in-school and out of school literacy
practices affecting K-8 student’s academic success.
Research clearly indicates that teacher preparation programs designed
with high-quality clinical practices produce more graduates with higher
levels of confidence and graduates who transition more successfully into the
teaching profession (IRA, 2003). Research also indicates that students who
receive instruction from teachers trained with quality clinical experiences
show higher achievement gains than students working with less trained or
prepared teachers (NRC, 2010; Risko et al., 2008). Notably, findings show
that quality clinical practices increase new teacher retention rates (Smith &
Ingersoll, 2004).
Currently, there is an increase in off-campus clinical practices in teacher
preparation programs, mostly because on-campus clinics lack administra-
tion support, space to conduct sessions, funding (Bevans, 2004; Bosse,
2006), and a shortage of tenured-track faculty to teach courses and supervise
clinical practices (Zeichner, 2010). For example, in 1984, 67% of the 242
institutions surveyed across the United States reported having on-campus
reading clinics, and 23% reported having off-campus sites in local area

schools (Bates, 1984). Twenty-two years later in a similar study, 44% of the
32 institutions surveyed reported having on-campus reading clinics, 31%
reported having off-campus clinics, and 25% reported having both on- and
off-campus clinics (Bosse, 2006). Similarly, of the 25 institutions surveyed in
Ohio, 40% offered on-campus clinics and 60% offered off-campus clinics
(Bevans, 2004).
Off-campus clinical-based programs benefit teacher education programs
and the community. These clinics support and provide important services to
local area schools and community-based programs. With accountability
issues looming, many after-school community-based programs offer acti-
vities that support the school district’s curricular requirements. Such
activities often include test-taking preparation, grade-level reading and math
reviews, and extensive homework support. A few of these programs even
apply for and receive funding through Supplemental Educational Services to
offer tutoring services to children attending schools not making annual
yearly progress after three consecutive years (Bosse, 2006). Importantly, off-
campus clinics conducted in such settings provide unique support to a
community-based program, to the literacy experiences of K-8 students, while
providing invaluable experiences to prospective teachers to wrestle with the
many complexities affecting teaching and learning.
This chapter describes how teacher preparation programs design effective
off-campus clinical programs. Information provided is applicable to clinical
practicums, capstone experiences, and to individual course assignments at
the undergraduate and graduate levels. The chapter begins with a discussion
on the foundational components involved in designing a high-quality off-
campus clinical-based program. The chapter then moves to describe a
university-based model that uses an off-campus clinical-based experience
before offering a discussion and conclusion.



This section details information on the foundational components needed to

design high-quality off-campus clinical program. These components include
(1) selecting and building a partnership with an off-campus site, (2) using
forms, fees, space, and materials, (3) engaging families, (4) aligning
assignments to course content, grading, and supervision, and (5) acquiring
Designing an Off-Campus Literacy Clinic 47

Selecting and Building a Partnership with an Off-Campus Site

Public, private, or charter schools, religious affiliations, public libraries, and

organizations such as YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Boys and Girls
Clubs are excellent locations to establish off-campus clinical partnerships.
Internet searchers, word-of-mouth, door-to-door solicitation, phone calls, and
distribution of flyers or brochures are effective ways to locate potential sites in
a community. In fact, university faculty members responsible for conducting
clinical practices should also consider less obvious options such as after-school
programs tucked quietly away in residential apartment complexes located near
the university. These complexes often offer safe havens and after-school
activities to support children’s literacy development.
Before pursuing an off-campus site, however, a clinical director needs to
carefully consider the mission of the university, program goals, state
requirements, and course assignments. Further, the clinical director needs to
consider the number of tutors available, times a clinic can operate at a site (e.g.,
before, during, or after-school hours), any weekend options, if the clinic will
offer services one semester, across the school year, or during the summer
months, the distance a site is from the university, and any transportation issues
prospective teachers might face getting to and from the site. Careful analysis of
these specific conditions and establishing goals and criteria (Zeichner &
McDonald, 2011) are necessary considerations to locate potential matches.
For instance, if a program focuses on early childhood theory and pedagogical
approaches, a clinical director might seek a partnership with a local area
preschool. If a program focuses on elementary education, a clinical director
might expand a search to include after-school programs conducted in local
area elementary schools and in community-based programs, such as Girl
Scouts, Boy Scouts, and daycare centers. Likewise, a program that focuses on
adolescent readers might seek a partnership with a middle school, or even
juvenile center or alternative school.
Once a corpus of potential partnerships is determined, a clinical director
then needs to meet with potential after-school program directors to
introduce the university program and to share the requirements of the
clinical experience. During this meeting, it is important that the after-school
program director specifies the number and grade-levels of children available
for tutoring services, any special needs of children, types of struggling
readers, location where services can be conducted at the site, days and times
services can be offered, and length of a session to avoid any interference
with agency requirements. Also, the after-school program director needs to
acknowledge if materials, computers, and storage spaces are available for

prospective teachers to use when working with children. Accordingly, the

program director should provide information on the program’s goals and
mission, schedule, types of activities offered to children, and any types of
parental involvement. Careful consideration of these key ingredients ensures
a more positive and productive working relationship between the university
and the after-school program. Further, these ingredients develop important
elements of trust (Noel, 2011) necessary for building an effective working
relationship with a community-based program.
For example, an initial meeting held between a university reading director
and after-school program director revealed that 99% of the children
attending the program were African American, attended one of the lowest
performing schools in the district, lived in a zip code associated with low
income, high crime, and high teenage pregnancy birth rates. Thirty-seven
percent of the children spoke a language other than English, 65% lived with
a female guardian only, and 51% dropped out of school before starting their
junior year. Knowing such contextual factors allows a clinical director to
personalize clinical experiences to better meet the needs of the clinical
program and the needs of the children receiving tutoring services from the
prospective teachers.
Once a partnership is established, a clinical director needs to observe at
the site two to three times before prospective teachers begin offering
tutoring services. In doing so, the clinical director can further align clinical
experiences to the community-based program’s inside and outside building
routines, behavior management system, disposition of staff to children, and
interaction between staff, director, children, and parents. Understanding
these conditions and using them to structure class discussions enable a
clinical director to better support prospective teachers’ learning experiences
while ensuring that the clinical practice supports the routines and
procedures of the after-school community-based program.
University programs that offer tutoring services off-campus typically
provide services to K-6 students (Bevans, 2004). Sessions conducted on- and
off-campus are usually held Monday through Thursday, offered once or
twice a week for 60–90 minutes, last approximately 10–12 weeks (Bosse,
2006), and are designed for 11–20 children a semester (Bevans, 2004).

Forms, Fees, Space, and Materials

Off-campus clinical directors prepare and provide family members with

various forms. These forms include but are not limited to applications,
Designing an Off-Campus Literacy Clinic 49

contracts, interest sheets, contact information, and consent forms. Forms

are made available in both English and Spanish. Consent forms should
include permission statements to audio and videotape sessions and spaces to
write in names of tutor and tutee, location of sessions, days, times, and
length of sessions. To conduct research and to publish findings, most
universities require an approved Institution Review Board Human Subjects
application. Interest sheets include questions pertaining to a child’s interests,
behavior, reading, writing, and learning strengths and needs. Guardians sign
forms and return by a specific date to the clinic director before students
receive services at the site.
Additionally, many community-based programs require prospective tea-
chers to complete and receive clearance on specific agency background checks,
applications, or consent forms before working with children at the site. These
requirements are separate from any university or school district requirements.
Similar to on-campus clinical-based practices, many universities require a
fee or deposit for tutoring services. While some universities offer services for
free, others charge fees that range from $5 to over $100 (Barnes et al., 2008;
Deeney et al., 2005) Fees support the clinical-based program by encouraging
students to attend sessions and to return all materials owned by the
university or off-campus site. Returnable deposits range from $5 to $50, and
money is returned in full or partially to students who attended a set number
of sessions and who return all materials. For example, a university program
might require a $40 fee for services offered during a semester. Students who
attended all sessions and returned all materials will receive $20 at the end the
semester. The remaining $20 is used to replace paper, pencils, and other
supplies consumed during the semester. Likewise, many university clinics
offer fee waivers or scholarships to students who qualify for free or reduced
lunch (Bevans, 2004). Clinics conducting off-campus sites in local area
schools typically do not require fees or deposits, and universities receiving
departmental funds often do not charge a tutoring fee (Barnes et al., 2008).
Prospective teachers conducting clinical experiences in community-based
settings, like in a boys and girls club, hold sessions where space is available
and quiet. Because space is most often limited inside buildings, prospective
teachers creatively find places outside the buildings to work with students
such as on picnic tables, on empty basketball courts, or on blankets spread
on the ground. When programs utilize space inside a building, the noise level
is often too distracting for prospective teachers to conduct successful
teaching and learning activities with the students. Also, most after-school
programs willingly share any available books, materials, computers, tables,
chairs, and rooms with prospective teachers.

Off-campus clinics held in school settings conduct tutoring sessions in

classrooms, the library, cafeteria, hallways, or outside on picnic tables. These
schools most often provide prospective teachers with grade-level materials
and books, use of any computers, and storage space to house materials
between sessions.
When materials are needed to conduct sessions, retail stores such as
Dollar General or Good Will stores offer inexpensive options for
prospective teachers to purchase pencils, crayons, markers, paper, glue,
books, manipulatives, and games. Likewise, online sites such as http:// offer leveled reading materials, reading assess-
ments, and various reading activities matched to student’s interests and
needs for prospective teachers to use when designing lessons.

Engaging Families

Like most on-campus clinical practices, off-campus clinics provide family

members with some type of brochure, pamphlet, or packet that overviews
the clinical experience, including instructional tips, to encourage reading at
home (Barnes et al., 2008; Bevans, 2004). Some clinical practices offer a
before session orientation to familiarize family members with session
formats and to assist family members with the completion of forms. Often
prospective teachers engage family members in various literacy nights
during the semester and offer family members celebrations at the end of a
session (Medcalf, Bessette, & Gibbs, 2009).
To enhance home school connections, many universities require, as part of
course requirements, some form of weekly communication with family
members. For instance, some prospective teachers create newsletters that
include work samples, photographs of children engaged in literacy events,
highlights of session accomplishments, dates for upcoming events, or instru-
ctional tips. Such newsletters are printed as handouts. Others are e-mailed or
posted on websites or blogs. Often when a session ends, prospective teachers
provide family members or classroom teachers with some type of report that
overviews tutoring outcomes, provides assessment results, and offers sugges-
tions for future reading instruction.
Of the universities Barnes et al. (2008) surveyed, 34% reported offering
family members activities four times during the semester, while 66%
reported offering activities two or fewer times a semester. Likewise, 3% of
the universities reported offering family members weekly updates either
Designing an Off-Campus Literacy Clinic 51

electronically or through hard-copy newsletters, and 8% provided family

members with end-of-term conferences.
The benefits of offering opportunities for prospective teachers to engage
with family members in various events across a semester not only enhance K-8
student’s learning experiences but also enrich prospective teachers’ abilities to
effectively communicate with family members (Deeney et al., 2010). For
instance, through repeated collaborations with family members, prospective
teachers acquire important skills to articulate assessment results and learning
outcomes in parent-friendly terms. Further, conducting sessions in the context
of urban or rural settings thrusts prospective teachers into real-life situations
to deeply experience and reflect on ways home language, culture, and context
influence effective teaching and learning.
Designing clinical practices in urban off-campus sites, in particular,
increases prospective teachers’ effectiveness in teaching low-income,
minority, and diverse populations of students (Catapano & Huisman,
2010). For instance, after working one semester in an off-campus clinic
located in an after-school community-based program, a prospective teacher
stated on a course evaluation, ‘‘Taking account of student’s background
and home experiences can be helpful in understanding how students learn. If
you build a relationship and a supportive environment with the family a
student is more likely to succeed.’’

Aligning Assignments to Course Content, Grading, and Supervising

High-quality, clinical-based practices provide prospective teachers with

important experiences to use various qualitative and quantitative reading
assessments (Irvin & Lynch-Brown, 1988) to monitor student learning and
to measure instructional effectiveness. In the process, prospective teachers
learn important habits of instructional routines to administer, analyze, and
use results to plan lessons matched to students’ identified needs. Through
these important instructional cycles, prospective teachers develop skill in
using screening, diagnostic, monitoring, and outcome assessments to design
effective lessons in the areas of decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and
comprehension that affect student outcomes (Jensen & Tuten, 2007).
Most clinical practices offer prospective teachers training in using informal
reading inventories, running records, word lists, spelling inventories, writing
samples, and miscue analysis to measure student progress (Barnes et al.,
2008). Barnes et al. (2008) reported that 78% of the clinics surveyed used
various informal assessments such as think alouds, running records, and

interest inventories, while 71% used informal reading inventories. Addition-

ally, Barnes et al. (2008) reported that 45% of the universities used
professional development experiences to assist in bridging mandates to
effective instruction practices.
Off-campus clinical assignments align to course content, to university degree
requirements, and to the particular needs of the community-based program.
These weighted assignments include but are not limited to reflections on course
readings, class participation, online posts, classroom observations, writing and
implementing lesson plans, administering and analyzing various assessments,
debriefings with course instructor, case study reports, and reflections (Deeney
et al., 2005). Assignments receiving the most weight include written lesson
plans, administration and evaluation of assessments, and written clinical
reports. Other assignments include group projects, observation of student
work, and class presentations. Assignments receiving the least weight include
tests and exams (Barnes et al., 2008). Other chapters in this volume offer
specific information on instructional elements used in clinical-based practices
in the areas of reading, writing, and technology.
Lastly, supervision of clinical practices on- and off-campus typically falls
to the responsibility of the clinical director with 68% of these directors being
full-time, tenured-track faculty. Bevans (2004) reported that clinical
directors observe sessions 84% of the time while graduate assistants observe
sessions 16% of the time. Nearly 50% of the institutions reported that the
role of a clinical director also included answering phones, returning phone
messages, and collecting and reporting fees. However, a majority of the
universities reported using graduate students, undergraduate students, or
community volunteers to complete such clerical duties.
Clearly, well-designed off-campus clinical practices offer prospective
teachers important opportunities to demonstrate skill in instructional
decision-making based on assessment results. Such experiences deeply
influence prospective teachers’ abilities to use assessments, practice
pedagogical approaches, test theory, and critically evaluate key issues
affecting teaching and learning such as policy mandates and curricular

Acquiring Funding

Off-campus clinical-based programs benefit from funding acquired through

grants, donations, or university departmental funds. Such funding is used to
replenish and update materials used with K-8 students.
Designing an Off-Campus Literacy Clinic 53

Often, universities offer tenure-track faculty members opportunities to

apply for university sponsored grants. These grants focus on scholarship
interests and include budget lines that can be used to purchase materials for
a clinic. For example, a clinical director applied for and received a $2500
grant and used the funds to purchase flip cameras. During tutoring sessions
conducted off-campus, half the prospective teachers used the cameras to
videotape lessons taught to K-8 students and to analyze videos for lesson
strengths and weaknesses. While doing so, the course instructor was able to
compare the effects of videotaped reflections on prospective teacher’s
progress in delivering high-quality reading lessons compared to prospective
teachers not completing videotaped reflections and completing handwritten
reflections only.
Other funding options include applying for corporation grants. For
example, Dollar Store, Verizon, State Farm, Smart Technologies, and
Hewlett Packard offer grants that support higher education initiatives.
Information about these grants is available on the Internet. In addition,
some universities receive grants from Supplemental Educational Services to
offer tutoring services to children attending low performing schools. Using
Internet searches will help to locate additional grant options.
Lastly, clinical directors and prospective teachers should try innovative
approaches to solicit for items on campus. For example, placing empty
boxes in campus offices or buildings to collect pencils, crayons, or children’s
books or using large water-cooler containers to collect coins are a few
creative ways clinics replenish supplies.

Jacksonville University, a small, private, liberal arts campus, offers an
off-campus clinical-based experience as part of its Master’s in Elementary
Education degree program and reading endorsement certification
Prospective teachers complete the clinical experience during a reading
methods course. The course is offered during the sophomore year and
focuses on the foundations of reading instruction and application of
research-based instructional practices in the areas of oral language, phono-
logical awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Pros-
pective teachers register for the course, which is taught on-campus twice a
week and once a week at the off-campus site located three miles from
campus. The course is the first course in a sequence of four courses that lead

to the reading endorsement certification. These courses include reading

methods, reading assessment, differentiating instruction, and student teach-
ing. The purpose of the clinical experience is to enhance prospective teacher’s
connections to, growing understandings about, and immediate application of
course content to a supervised practice. Across the semester, students work
with a small group of K-8 students at a community-based center to practice
instructional approaches discussed in class and read about in assigned course
readings. Fifteen minutes before the session starts at the site, the course
instructor meets with the prospective teachers to review the purpose and
focus of the day’s session and to overview its significance to teaching and
learning. The instructor also discusses management techniques, answers any
questions, and responds to concerns.
While the prospective teachers work with K-8 students, the course
instructor rotates among the groups to observe instructional techniques,
complete informal observation forms, offer support, and videotape various
lesson components that demonstrate the week’s instructional focus. These
short videos captured with an iPad are immediately e-mailed to individual
prospective teachers for review at home. Prospective teachers are responsible
for analyzing the videos for instructional strengths and weaknesses and for
sharing results in class.
After the session, the instructor debriefs with the prospective teachers to
share lesson outcomes and to answer questions. Students then return to their
cars to write reflections to document session outcomes following an
assignment template. During this time, the instructor selects a few individual
prospective teachers to meet with to further guide their growing under-
standings about and use of effective instructional practices.
These weekly clinical sessions are carefully crafted to provide prospective
teachers with important opportunities to teach particular reading skills or
strategies while immediately transferring course content to practice.
Through repeated practice, prospective teachers deepen their understand-
ings about the reading components and how each component supports
reading development. Prospective teachers also develop important instruc-
tional skill to integrate the reading components. Weekly, prospective
teachers plan and implement lessons with K-8 children that include a fiction
or non-fiction read aloud and an extension activity. Lesson plans are written
before implementing the lesson and a detailed reflection is completed after
the lesson.
Twice a week, the class meets on campus. The class starts with a discussion
on how the clinical experience relates to teaching and learning. Building on
this knowledge combined with course content, the course instructor then
Designing an Off-Campus Literacy Clinic 55

provides a visual presentation to extend learning to new topics. Prospective

teachers also discuss assigned readings, analyze instructional videos, and
complete hands-on activities for future use with K-8 children at the
community-based program.
In addition to on-campus class sessions and off-campus clinical experi-
ences, prospective teachers complete 15 hours of fieldwork in a local area
school. These unsupervised assignments completed in a classroom setting
engage the prospective teachers in conducting read aloud lessons to a small
group or whole group of K-5 students, in observing, and in documenting
classroom instruction. Specifically, the assignments are designed to support
prospective teachers in making important connections between theory and
practice. Through the rigorous combination of on-campus class sessions, off-
campus clinical experiences, and field placement assignments, prospective
teachers begin to develop key attributes of highly qualified teachers in the
area of reading instruction.
This partnership between the university and the off-campus community-
based program formed because the university closed the on-campus reading
clinic in order to make room for a new degree program and to use the space
for faculty offices. However, before closing, the reading clinic struggled with
funding cuts, sharing space with other departmental programs, off-putting
support from administration, and simply trying to obtain parking passes for
To continue offering a clinical-based model as part of the reading
endorsement program, the clinical director took immediate action to
locate an off-campus site. After a quick Internet search, the director
located a community-based program near the university that offered
after-school activities to local area boys and girls. The clinical director
stopped by the program to introduce the reading program and to
announce that prospective teachers were available to tutor children twice
a week at the site. Because the program was located in a low-income
section of the city, it received little attention or support from outside
agencies. The program eagerly accepted the invitation to partner with the
university to enhance the services it provided to K-8 students. Many of
the students enrolled in the program struggled with reading and writing,
earned failing grades on report cards, lacked motivation, and needed
boosts in self-confidence.
Importantly, each semester before working with students at the site, a
prospective teacher pays $10 to complete the agency’s required back-
ground check and fingerprint check. The prospective teachers also
purchase pencils, crayons, and paper for extension activities and checkout

books from the local or university library to design read aloud lessons
aligned to weekly reading component topics. In addition, many of the
prospective teachers purchase other materials at retail stores to creatively
engage K-8 students in literacy activities that involve art and movement.
Similar to Ranke and McDermott’s (2009) study, the prospective teachers
need to move instruction beyond scripted text to hands-on experiences to
engage students. For example, one prospective teacher purchased
sidewalk chalk to engage students in drawing story responses on the
basketball court. Another prospective teacher purchased a beach ball and
wrote ‘‘who, when, what, why, and where’’ on the ball’s colored stripes
to scaffold student’s comprehension development. Students tossed the
ball to one another and answered the question their right thumb
touched. Yet another prospective teacher purchased balls and had
students bounce the balls on alphabet letters written in chalk on the
sidewalk to spell words. Because the site had limited space, students
stored books, games, dry erase boards, and other materials in car trunks
between sessions.
These off-campus clinical-based experiences provide unique opportu-
nities for prospective teachers to practice pedagogical approaches and to
evaluate various instructional techniques used to motivate and enhance
struggling reader’s literacy development. During the process, prospective
teachers learn to design and implement lessons that integrate the reading
components to foster listening, speaking, reading, and writing abilities.
Consequently, in class, discussion are in-depth, vibrant, and purposeful as
prospective teachers demonstrate stronger connections to course material
because they filter learning through the eyes of the K-8 students they build
relationships with across the semester. For example, a prospective teacher
stated on the course evaluation, ‘‘Vocabulary is more effective when
taught through real experiences and not through drills.’’ Another student
commented, ‘‘When I was interested and motivated, students fed off my
energy.’’ Yet another student stated, ‘‘I learned that self-esteem is key in
helping students with reading. I learned that students become easily
discouraged and need tremendous amounts of encouragement and


Clearly, the goal of any teacher education program is to prepare highly

qualified teachers of reading to successfully meet the literacy needs of all
Designing an Off-Campus Literacy Clinic 57

students, particularly students living and learning in urban, low-socio-

economic, and rural communities. Well-designed off-campus clinics provide
rich opportunities to deepen prospective teacher’s knowledge about theory
and research-based pedagogical practices while supporting a community to
enhance the literacy development of K-8 students.
With many on-campus clinics facing budget cuts, elimination of space for
other university programs, and closings, designing reading clinics off-
campus in after-school community-based programs provide important
options for teacher preparation programs. Partnerships with after-school
community-based programs support a clinic as they share available
resources such as classroom space, books, grade-level materials, and
computers to enhance the teaching learning experience. Further, these
partnerships enhance an off-campus clinic experience because prospective
teachers work where K-8 students are most familiar and where they reside
after-school. However, the success of any off-campus clinical program
requires flexibility to adjust to obstacles and difficulties.
For example, while attendance rates pose limited problems when tutoring
sessions are designed in community-based programs where students reside
after-school, K-8 students often miss a session or two during a semester.
When students are absent, prospective teachers often become discouraged
because they missed an opportunity to apply a purposefully designed lesson
align to course content. Yet, these occasions become rich opportunities to
further extend prospective teachers’ understandings about effective reading
instruction as they observe colleagues’ instructional practices. For instance,
prospective teachers can observe and take important notes on colleagues’
uses of instructional approaches, progress monitoring practices, and
behavior management techniques. After the session, prospective teachers
collaborate with colleagues to share observational notes and ask questions
before submitting the notes to the clinical director. These unexpected
experiences become important collaborative exchanges that further deepen
prospective teachers’ understandings of teaching and learning. As Roskos
et al. (2000) reported, time to reflect on tutoring sessions provides important
opportunities for prospective teachers to seek advice from colleagues and to
analyze positive and negative effects of important instructional decisions.
Similar to on-campus clinical experiences, a second obstacle involves the
challenge of K-8 students retaining information between session. When K-8
students attend one session a week, they often face difficulties retrieving
from memory skills and topics focused on during previous sessions. To
overcome this obstacle and to build-on previous instruction, prospective
teachers can design lessons that produce written products. These products

are stored on portable bulletin boards, placed in notebooks, or displayed in

a special tutoring area in the community-based agency. For instance, one
community-based program allowed prospective teachers to use trifold
display boards to showcase student work. The boards were placed in high-
traffic areas in the community-based setting and referred to between
sessions; tutored students shared content on the boards with non-
tutored students. The boards easily become important instructional tools
to assist students in retaining information between sessions. Additionally to
assist students in retaining material, prospective teachers can use flip
cameras or iPads to capture student engagements in videos or photographs.
During the next session, these photographs or videos became warm-up
activities to stimulate discussions about previous learned topics before
moving on to new topics.
Lastly, a third obstacle involves the lack of materials being returned to
sessions. One solution involves using online resources such as http:// Prospective teachers can print multiple copies of
reading materials. Then, teachers send one copy home with the tutee to
share with family members and friends. A second copy is stored in a special
tutoring notebook at the community-based site for the student to review
during the week, and a third copy is stored in the prospective teacher’s
tutoring notebook.
As a final point, future research should explore the use of digital
technologies and digital literacies on clinical-based tutoring outcomes.
While reading literature encourages the use of digital literacies to better meet
the needs of today’s tech savvy students (Ortlieb, 2012; Ryan, 2012), limited
research is available to report the effects of digital instruction on prospective
teachers’ clinical practices and on student learning. For instance, research
might investigate the ways prospective teachers incorporate an iPad,
Internet videos, and various Web 2.0 tools into tutoring sessions to develop
student’s domain vocabulary or ways students incorporate instructed
vocabulary in blogs or wikis.
Additionally, research might explore the use of videoconferencing as a
way to design off-campus clinical-based programs with community-based
programs. With virtual schools and blended learning experiences increasing
as instructional options, research should investigate ways teacher prepara-
tion programs might use videoconferencing, Skype, or webcams to offer
virtual, off-campus clinical-based programs. As many community-based
programs receive funding to purchase computers and interactive white-
boards, virtual learning partnerships with community-based agencies might
provide important options for teacher preparation programs to design and
Designing an Off-Campus Literacy Clinic 59

use clinical experiences to further enhance prospective teacher’s skills to

learn and work with today’s tech savvy twenty-first century students.
Likewise, research might investigate ways videoconferencing can include
family members in tutoring sessions. Sessions might focus on ways parents
can incorporate important instructional techniques at home to enhance K-8
students’ reading development. During a session, a prospective teacher
demonstrates and guides practice between a parent and child. For example,
a session might focus on a fluency instructional approach that a parent
can use at home to increase a student’s words read per minute or an
instructional practice that focuses on text discussions to enhance reading
In closing, well-designed off-campus clinical-based programs provide
intense, supportive, and structured real-time teaching experiences that
immerse prospective teachers in the complexities of teaching. These
experiences deepen prospective teachers’ understandings on how beliefs,
culture, discourse patterns, curricular decisions, materials, and socio-
economic conditions influence successful teaching and learning. Through
well-designed off-campus clinics, teacher preparation programs strongly
support a national goal ‘‘to prepare teachers with the values, knowledge,
practical skills, and reflective orientation required for their success’’ (IRA,
2007, p. 23). As one prospective teacher summarized on a course evaluation:
Working off-campus with children better prepared me to become an effective teacher
because I got to see first-hand learning and experience diversity. It made me really think
about what I needed to do to help students and to pace lessons that fit their interests and
needs. Doing small things and showing them you care is very important; starting with
things they know is important; and it is important to show them you care and that you
want them to succeed.

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Michelle Kelley and Taylar Wenzel


Purpose – The chapter provides the reader with an overview of the UCF
Enrichment Programs in Literacy that includes a year-round reading
clinic with undergraduate and graduate students serving as clinicians and
a summer Digital Storytelling Camp. The focus of the chapter is on the
development and evolution of these programs, with an emphasis on the
role of coaching in the clinic process.
Methodology/approach – The authors describe how they used Bean’s
Levels of Coaching Complexity (2004), adapting it to their clinical setting,
to meet the current high demand for reading coaches in schools, and to
strengthen their reading program courses and practicum experiences.
Practical implications – In addition to providing a comprehensive
overview of the UCF Enrichment Programs in Literacy, this chapter
includes the nuts and bolts of how the authors ‘‘coach for success’’ in the
reading clinic. This involves coaching for success during data collection, in
the analysis and decision-making process, in the delivery of tutoring, and
beyond the clinic setting. Along with the tutoring process, specific

Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom

Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Volume 2, 63–86
Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2048-0458/doi:10.1108/S2048-0458(2013)0000002007

teaching tools (including student samples) and photographs are shared in

order to allow for replication by educators who read this chapter.
Social implications – This chapter suggests how reading programs in
colleges of education can reexamine their existing field experiences to
develop a more deliberate model intended to (1) extend clinician skills in
reading assessment, diagnosis, and instructional delivery; (2) promote
self-reflection and collaborative professional learning; and (3) provide
mentoring experiences that can be replicated in school and district
settings by graduate student clinicians as they acquire new leadership
roles and responsibilities. This chapter proposes programs that offer
consistent, affordable instructional support in literacy for children and
families in the surrounding community.

Keywords: Reading clinic; reading assessment; diagnosis; tutoring;


A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.
Ara Parasheghia, Former Football Player and College Coach

Coaching is used in a variety of settings and takes many forms, but more
than likely the term coaching conjures up the image of an athletic coach.
Most of us can make connections to this concept. Coaches utilize a variety
of approaches including motivational talks, seminars, workshops, clinics,
and supervised practice in order to train an individual or group of people to
do a specific task and/or achieve a particular goal. Critical to successful
coaching is the process of monitoring and providing feedback. Applying this
to education would seem to be a natural fit, yet the reality is it can be
problematic because not all teachers are equipped with the knowledge and
skills to serve as a coach.
The International Reading Association (2006) purports that literacy
coaching that is (1) grounded in theory and reflection, (2) based on student
needs, and (3) ongoing and intensive can yield improvement in students’
reading skills. Not surprisingly then, the demand for literacy coaches
in recent years has dramatically increased. Without specific guidelines
for the selection and training of coaches, the faculty at the University of
Central Florida (UCF) have redesigned specifically the graduate practicum
experience to meet the needs of schools and prepare teachers for the role of
a reading coach. So what knowledge and skills are required of a reading
coach and how can we embed these in our preparation programs?
Coaching for Success: UCF Enrichment Programs in Literacy 65

According to Toll (2005), successful literacy coaches must be knowledge-

able in

 adult learner characteristics

 coaching processes
 effective (literacy) teaching
 literacy acquisition
 reading assessment.

Beyond possessing a particular skill set, what does a reading coach

do on a daily basis? Recent analyses reveal that there are distinct roles
for a reading coach that are separate from those of a reading specialist
(IRA, 2004). The International Reading Association (in press) descri-
bes this role as follows: (1) instruction, (2) assessment, and (3) teacher
support. Furthermore, literacy coaches provide teachers with additional
abetment needed to successfully implement various programs or practices
(Nowak, 2003).
Bean (2004) has suggested that there are specific coaching activities in
which reading coaches engage and that these activities vary in intensity. She
has delineated these into three levels. At Level 1, a literacy coach informally
develops relationships among teachers by participating in conferences
and workshops with teachers, leading study groups, and developing
curriculum. At Level 2, the coach intensifies his/her involvement more
formally with teachers by coplanning lessons, analyzing student data, and
providing professional development. Level 3, the most formal, occurs when
the reading coach models lessons, visits and observes classroom instruction,
and provides feedback to teachers. So how do we at higher institutions
prepare reading coaches for these varying roles and experiences? This chapter
seeks to describe how we have taken on this challenge and provides other
institutions with support in enhancing or developing their own reading clinic
using a coaching model.


Like most reading programs, the UCF’s Masters in Reading includes
significant course work in reading assessment and instruction with a
culminating practicum. Prior to 2009, the practicum was held at local public
school sites in conjunction with summer school offerings. The elimination

of public summer school programming in 2009 caused us to pilot an

on-campus clinic, enabling our UCF students to have necessary field
experiences related to their graduate practicum and addressing the need for
summer instruction for struggling K-8 students. Building on 2009 outcomes,
we refined the 2010 summer clinic to include more direct coordination
of graduate course work that continued to provide a needed service to the
community. Simultaneously, undergraduate program revision left many
undergraduate students displaced because they had failed to follow the
suggested course sequence. To get these students back on track, they were
assigned to work with a graduate student. The graduate students served as
their mentors throughout the clinic, engaging in data analysis, coplanning
lessons, and delivering intervention with their mentee, all of which framed
the origin of our coaching approach.
Because of the overwhelming success of the summer clinic (especially the
addition of undergraduates as clinicians), in the spring 2011 semester, the
clinic was expanded to involve undergraduate students who collaboratively
executed assessment instruments taught in their course with school-age
students. Thus, we now offer a multifaceted reading clinic year-round, with
undergraduate and graduate student clinicians.
Concurrently, our community partners requested that we offer something
different from a reading clinic. They wanted a program that was not
diagnostic in nature, but one that would be for all students, not just
struggling readers. Of particular interest was tapping into students’ natural
disposition toward technology and promoting motivational literacy experi-
ences throughout the summer months. In the summer of 2011, we launched
a Digital Storytelling Camp designed to enhance student motivation to read
and write through the use of technology. The camp was and continues to be
offered weekly in the morning, although students have the option to spend
the entire day with us, attending the reading clinic in the afternoon. In the
camp, students learn about the writing process, using reading and writing
to ultimately create a storyboard. The final project is created by students
on the computer using Microsoft PowerPoint, Windows Movie Maker, and
a kid-friendly digital storytelling website called
Additional information about the Digital Storytelling Camp, including
examples of digital stories created by former student participants, can be
found at the program website:
cfm. The addition of the Digital Storytelling Camp was met with great
accolades from participants as noted from this parent’s written comment,
‘‘She has learned to enjoy writing. Every day she has come home wanting to
write a story. This is a big change from before;’’ therefore, we expanded upon
this program the following summer and have continued offering it since.
Coaching for Success: UCF Enrichment Programs in Literacy 67

Presently, the UCF Literacy Enrichment Programs include a year-round

reading clinic and the Digital Storytelling Camp (summer only). In the fall
and spring semesters, undergraduate clinicians staff the clinic under our
supervision. This clinic runs for 10 weeks each semester, with each weekly
session offered on our local school districts’ early release days. The summer
clinic runs in the afternoon for three weeks, and is operated by graduate
clinicians who also serve as assistants at our morning Digital Storytelling


As we moved to an on-campus clinic and in response to the increasing
demand for reading coaches, we adjusted our curriculum and our way of
work in the clinic to further reflect that of coaches. Using a professional
learning community model, we planned for interactions where assessment
and teaching practices would be shared more deliberately by collaborating
and reflecting on connections between class and clinic. In our core graduate
classes, we infused more content related to coaching. We strengthened our
focus on leadership and professional development as it relates to reading and
writing. We also developed tools to model the coaching process with both
our undergraduate and graduate students serving as clinicians in the reading
clinic. We adapted Bean’s Levels of Coaching Complexity for Reading
Coaches (2004) to include clinical supervision (see Table 1: Supervising
Clinicians: Levels of Coaching Complexity as Applied to Clinical Settings).
We wanted to model what our clinicians would be doing back at their school
sites, thus it was crucial to provide them with an opportunity and context to
engage in student-centered professional discourse and self-reflection similar
to what teachers would experience in a professional learning community. We
also aligned the International Reading Association’s Standards for Reading
Professionals (2010) to this matrix, emphasizing Standard 2 – Curriculum &
Instruction, Standard 3 – Assessment & Evaluation, and Standard 6 –
Professional Learning & Leadership.


Once I administered the Running Record, I was able to uncover what difficulties he had
specifically in decoding and word recognition.
–Pre-Service Teacher Reflection

Table 1. Supervising Clinicians: Bean’s Levels of Coaching Complexity

Applied to Clinical Settings. Source: Adapted from Bean (2004).
Level 1: Informal Level 2: More Formal Level 3: Formal

Create an environment that Hold data conferences with Observe clinicians working
promotes conversations and clinicians to analyze student with students (both
encourages self-reflection work, interpret assessment assessment and instruction).
(focus is on goal setting data, and determine IRA Standard 2, 3.2, 3.3
based on clinician needs) – instructional focus for clinic
Self-Assessment of – Data Conference Sheet
Proficiency in Reading IRA Standard 3.2, 3.3
Diagnosis (adapted from
Shearer & Homan, 1996).
IRA Standard 6.1
Develop and deliver course Provide suggestions for Have clinicians self-reflect on
content based on clinician instruction and feedback observation, meet with
needs and course objectives on lessons (lessons and clinician to debrief on
(this includes providing resources). Tutoring Form observation, and provide
materials and resources). IRA Standard 2, 3.3 feedback – Observation
IRA Standard 2, 3.1 Form IRA Standard 6.1
Provide a forum (the clinic) Provide professional Have clinicians give Family
for clinicians to apply development to clinicians Literacy Workshop during
knowledge of teaching and based on student needs (this clinic. IRA Standard 6.1, 6.2
assessing reading and may include lesson study).
writing under supervision
and scaffolding. IRA
Standard 2, 3
Assist clinicians with Assist with parent
assessment (this includes communication of student
selection and needs and instructional
implementation of decisions – Parent Update
assessments) – Diagnostic and Parent Summary IRA
Toolkit IRA Standard Standard 3.3, 3.4
3.1, 3.2
Facilitate and encourage Scaffold technical writing of
collaboration of content for case study report. IRA
Family Literacy Workshop Standard 3.4
– Family Literacy Workshop
Assignment IRA Standard
6.1, 6.2
Provide a forum (course) for
clinicians to deliver Family
Literacy Workshop to
receive feedback – Family
Literacy Workshop
Assignment IRA Standard
6.1, 6.2
Coaching for Success: UCF Enrichment Programs in Literacy 69

At the beginning of the semester, we administer the Self-Assessment of

Proficiency in Reading Diagnosis, adapted from Shearer and Homan (1996),
to each of our students who will serve as reading clinicians. This assessment
serves dual purposes by (1) informing us of our students’ prior knowledge of
reading assessment that is used to guide subsequent instruction and (2)
laying the foundation for student goal setting by exposing areas in which
they need additional instruction and support in order to assess children and
diagnose reading difficulties. This assessment is also readministered to the
student clinicians at the end of the semester to aid in their reflection on
personal growth from the clinic experience and to provide data for us on the
effectiveness of teaching and learning outcomes from the clinic and
corequisite course work.
In the corequisite course, we introduce a wide variety of informal reading
assessments that build on the clinicians’ knowledge from prerequisite courses
in order to identify strengths and needs in the following areas: motiva-
tion, comprehension, vocabulary, phonics, phonemic awareness, spelling,
fluency, emergent reading skills (concepts of print, letter identification, letter
sounds, etc.), and other observations of reading processes and behaviors.
The clinicians become competent in administering and interpreting each
assessment through a variety of methods, including video observation, role
play, comparison of assessments, and even experiential approaches with
children. In this process, they are required to create a Diagnostic Tool Kit
(Table 2: Diagnostic Toolkit Rubric), in which they keep master copies of
each assessment, group assignments according to assessment areas, and notes
about the protocol for administration. Further, the clinicians are charged
with using their developing knowledge about reading assessments in order to
identify additional assessments to include in their Diagnostic Tool Kit (see
Fig. 1). Ultimately, they write rationales for each assessment area to justify
the need for assessing that area and to explain their included assessment
choices. While these tool kits will be valuable resources for clinicians during
and after the reading clinic, we explain that this resource may also be useful
in the coaching process in the future when the clinicians are in leadership
roles and working to increase the knowledge and skill of their colleagues.
Because our clinic serves a wide range of children from grades K-8, we have
implemented a differentiated approach to data collection in which each
clinician is supported to select the appropriate assessments to administer to
their assigned child. Guidance in assessment selection is provided in class and
individually as needed, and all students are given a data conference form to
use as a template to record assessment selection and student strengths and
needs for each. Unless a rationale is provided, each clinician is expected to

Table 2. RED 6845 Evaluation of a Reading Diagnostic Kit

Self-Assessment Rubric.

Criteria for Evaluation My Self- Instructor

Evaluation Evaluation

I included an annotated table of contents and

section dividers for each section of the
Diagnostic Kit. At least 8 sections per
assignment description (15 pts.)

For each section of the Diagnostic Kit there is a

brief (and accurate) overview of the area being
assessed and the identification of at least 2
appropriate assessments for that area (28 pts.)

The quality of the assessments for each section of

the Diagnostic Kit demonstrates knowledge of
assessment (e.g., for the fluency assessment
section you would not place the Concepts
About Print tool) (14 pts.)

The tests included are neat, easy to read, and

complete (14 pts.)

I included clear and complete directions for each

test (14 pts.)

I included a complete reference section

identifying all resources in the kit (10 pts.)

The Diagnostic Kit is housed in a sturdy

container and labeled (5 pts.)

Total Score:

select an assessment for each area of reading indicated on the data conference
Form (Table 3: RED 6846 Reading Practicum Data Conference Sheet: Using
Assessment to Inform Instruction). The data collection process begins on a
designated date before the first reading clinic session on which parents bring
the participating clinic students to campus for assessment. While each
clinician will primarily refer to their Diagnostic Tool Kit for assessment
selection, we do provide additional assessments and access to informal
reading inventories in the reading clinic office, to which clinicians have full
access and use. Throughout the data collection process, we observe, circulate,
and debrief with students to ensure that they are completing their data
conference form and beginning to develop an authentic literacy profile.
Coaching for Success: UCF Enrichment Programs in Literacy 71

Fig. 1. Reading Diagnostic Tool Kit Table of Contents.

Each of the described processes in the coaching of the data collection process
reflects elements of Level 1 from Bean’s Levels of Coaching Complexity. Thus,
in this informal coaching approach, clinicians are provided with a setting for
reading assessment, in which they can apply course content and meet course
goals, engage in conversations with peers and instructors to extend their
learning, and reflect on their own knowledge of reading assessment.


This course has changed my view on how to differentiate instruction. Before this
course I understood the need to differentiate, but through this course I have come to
understand how to differentiate effectively. This can only be done through assessment,
Table 3. RED 6846 Reading Practicum Data Conference Sheet: Using Assessment to Inform Instruction
Student’s Name: Tom Student’s Age/Grade: 9/Grade 4 Gender: M

Area Assessed/Tool Used Results Student’s Strengths Student’s Needs

Motivation: interests Wide range of interests: sports, Least favorite thing is spelling and/or
Personal interest survey anything science, Legos, etc. writing because doesn’t feel confident
Motivation: attitude Likes to receive books as gifts, Does not like to read aloud or answer
Elementary reading attitude start a new book, and read on a questions about reading for fear of
Survey variety of nonfiction topics messing up or being laughed at by
classmates. Needs to build confidence!
Standardized test Chronological age: 9 years, Average on oral vocabulary While vocabulary is average for age, based
5 months on the PPVT, his growth from last year
Peabody picture vocabulary Stanine 6 and 61st percentile. Age is only 7 months. He needs to do more
test (PPVT) (tests oral equivalent 9 years, 11 months. wide reading. He tends to only read on
vocabulary) Last year, also received stanine of specific nonfiction subjects. Needs to be
6, 66 percentile, and age exposed to other vocabulary
equivalence of 9 years,
4 months)
Comprehension: Reading Grade 1 Can successfully read Grade 2 (level) should be used for
Level QRI, DRA, or other Fluency – independent independently and comprehend instruction due to comprehension
Comprehension – independent first grade passages questions, retelling, fluency, and
Qualitative reading Grade 2 Grade 2 passages are the level that Shows frustration on implicit questions
inventory (QRI) Fluency – instructional is best (answers that are implied or inferred).
Comprehension – instructional Needs to work on inferences
Retelling – 45% Needs to improve fluency
Correct predictions – 66%
Grade 3
Fluency – instructional
Comprehension – instructional

Retelling – 55%
Correct predictions – 83%
Fluency Word reading fluency Level 3.9 Feeling more confident and Often misses words completely or
(grade 3, 9th month) 54 WCPM learning from errors made the completely substitutes other words,
Easy curriculum based Passage reading fluency Level 4.1 day before which changes meaning of the passage.
measurement (easy (Grade 4, 1st month) 74 Sometimes, skips whole lines of text and
CBM) WCPM does not realize he has not read it
Words correct per minute
Spelling Spelling stage: Within word Independent-level features: Frustration-level features:
pattern – middle
10/25 Power score Initial and final consonants, short Other vowels, inflected endings, syllable
40/62 Feature points vowels, digraphs, blends, junctures, unaccented final syllables,
Elementary spelling Total 50/87 common long vowels harder suffixes, bases and roots
Phonemic awareness/phonics Scored nearly perfect on basic Knows words that follow basic Observed behavior – having trouble with
Phonics survey (letter/ phonics/letter recognition/ phonetic words and have one multiple syllable words, chunking and
sound recognition) sounds short or one long vowel recognizing common prefixes and
Observations of reading Relates information to prior Inserts or deletes words when reading and
Observation checklist of knowledge and commonly has trouble decoding longer words.
student’s expository shares what else he knows on Commonly loses place while reading. If
reading subject reading. He reads every asked for name of text feature, cannot
bit of page, including captions recall, but can point to it if name is given
and titles
Book preference test Opens books, reads front cover, Only chose nonfiction text and graphic
flips through books and reads novels to read. Each chapter book he
parts and checks out different judged solely by its cover and never read
Coaching for Success: UCF Enrichment Programs in Literacy

text features the back of the book

Text feature assessment Print features (title, heading/ Correctly identifies: Trouble identifying: heading/subheading,
subheading, bold print, italics, italics, pronunciation guide, sidebar,
caption, pronunciation guide, cross section/cutaway, and labeled
bullets, sidebar) diagram
Identifies 4/8, knows purpose 5/8, Title, bold print, caption, bullets, Cannot explain purpose of:bold print,
applies 6/8 photograph, drawing, inset, pronunciation guide, bullets, labeled
diagram, map, graph, timeline, diagram, chart/table, and index
chart/table, table of contents,

index, glossary
Organizational features (table of Correctly explains purpose of:
contents, index, glossary)
Table 3. (Continued )
Student’s Name: Tom Student’s Age/Grade: 9/Grade 4 Gender: M

Area Assessed/Tool Used Results Student’s Strengths Student’s Needs

Identifies 3/3, knows purpose 2/3, Title, heading/subheading, italics, Cannot apply knowledge when reading:
applies 2/3 caption, sidebar, photograph, pronunciation guide, bullets,
drawing, inset, cross section/ photograph, labeled diagram, chart/
cutaway, diagram, map, graph, table, and index
timeline, table of contents,
Graphic features (photograph, Can correctly apply when reading:
drawing, inset, cross section/ Identifies 8/10, knows purpose 8/
cutaway, diagram, labeled 10, applies 7/10
Title, heading/subheading, diagram, map, graph, time line,
bold print, italics, chart/table)
caption, sidebar, table of
contents, glossary,
drawing, inset, cross
diagram, map, graph,
and time line

Possible Focus for Future Instruction (based on data): He needs lots of word work on vowel combinations (oi, ea, ee, oo) and blends so that he
can feel confident while reading. He overly relies on sight words and needs to work on word families. He has a hard time knowing how to
sound out words and would benefit from lessons on chunking words and breaking words into syllables or manageable parts. He needs a lot of
help on spelling and sentence construction. He could benefit by working to have better tracking skills because he commonly deletes or adds
words when reading and loses his place or skips a whole line and doesn’t realize he has skipped a line. He could also benefit from a lesson on
book choice so that he is not picking out books that are too hard and giving up, or the same genre of books over and over. He needs more help
on fluency and can benefit from reading into a microphone and taping his readings and then listening to them as well as reading out loud at
home or doing repeated readings with poetry. In addition, he needs to practice making inferences and retelling to improve on his
Coaching for Success: UCF Enrichment Programs in Literacy 75

because it is assessment which drives instruction and informs the teacher about what
skills a student lacks
–Pre-Service Teacher Reflection

To coach students in the data analysis process, we designate data

conference meeting times with each clinician so that they can present their
data conference forms, demonstrate their comprehensive knowledge of the
child that they are working with, and share their perceived focus areas
for instruction. To support clinicians in these processes needed to create
individual instructional plans for each child, we use a specific data con-
ference protocol. This element of the reading clinic is one example of more
formal coaching practices, as represented in Level 2 of Bean’s Coaching
Complexity Model. In preparation for the data conference, we discuss with
the clinicians that the expected presentation of student data is very similar to
what they might expect in their school buildings, and is actually a process
that they may be leading once in the coaching role at their school site. Thus,
clinicians learn that the analysis and presentation of student assessment
data are not only a reading clinic requirement but also a necessary skill
for a successful educator and reading coach in today’s schools. At each
designated data conference, we begin by giving the clinician an opportunity
to present their assessment selections, results, and interpretations. In
addition to the data conference form, each clinician brings all of the raw
assessment data so that we can review their assessment results and accuracy
of administration if necessary. Through selective questioning and probing,
we help to ensure that the assessment data collected is accurate, valid, and
reliable. In this process, it is sometimes necessary for clinicians to administer
additional assessments after the conference and meet with us again before
moving forward. Thus, while we use specific protocol in the data conference
process, the outcome for each clinician is truly differentiated based on their
case. As we coach the clinicians in triangulating their data, they determine
the most critical area for instructional focus and target 2–3 instructional
goals, which will frame their tutoring emphasis in the clinic.


I used different types of texts that appealed to his interests, including cartoons from
newspapers, informational texts pertaining to his favorite animal, and books with
humorous plots and characters. I was eager each session to see whether or not he enjoyed
what I had planned, and then reflecting on it for my next session as to whether or not
I should do something similar.
– Pre-Service Teacher Reflection

In the corequisite and prerequisite courses to the practicum, we empha-

size and encourage clinicians to carefully consider students’ motivational
profiles when selecting tutoring materials and making decisions about
instructional delivery (Fig. 2). This includes supporting clinicians to consider
grade level/age expectations and knowledge of grade level benchmarks
as indicated in Florida’s Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and
the Common Core State Standards as they develop lessons. To further
facilitate their tutoring, we have accumulated a variety of materials and
resources that are available to clinicians so they are able to differentiate
their instruction (see Fig. 5). These materials range from magnetic letters
and whiteboards to premade lessons and reader theater scripts. When
clinicians arrive to tutor, they are greeted by a message board (see Fig. 3)
posted in a central area, which allows us to communicate important
information. We monitor undergraduate students’ instructional decisions

Fig. 2. Clinic Resources: Trade Books.

Coaching for Success: UCF Enrichment Programs in Literacy 77

Fig. 3. Clinic Resources: Big Books and Leveled Readers.

Fig. 4. Clinic Observation Devices.

and provide them with specific feedback via a tutoring form they complete
per session (Fig. 4). In contrast, our graduate students complete a weekly
report using their expertise to develop an effective lesson format for their
students based on assessment data and motivational factors.

The clinic is housed in the UCF Teaching Academy where we have access
to classroom space and lounge areas for tutoring (see Fig. 5). Additionally,
we have three individual clinic rooms that have mirrored glass and video
cameras, which allow us to observe tutoring sessions without causing any
distractions from our presence (since they are unable to see us). Television
monitors via video feed allow us to choose our viewing method (through the
mirrored window or on TV) and let us listen in on the tutoring session. At
this point in the coaching process, our involvement becomes more formal,
aligned with Level 3 of Bean’s Coaching Complexity Model. To assist us in
the observation process and to model a true coaching experience, we have
developed an observational protocol (Table 4). Prior to observing students,
we have them identify what they want us to pay attention to, and whether
they are assessing or delivering instruction. During the lesson we take
related notes and after the lesson they are asked to self-reflect on the

Fig. 5. Daily Clinician Message Board.

Coaching for Success: UCF Enrichment Programs in Literacy 79

Table 4. RED 6846 Observation Form (completed).

Graduate Student ________________________ Date ___________________

Observation (check one): _____ Assessment

X Instruction

Goal of session: I want to improve the overall delivery of a lesson on making connections to a text
when reading, specifically I want them to go deeper with their connections.

What went really well What I would do differently

Students were engaged in the book because Choose a book on their independent
they were interested in the topic reading level so we can focus on the
strategy instead of decoding
Students understood the lesson content. We Connect their connections to higher level
continued to practice after the observation questions. Ex- Asking, why does it make
and it became easier for them you think of that? Why is that connection
important to under standing the text?
Model my own connections to the text to
show them how to go deeper
Overall: What I have learned about teaching and/or assessing readingy. I have learned you must
remember the purpose of the lesson when choosing a text to use. One of my students spent so
much time decoding it was nearly impossible for him to make connections while reading.
Normally for guided reading I would use an instructional text but to teach them the strategy I
needed to have them in an easier text. Text level must be considered. I have also learned I need to
spend more time questioning and probing my students to encourage a deeper connection rather
than being satisfied with a surface connection. I also need to model my use of the strategy so they
can see how I use it. My own connections were weak and could have been better explained. I will
continue to use this strategy with my clinical students.
Dr. Kelley’s reflections: Excellent job stating the learning goal and I thought your examples were
helpful. I do believe that you could have asked them what they knew already about making
connections (accessing their background knowledge to build upon). I agree with your analysis,
the text was too difficult and decoding efforts interfered with their ability to make meaningful
connections. I would’ve asked them, ‘‘How does that connection help you to remember the text
or understand the text better?’’ to get them to go deeper.

observation, highlighting what went well and what they might do differently
if given the opportunity. Additionally, they are asked to contextualize their
experience to what they have learned about assessing and teaching reading.
When they have completed their self-reflection, they meet with us, sharing
their thoughts and learning. We add our observations, including providing
positive and constructive feedback.

Table 5. Week 1 Parent Update.

This week y. We worked on improving oral fluency in two ways: word reading with a high
frequency word list and by reading several passages on his reading level. We are reading the
same passages/word list each day this week and graphing our scores each day. He is so excited
to see his improvement!
While working on vocabulary development, we have been practicing our homophones (words
that sound the same, but are spelled differently) and remembering which one to use at specific
times. We have also been working with the spelling of words he has found difficult,
specifically the Long-A sound spelled with ‘‘ay,’’ ‘‘ey,’’ and ‘‘ei,’’ and working with words that
have the sounds ‘‘ow’’ and ‘‘ou.’’
As we practice comprehension skills, we are reading a new novel called Wall Ball, which is a
part of The Super Sluggers series by Kevin Markey. Before reading, we set a purpose for
reading and discuss our predictions each day. During reading, we have been stopping
periodically to write down questions we might have thought while we read and place them on
a sticky note. This helps to stay focus and encourage understanding and deep thinking. After
reading, we have been deciding on the most important events to retell in a summary. When he
comes to a word he does not know or recognize, we use one of several strategies. We either
break the word apart, skip the word and go back and try to see if we can name it using the
context clues (other words in the sentence), or we try to use our word knowledge to sound out
the word. We have also been evaluating nonfiction text structure and features using science
books on mummies, hurricanes, and Jackie Robinson.
Next week we willy. Continue to work on word reading fluency and passage reading fluency
with a new set of high-frequency words and a new passage that we will track all week long.
We will also be working on prosody, which is reading using proper expression and
remembering to stop at a period and pause at a comma, by working on a reader’s theater
play. We will continue to read Wall Ball, as well as nonfiction books too and specifically work
on making connections while we read.
Suggestions for the weekendy. He will bring home his chapter book Wall Ball and read
chapters 4&5 either independently or aloud to you. He will have a few sticky notes with him
to practice writing down questions as he is reading. We will use those questions and discuss
them on Monday. If he has a question about a word, please encourage him to use a strategy
we have been learning such as:
 Break a word apart.
 Sound the word out.
 Skip the word and then go back and try to figure it out using context clues.
 Replace the word with a likely synonym.

When he is finished reading, ask him some specific questions. As a guide, here are some
questions that you may use:
 What is the problem in the story?
 How are they working to solve the problem?
 What are some character traits of the main character?
 Can you summarize what has happened in the story so far?
 What do you predict will happen next?

If you should have any questions, please feel free to contact me at _______________. Have a
wonderful and safe weekend! Mrs. Vaughn
Coaching for Success: UCF Enrichment Programs in Literacy 81

Because the summer clinic is completed over a three-week period, the

graduate clinicians are also required to complete a weekly update to parents.
This allows us to monitor the tutoring process and provide clinicians with
further feedback (Table 5) including suggestions related to their next steps,

Fig. 6. Developing Readers Tutoring Form (completed).


Fig. 6. (Continued)

which may include feeding them a specific strategy or resource to assist them
in the tutoring process. Additionally, we may recommend further assess-
ment based on preliminary findings or inconsistent student performance
during instruction.
Coaching for Success: UCF Enrichment Programs in Literacy 83


Ms. Jessica has been WONDERFUL! I have already found Isabella using some newly
introduced tactics, i.e. text coding. Isabella is learning not only to read books but to
question herself as she reads to make sure she understands what she has read. Parent

Recognizing the significant role parent(s) play in the literacy process, we

have emphasized the relationship between the clinician and parent
throughout the practicum. In addition to the weekly updates we described
earlier, all clinicians are required to complete an end of practicum summary
and conference with their students’ parent(s) (see Fig. 6). At this point, the
clinicians serve as coaches to the parents. During the conference, the
clinician explains what they have been doing during the tutoring sessions,
shares pre-post assessment data, and provides the parent(s) with concrete
activities and suggestions to support their child at home (see Fig. 7).
At the graduate level, to further support families, we have recently added
the development of a Family Literacy Workshop. This assignment is
completed in the spring prerequisite course prior to the practicum and then
tweaked during the practicum as a center activity that engages on the last
day of the clinic. During this culminating celebration, students and their
families rotate from center to center in order to learn easy, fun ways they

Fig. 7. Tutor and Students.


Fig. 8. Parent Summary At-Home Take-Away Materials.

can continue literacy learning at home, based on the selected activities

planned and delivered by the clinicians (Fig. 7 and 8).

After only three years of development, we now consider the student
requirements in the UCF Enrichment Programs in Literacy to be one of the
most powerful instructional and experiential components of our graduate
and undergraduate reading education curricula. By serving as clinicians, our
students have authentic teaching opportunities in a supported environment
where they can engage in problem solving with faculty, peers, and children’s
Beyond a standard field experience, student clinicians receive feedback
and coaching in a unique setting and through a deliberate model that has
proven to extend their skills in reading assessment, diagnosis, and
instructional delivery for three consecutive years based on the postadminis-
tration of the Self-Assessment of Proficiency in Reading Diagnosis. The clinic
Coaching for Success: UCF Enrichment Programs in Literacy 85

experience also promotes self-reflection and collaborative professional

learning and provides mentoring experiences that can be replicated in
school and district settings by graduate student clinicians as they acquire
new leadership roles and responsibilities. Simultaneously, the programs
offer consistent, affordable instructional support in literacy for children and
families in the community, a service that appears to be invaluable gauging
by how quickly enrollment reaches capacity each semester.
An emerging component of the reading clinic, piloted in Summer 2012,
involves the development of an on-site database to record the pre- and
postassessment data of participating students in the reading clinic.
Diagnostic and progress monitoring data stored in this portal can be
accessed by clinicians and supervising faculty, and may be used for a variety
of purposes, including (1) to provide a record of reading assessment results
for children enrolled in the clinic across multiple sessions in order to inform
the data collection needs at the beginning of a given clinic term and 2) to aid
in the evaluation of instructional effectiveness at the student level, which
provides an additional indicator for program evaluation and offers
increased quantitative data that can be presented to funding sources in
the future to potentially expand clinic offerings.
As faculty, the literacy programs further offer us an opportunity for
professional development and self-reflection, as we continuously examine
the efforts from our early successes and make refinements to future
iterations of the clinic and camp offerings. We remain eager and dedicated
to intensify our coaching model across each level of coaching complexity as
we prepare high-quality literacy educators and reading coaches who are
already having a significant impact on student achievement.

Bean, R. M. (2004). Promoting effective literacy instruction: The challenge for literacy coaches.
The California Reader, 37(3), 58–63.
International Reading Association. (2006). Standards for middle and high school literacy
coaches. Newark, DE: International Reading Association (IRA).
International Reading Association (in press). An update: Roles and responsibilities of reading
specialists/literacy coaches. Newark, DE: International Reading Association (IRA).
International Reading Association (IRA). (2004). The role and qualifications of the reading
coach in the United States (Position statement). Retrieved from
downloads/positions/ps1065_reading_coach.pdf. Newark, DE: International Reading
Association (IRA).

Nowak, R. (2003). The discourse of literacy coaching: Teacher-coach interactions during a

summer school practicum. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Florida,
Shearer, A. P., & Homan, S. P. (1996). Self-assessment of proficiency in reading diagnosis.
Toll, C. A. (2005). The literacy coach’s survival guide: Essential questions and practical answers.
Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Rose Marie Codling


Purpose – This chapter describes a university-based reading clinic for

struggling readers. Created over 40 years ago, this reading clinic
continually evolves as it is founded on well-grounded theory and the
most current research. The purpose of the chapter is to explain this
foundation and how it has informed the structure and day-to-day
operations of a successful clinic program.
Methodology/approach – The reading clinic described in this chapter is
based largely on the theoretical premises of self-determination theory.
This theory has been widely researched in a variety of fields and contexts,
including educational settings. Self-determination theory research and
reading research, conducted from a multitude of perspectives, provide
support for appropriate practices designed to create a motivating
classroom environment.
Practical implications – The ideas presented in this chapter show how
research and theory can be successfully applied to classroom settings. The
author describes various ways in which the theory and research have led to

Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom

Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Volume 2, 87–113
Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2048-0458/doi:10.1108/S2048-0458(2013)0000002008

specific, practical decisions in the reading clinic setting. Broadening the

use of these practices to regular classroom contexts is also discussed.
Social implications – Despite research that has established how teachers
can create a meaningful, motivating classroom environment, unsound
practices continue to be used in classrooms everywhere. If, as most
educators claim, we want students to become independent thinkers who
are able to contribute meaningfully to society, then we need to seriously
examine the controlling, performance-oriented, competitive practices that
are typical in many classrooms today. We must move toward creating
classrooms where the focus is on learning and where children enjoy
ownership of the learning process. This chapter describes a program for
struggling readers that operates from this stance.

Keywords: Reading motivation; struggling readers

Luke is a kinetic learner who excels at all things physical, and normally summer is a
series of soccer, basketball and swimming camps and trips y. Initially he was upset
about the news [that he would be attending the reading clinic] but knows he needs to be a
better reader, and now we get to the point of my note: I’m just amazed at how much he
likes it! I can’t say that he has been converted instantly to a consumer of thick novels, but
he has left the program almost every day talking about a new trick or technique he can
use to enhance his reading. The program appears to have been targeted perfectly to his
individual level, his issues, and his subject matter interests. I’m so relieved that he has
enjoyed it, and I think we both know that he will be much more prepared for sixth grade
than he would have been otherwise. (Post-program parent letter)

Mr. Wallace’s letter echoes what I often hear from parents of children in
our reading clinic. Parents are doing everything they can to help. Children
are frustrated and reluctant to attend ‘‘summer’’ school, which seems like a
punishment. These are children who work diligently and put much effort
into their work, but who are, in the end, only minimally successful and they
don’t understand why.
While their academic difficulties may be obvious, affective factors that are
not always as visible are powerful influences. Whether teachers explicitly tell
them that they are not trying, other children tease them for stumbling over
words, or parents subtly imply their disappointment, struggling readers get
messages about themselves that they internalize. Even if teachers do not pick
up on the subtle ways in which they are not quite ‘‘getting it,’’ these students
quietly suffer, believing that they are not as smart as their classmates.
Creating an Optimal Learning Environment for Struggling Readers 89

Because the affective domain is so salient for struggling readers, any

instructional environment must help them to feel better about themselves
and encourage them to take risks that will enable them to become better,
more motivated readers. The University of Maryland Reading Clinic is such
an environment and I have been fortunate to see energetic, bright struggling
readers such as Luke thrive there and begin to read for pleasure. This is an
exciting outcome given that research has established the importance of wide
reading (Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988; Cunningham & Stanovich,
2003; Taylor, Frye, & Maruyama, 1990) and the positive influence of
intrinsic motivation on time spent reading and reading comprehension
(Guthrie, Wigfield, Metsala, & Cox, 1999; Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997). These
findings provide a strong rationale for an environment that promotes
intrinsic motivation for reading as a high priority within the context of a
strong instructional program.
Despite the findings linking reading achievement, reading amount, and
intrinsic motivation, there is little evidence that research in the area of
reading motivation has had any widespread impact on classroom practices
(Fawson & Moore, 1999; Hoffman, Huff, Patterson, & Nietfeld, 2009). I
continually go into classroom settings where I observe teachers rely heavily
on external rewards, encourage competition among students, and provide
few opportunities for students to read. Some teachers say that children are
not motivated, that they are lazy, or that they do not care. But talk with
children about their reading and you find that many of them do indeed like
to read and read outside of school for pleasure. In some instances, teachers
genuinely want to provide relevant, motivating reading experiences, but
their hands are tied by external, politically motivated influences. Whatever
the cause, I propose that typical classroom environments are not structured
in such a way that reading motivation is evident or facilitated.
Luke’s experience in our reading clinic is not unusual. In fact, it is what
we plan for and what we expect for every child. I begin this chapter by
describing the theory and research base that undergird the University of
Maryland Reading Clinic program. I then focus on reading motivation
research within this larger context and describe the practical applications of
the theory and research findings to our program.


Self-determination theory (SDT) provides a solid foundation for the

University of Maryland Reading Clinic. The theory has been tested over

more than three decades and has evolved to explain much about human
behavior. Self-determination (SD) can be described as a state in which an
individual operates from a stance of awareness, reflection, and control (Deci
& Ryan, 2000). Self-determined individuals are confident and have a strong
inner sense of themselves. They possess a level of control over their own lives
that enables them to make decisions and act in ways that are in accord with
their personal values. This state engenders in the individual a sense of
satisfaction and fulfillment that leads to well-being. In studies across a
variety of domains and cultures, SD has been associated with general well-
being, challenge-seeking, adaptability, persistence, and creativity (Deci &
Ryan, 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2006; Ryan, Huta, & Deci, 2008; Vallerand,
Pelletier, & Koestner, 2008). When SD is undermined or thwarted, the result
can be dysfunction and maladaptive behavior. These findings extend to
children and to educational settings, highlighting the value of applying SDT
to school environments.
A fundamental assumption of SDT is that humans are innately inclined to
strive for well-being. The theory posits that we naturally attempt to integrate
our life experiences in ways that help us to grow emotionally and
psychologically and to develop a strong sense of ourselves. A strong sense of
self enables us to act confidently and competently in accord with our own
knowledge, beliefs, and values. This strong inner core then enables us to
continuously integrate new experiences as we face challenges and strive toward
our potential. Critically important, the theory also holds that individuals
operate within a social context that greatly influences actions. It is the constant
interplay between the innate human striving for well-being and factors in the
environment that determines whether or not an individual will become self-
determined. The following discussion highlights aspects of SDT that have
direct applicability to school contexts. Of particular importance are (1) the
external regulation of behavior, (2) basic psychological needs, (3) influences on
intrinsic motivation, and (4) teachers’ autonomy support.

Regulation of Behavior by External Means

Once thought of as a dichotomy, researchers have demonstrated that

intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are complex, interactive constructs (Deci,
Koestner, & Ryan, 2001; Lepper, Greene, & Nisbett, 1973; Ryan & Deci,
2000). Research also finds that people have many motivations for their
actions and that externally oriented motivations can vary in terms of the
control they exert (Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997). A subtheory of SDT,
Creating an Optimal Learning Environment for Struggling Readers 91

Organismic Integration Theory (OIT), posits that extrinsic and intrinsic

motivations are more appropriately placed on a continuum. At one end of
the continuum is amotivation, which SD theorists consider the absence of
motivation. At the opposite end of the continuum is intrinsic motivation, the
type of internal motivation that is based on deeply held personal interests.
Between the extremes of amotivation and intrinsic motivation, one finds
varying forms of external influence.
External regulation is the most controlling form of motivation. In this
category, an individual is unwilling to engage in a task except for the
promise of some external reward. (‘‘I will read for exactly 15 minutes after
school because I can’t go out to play until I do.’’) These behaviors are
devoid of SD as they are completely regulated by separate, external
pressure. Introjected regulation, also a form of extrinsic motivation, is less
controlling but still not self-determined because the individual feels
pressured to act. (‘‘I will read for 15 minutes after school because my
teacher will be disappointed in me if I don’t.’’) With this type of motivation,
individuals act in order to avoid feelings that affect their inner sense of
themselves. Not engaging in the desired behavior might mean looking stupid
or being shamed.
The third point on the autonomy continuum is identified regulation. In
this context, the individual begins to recognize that the targeted task will
lead to some end result that has value. (‘‘I will read this book on electricity
because it has information that I need to write my science report.’’) The
individual engages in the uninteresting task acknowledging that it is
instrumental to some other end. The next point, integrated regulation, is the
most self-determined form of extrinsic motivation. Within this category fall
behaviors that an individual recognizes as important and personally
beneficial making engagement volitional. (‘‘I will read this book about
video games because playing video games is my hobby.’’) The difference
between identified and integrated regulation is that when integrated the
individual fully endorses the activity as important and valuable. Even so,
when integrated, engagement occurs for instrumental reasons, which is what
distinguishes it from intrinsic motivation. Intrinsically motivated behavior is
done strictly as a result of interest in the task itself. (‘‘I love to read and I will
read this book right now even if it makes me late for school!’’)
With the exception of amotivation, each form of regulation will result in
motivated action. However, external and introjected motivations are not
self-determined because they are viewed as controlling. Identified and
integrated regulation and intrinsic motivation are seen as amenable to the
individual’s control, making them self-determined.

Central to this discussion is the SDT concept of internalization.

Internalization is a process whereby individuals, influenced by supports in
the social environment, recognize the value or importance of an activity that
they do not find inherently interesting. The movement to identifying or
integrating an extrinsic motivation enables individuals to endorse the
behavior so that they can feel comfortable engaging in it. Even though not
intrinsically motivated, the individual is able to reconcile the behavior to his/
her own personal values (Koestner & Losier, 2002).
As an example, a teacher determines that limited knowledge of high
frequency sight words is slowing students down as they read aloud. The
teacher could reward students with stickers for studying words on cards.
Alternatively, she could explain that rapid identification of sight words will
make them stronger readers so that they can read the Harry Potter books
they aspire to read. According to SDT, internalization is more likely to
occur with the second approach. While students may not be intrinsically
motivated to practice sight words, the second approach would help them to
see the value in the practice so that they might be more willing to engage.
Factors in the social environment that influence internalization take many
forms. This influence could be encouragement from a parent to persist even
though the homework is challenging or a reminder from the teacher to use a
strategy that has been taught. Additionally, research shows that when a task
has been acknowledged by others in the social environment as tedious or
difficult, individuals will feel more autonomous. Similarly, when the
rationale for a task is understood, individuals are more likely to identify
or integrate an external regulation. This type of supportive interaction and
encouragement facilitates the process of internalization. There will always
be activities that are necessary but that students may not find interesting.
The process of internalization is instrumental in these instances when
students are not intrinsically motivated for important tasks.

Basic Needs

The second relevant subtheory of SDT is basic needs theory. SDT asserts that
there exist in human beings three universal, psychological needs – autonomy,
competence, and relatedness – and that these needs are essential to the
development of SD. A social context that supports these needs facilitates SD.
The first need, autonomy, refers to individuals’ perceptions that their actions
are within their own control. Sometimes an autonomous person chooses
Creating an Optimal Learning Environment for Struggling Readers 93

actions strictly for personally valuable, intrinsic reasons, but in any culture
or social situation, an individual’s actions will be influenced by external
factors as well. A tenth grader might prefer to watch TV, but she instead
opts to read with the family in order to provide a positive role model for her
younger sister. This scenario shows how an individual may participate in
activities for reasons that are externally oriented, yet still feel autonomous.
To be autonomous does not mean being oblivious to external factors while
pursuing personal satisfaction. Autonomy means being able to endorse
one’s own actions whether their source is externally- or internally-derived
(Ryan & Deci, 2006).

The second universal psychological need identified in SDT is competence.
Individuals must possess the skills and knowledge necessary for success, but
they must also perceive themselves to be capable. Perceptions of their own
competence will determine whether individuals will even attempt a task. A
strong sense of self-competence also enables an individual to manage novel
or challenging situations. A long line of research supports the conclusion
that perceptions of competence exert powerful influence on an individual’s
motivation (Schunk & Pajares, 2009).

Relatedness is the need to have social relationships that are perceived as
nurturing and supportive. When the environment supports relatedness,
individuals develop trust and feel safe to take risks. Relatedness is
particularly important with regard to the internalization process. It is
through the example, enthusiasm, or encouragement of trusted significant
others in the environment that individuals begin to identify and integrate
external regulations.
Taken together, the three needs provide a particularly useful framework for
examining a classroom environment. An environment that supports indivi-
duals’ basic needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness is one that will
facilitate internalization and intrinsic motivation. Conversely, if the environ-
ment does not support these needs, the development of SD will be derailed.

Influences on Intrinsic Motivation

Over the last 40 years, many studies have explored factors that influence
motivation. The subtheory of SDT called Cognitive Evaluation Theory

(CET), explains how intrinsic motivation is influenced by individuals’

perceptions of their own autonomy and competence. Research has found
that when individuals enjoy agency around their own decisions and
behavior, intrinsic motivation is enhanced. Similarly, intrinsic motivation
increases when individuals feel capable and self-confident. The influence of
extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation is closely associated with
autonomy and competence perceptions and has particular relevance to the
present discussion. That is, CET predicts that extrinsic rewards will be
detrimental to intrinsic motivation if they are viewed as controlling and
threaten autonomy, whereas they may be received more positively if they
affirm an individual’s perceptions of competence.
Despite a substantial amount of study, the wisdom of using tangible
external rewards and incentives continues to be contentiously debated
(Cameron & Pierce, 1994; Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999a; Deci, Koestner,
& Ryan, 1999b; Eisenberger & Cameron, 1996; Lepper, Henderlong, &
Gingras, 1999; Ryan & Deci, 1996). This conversation is of critical
importance given the widespread use of external inducements designed to
influence children in schools (Fawson & Moore,1999; Hoffman et al., 2009).
Cameron and Pierce (1994) concluded from a meta-analysis of 96 studies
that external rewards do not undermine intrinsic motivation. Deci et al.
(1999b) criticized the Cameron and Pierce meta-analysis, citing methodo-
logical flaws that obscured several significant findings. For example,
Cameron and Pierce claimed that there were no negative effects of rewards
on intrinsic motivation. When Deci, Koestner, and Ryan conducted a more
fine-tuned analysis, separating expected and unexpected rewards into
different categories, the findings indicated that there was indeed an
undermining effect on intrinsic motivation for expected tangible rewards.
Particularly damaging were rewards that were contingent on performance
and not received by all subjects. Whereas Cameron and Pierce reported that
verbal rewards enhanced intrinsic motivation, the Deci et al. (1999b)
procedure of separating verbal rewards into controlling versus informa-
tional demonstrated a significant undermining effect for controlling
These findings have special significance when considering teachers’ practices
related to intrinsic motivation and the use of external inducements. Fawson
and Moore (1999) found that among their sample, 100% of principals
reported having an incentive plan in place in their school, while 95% of
teachers reported the same. Hoffman et al. (2009) reported that, of the teachers
they surveyed, 100% reported using rewards in the classroom. As many as
91% reported using tangible rewards at least monthly and 100% used written
Creating an Optimal Learning Environment for Struggling Readers 95

or verbal praise on a weekly basis. The widespread use of incentives in schools

shows why it is imperative for researchers and teachers to consider the impact
of external influences on students’ autonomy and competence.

Teachers’ Autonomy Support

Studies have shown that autonomy-supportive teachers use fewer tangible,

external incentives to encourage behavior and have been observed to create
learning- versus performance-oriented classrooms (Reeve & Jang, 2006;
Reeve, Jang, Carrell, Jeon, & Barch, 2004). This research has identified teacher
practices that promote SD. Autonomy-supportive teachers (1) nurture and
capitalize on children’s intrinsic motivation and interests, (2) encourage
students with feedback that provides information to help students be reflective
and take ownership of their learning, (3) acknowledge students’ negative
reactions or resistance, and (4) provide explanations that help students to
identify with the behavior at least to some extent. Becoming autonomy-
supportive requires teachers to carefully consider the students’ perspective. It
may require a new way of thinking about how to interact with students.
To summarize, SDT provides a foundation that is highly appropriate for
educational settings. First, OIT tells us that the more controlling external
regulations are perceived to be the less autonomous the individual feels.
Through a process termed internalization, however, behaviors emanating
from external origins may be viewed as valuable, which enables the
individual to identify with them enough to engage willingly. Second, basic
needs theory provides a useful framework for critiquing the social
environment to see if it facilitates SD by meeting individuals’ needs for
autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Third, CET provides insights
about what influences intrinsic motivation, including the use of rewards and
praise in classroom settings. Finally, teachers can learn to create an
autonomy-supportive environment that will facilitate their students’ SD.
The foundation of SDT merges well with reading motivation research to
guide decisions about classroom contexts.

Literature on reading motivation was scant until the mid 1990s, but a robust
body of research now provides helpful insights about motivation related
specifically to reading. Much of this work coincides with SDT research and

many of the findings are compatible with the tenets of SDT. For example,
reading researchers have established that individuals have many motivations
for reading and that these motivations take many forms (Guthrie et al.,
2007; Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997). These researchers have identified intrin-
sically oriented motivations such as curiosity, interest, self-efficacy, prefer-
ence for challenge, social factors, and knowledge seeking. They have also
identified extrinsically oriented motivations such as public recognition,
competition, reward, and compliance.
Several studies have confirmed the positive influence of intrinsic
motivation on reading achievement. Turner (1995) found that among first
graders, open tasks (authentic, moderately challenging tasks that provided
meaningful opportunities to apply strategies) were associated with higher
motivation demonstrated by increased engagement, strategy use, and
persistence when faced with challenge. Similarly, Gambrell, Palmer,
Codling, and Mazzoni (1996) established that elementary students’ reading
motivation was influenced by opportunities for challenge and choice. The
social nature of reading was a constant theme in this study. Additionally,
when children who were identified by their teachers as unmotivated were
asked by researchers about what they like to read, they often gave detailed
descriptions of things they were reading outside of school. Meece and Miller
(1999) found that when third- and fifth-grade teachers focused on increasing
social interaction and providing choices and challenging tasks, the
classroom became learning-oriented versus performance oriented.
Concept Oriented Reading Instruction (CORI) is an example of how
research findings on motivation and reading have been effectively applied to
classroom settings. CORI integrates science and literacy instruction through
conceptual themes and is characterized by instructional support (explicit
reading strategy instruction and hands-on activities) and motivation support
(opportunities for self-directed learning and social interaction). A range of
CORI studies has consistently found high correlations between intrinsic
motivation and reading amount, curiosity, comprehension, reading engage-
ment, strategy learning, and strategy use (Guthrie et al., 1996; Guthrie,
Wigfield, & VonSecker, 2000; Wang & Guthrie, 2004).
Many recent studies have confirmed and extended our understanding of the
positive relationship between intrinsic motivation and reading achievement,
and despite differing philosophical orientations of reading researchers, many
of their findings are consistent with the findings of SDT (Becker, McElvany, &
Kortenbruck, 2010; Logan, Medford, & Hughes, 2011; Mason, Meadan,
Hedin, & Cramer, 2012; Paige, 2011; Park, 2011). Reading motivation
research, notably conducted in authentic classrooms, confirms the feasibility of
Creating an Optimal Learning Environment for Struggling Readers 97

applying SDT in elementary classroom settings. That is, reading motivation

research supports the assertion that a context that supports autonomy,
competence, and relatedness will facilitate intrinsic motivation.


Based on the excellent explanatory power of SDT and the research on intrinsic
motivation and reading, we have a strong foundation for creating a
productive, motivating literacy program in our reading clinic. The next
section highlights aspects of our program that are founded on this theory and
research base.
The University of Maryland Reading Clinic is the practicum for master’s
degree candidates pursuing reading specialist certification. Our program
consists of 33 credits in reading and related areas. Most of our candidates
are part-time students and full-time classroom teachers and they take one
course at a time. Once they complete the prerequisites, the final clinic
sequence involves a fall semester course on advanced diagnostic assessment
followed by the spring semester course on advanced instructional practices.
Candidates are then prepared for the reading clinic that takes place in the
summer. The clinic is a 6-week teaching experience and is the equivalent of 6
credit hours. Children attend the program three mornings per week. This
leaves afternoons for the teachers to reflect together on the day and plan
subsequent lessons. We also have whole group seminars where candidates
present individual student cases for discussion.
During the 6-week summer clinic, teachers coteach groups of 12 children.
The overarching goal of our program is to help students become more
strategic, motivated, and reflective (Lipson & Wixson, 2008). This means
that we focus on both the cognitive aspects of their literacy difficulties and
the motivation issues that accompany them. Our instructional program is
designed around students’ individual needs, which are identified during a
diagnostic screening. We provide explicit instruction in research-based
literacy strategies and students learn about the utility of strategies as we
facilitate their independent application to authentic reading contexts.
Carefully assessing students’ reading levels to ensure that they have access
to appropriate materials, we create an environment that is designed to
optimize their learning.
Each aspect of the program is carefully considered to determine how it
meets students’ needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. When it
comes to instruction, for example, SDT would suggest that instructional

tasks are designed to include meaningful, interesting topics, supporting

autonomy. Competence support would be ensured by instruction that is
explicit and based on individual needs. Finally, a lesson environment that
has a learning orientation in which students support each other and learn
from each other would be supportive of students’ need for relatedness.
Examining each aspect of the program from this framework ensures that the
students’ needs will be explicitly addressed.
The following section describes five major aspects of our program. These
include developing and maintaining relationships; access, interest, and
choice in the clinic environment; our reading motivation plan; explicit
instruction; and assessment.

Developing and Maintaining Relationships

Interviews with students during the diagnostic screening provide teachers

with an opportunity to become acquainted with students. The teachers share
information about themselves and learn about students’ school experiences,
leisure activities, and interests. These interests become a starting place for
planning the instructional program.
In the clinic, the students’ input is important in creating the environment.
We want them to realize that this is a learning environment and that they
have a certain level of control over what happens here.
It began as a language experience lesson. Miss Diane said, ‘‘Let’s talk about what kind of
classroom you want to have.’’ As children shared ideas, Diane recorded them on chart
paper. ‘‘Let’s read it together to be sure it’s what you meant to say. y OK, grab a
marker and come on up and sign your name.’’ ‘‘Why are we signing it?’’ Wesley asked.
She responded, ‘‘Because you own it! This is your classroom and this document tells
what you want it to be. You are the authors. It’s yours! You own it!’’As they all willingly
went up to sign, the faces seemed to say, ‘‘Well, this is not what I’m used to, but y OK!’’
(Supervisor’s notes from lesson observation)

We convey to students that their feelings and beliefs matter. They quickly
begin to feel comfortable, knowing that this setting is highly supportive and
Jonathan is 10. His older brothers did not attend the clinic because they have no
problems with reading. They call him retarded. When they have conversations at home,
Jonathan doesn’t always understand what they are talking about. So the next day he
comes to the clinic where he feels safe to ask what words mean.

What is cannibalism?
Creating an Optimal Learning Environment for Struggling Readers 99

That’s when people eat each other.


In some places people eat other people.

Oh! y and that’s bad, right? (Teacher observation notes)

In our reading clinic, there is an atmosphere of respect that is absolutely

devoid of sarcasm, impatience, or ridicule. It is generally easy for teachers to
assimilate into this setting but we are explicit about this expectation with the
students. It is made clear that calling out words when someone else stumbles,
deriding someone for reading at a lower level, or showing impatience while
another student painstakingly applies a new reading strategy are unacceptable
behaviors. We emphasize that this is a learning environment where mistakes
are expected and accepted. Students quickly realize that this is a safe place.
They begin to trust each other.
Overall I think all of the students have gained a sense of confidence that they never had
before. They are taking more chances and supporting each other when they are
struggling. Hearing students say, ‘‘keep going, you can do it’’, is such a nice reminder of
what a positive environment we are in and have created. (Clinic teacher final reflection)

In order to build a supportive environment around literacy, we incorporate

opportunities for positive social interaction throughout the day. We plan
specific times to discuss what we are reading. For example, read-aloud is highly
interactive. Teachers and students talk about the read-aloud before, during,
and after the reading, sharing personal responses. Students are encouraged to
make personal connections or to question unfamiliar circumstances or
information. We try to make multiple copies of read-aloud books available
in the classroom library to encourage rereading and discussion with peers.
Students may read with a buddy during sustained silent reading time and we
encourage students to chat after silent reading to share what they have read.
The classroom library often contains book reviews on which students include
their name so that peers can ask questions or chat about the book. These
practices help to build a social setting that supports relatedness.

Access, Interest, and Choice in the Clinic Environment

Incorporated into all aspects of the day are research-supported practices

related to access, interest, and choice. We find these concepts to be
inextricably connected.

Reading materials used in the clinic include print sources of all kinds,
including books, magazines, newspapers, and the internet. A variety of
genres is always available in the classroom and we make sure to have a wide
range of interesting narrative and informational text that will appeal to
diverse students. We have a large collection of commercial instructional
texts that are used for guided reading and strategy instruction that we make
available after lessons.
We provide books with a wide range of difficulty levels to ensure not just
physical access, but meaningful engagement as well. We find that in their
regular classrooms, our students seldom (sometimes never) have materials in
their hands that they can actually read on their own. From the time they
started formal schooling, they have always been faced with materials that
are just too difficult. The result of this is that students have not experienced
productive free reading time. We address this issue by carefully assessing
students’ reading levels so that we can provide them with appropriate
materials. As we teach students how to choose books for free reading, we
are cautious about popular strategies that identify books as too hard, too
easy and just right. We prefer to have students think about books as
providing a fruitful independent reading experience. This means they should
achieve 99% accuracy and good comprehension without any assistance. We
don’t consider that ‘‘too easy.’’ Rather, we are seeking their independent
reading level. When students gain access to appropriate books, we observe
perceptions of competence soar as they realize that they can read and that
they can get better.

We know that interest has a positive effect on reading achievement and
reading motivation and so we try to ensure access to materials that will
interest students. Interest is often described as situational (initial fleeting
engagement) and individual (a stable, maintained disposition) (Hidi &
Renninger, 2006). Situational interest is easily sparked by novelty or
curiosity but it is not necessarily long-lasting. Teachers continually attempt
to spark situational interest by sharing their own reading, reading aloud,
and introducing good books. We are encouraged by research finding that in
a supportive environment, repeated positive short-term experiences transi-
tioned into more stable, longer term interest or motivation (Guay, Megeau,
& Vallerand, 2003; Guthrie et al., 2007; Guthrie, Hoa, Wigfield, Tonks, &
Perencevich, 2006; Hidi & Renninger, 2006).
Creating an Optimal Learning Environment for Struggling Readers 101

We sometimes find that students do not have expressed reading interests.

They have never had a chance to develop interests because they have never
been readers. In those cases, we make suggestions and make a wide range of
topics available. We encourage students to read anything. Some of the
materials students are surprised to find in the clinic library and especially
enjoy are graphic novels, newspapers and magazines. We model for older
students the joy of reading a picture book with a riveting story or one that is
a piece of artwork in its illustration. We model reading for interest,
enjoyment and practice without judgment about others’ selections. Making
fun of another’s reading selection is unacceptable.

Choice is often associated with autonomy as it is presumed that when
autonomous, individuals are always free to make their own personal
decisions. A natural implication would be to increase choices in order to
enhance autonomy. It is true that there is wide support that choice enhances
intrinsic motivation, but all choices are not created equal and having choices
does not necessarily mean one is autonomous (Guthrie et al., 2007; Katz &
Assor, 2006; Patall, Cooper, & Robinson, 2008; Ryan & Deci, 2006;
Stefanou, Perencevich, DiCintio, & Turner, 2004). One can be autonomous
without any choices or nonautonomous when faced with several mean-
ingless choices. Assor, Kaplan, and Roth (2002) supported this notion
finding that personal relevance may be more important than choice in
In our reading clinic, children are free to choose the materials they wish to
read during independent reading times. However, we find that students
often do not know how to select an appropriate book. We explicitly teach
them a strategy for selecting books and provide guided practice until
students are picking appropriate books. Teachers may place books used
during guided reading lessons into bins for quick access to books for
rereading. We find that many students enjoy rereading these books because
the first reading affords them an extra level of support. For children who do
not know what they like to read, teachers might label a large plastic bag with
each child’s name and place suggested books inside. At instruction times,
when teachers need more control over the difficulty level of the materials,
they may offer the students a choice of three different books for the lesson.
Again, the choices reflect students’ personal interests as much as possible
but if students respond negatively to the choices, teachers acknowledge and
note the child’s perspective for subsequent lessons. Choice extends to
learning activities as well. Opportunities for choice are never random or

haphazard but are carefully crafted by the teacher and informed by the
teacher’s goals.
In sum then, we consider the important concepts of access, interest, and
choice together in planning reading opportunities. This ensures that
students will read varied materials that will be both interesting and
appropriate and they will have opportunities to be meaningfully engaged
with the materials.

Reading Motivation Plan

Our motivation plan is based on the simple assumption that children must
read. They must read to get better at reading, to gain knowledge and to
learn to think. The self-determined reader knows this. The self-determined
reader reads. We are explicit in discussing this idea with students. We
encourage them to think of things at which they excel and consider how
practice has made them better. We model good reading habits constantly.
We want them to recognize the importance and pleasure of reading so that
they will begin to internalize the motivation to read.
There is considerable evidence that expected tangible extrinsic rewards will
undermine intrinsic motivation for interesting activities. Additionally, verbal
feedback that is affirming and informational enhances students’ intrinsic
motivation (Deci et al., 1999b). Therefore, a hallmark of our reading clinic is a
motivation plan that is consistent with these findings, excites students, and
facilitates their motivation to read. The plan is an example of how theory and
research can meaningfully inform practice. Each aspect of the plan has been
carefully thought-out to ensure that it is research-based and that it supports
students’ needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. We shun the use
of tangible external inducements to encourage reading and we use positive,
informational verbal feedback freely to encourage reading, strategy applica-
tion, and persistence.
Each summer begins with teachers brainstorming a theme that unifies the
classes. We determine five theme-related levels through which all students
will progress. The levels reflect a natural increasing progression from Level 1
to Level 5. For example, for the camp theme, the levels were camper,
counsellor-in-training, junior counsellor, counsellor, and reading ranger.
When students arrive on the first day, the teachers enthusiastically describe
the theme to the students and distribute reading logs in folders that are
returned each Monday. The teachers model for students how to fill out the
reading log. Students record the number of minutes they read each day and
Creating an Optimal Learning Environment for Struggling Readers 103

when the logs are collected, the total number of minutes for the class is
calculated by a teacher. The teacher announces to students that they have
met the class goal and all students move to the next level. On the last day of
the program, students return their final log and move to the highest level of
the theme. On that day, we have a celebration where students receive a
certificate of congratulations for their summer reading and they are invited
to select two new books that they may take home and keep.
Our expectation, based on SDT, is that the students’ motivation at first
may be nonautonomous. As we expound on the enjoyment and value of
reading and we continually model this through read-aloud and our own
personal reading, SDT predicts that students will begin to internalize the
motivation to read because they see the value in reading. We hope that
through successful, pleasurable reading experiences, their motivation will
become integrated or intrinsic. Three points about the motivation plan
deserve explication:

1. The number of minutes for the goal is discussed and determined by the
class when the plan is introduced. We strive to determine the goal
collaboratively so that it is more intrinsically oriented. We ensure that the
goal is not competitive or contingent on performance. Flexibility and
student input are paramount. The students discuss all the activities that
consume their time and offer each other ideas for finding time to read.
They agree on a number that seems reasonable for a class goal, which
usually works out to be approximately 20 minutes per day for each child.
2. Reading logs are kept private. In this way, students are never singled out
or chastised for not contributing to the class goal. There are many
reasons why students do not read, most of which are out of our control.
When we identify students who are not recording minutes on their log or
not returning it, we have individual conversations with them. Through-
out the program, we reiterate the importance of reading practice. We
encourage these students to reflect on why they aren’t reading, what they
could do differently, and what we could do to support them in their home
reading. We also use positive verbal feedback in the group setting to
specifically point out instances where students’ reading practice is
strengthening their reading or helping them use reading strategies. This
dialogue is designed to help all readers, but especially the nonreaders,
begin to internalize the motivation to practice reading. We might send
another log home or send books home that we know the student can
manage. These small steps often pay off simply because there are no
books at home or no adult home in the evenings to help with hard words.

3. On occasion, a group will not quite meet the goal. This generally happens
when one or two students aren’t returning a log. Since the students
seldom ask about the exact number of minutes read by the class, we can
sometimes report to them this way: ‘‘Wow, you did some serious reading
this week. Everybody move to the next level!’’ We leave out the fact that
the numbers fell short. Some will object to this tactic, arguing that
students should not benefit when they do not put forth effort or that
students should understand the connection between their effort and
eventual outcomes. While it is true that we want students to be
responsible and accountable, we have a clear rationale for this practice.
Our goal is to encourage the students to read. We do everything we can
to facilitate that end, but there are certain factors over which we have no
control. There is no point in letting the group ‘‘fail’’ particularly when
most of them are reading more than they typically do, which is what we
want. In the end, we are especially pleased to give nonreaders two new
books because they are usually the ones who need them most. We have
accomplished what we set out to do. We have encouraged all the children
to read more and we have given new books to every child, increasing the
chances that all students will internalize the motivation to read.

This simple plan for encouraging reading is consistent with SDT. It

supports autonomy in several ways. The plan is goal-oriented and
appropriately challenging. Children select their own books and they
monitor and record their own reading. Personal relevance and choice are
characteristic. Most important is that there are no tangible, extrinsic
rewards promised and teachers’ active involvement and positive feedback
enthusiastically encourage students to read. The program supports
competence by providing opportunities to apply taught strategies with
appropriate level materials, strengthening students’ reading skill. Related-
ness is supported at first through the discussion that determines the class
goal and throughout the program in opportunities to share their reading
with others in varied, nonthreatening ways. All students are thrilled with
surprise books at the end of the program.

Explicit Instruction

She was definitely able to decode some words and she read every night and she kept
a positive attitude throughout the whole thing. And she’d say, ‘‘Look mom, I can
read.’’ And she was learning some decoding strategies, but she also learned some
Creating an Optimal Learning Environment for Struggling Readers 105

self-confidence. She was having some problems and kept saying she was dumb and I
really think it helped her self-esteem and confidence. (Post-program parent interview)

We know how important a sense of competence is to students’ motivation

and their ultimate achievement (Eliot, McGregor, & Thrash, 2002). In our
clinic, we believe that the best way to support students’ sense of competence
is to make them competent through a strong instructional program. The
clinic day is highly structured and planned by the teachers with clear,
focused objectives. Learning activities are presented in such a way that
students see them as meaningful, valuable, and relevant. These character-
istics of learning activities make them more likely to be sanctioned by
students, supporting autonomy.
In keeping with the research on reading strategy instruction, we rely
heavily on explicit instruction of reading strategies and the gradual release
of responsibility model (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983). We focus on a small
number of strategies that are determined by the needs identified during the
diagnostic screening. Our students respond positively and quickly to explicit
instruction. For many of our students, it seems that their regular classroom
instruction stops short of the explicitness they need. Our instruction includes
extensive teacher modeling through think-alouds. We locate passages for
modeling, guided practice, and independent practice. The passages must be
short, well-written, and conducive to the strategy. Quite often, we write our
own passages that can be tailored both to the strategy and to the students’
interests. We emphasize the conditional aspect of reading strategies so that
students can make decisions independently about how and when to apply
them. Fig. 1. shows Eric’s response to a journal prompt asking How will this
strategy help you?
Opportunities for authentic reading are integrated into the day to ensure
the application of reading strategies that are being taught. For example,
sustained silent reading (SSR) is a standard part of each day. Teachers also
ensure that students are reading connected text during teacher-guided
instructional blocks. Reading strategy lessons are integrated with

Fig. 1. Eric’s Response to the Journal Prompt How Will This Strategy Help You?

opportunities to apply reading strategies to connected text. As much as

possible, materials used during lessons have been selected by the teacher
based on students’ interests. This supports students’ sense of competence as
they can sometimes rely on their prior knowledge to be the classroom
We consider the use of challenge within the context of instruction.
Much research supports the premise that challenge can be motivating.
This research and our own experience highlight the importance of
appropriate challenge. We know from this research that reasonable
challenge facilitates perceptions of competence, which will lead to a
positive cycle of challenge-seeking (Katz & Assor, 2006; Turner, Thorpe, &
Meyer, 1998).
In our reading clinic, reasonable challenge is accompanied by strong
instructional support. We carefully assess students’ reading levels so that we
can provide them with appropriately challenging materials and instruction
around those materials is carefully scaffolded.

So many of them have all these ideas and they can tell you a story, but if you ask them to
write it, they just lock up. So we taught them some strategies for that. Just sitting with
them one-on-one when they were writing was the most helpful, to help them get their
ideas in an organized form on paper. So we did two large writing assignments that lasted
a week y and I think that giving them a bigger assignment, they felt a huge sense of
accomplishment at the end when they get it done. (Clinic teacher post-program

Some may equate challenge with competition. However, within the

context of SDT and the literacy classroom, it is clear that the concept of
competition is contrary to a learning environment. In a learning
environment, winning and losing are nonissues. Mistakes are natural. They
are expected and accepted. Indeed it could be argued that if mistakes are not
being made, learning is not happening.

y unfortunately the way they have the school classroom set up he loses so much y the
minute he walks into that classroom. It’s all about who is better, smarter, whatever, and
it’s so much more competition. And he doesn’t feel good about himself. y and so [in the
reading clinic] he feels as though he is smart, he knows something, he is confident,
and y I think the program is important for doing that for him. (Post-program parent

Competition is inconsistent with the environment that SDT supports.

Research indicates that competitive environments engender a performance
orientation as individuals compare themselves to others and frequently
work for externally originated motivations. This thwarts autonomy.
Creating an Optimal Learning Environment for Struggling Readers 107

Additionally, perceptions of competence may be undermined in an

environment that is not learning-focused but about performing well.
Perhaps most harmful, competition undermines relatedness as it pits
students against each other. Children cannot learn to trust and take risks
in an environment where their performance is compared to others, where
they risk losing, or where they could never be the winner no matter how
hard they tried. The very nature of competition means that there will always
be losers. There is no place for competition in a strong, learning-oriented
instructional environment. Explicit instruction and appropriate challenge
are the keys to this environment.


In our view, the purpose of assessment is to inform subsequent instruction.

As such, assessment in our reading clinic is individual and ongoing. We do
not use standardized assessments. We frequently use Running Records and
various informal assessments of sight words or fluency. Teachers primarily
rely on a system of anecdotal note-taking. They record notes using a system
that encourages much reflection on their instruction and students’ responses
to it. Collaboration is central to the assessment system. Since we use a
coteaching model, there are many opportunities for dialogue about
individual students. Additionally, during seminars, teachers discuss assess-
ment results of individual cases. The ability to collaborate in this way is rare
for teachers and it is this feature of our program that master’s candidates
report as most beneficial.
An essential element in our assessment system is that students are an
integral part of their own assessment. This can be challenging at first as most
students are not accustomed to participating in their learning in this way.
Every lesson closure includes opportunities for students to reflect on what
was learned, how a taught strategy might help them, and when they might
use the strategy. Fig. 2. is an example of one such written closure exercise.
Some closure exercises are conducted through oral discussion. At the end of
the day, children reflect together regarding what was accomplished, how
they fared, and how they might progress. Sometimes these reflections are
discussed and other times, teachers have students reflect in their journals, as
seen in Fig. 3. We find that involvement in one’s own assessment enhances
ownership and enables students to become more aware of themselves as
learners. By the end of the program students are much more comfortable
about self-assessment.

Fig. 2. Typical Written Closure Example, Written by Students and Discussed at the
End of Each Lesson.

Fig. 3. Example of Jamal’s End of Day Journal Reflection.


A few years ago when I was trying to wade through the motivation literature
in order to write a coherent dissertation, I heard Edward Deci say,
‘‘Teachers often ask how they can motivate their students to read but that’s
the wrong question. If intrinsic motivation comes from within, then the
more appropriate question is: How do I create an environment in which
children will become motivated?’’ This seemingly simple remark set me on a
new path that has become my mantra as a teacher educator and reading
clinic director. A large body of research on intrinsic motivation and reading
Creating an Optimal Learning Environment for Struggling Readers 109

supports the tenets of SDT and this work provides an excellent foundation
for reading clinic and classroom settings where students’ academic and
motivation issues can be addressed in concert. We have learned from this
body of work that self-determined individuals exhibit a wide range of
positive and productive behaviors. We have learned as well that an
environment that supports autonomy, competence, and relatedness facil-
itates intrinsic and integrated forms of motivation.
The autonomy continuum provides an effective lens for thinking about
reading motivations. Particularly helpful is the concept of internalization
that provides a mechanism for the development of autonomous forms of
motivation. In the case of reading, it is especially encouraging to know that
through modeling of literacy behaviors, explanations about the utility and
instrumental value of reading strategies, and encouraging ownership of
learning, teachers can help students internalize the motivation to read. The
autonomy continuum also explains how extrinsic rewards, shame, and
threats of punishment are counter-productive. These controlling practices
take away any opportunity for SD. Further, these practices send powerful
messages to children that coercion is necessary because reading and learning
are inherently unnatural or unpleasant.
This chapter has outlined ways in which intrinsic motivation can be both
evident and facilitated in a reading clinic setting. But what about regular
classroom contexts? Is it possible to create an environment in a regular
classroom that supports autonomy, competence, and relatedness? I contend
that it is, though the challenges, particularly with older students, may seem
Consider that most students have been immersed in a system where they
have never been the architects of their own learning. Even if they wanted to
come on board, they would not know how. Consequently, the teacher must
be the architect of the environment in his or her own classroom to enable
students to become self-determined. Most important in creating an
autonomy-supportive classroom, teachers must consider learning activities
and materials from the students’ perspectives. Guiding questions might
include: Is this an authentic task that students will find relevant to their
lives? Will this task or material be meaningful to my students? How might
students be more involved in creating their learning experiences? On the first
day of fifth grade, for instance, instead of having the classroom rules posted
along with the penalty for breaking the rules, perhaps the teacher guides a
discussion about appropriate behavior and the students produce the rules
themselves. The teacher then subtly entices the students to consider the
notion that when expectations are clear, there should be no need for

penalties. It goes without saying that this will be challenging in some

settings. This idea will also be challenged by some teachers as ‘‘impossible in
my school.’’ This is an understandable response considering that the notion
of being in control of their own learning will be completely foreign to most
students. Even in our reading clinic, we see evidence of this and it takes time
for some students to acclimate to the setting.
While teachers may not have complete autonomy themselves, there are
many ways that they might make classroom modifications that will facilitate
students’ SD. Every thoughtful decision about instructional tasks or
materials can move students one step closer to SD. These decisions will
evolve from a particular way of thinking that says, ‘‘I believe that my
classroom is a learning environment. It should be a place where my students
feel confident and safe to risk learning. I strive to make learning activities
and materials supportive of students’ autonomy, competence and related-
ness. I have created a space in which my students can become motivated and
self-determined.’’ With this mindset, and using the findings on autonomy-
supportive teaching practices (Reeve & Jang, 2006; Reeve et al., 2004),
teachers can evaluate what is happening in their classrooms currently and
gradually make changes that can shift the classroom trajectory toward the
enhancement of SD.
Our clinic teachers are fortunate to have the autonomy to make decisions
and choose materials that are best suited to the students’ needs. This careful
individualization of instruction is a hallmark of our program. It has
contributed to helping us develop a strong and respected clinical program,
but we continually consider ways to improve. For example, we often look at
new research with an eye toward considering its applicability to our
program. We are especially interested in research on meeting the academic
and motivation needs of students with diverse backgrounds. We are also
cognizant of the research on new literacies and we reflect on ways that
technology and internet resources can be effectively and appropriately
integrated into instruction. A path we wish to pursue is to follow some of
our students into their regular school year to explore whether or not and
how our program carries over for them.
Every student may not be intrinsically motivated to read, just as every
student is not intrinsically motivated to play soccer. But every child can
begin to internalize the motivation to read and engage more fully,
recognizing the personal value of reading and the value of becoming a
proficient reader. This disposition, coupled with an excellent instructional
program, will ensure the development of capable, motivated, self-
determined learners in classroom and reading clinic settings.
Creating an Optimal Learning Environment for Struggling Readers 111

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Evan Ortlieb, Wolfram Verlaan and

Earl H. Cheek, Jr.


Purpose – To provide educators with an overview of strategies that can be

incorporated into clinical settings that foster vocabulary and comprehen-
sion development.
Design/methodology/approach – The chapter highlights underlying
themes of reading failure, benefits of large vocabularies and comprehen-
sion skills, and components for remediation/instruction.
Findings – Content provides detailed information on designing clinics that
prepare students to meet the vocabulary and comprehension demands of
reading in the 21st century.
Research limitations/implications – The chapter highlights the most
reliable and practical reading strategies that are fundamental to every
reader’s advancement.

Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom

Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Volume 2, 117–136
Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2048-0458/doi:10.1108/S2048-0458(2013)0000002009

Practical implications – This chapter serves as a resource for all clinical

instructors, providing a wealth of ideas for incorporation into their clinics
and classrooms.
Originality/value of paper – This compilation of vocabulary and
comprehension strategies works in tandem to produce highly skilled
readers who can in turn learn independently.

Keywords: Vocabulary; comprehension; reading; clinic; classroom

Every child, and adult for that matter, has room for reading improvement.
Sometimes, alternative instructional programs are needed to ensure
expeditious academic progress. Classroom instruction does not always
reach every child’s needs and as a result, clinical instructional frameworks
are geared toward the development of student abilities, rather than the
bolstering of content knowledge. As common core curriculums expand into
classrooms nationwide, clinical instruction’s aim to support reading skills
that have not already been mastered within classroom instruction becomes
increasingly important.
Readers flourish when provided with learning environments that are
conducive to developing vocabulary and comprehension competencies. For
instance, difficult vocabulary presents a host of challenges to youth not only
in determining a word’s meaning but also in comprehending the sentence or
text in which it appears. Take the example below:

Jerry erroneously marked ‘true’ on the quiz as he was absent the day prior to the

A student reading this would not only have to know the meaning of the
word ‘‘erroneously’’ but must also use its meaning to understand the rest of
the sentence. Without other reading skills like context clues, syntactical
knowledge, and inferencing abilities (e.g., Jerry’s absence caused him to miss
the review/material for the quiz), many fourth graders would struggle to
fully understand the sentence. Using a vocabulary and comprehension based
literacy clinic model, reading skills can be augmented through a ‘‘mastery
and then move on’’ approach, where students gain a variety of both word
attack and comprehension strategies with the goal of transferring these
abilities to a full range of subject areas.
For students who struggled to understand the event(s) that led up to
Jerry’s ‘‘error,’’ clinical instructors could facilitate a lesson on looking for
Vocabulary/Comprehension-Based Models of Reading Clinics 119

known word parts. Addressing specific areas for improvement using a

greatest-to-least-needs approach is how clinical operations excel in leading
children to successful literacy experiences. There are no manuals that
provide all the requisites for reading success; it is highly individualized,
interactive, and ever changing (Ortlieb, 2012a). Yet, like driver’s education
or ballet class, having a knowledgeable mentor ready and eager to provide
attuned assistance toward literacy growth is essential to fostering success
that will transfer to a classroom setting. Clinical literacy instructors play,
pause, rewind, play again, and repeat their instructional sequences as
students develop and refine their literacy skills and strategies. The controlled
setting of a reading clinic serves to minimize the distractions often inherent
in a regular classroom environment, thereby allowing for the maximizing of
student gains.
Many learning theories are framed around notions that we learn more
proficiently with the help of others, especially those who can scaffold us
in timely and efficient ways. Despite being in the age of electronic library
catalogues, Facebook, Google, and YouTube, having someone who can
guide learning in novel ways promotes engagement, interest, under-
standing, and meaningfulness. Clinic models that focus on vocabulary
and comprehension, the fundamentals of reading, are necessary if
students are to meet and surpass grade-level expectations and curricular


There is a large range in the individual reading abilities of students as they

begin school, and many students will have difficulty with acquiring reading
proficiency. Unfortunately, a student’s reading development is often
influenced by his or her socioeconomic status (SES) (NCES, 2011). Indeed,
even before students reach school-age, their home environment will have
played a significant role in the quantity and quality of vocabulary to which
they are exposed, which may also have an impact on their future reading
acquisition (Chall, Jacobs, & Baldwin, 1990; Hart & Risley, 1995). As
discussed in Hart and Risley’s research, by the age of three, many students
coming from low SES home environments may have as little as 1/3 the
vocabulary of students coming from middle to upper SES home environ-
ments. Among the factors implicated in contributing to this gap are (a) a
higher rate of single parent families in lower SES environments, (b) a larger
number of children per family in lower SES environments, and (c) a lower

education level of parents in lower SES environments. These factors often

result in limiting both the quality and the quantity of the verbal exchanges
that take place between parents and children in lower SES environments.
For example, a single parent with several children may not be able to read to
his or her children with the same frequency as a two-parent family with
fewer children. Indeed, the most recent data from the Program for
International Student Assessment (PISA) included survey results that
indicated a high correlation between the scores of 15-year-old students and
the frequency with which they were read to during preschool years (OECD,
2010). In addition, lower SES households will often have less disposable
income to spend on items such as books and magazines, thus reducing
opportunities for print exposure that has been shown to have a positive
effect on reading acquisition and development (Cunningham & Stanovich,
1998). Consequently, many children coming from lower SES environments
will be at risk of having neither the language development nor the oral
vocabulary as their peers who come from middle to upper SES environ-
In addition to having an effect on vocabulary knowledge at the start of
school, the quality and quantity of the language to which children are
exposed at an early age also affects later reading acquisition and
comprehension development. One of the reasons for this is that struggling
readers often receive classroom interventions that tend to emphasize skill
development over practice with authentic texts, which results in struggling
readers having less opportunity to develop contextual reading skills than
proficient readers (Hiebert, 1983; Thurlow, Gaden, Ysseldyke, & Algozzine,
1984; Vauhn, Moody, & Schumm, 1998). Because intervention efforts for
struggling readers often limit their interaction with actual text, it has been
theorized that over time the cumulative results of what have been termed
‘‘Matthew Effects’’ (so-named for the observation in the Gospel of Matthew
that the ‘‘rich get richer and the poor get poorer’’) cause struggling readers
to fall further and further behind their more proficient peers (Stanovich,
1986). Moreover, struggling readers also face motivational issues that can be
caused by not having had sufficient exposure to reading materials containing
high interest subject matter. This lack of motivation or engagement with
reading materials can affect the development and acquisition of vocabulary
knowledge, subject matter knowledge, and comprehension ability (Guthrie,
2004). With sufficient research on the underlying causes of reading difficulty,
the remainder of this chapter will focus on the benefits of increasing
students’ vocabulary and comprehension skills and how to achieve these
goals in clinical settings.
Vocabulary/Comprehension-Based Models of Reading Clinics 121


The act of reading is often referred to as ‘‘making meaning from text,’’ and
although some struggling readers may have difficulty with decoding, it is
typically their struggles with ‘‘meaning-making,’’ or comprehension, that
will require significant intervention. Although perhaps it borders on the
tautological to say that ‘‘one needs to know the meaning of the words one is
reading to know the meaning of what one is reading,’’ there is a significant
correlation between vocabulary knowledge and comprehension ability
(Anderson & Freebody, 1981; Baumann, 2005). To this end, clinical efforts
targeting vocabulary acquisition can play a vital role in overall comprehen-
sion development.
It has been estimated that children learn between 2000 and 3000 words a
year (Beck & McKeown, 1991), with most of these words acquired outside
of explicit instruction. It has been tempting to assume that because many of
these words are acquired naturally, vocabulary instruction is not that
important. These 2000 to 3000 words per year is an estimated average,
however, and although some students certainly acquire that many words per
year or more, it is largely due to intensive exposure to written language via
reading and spoken language in their homes. Nagy and Scott (2000) note:

Students who need help most in the area of vocabulary – those whose home experience
has not given them a substantial foundation in the vocabulary of literate and academic
English – need to acquire words at a pace even faster than that of their peers, but by no
means do they always find this process easy or automatic. (p. 280)

Because some students will enter school with a more limited vocabulary
than that of their peers, these students will benefit from instruction focusing
on vocabulary development.
Acquiring vocabulary knowledge is important for several reasons. First,
students who enter school with a limited vocabulary will not only have more
difficulty acquiring decoding skills, they will also have more difficulty with
comprehension, which can lead to frustration with reading and a lack of
engagement with reading materials. Because wide reading is arguably the
most effective means of increasing vocabulary knowledge, students who are
frustrated or disengaged from reading will likely not acquire words at a rate
necessary for later academic success. Second, vocabulary knowledge leads to
greater vocabulary knowledge because many words in the English language
share root words and/or word parts with other words. This means that a
word is often changed into another part of speech with a similar meaning by
changing or adding a prefix or suffix (e.g., the verb multiply is changed to a

noun by modifying the ending of the word so that it becomes multiplication).

Because many words in English are modified according to predictable
patterns, knowing a particular word allows children to learn or guess the
meanings of a new word that shares its word parts with the word they
already know. Consequently, the more words that a child knows, the easier
it is for that child to ascertain the meaning of new words that contain the
word parts with which the child is already familiar. Third, the larger an
individual’s vocabulary, the easier it will be for that individual to
comprehend a wider range of text, because our ability to comprehend
reading material is dependent to a large degree on our background
knowledge of the subject matter about which we are reading. This
background knowledge of the world around us, or schema, is largely
constructed through language; in other words, our knowledge of a topic is
often related to the range of our vocabulary about that topic. For example,
the average person probably knows the word knee and the names of some of
the parts of the knee such as the kneecap, specific ligaments, and so forth.
This knowledge may allow a layperson to read medical advice from a
popular periodical or the Internet. An orthopedic surgeon, however, will
know not only the names of all the parts of the knee as well as the muscles,
blood vessels, and nerves that surround it but also how those parts are
interrelated along with the vocabulary used to specifically describe those
interrelationships. Thus, s/he will be able to read and understand much
more complex text than a layperson, such as highly technical research
articles published in medical journals and so forth. Thus, the richer one’s
vocabulary knowledge, the easier it becomes to comprehend wider varieties
of text, which becomes especially important when students begin to make
the transition from the ‘‘learning-to-read’’ stage to the ‘‘reading-to-learn’’



Vocabulary knowledge is one of the key components of reading

comprehension, so clinical efforts directed at improving reading ability
should include an instructional component addressing vocabulary acquisi-
tion. Although there has been a significant amount of research into both the
processes of vocabulary acquisition and effective instructional methods
(e.g., Anderson & Nagy, 1991; Baumann & Kameenui, 1991; Beck &
Vocabulary/Comprehension-Based Models of Reading Clinics 123

McKeown, 1991; Nagy & Scott, 2000), it is not clear to what extent
classroom teachers have embraced the need for vocabulary instruction. In
addition, research-based methods for delivering vocabulary instruction are
often not fully utilized in the classroom because, according to Manzo,
Manzo, and Thomas (2009): ‘‘For new and experienced teachers alike, it is
more comfortable to teach in the traditional manner they most likely
experienced as students than it is to acquire a more strategy-based
interactive/intervention teaching style’’ (p. 31). Moreover, research into
vocabulary instruction has made it clear that traditional vocabulary
instruction based on memorizing word lists and definitions is not as
effective as more interactive approaches, especially for struggling readers. In
summarizing an extensive analysis of instructional methodologies, Blacho-
witz and Fisher (2000) recommend that four guidelines should be used to
develop vocabulary instruction:
1. Students should be active in developing their understanding of words and
ways to learn them.
2. Students should personalize word learning.
3. Students should be immersed in words.
4. Students should build on multiple sources of information to learn words
through repeated exposures (p. 504).
It is important, then, that clinical/classroom instruction incorporates
these guiding principles, and we provide some suggestions for their
application. The first principle is largely related to motivating students and
getting them interested in vocabulary words. It is useful, therefore, to
mention six evidence-based guidelines that Brozo and Flynt (2008) suggest
are important for developing motivation (it should be noted that these
guidelines apply not only to vocabulary instruction but also to instruction in
1. Elevating self-efficacy
2. Engendering interest in new learning
3. Connecting outside with inside school literacies
4. Making an abundance of interesting texts available
5. Expanding choices and options
6. Structuring collaboration for motivation.
One method of helping develop student interest in words is to introduce
puns and other jokes that rely on wordplay – as students enter late
elementary and middle school, they begin to appreciate word-based humor,
and this can be motivational for helping create an interest in new

vocabulary. In addition, using a (print-based, online, or even visual)

dictionary or a thesaurus wisely can increase interest and curiosity in word
meanings (Bromley, 2007). Moreover, many students are not very skilled at
using a dictionary or thesaurus, and instruction and guidance in this area
can help foster a sense of self-efficacy as well as personal responsibility in
arriving at word meanings.
Although motivating students who have had a history of reading failure
may be one of the more difficult challenges an educator faces, structuring
vocabulary instruction to allow students to personalize word learning can
assist in this effort. Having students make a personal connection with the
words being learned can increase not only motivation but also the likelihood
that students will assimilate the words into their vocabulary. Instructional
techniques that encourage students in making a personal connection with
words they are learning often involve having students create a mental image,
verbal connection, physical movement, and so forth for the word being
learned. This kind of learning is not new, and instruction in using mental
imagery to recall information dates back at least as far as the ancient
Greeks. One specific instructional method that employs a type of mental
imagery to facilitate recall of information is known as the keyword method.
The keyword method consists of using a word that one already knows to
create an image that is in some way connected verbally, visually, and/or
conceptually to the word being learned. For example, a student might use
the word speed to make a connection with the word expedient. Allowing
students to create their own mental images fosters a sense of ownership for
the word, and research studies suggest that the keyword method is effective
in assisting struggling readers with vocabulary acquisition (Condus,
Marshall, & Miller, 1986). In addition, this technique may also be effective
in helping students develop schema for interrelated topics and ideas
(Pressley, Levin, & McDaniel, 1987). Assigning students to bring in a word
they noticed at home or that they find interesting is another way to help
students build personal connections with words. Having students share
these words with the class and adding them to a word wall can also help to
build a sense of community that can be motivational for many students.
This sense of community plays an important role in the third guideline for
vocabulary instruction: immersion. Immersion approaches are typically
used to accomplish directed vocabulary goals such as learning a set of
specific words. Although word walls (which can also be created online) are
often an attempt to build an immersive vocabulary environment, it requires
effort and vigilance on the part of teacher to keep the classroom word wall
an active and vital component in classroom instruction, instead of a word’s
Vocabulary/Comprehension-Based Models of Reading Clinics 125

final resting place. Immersion approaches such as the word wall can be
especially effective if the wider community of the school also participates
(Brett, Rothlein, & Hurley, 1996). The object of this approach is to immerse
the students in an environment where they are surrounded by conditions
created to foster vocabulary development of the words targeted for learning.
It requires considerable planning but has numerous benefits. The object
words are introduced in high frequency into the students’ surroundings with
all of the teachers, administrators, and even the cafeteria staff making an
effort to use the words so that they become a part of the students’ total
school experience (Manzo, Manzo, & Thomas, 2006). In their article titled,
Rationale for Systematic Vocabulary Development: Antidote for State
Mandates, Manzo, Manzo, and Thomas present the following goals for
this type of immersion:
Object words are introduced into the very air that children breathe, with
the expectation that this will do the following things:
 Increase the frequency of appearance of otherwise low-frequency terms;
 Raise the probability that a student will get a fuller picture of the scope
and contexts influencing a word’s often variable meanings;
 Minimize the social–emotional downside and heighten the semantic
sentiments that some words seem to conjure; and
 Generally raise word consciousness and induce playful self-teaching, the
sometimes overlooked object of all intentional and incidental instruction
(p. 617).
The authors also suggest that this type of concerted effort on the part of
the adults in the school sends a message to the students that vocabulary is
important and valued, and this spirit of cooperation in building a shared
lexicon creates ties that bind the school community together.
Increasing the number of exposures to words in multiple contexts will aid
in each student’s development of his or her personal lexicon. The number of
exposures required to acquire and/or retain a word is estimated to range
from 5 (Saragi, Nation, & Meister, 1978) to as many as 40 (Beck, Perfetti, &
McKeown, 1982), depending on word complexity and the level of word
knowledge required for mastery. Words in the English language often have
multiple meanings that are contextually dependent, and the more exposures
one has to a word being used in its various contexts, the more likely it is that
the word will become part of one’s vocabulary.
Additionally, the role of oral language in assimilating new vocabulary
should not be underestimated since vocabulary acquisition is linked to the
number and types of words that we hear in our environment (Hart & Risley,

1995). Hearing and speaking the words that we learn reinforces our
understanding of them and the contexts in which they are used, which
provides a basis for the reading and writing that a student will do later on.
Having students hear a word in context before beginning to analyze it helps
to activate prior knowledge of the word that the student may possess. Many
students already recognize a word orally before they can decode it in a text,
especially if it has an irregular spelling. Reading aloud to students is
something that every teacher should do, and speaking to students in a
challenging vocabulary is a way to prepare their brains to assimilate new
words (Hahn, 2002). One of the best preparations a student can have for
standardized tests such as the SAT is to hear great literature read aloud
(Trelease, 2001). Audio recordings of literature being read by professional
readers are an excellent resource and many are available at the public library
for no cost (Verlaan & Ortlieb, 2012).
Almost 70% of the most frequently used words have multiple meanings,
so a context for the word is often necessary in beginning to comprehend how
it is being used. Here a dictionary can be helpful in exploring the various
meanings for frequently used words, but the assignment should entail
exploration, not drudgery. Teachers can use a wide variety of both fiction
and nonfiction texts to show how context gives clues to a word’s meaning,
which can serve to complement and deepen dictionary exploration.
Vocabulary maps are also an effective strategy in that they activate learning
at several levels of the brain. First, the student writes the word in the center
of the page, dividing the rest of the page into three or four sections. In one
section, the student writes the definition of the word; in another, the student
writes the original sentence in which the word appeared; in a third section,
the student draws a picture representing the word (which can be difficult
with more abstract words because students will have to access their
knowledge of symbols); and in the fourth section, the student draws a
picture representing the opposite of or a nondefinition of the word. It is
important to plan written and oral activities in which students have multiple
opportunities to make use of the words on their vocabulary maps. Hearing
new words in combination with studying various contexts in which a word
may appear aid in reinforcing the meaning of new words.
Because nearly 80% of the words that a student will encounter as they
read are comprised of just 2000 word families (Carroll, Davies, & Richman,
1971), with different words created by adding or removing prefixes and
suffixes, a systematic study of prefixes, suffixes, and roots can be very
helpful in maximizing the effects of multiple exposures to words and word
families (Ortlieb, 2012b). This is especially true if one concentrates on the
Vocabulary/Comprehension-Based Models of Reading Clinics 127

most frequently occurring roots and the prefixes and suffixes that have the
least variance in their meaning (Bromley, 2002). In addition, the meanings
of over half of the polysyllabic words in the English language can be
determined by analyzing word parts if students have been given practice in
doing this (Nagy & Scott, 2000). Students should be given explicit
instruction for a short time in the meanings of the more frequently
occurring roots so that they can associate the root with its denotation. Also,
textbooks and vocabulary workbooks often provide examples that show
words created from combinations of roots with prefixes and suffixes. If a
teacher is not using an explicit vocabulary instructional text, such as a
vocabulary workbook, lists of roots and their meanings are available on the
Internet and can be printed, reproduced, and distributed to one’s students.
Many strategies can be employed to reinforce root meanings throughout
the year, but if a teacher is planning on using an explicit instructional text,
such as a vocabulary workbook, the teacher should preview the words that
are going to be learned for either a grading period or even a semester to
identify the most commonly occurring root words and/or the roots of those
words the teacher knows will give students the most difficulty, that is, low
frequency words typically found on standardized tests such as the SAT or in
the more difficult literature. Students can then create a ‘‘root wall,’’ either by
itself or in addition to the standard word wall, and keep a record of this
word wall and/or these more difficult roots in a vocabulary notebook.
Students place new words they find words in their vocabulary study or in
their reading underneath the word wall and/or the appropriate root in their
notebooks. Students can also explain how any prefixes and suffixes attached
to the root give it a particular meaning, and write sample sentences (either
their own or those written by others) that contain the new word they have
found in the section of the vocabulary notebook that contains the root. In
addition, students can find a common synonym that they already know for
the word being learned, and copy it next to the word in their notebooks.
When instructing students to find synonyms, teachers should be careful to
direct students to find those that are meaningful to the individual student;
thus, a student with a more developed vocabulary may have a different
synonym than a student whose vocabulary is less developed. In this manner,
the student’s existing schema is activated and it is more likely that the new
word will be remembered later (Rupley, Logan, & Nichols, 1999).
Although there are a great number and variety of quality instructional
texts specifically addressing vocabulary acquisition, educators are encour-
aged to adapt instructional methods to the needs of the individual students
with whom they are working. Using Blachowicz and Fisher’s four

instructional guidelines to inform the design of a vocabulary program will

improve one’s likelihood of success. And although vocabulary instruction
should be an important component of clinical practice, it should not become
overly compartmentalized or become an end in itself, because the ultimate
goal of any reading program is not simply to create lists of word meanings
and usages but to improve comprehension. In the following section, we
address important components of clinical programs designed to improve



Over the last 40 years, reading comprehension has been one of the most
researched areas in the field of reading/literacy studies. It has become widely
accepted that readers make meaning from text by actively enlisting cognitive
processes that facilitate comprehension. These cognitive processes have
come to be viewed as strategies that proficient readers use to comprehend
text. Although these strategies are typically second nature for proficient
readers, struggling readers often do not effectively employ any of these
strategies, thereby causing them difficulty with one or more aspects of the
comprehension process. The good news is that through explicit instruction
and practice, these strategies can be acquired by readers who may not have
been actively employing them. In their review of the research, Duke and
Pearson (2002) recommend that comprehension instruction include devel-
opment of the following six strategies: (a) prediction, (b) think-aloud,
(c) text structure, (d) visual representations of text, (e) summarization, and
(f) questions/questioning. These strategies can be easily modified and crafted
to fit the reading ability level of students in grades K-8 and beyond. An
overview of each strategy and its place within clinical practice follows.
Prediction is often associated with both prereading and during-reading
activities. Before reading begins, prediction activities typically entail either
providing or enhancing background knowledge about the subject matter,
which helps to engage a reader’s schema. The more background knowledge
a reader has about the reading material, the easier it tends to be to
comprehend what is being discussed in the text (Anderson & Pearson, 1984).
Prereading activities frequently include asking students to make predictions
such as (a) what does the title and/or introduction suggest about the topic?,
(b) how might this topic relate to students’ own lives or experiences?,
Vocabulary/Comprehension-Based Models of Reading Clinics 129

(c) what information do they believe the reading material may give them?,
and (d) how might studying this topic be useful? Having students answer
these questions explicitly before a reading assignment provides modeling for
what good readers do, and frequent repetition of this type of questioning
also helps to make it more habitual, with the goal of having it eventually
become second nature. Another activity characterized as employing
prediction (and which can be helpful for both motivating and increasing
the interest of reluctant readers) is the Anticipation-Reaction (A/R) Guide
(Duffelmeyer, 1994; Herbert, 1978). This guide usually takes the form of a
set of multilevel questions (factual, inferential, and/or application-oriented)
or statements about the reading material. These questions or statements are
presented to the students before reading, often to highlight prevailing views
or ideas about the subject matter. The goal of these guides is to help set a
purpose for reading by stimulating student curiosity about the subject.
Prediction is also employed during the reading act, and this during-reading
aspect of prediction is addressed in the following section.
Comprehension is an active process requiring the reader to continuously
engage with the text. Many struggling readers, however, are usually not
accustomed to enlisting a sufficient number of those cognitive functions
while they are reading to allow for successful comprehension. Think-alouds
are strategies designed to model for struggling readers the meta-cognitive
activities (thinking about thinking) that are part of the comprehension
process. Usually modeled first by the clinician, think-alouds often will
encompass several of the specific strategies that are part of the comprehen-
sion process, such as prediction, questioning, and reflection. A think-aloud
is carried out just like it sounds – while clinicians read a piece of text aloud
for the class, they periodically stop to verbally model the questions,
predictions, and visualizations that they are form while they read. As with
the use of explicit prereading questions, the goal of frequent modeling of
think-alouds is to have these metacognitive activities become a natural part
of the student’s reading process. Not only have teacher-led think-alouds
been demonstrated to have a positive impact with struggling readers, think-
alouds have also been shown to benefit comprehension when students are
asked to engage in them, by improving important aspects of the
comprehension process such as summarization (Silven & Vauras, 1992).
Another element that contributes to improved comprehension is under-
standing text structure. Text structure refers to the predictable patterns
found in texts of a particular genre. Familiarity with these patterns has been
shown to facilitate parts of the comprehension process such as recall
(Bartlett, 1932). For instance, beginning readers are often first exposed to

narrative texts with predictable structures including a protagonist, some

type of conflict or problem, rising action, climax, and resolution. Because
identifying and placing different elements of a narrative text into these
structural categories is a common assignment, students tend to become quite
familiar with narrative text structure, whether in picture books, oral
language, or trade/chapter books.
Starting in late elementary school, however, students begin to encounter
expository text almost exclusively in their textbooks, and they are usually
not as familiar with the type of text structure employed in expository texts.
Expository texts – texts with which many students often struggle – are
typically designed to categorize information in a manner that promotes a
logical assimilation of the content being discussed. Such organization of
content area text material (e.g., sections divided by major headings and
further subdivided into minor headings) is nearly ubiquitous. Although the
logic of headings with sections and subsections may appear obvious to an
adult, it may not be obvious to students how, why, or even that the material
is organized. As with narrative text structures, specific instruction in the
organizational structure of content area texts and material can help students
with their comprehension of expository texts. Although the research is
somewhat mixed as to the extent to which this helps all students (Duke &
Pearson, 2002), there is enough evidence to indicate that some specific
instruction in text structure should be included in comprehension curricula,
especially in content area subjects that deal almost exclusively with
expository text.
As readers and listeners, we create images in our mind to make sense of
the language we read or hear. Additionally, our ability to comprehend a
piece of text is related to our ability to create a meaningful image of what
that text represents. For example, if we hear the words ‘‘the cat ran up a
tree,’’ we would likely form some image in our mind of a cat moving up a
tree. Our knowledge of the meaning of these words allows us to form the
corresponding image in our mind. If these words were spoken to us in a
language with which we were not familiar, they would be meaningless to us
and no image would be formed because we would not know the language
well enough to create a visual representation of what we heard. Instructing
students in how to create visual representations of the subject matter can be
a valuable method for enhancing their comprehension of the material
(Armbruster, Anderson, & Ostertag, 1987). These visual representations
include not only assignments for which students use structured devices (such
as graphic organizers) adapted to particular content but also assignments
for which students create their own drawings or other visual representations
Vocabulary/Comprehension-Based Models of Reading Clinics 131

of important elements of a text. For example, students might be asked to

create drawings of a scene from a story, an historical event, a scientific
phenomenon, or a math problem. Having students create visual representa-
tions of what they read can contribute to both an increased mastery of the
subject matter and an improvement in overall comprehension ability. In
addition, assignments in which students are asked to create a visual
representation of what they are studying can also serve as a diagnostic tool
to help clinicians identify where students may be struggling so that targeted
planning and instruction can be refined and implemented.
Another important element to include in a comprehension curriculum is
instruction in summarization. Indeed, the ability to summarize something
effectively is itself considered a measure of comprehension, hence the
inclusion of this skill on many standardized tests (questions testing this skill
often take the form of: ‘‘Which of the following answer choices best
summarizes the passage?’’). It is difficult for many students to summarize
what they have read or heard without explicit instruction. Although
summarization is an important indicator of comprehension, it is important
not to confuse assigning summarization with instruction in summarization.
McNeil and Donant (1982) developed the following rule-based sequence as
a means of instructing summarization:
 Rule 1: Delete unnecessary material.
 Rule 2: Delete redundant material.
 Rule 3: Compose a word to replace a list of items.
 Rule 4: Compose a word to replace individual parts of an action.
 Rule 5: Select a topic sentence.
 Rule 6: Invent a topic sentence if one is not available.
Students will, of course, need instruction and practice in each of these
steps in order to successfully apply these rules. Another summarization
strategy known as GIST (Cunningham, 1982) asks students to summarize a
piece of text using a maximum of 15 words. Instruction in this strategy
includes not only the use of larger and larger pieces of text but also
scaffolding the strategy by gradually transitioning it from a whole-group
activity to an assignment for each student. Both the rule-based and the
GIST strategy have been demonstrated to be effective in improving elements
of comprehension (Bean & Steenwyk, 1984).
Questions/questioning can arguably be considered the lynchpin of the
comprehension process. One of the characteristics of good readers is that
they monitor their own comprehension by constantly asking themselves
(though not out loud or with formed words) ‘‘Am I understanding what I

am reading?’’ Almost every aspect of reading comprehension is driven by

some type of question or questioning activity that evaluates either the
reading process or reading product. Questions generated to evaluate the
reading process might include, ‘‘Did I understand what I just read?,’’ ‘‘What
is the meaning of that word?,’’ whereas questions generated to evaluate the
reading product, might include ‘‘What was the theme of the story?,’’ ‘‘What
is the main idea of the third paragraph?,’’ and so forth. When good readers
no longer answer these questions in the affirmative, they employ
correctional strategies that may include looking up a problematic
vocabulary word, re-reading all or part of the text with which they are
having difficulty, or reducing the speed at which they are reading (Beers,
2003). Struggling readers, however, not only do not often use or know how
to effectively implement correctional strategies, but they also seem to be less
aware that they are no longer comprehending what they are reading because
they do not always engage in self-questioning. Although asking students
questions about what they have read is a common instructional practice,
research suggests that encouraging and instructing students in how to
generate their own questions to a text can improve their comprehension by
helping them monitor their own comprehension as they read (Rosenshine,
Meister, & Chapman, 1996). In addition to fostering increased engagement
with the material, asking students to generate their own questions also
promotes increased attention on the part of struggling readers – students
pay more attention both to what they are and are not understanding when
they are asked to generate meaningful questions to what they have read.
Perhaps even more important, the types of questions that students generate
can serve as a diagnostic tool by affording the educator an insight into
students’ levels of comprehension and where in the material their
comprehension breaks down. Analyzing the questions a student has
generated can provide a clinician guidance as to the types of intervention
and/or scaffolding from which a struggling reader might benefit.
Comprehension curricula that incorporate these six strategies will likely
be more successful than those that do not. Although it is certainly
appropriate and necessary to target instruction toward a specific strategy,
these strategies should not be taught in isolation – the more they are
integrated into a complete comprehension curriculum, the greater the
likelihood of success. In addition, teaching students to use these strategies in
combination can be even more effective than when they are taught to use
only one of them at a time (Block, Gambrell, & Pressley, 2002). Moreover,
these comprehension strategies should be introduced at as early an age as
possible and are even appropriate for students who have not yet mastered
Vocabulary/Comprehension-Based Models of Reading Clinics 133

decoding by introducing and practicing these strategies during the reading

and discussing of text (Pearson & Fielding, 1983).


The escalation in the amount, variation, and complexity of text concomitant

with grade-level progression can present reading challenges for many
students at some point(s) in their lives. The medical models of reading clinics
used for decades often attempted to focus on a treatment for specific
symptoms of reading difficulties. However, clinical models that include a
focus on strategies that transfer from one setting to another rather than
those that primarily attempt to address a specific problem are better
equipped to help students tackle the demands placed on them throughout
their educational careers. Moreover, models of clinical practice that
integrate vocabulary and comprehension strategy instruction into interven-
tion programs stand a much better chance of helping students realize lasting
improvement in their reading abilities. Even as adults and reading
professionals, when we encounter new words, we utilize strategies we
learned in school or reading clinics such as analyzing word parts,
determining the etymology of a word, or using context to determine the
meaning of a word in its surroundings. For instance, we might see the term
‘‘osteopathic’’ as it is commonly referred to when discussing a medical
condition. In trying to determine the meaning of this term, our schema
might include information about the roots and suffix of which this word is
comprised and the context in which it is used to allow us to determine that it
might have something to do with a bone ailment. When learners are given
meaningful strategy instruction, they are more likely to draw from that
knowledge and transfer it to different contexts when needed – true learning
persists while symptomatic fixes have no longevity.
Reading clinical programs are an effective means to improve the skills and
abilities of students of all ages, but only if they are structured in ways that
promote active engagement, practice opportunities, research-based learning,
and motivation for literacy empowerment. Using proven methods directed
toward students’ needs and derived from assessment data in areas such as
vocabulary and comprehension will ultimately lead students to have more
successful experiences in every subject area. Regardless of the level of
education offered at a particular college or university, reading clinics should
no longer be viewed as either a luxury item or only for schools that can
afford/accommodate them. Reading clinics, because of their focus on

meeting individual student needs, allow for varied instruction to accomplish

the goal of reading improvement. Long-term impacts are desired from every
educator, yet time restrictions frequently allow for just a nominal number of
hours to be spent with children on an individual basis. It is in clinical
settings, however, that both preservice and practicing teachers can develop
and refine their teaching practices by experiencing what works in a clinical
environment while students receive the individual attention that they need.
As educational funding becomes reevaluated in coming years, there seems
like no better time for stressing the benefits of clinical experience to teacher
education programs. Although there is considerable research supporting
best practices in reading instruction as illustrated by the number of ideas
presented in this chapter regarding vocabulary and comprehension
development, the successful operation of a reading clinic requires significant
time, attention, and supervision. The greatest challenge lies in preparing
preservice and practicing teachers engaged in a clinical course while also
targeting their students’ reading abilities. Although much effort is required
to successfully accomplish both these goals, the benefits to both the
educators and the students certainly outweigh the costs. And this is
continuously confirmed by many capable clinicians and reading profes-
sionals in the field.

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Belinda Zimmerman, Timothy Rasinski and

Maria Melewski

Purpose – This chapter profiles a summer reading clinic that utilizes
graduate students (clinicians) to provide diagnostic literacy intervention
for students in grades one through six who struggle with reading and
writing. The chapter asserts that struggling readers can become successful
when instruction is designed around research-based principles of teaching
and learning. A description is provided of the instructional routine
employed at the clinic that focuses on fluency and has been shown to assist
students in making significant improvements in their literacy progress.
Methodology/approach – The authors describe how teachers and
intervention specialists work together to provide an effective intervention
to the students that emphasizes a specific guided oral fluency routine
known as the Fluency Development Lesson (FDL). Each step in the FDL
is explained. Prior to instruction, clinicians administered an informal

Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom

Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Volume 2, 137–160
Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2048-0458/doi:10.1108/S2048-0458(2013)0000002010

reading inventory to gain baseline data about the students in the areas of
word recognition, fluency, and comprehension and to subsequently inform
instruction. During the fifth and final week of the program, posttests were
administered. T-Tests indicated that students made significant progress
(p o.001) from pretest to posttest in all areas measured.
Limitations – The authors acknowledge that the study is small in scale,
the intervention period was limited, and the results may have been
influenced by outside factors beyond their control.
Research implications – The study’s primary purpose was to improve the
reading outcomes of the students involved. The reading clinic setting is
ideal for further FDL research including its impact on older students and
the incorporation of digital texts on student performance. Additionally,
readers of the chapter are encouraged to apply the methods and processes
to their own classrooms.
Originality/value – This chapter shows how a summer reading clinic
strives to apply research-based, common sense factors that matter most in
teaching struggling students to read in intervention and classroom
settings. Some of the factors such as the importance of instructional
routine, time-on-task, text selection, targeted teaching, and instructional
talk are considered key to the successful implementation of the FDL and
the clinical experience.

Keywords: Reading clinic; struggling readers; intervention;

instructional routine; fluency

School has not always come easily for Andy Bauer. Following first grade,
Andy was recommended for retention because he was significantly behind
his peers in reading achievement. His parents and teachers hoped that Andy
would overcome his reading difficulties and achieve grade level status.
Instead, Andy slipped further behind and became increasingly frustrated.
Andy’s parents then decided to seek additional help for their son.
The Bauer’s turned to a reading clinic, where clinicians – all certified
teachers seeking a master’s degree in reading specialization – provide
diagnostic guided instruction for students in grades one through six who
struggle with reading and writing. Andy cried when he found out that he
had to attend ‘‘summer school.’’ Recently, when he was asked about his
initial reaction, Andy said, ‘‘Well, that was when I didn’t know what it was
When Kids Can’t Read, What a Focus on Fluency Can Do 139

all about. I thought it was going to be like summer school – you know, real
boring with lots of papers and homework. I mean, I guess I didn’t know that
it was like a really fun reading camp.’’ What a contrast the fearful, pre-
reading clinic Andy was from the smiling boy who five weeks later
performed poetry, jokes, and starred in a reader’s theater performance
during the final day of the program.
In Andy’s case, pre- and post-assessments showed that he made progress
in several key areas of literacy development: word recognition (percentage
of words read accurately on grade level text), fluency (words correct per
minute), and comprehension. Equally important, according to his parents,
Andy acquired a more positive attitude about reading than they had
previously observed. At the end of the program, Andy reflected on his own
progress and stated, ‘‘I know how to read better and I even sound like a
good reader now!’’
In this chapter, we argue that struggling readers can become successful
when instruction is designed around principles of research-based teaching
and learning. We describe a summer reading clinic that employs an
instructional routine that focuses on fluency, targeting proficient expressive
reading, repeated interactions with authentic texts, and reading perfor-
mance. The data we report suggest that students who have engaged in this
instructional routine make significant improvements in their reading.


In recent years, considerable focus has been given to the study of fluency, a
departure from the time when Allington (1983) described fluency as a
neglected aspect of the reading curriculum. Advances in our understanding
of the most effective ways to teach reading were consolidated in the work of
the National Reading Panel (NICHD, 2000) that identified five instructional
factors associated with reading success: phonemic awareness, phonics or
decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Of the five, the findings
concerning the importance of fluency instruction attracted the most
unexpected attention (Applegate, Applegate, & Modla, 2009).
Fluency is a developmental process that bridges word recognition and
reading comprehension (Applegate et al., 2009; Pikulski, 2006). When
readers are fluent, they read effortlessly and with good expression. The
accurate reading of connected text marks fluency, where the reader
maintains a conversational rate and appropriate prosody (Torgesen &
Hudson, 2006). In turn, comprehension is enhanced because the reader’s

attention is focused on what the text means rather than decoding the words
on the page (Samuels, 2002).
Early research into fluency focused primarily on automaticity, concerning
itself with a reader’s ability to internalize word learning so well that it occurs
almost spontaneously (Cattell, 1886). LaBerge and Samuels (1974)
developed a theoretical framework to explain automaticity in reading,
suggesting that reading fluency is based on a reader’s ability to master
foundational subskills (e.g., letter–sound relationships, letter patterns in
words, and the meaning of connected text). They argued that until readers
were able to master these foundational skills to a point of automaticity, they
would be unable to advance to more complex levels of text processing
(comprehension) or benefit fully from comprehension instruction (Will-
ingham, 2007). Wolf and Katzir-Cohen (2001) suggest that fluent readers
were more likely than their nonfluent peers to gain meaning from the printed
word. In this way, the links between fluency and comprehension were
established. The construct implies that as readers gain fluency, they are more
able to attend to the meaning a passage imparts due to the availability of
additional attentional resources. Simply put, once they have gained
automaticity, the reader’s cognitive resources are free to access the meaning
a written text holds.
Prosody or expression in reading is the other component of fluency
(Schreiber, 1987, 1991). Fluency in oral reading is marked by expressive
reading. In order to read with expression, readers have to monitor the
intended meaning of the author and then embed expression into the voice to
reflect that meaning. Large-scale studies have found that elementary readers
who read orally with good expression tend to have good comprehension
when reading silently (Daane, Campbell, Grigg, Goodman, & Oranje, 2005;
Pinnell, Pikulski, Wixson, Campbell, Gough, & Beatty, 1995). Conversely,
students who read orally with poor expression tend to manifest poor
comprehension in their silent reading.
Recent research reports concerning fluency have shown that fluency is a
contributor to reading comprehension and achievement in reading (Miller &
Schwanenflugel, 2006; Rasinski & Hoffman, 2003; Walczyk & Griffith-
Ross, 2007). Additional large-scale studies have demonstrated that fluency
serves as a powerful predictor of comprehension and that a large percentage
of students have not achieved minimally acceptable levels of fluency (Daane
et al., 2005; Pinnell et al., 1995). Similarly, Duke, Pressley, and Hilden
(2004) suggest that difficulties in acquiring reading fluency are a major cause
of reading comprehension problems for struggling readers. Because of
fluency’s importance in reading acquisition and because many elementary
When Kids Can’t Read, What a Focus on Fluency Can Do 141

students who struggle in reading manifest difficulties in reading fluency, we

have made fluency development a primary goal in our reading clinic.


The clinic embraces the notion that reading is an important, attainable, and
meaningful skill. Students are recommended to the clinic by their classroom
teacher, intervention specialist, or by their parents. A student may be
referred to the clinic for a variety of reasons. Typically, this includes
students who perform poorly on local and state mandated tests of reading
achievement, have poor comprehension, and lack fluency (automaticity and
prosody) when reading. Additionally, students typically exhibit low levels of
word recognition accuracy. On average, students who attend the clinic
perform well below grade level expectations in all three areas of reading
proficiency – word recognition accuracy, fluency, and comprehension
(Zimmerman & Rasinski, 2012).
The clinic is designed to utilize research-based assessments to inform the
instruction of each student and to provide appropriate intervention. The
intervention offered to the students follows an apprenticeship model
emphasizing guided oral fluency routines through participation and practice
in structured literacy activities (Dorn, French, & Jones, 1998). Secondary
goals of the clinic are to enhance the self-efficacy of each student and
increase motivation to read. Research confirms that self-efficacy and
motivation are instrumental factors in becoming a successful reader
(Marinak & Gambrell, 2010). Not surprising, many struggling readers
believe they lack the ability to succeed resulting in reading avoidance and a
tendency to give up quickly when challenges emerge. At the clinic, self-
efficacy and motivation are enhanced by immersing students in a wide range
of reading materials based on interest and choice, allowing students to
achieve success with such materials. Also, the clinic strives to create a safe,
trusting learning environment in which academic risk taking is encouraged
and positive support and feedback are provided to the students.
A visitor to the reading clinic would observe students reading in a variety
of situations. The clinic is held in public school classrooms that have been
transformed into print rich, child-centered environments by the clinicians.
Students are surrounded by anchor charts, books, magazines, and other
materials designed to be at students’ instructional and interest levels.
Teachers work together to design lessons that challenge students to read,

either individually or with a partner, in ways that encourage fluency and

comprehension. The clinic employs a pedagogical approach that focuses on
repeated and assisted readings of engaging texts.
Fluency is enhanced as students continually read, hear, and interact with
the text in a variety of purposeful instructional contexts (Kuhn & Stahl,
2003; Therrien, 2004; Therrien & Kubina, 2006). Students may be observed
in active exploration of a topic where they are provided with multiple
opportunities for reading diverse texts including picture and chapter books,
poetry, song lyrics, magazine articles, and student-authored poems and
stories. With guidance from the teachers, students make choices based on
their interests, strengths, and needs. Utilizing a wide range of reading
resources allows teachers to differentiate instruction since all students have
the opportunity to engage with texts that are of interest to them and at an
appropriate level of difficulty.
Since fluency is a major concern for nearly all of the students enrolled in
the reading program, fluency building is at the heart of the instruction that
occurs at the clinic. The Fluency Development Lesson (FDL), a guided oral
reading routine (Rasinski, Padak, Linek, & Sturtevant, 1994) serves as the
core lesson for the reading clinic. Since fluency is considered a foundational
reading skill, the FDL is appropriate for students in the primary grades.
However, it may also be appropriate for students beyond the primary grades
who still struggle with fluency. The FDL is a daily lesson using different and
relatively brief (50–250 words) text each day, appropriate for the
developmental level and interest of the students. The primary goal of the
lesson is for students to achieve fluency with the daily text by the end of each
instructional period. We believe that many struggling readers rarely achieve
fluency with the assigned texts they encounter in a typical reading
curriculum. Further, they have limited opportunities to experience the
success in reading a text fluently that their more advanced classmates
experience regularly. As a result, they fail to develop in fluency and
comprehension in a timely way that further exacerbates the widening gap
between the struggling and successful readers (Stanovich, 1986). The self-
efficacy that is key to reading progress often fails to develop when students
do not achieve demonstrable success in their reading.
The focus of the FDL is iterative practice (see Fig. 1). Text is fluently read
by the teacher and students on a daily basis. Students participate in reading
the text silently and orally in a group, with a partner, and on their own.
They contribute to discussions concerning meaning of the passage as well as
how aspects of fluent reading (i.e., prosody) contribute to the development
and conveyance of meaning. Students eventually have opportunities to
When Kids Can’t Read, What a Focus on Fluency Can Do 143

Fig. 1. The Fluency Development Lesson (FDL): An Overview.

The FDL employs short reading passages (poems, story segments, or

other texts) that students read and reread over a short period of time.
The format for the lesson is:

1. Students read a familiar passage from the previous lesson to the

teacher or a fellow student for accuracy and fluency.
2. The teacher introduces a new short text and reads it to the students
two or three times while the students follow along or listen to the
teacher’s reading. Text can be a poem, segment from a basal
passage, or literature book, etc.
3. The teacher and students discuss the nature and content of the
4. Teacher and students read the passage chorally several times.
Antiphonal reading and other variations are used to create variety
and maintain engagement.
5. The teacher organizes student pairs. Each student practices the
passage three times while his or her partner listens and provides
support and encouragement.
6. Individuals and groups of students perform their reading for the
class or other audience.
7. The students and their teacher choose 3 or 4 words from the text to
add to the word bank and/or word wall.
8. Students engage in word study activities (e.g., word sorts with word
bank words, word walls, flash card practice, defining words, and
word games)
9. The students take a copy of the passage home to practice with
parents and other family members.
10. Students return to school and read the passage to the teacher or a
partner who checks for fluency and accuracy.

perform or present their readings in order to feel the sense of success and
achievement that comes from practice. In this way, students engage in
repeated readings of a designated text for an authentic purpose –
performance. Although engaging in the FDL process often results in an
improved reading rate for struggling readers, reading fast or increasing the
speed of reading is not a focus of the FDL.

Students may also respond to the text in written form, usually creating a
response that connects what they have read with their own experiences,
further reinforcing comprehension. The selected passage and any written
work are sent home for additional practice each day to provide a linkage
between the clinical program experiences and home practice. The next day
the passage is reread and reviewed before a new passage is presented. A full
FDL lesson includes the following:

1. Modeling. The teacher expressively reads a short text (e.g., poem, nursery
rhyme, song, and story segment) aloud to the students. This phrased,
fluent oral reading provides a strong model of what quality reading
sounds like. It also serves as an entertaining and nonthreatening way to
introduce new text and hone students’ listening skills while encouraging
visualization of text meaning.
2. Share text. The text is distributed to the students and a second round of
multiple prosodic readings led by the teacher follows. Students may
follow along silently or chime in using a soft voice.
3. Choral reading. The passage is read chorally several times. Antiphonal
reading (members read different selected or assigned parts) and other
variations are used to create variety and maintain engagement (e.g.,
students may read in their deepest or highest voices, loud or whisper
voices, happy, scared, or surprised voices).
4. Discussion. The teacher and students discuss the nature and content of
the passage (e.g., make predictions and/or inferences, draw conclusions,
create visualizations, identify relevant text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-
to-world connections) as well as the quality of the teacher’s oral reading.
The teacher may wonder aloud to make a teaching point such as, ‘‘Did
you notice how I used plenty of expression when I read to show
excitement since this poem has several exclamation points?’’ or ‘‘Did you
notice how I slowed down and deepened my voice on this part? I was
trying to use my voice to create a feeling of suspense here.’’
5. Paired reading. The students work in pairs or trios. Each student
practices the passage two or three times while his or her partner listens
and provides support and encouragement. The students learn from the
modeling of the teachers how to offer positive feedback when partners
6. Perform. Individuals or groups of students perform their reading for the
class or other audiences. Particular attention is given to expression, word
accuracy, and fluency. Students may also perform by recording their
readings and sharing the recorded renderings at home with their families
and friends.
When Kids Can’t Read, What a Focus on Fluency Can Do 145

7. Word work and word study. Depending on age or stage of reading

development, the students and the teacher then choose 2–5 interesting
words from the text to add to individual student word banks, journals,
and/or the classroom word wall. Teachers encourage students to select
words that are interesting, fun to say, challenging, mysterious, or have a
particular orthographic structure that can be used for further analyses
and instruction. Students then engage in 5–10 minutes of word study
activities using the selected word bank words. Examples include word
sorts, word wall practice, arranging the word cards in alphabetical order,
sentence building, and other forms of written expression. The teachers
will also create game-like activities such as word searches, word puzzles,
or word ladders for their students as a pleasurable way to extend student
practice with the words. In this way, students build word recognition,
automaticity, vocabulary understanding, and a better sense of how words
work in the English language while having fun at the same time.

The clinic seeks to situate the FDL and, in effect, all literacy learning within
a model for high quality principled instruction. Key principles that guide our
clinical model are drawn from several of Schmoker’s (2006) ‘‘unfortunate
realities’’ (p.17) of instruction today and Allington’s (2002) principles of
‘‘effective reading instruction’’ (p. 740) as a framework for thinking about
how the clinic instructors work with students throughout the program. These
‘‘unfortunate realities’’ include kids are not reading and writing enough,
students’ needs do not determine the curriculum, and teachers do not have
opportunities to work in teams (Schmoker, 2006). Additionally, Allington’s
research and principles are foundational to the framework employed at the
reading clinic. Using data from a long-term study of first- and fourth-grade
teachers in six states, Allington (2002) identified several research-based,
common sense factors that matter most in teaching students to read in
classroom and intervention settings. Several of these factors such as the
importance of time, text, teaching, and talk are also considered key to the
successful implementation of the FDL and the clinic program experience.


(2006, PP. 17–18)

Kids Are Not Reading and Writing Enough

Lower achieving students are reading far less than their high-achieving peers
(Allington, 2006). In fact, students are reading only a fraction of what they

need to become literate, think critically, and grow intellectually (Allington,

2002; Gallagher, 2003; Gaskins, 1988). Allington (2002) observed that the
highest achieving classrooms devote about 70% of the school day to reading
or writing. As such, he recommends that classrooms should spend 60
minutes on reading and 40 minutes per day on writing. A defining principle
of any exemplary reading intervention effort is the inclusion of ‘‘enormous
quantities of actual reading and writing’’ (Allington & Baker, 1999, p. 307).
Although the clinic does not occur in a typical classroom setting, we strive
for a similar ratio. It is our standard and goal for the teachers to structure
the learning to ensure that the bulk of the instructional time is spent on
authentic reading and writing experiences. The reading time-on-task of the
FDL is representative of this precept. We strive to create an ongoing
awareness that becoming a skilled reader and writer necessitates a great deal
of practice. Thus, our students are immersed in reading and writing from the
start to the finish time of each daily session.

Student Needs Do Not Determine the Curriculum

Assessment results are used to determine the children’s literacy needs and to
inform instruction in the clinic. As a result of previous and current
coursework and their own teaching experiences, the teachers develop a
repertoire of strategies to meet the needs of the learners. As we described
earlier, the FDL is the curriculum cornerstone of the reading instruction
provided at the clinic. We believe that this emphasis on fluency instruction is
crucial since effective fluency instructional methods have great potential to
positively impact all aspects of a student’s reading development (Mathison,
Allington, & Solic, 2006; Rasinski, 2010).

Teachers Do Not Have Opportunities to Work in Teams

Generally, teachers work in teams of four adults and eight to twelve

students. They meet regularly to prepare lessons, plan themed instruction,
and discuss and interpret assessments, observations, and reflections. The
clinic’s mission embraces Surowiecki’s (2004) assertion that ‘‘A successful
face-to-face team is more than just collectively intelligent. It makes everyone
work harder, think smarter, and reach better conclusions than what they
would have on their own’’ (p. 176). Having the teachers work in teams
allows them a safe space to explore, follow up, and refine lessons as they
When Kids Can’t Read, What a Focus on Fluency Can Do 147

‘‘pool their practical knowledge’’ and ‘‘share the best of what they already
know’’ along with their new learnings (Schmoker, 2006, p. 109). The
development of internal expertise that occurs as a result of the meetings and
team teaching may be the most influential form of professional development
available since learning from one another has been found to be how teachers
learn best (Rosenholtz, 1991). Similarly, Allington (2002) has found that
teachers tend to credit other exemplary colleagues for providing the support
and guidance needed for them to make improvements in their teaching.
The FDL is the core lesson in our reading clinic. Teachers are expected
to implement it daily. The lesson is not intended to be implemented in a
prescriptive manner. Teachers need to make decisions about text choice,
instructional focus, word study activities, and so on. In the collaborative
environment of our reading clinic, teachers have the opportunity to share
their own plans and implementations of the FDL with their colleagues.
Through this collaborative process, FDL implementation becomes more
nuanced and more effective in meeting the needs of students.



Time refers to the actual amount of minutes the children are meaningfully
engaged in reading and writing. In too many instances, Allington (2002)
observed that children spent only about 10–15 minutes of a 90-minute
literacy block on reading and writing. At the clinic, teachers are aware
that to achieve reading proficiency, the students must be given opportunities
to read extensively. Hence, close attention is paid to time-on-task and
teachers are assisted in adjusting their plans to achieve a healthy balance of
reading and writing throughout each lesson. When followed with fidelity,
the 30–45 minute FDL requires that the students are meaningfully and
actively engaged in reading and writing virtually every minute of the lesson


Rather than utilizing traditional basal series and other packaged curriculum
materials, exemplary teachers are aware that the highest achieving students

have access to plenty of ‘‘easy texts’’ that they are able to read ‘‘accurately,
fluently, and with strong comprehension’’ when engaged in independent
reading tasks (Allington, 2002, p. 743). With this in mind, the teachers
make sure they have a vast supply of books on hand that the children
can truly read. There are many tubs of books that the teachers may sign out,
the teachers make good use of their local libraries, and they also return
to their own classrooms to borrow books to use at the clinic. For the
implementation of the FDL, reading materials are carefully selected by the
teachers who take into account type of text, text difficulty, and interests
of the students. The use of high-quality children’s literature, poetry, and
informational texts is encouraged and teachers are asked to refrain from the
use of decodable texts since too often the meaning and story structure of
these books are sacrificed in order to overemphasize targeted phonetic


The emphasis here is on active teaching, which is characterized by routinely

modeling and demonstrating the effective strategies used by good readers.
It is crucial that the teachers employ reflective practice during the modeling
to give the students ‘‘insider access’’ to the invisible thinking and the
cognitive language structures needed to successfully engage in the assign-
ment. This type of modeling is at the forefront of all FDL lessons and is
integral to the process. When the teachers are planning for their modeling in
each lesson, it is instructive for the teachers to ask themselves this question,
‘‘What is the most clear, concise, and memorable demonstration I could
show the students that they could apply right away and would give them a
way into this particular text or task?’’ The teachers are observed purpose-
fully shifting away from the less effective practice of ‘‘assign and assess’’
in favor of the ‘‘watch me demonstrate’’ (Allington, 2002, p. 743) stance
utilized by exemplary teachers.


Each step in the FDL process is laced with talk between the teachers and
students. Here, talk refers to the highly personalized, purposeful, instruc-
tional conversations that exemplary teachers use to guide and problem
solve with their students. In the clinic, conversations between teachers and
When Kids Can’t Read, What a Focus on Fluency Can Do 149

students occur on a regular basis and are considered integral to providing

quality instruction. Moreover, the teachers try to pose open-ended questions
that have more than one right answer and afford the students with
opportunities to explore and analyze their thinking whenever possible. It is
through this dialogue that teachers are able to realize students’ interests and
ideas while also ascertaining their current levels of understanding (Wells &
Chang-Wells, 1992). This is a departure from the more interrogational kinds
of questioning practices that are often associated with less effective teaching
(Cazden, 1988).
To the aforementioned lists of factors associated with the success of the
clinic, three other focal areas have been added that are integral to the clinical
program for struggling readers.

Focus on High Expectations for Students

It is crucial that all educators understand that the expectations of teachers

and other role models are powerful shapers of student learning and
achievement. Cambourne (1988) contends that students achieve what they
are expected to achieve and fail if they are expected to fail. Thus, struggling
learners are more likely to thrive if teachers believe that all students can
learn, hold high expectations for their achievement, and work alongside
them with research-based approaches to position them for success.
In an early orientation, teachers are given the message that all students can
learn to read. Success lies in good teaching. Additionally, students need
authentic and challenging materials and tasks in which they find success.
Moreover, the clinic emphasizes instruction that is focused on the individual
needs of the students, and places a high priority on holding high expectations
for the students. Communication with families is integral, as engaged parents
or caregivers can support student learning. When students believe they can be
successful in reading they are much more likely to find success.

Focus on Family Involvement

Students’ progress in reading is dependent to a large extent on the support

that they get from their family members (Rasinski, Padak, & Stevenson,
2012). A concerted effort is made to involve parents. The program begins
with an informational presentation to parents and caregivers who are
informed that their children will be bringing materials home every night to

be read together. Teachers are required to provide parents with a brief text
from the day’s FDL activities that they give to parents to provide a positive
home-school connection. Teachers update parents daily as to their children’s
progress when they pick them up at the end of each session. The final day at
the clinic is a Reading Festival in which the students perform for parents
and other family members scripts, poems, songs, and other texts that they
have been rehearsing during the FDL throughout the program.

Focus on the Affective Dimensions of Reading

Children who struggle in reading often dislike reading as well (Pressley,

2002; Worthy, 2000). The clinic places a high degree of emphasis on
developing students’ love of reading. Students read authentic and engaging
materials. They respond to their readings in ways that are enjoyable, often
game-like, and creative. Rather than the traditional craft-based projects
used as literature extensions in many classrooms, the emphasis for all
the materials employed at the clinic is to provide intensive literature rich
reading experiences. In the FDL process, students are repeatedly exposed to
reading texts that highlight fluency and comprehension. In this way, the
affective aspects of the clinic experience are braided to the academic

Indeed, research has suggested that as students gain fluency they become
better readers (Heilman, Blair, & Rupley, 2002; Kuhn & Stahl, 2000;
NICHD, 2000; Pikulski & Chard, 2005; Pressley, Gaskins, & Fingeret,
2006). What is less well understood is how gains in reading can be linked to
authentic fluency instruction and how fluency development can be assured
as a result of classroom reading instruction. The remainder of this chapter
highlights one such study that focused on the usefulness of the FDL, an
instructional intervention based on key principles of reading and reading
instruction, as a method to enhance student growth in reading. With student
reading growth as a primary focus, this study sought to answer the following
research question:
To what extent do students exhibit gains in fluency and overall reading
proficiency as a result of core instruction utilizing the FDL?
When Kids Can’t Read, What a Focus on Fluency Can Do 151


Instructional activities at the program are underscored by an initial

assessment of each student’s readiness and reading level. Thirty-six students
were enrolled in the program including 5 first graders, 10 second graders, 15
third graders and 6 fourth graders. The program also serves fifth and sixth
graders. However, an insufficient number of fifth and sixth grade students
completed the program assessments during the time of the study. Eleven
graduate students (already certified, practicing classroom teachers) working
on their master’s degree in reading served as teachers during the program.
The teachers were responsible for daily lessons including the FDL for a
period of 19, 90-minute sessions over five weeks. Each teacher worked with
two to four students during each clinic session that began at 9:30 AM and
ended at 11:00 AM, Monday through Thursday. Teaching procedures were
monitored for fidelity to the FDL format.


The data we collected and our analyses reflect the diagnostic data and
analyses that usually occur in a reading clinic setting. As is typical in a
reading clinic, a reading inventory (Rasinski & Padak, 2005), based on
curriculum-based measurement principles (Deno, 1985) was employed to
quickly determine the literacy strengths and needs of each student and to
establish baseline performance for students in word recognition, fluency,
and comprehension. Students were asked to orally read grade level passages
(grade level defined as their most recent grade level completed). Next,
students provided a retelling of what they had read in order to assess their
comprehension of text. Retellings are assessed by the teacher using a six-
point retelling rubric (Fig. 2).


Means for student performance by grade level for word recognition, fluency,
and comprehension are reported in Tables 1–3, respectively. T-Tests indicate
that students made significant progress (p o .001) from pretest to post-test
in each of these dimensions.
In word recognition we found that students at every grade level made
substantial gains in their ability to read words in context (Table 1). Students’

Fig. 2. Comprehension Rubric (Rasinski & Padak, 2005).

1. No recall or minimal recall of only a fact of two from the passage.

2. Recall of a number of unrelated facts of varied importance.
3. Recall of the main idea of the passage with a few supporting
4. Recall of the main idea along with a fairly robust set of supporting
details, although not necessarily organized logically or sequentially
as presented in the passage.
5. Recall is a comprehensive summary of the passage, presented in a
logical order and/or with a robust set of details and that includes a
statement of main idea.
6. Recall is a comprehensive summary of the passage, presented in a
logical order and/or with a robust set of details and that includes a
statement of main idea. Student also makes reasonable connec-
tions beyond the text such as to his/her own personal life or
another text.

Table 1. Mean Student Performance in Word Recognition (Percentage

of Words Read Correctly) on Grade Level Passages.
Grade Level Pretest Posttest Gain

1 77 92 +15
2 95 97 +2
3 87 93 +6
4 92 97 +4

Table 2. Mean Student Performance in Reading Fluency (Words

Correct Per Minute) on Grade Level Passages.
Grade Level Pretest Posttest Gain Weekly Average Gain in Reading Rate

1 35 49 +14 2.8
2 61 73 +12 2.4
3 69 82 +13 2.6
4 77 108 +31 6.2
When Kids Can’t Read, What a Focus on Fluency Can Do 153

Table 3. Mean Student Performance in Reading Comprehension

(Retelling) on Grade Level Passages.
Grade Level Pretest Posttest Gain

1 3.9 5.7 +1.8

2 3.6 4.4 +0.8
3 3.3 4.7 +1.4
4 3.0 4.2 +1.2

Table 4. Weekly Reading Rate Improvement Goals for Struggling

Grade Level Realistic Ambitious

1 2.0 3.0
2 1.5 2.0
3 1.0 2.0
4 0.5 0.8

performance at every grade level was, on average, near or above

instructional grade level (95% accuracy) for word recognition on grade
level passages.
Relatedly, students showed similar significant gains in reading fluency. On
average, students at every grade level began the clinic reading at or below
the spring norm for fluency (Hasbrouck & Tindal, 2006). We measured
fluency (word recognition automaticity) by examining each student’s
reading rate (Rasinski & Padak, 2005). It is important to note that not
once during the entire clinic experience were students asked or even
encouraged to read fast. Nevertheless, students demonstrated substantial
gains (Table 4). Based on their study of student growth using Curriculum-
Based Measurement, Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, Walz, and Germann (1993)
developed a set of realistic and ambitious gains in reading rate for students
experiencing difficulty in reading (see Table 4). Weekly reading rate gains
made by students in our reading clinic exceeded the realistic goals in grade
one and the ambitious goals in grades two, three, and four.
Comprehension was measured by having the teacher rate each student’s
oral retelling of their reading and then rating the retelling using a retelling
rubric (Rasinski & Padak, 2005), with 1 being a lowest score (minimal recall)
and 6 being the highest (comprehensive and elaborated recall) (see Fig. 2).

Students’ performance demonstrated substantial gains across all grade levels

in their ability to retell information from grade level passages.


Admittedly in literacy education there remain unresolved issues and points

of conflict concerning what curriculum materials, pedagogical approaches,
or reading programs are ‘‘the best.’’ In spite of the debates and lingering
questions, there is strong agreement from the research community that we
now have enough knowledge to make dramatic improvements in literacy
achievement (Allington & Johnston, 2001; Allington, 2002; Marzano, 2003;
NICHD, 2000; Pressley, 2002; Schmoker, 2006). Instruction at the reading
clinic capitalizes on this finding. This information affords the teachers with
an immense opportunity to make positive, significant gains in the literacy
achievement of students.
The reading clinic framework is congruent with Glickman’s (2002)
assertion that the key to effective instruction need not be a mystery, and that
in fact the essential components of quality practices are widely known by the
research community. Our reading clinic is committed to understanding and
implementing those practices most critical to the attainment of higher levels
of literacy and the critical thinking that ultimately mark reading success.
The principled reading clinic framework in general, and more specifically the
FDL, may be characterized as examples of these successful practices since
they effectively apply the research-based principles regarding the importance
of modeling, time on task, repeated readings, short engaging text, specific
feedback, and the development of motivation and self efficacy as paths
toward reading success.
We recognize that this study is small in scale, the intervention period was
limited, and that the reported results may have been influenced by factors
outside of our control. Balanced against these limitations, however, is the
fact that the study took place in an actual clinical situation where the
primary purpose is not research but solid instruction to improve the reading
outcomes of students. Not only do we work to improve the achievement of
students who attend the reading clinic, our goal is for our teachers to apply
what they have gained through their work in the reading clinic to their own
The reading clinic setting provides us with an ideal setting to continue
our research into the FDL. In the clinic we have the opportunity to
work exclusively with students who struggle in reading. Moreover, the
When Kids Can’t Read, What a Focus on Fluency Can Do 155

opportunities for intense observation of students and teachers allow us

to study the more nuanced instructional variables that may not be possible
in larger scale studies. Future research into the FDL may include its impact
on older students, identification of the ideal group size for instruction,
types of texts used for the FDL, and the role of technology and impact of
digital texts on the student performance.


The principles underlying the clinic and the use of a focused instructional
method for FDL offer important implications for literacy learning in the
regular classroom as well as intervention programs such as Title I. The
research suggests several areas where teachers might employ these ideas in
classroom settings. First, exposure to text in an iterative manner matters
(Kuhn, & Stahl, 2000; Rasinski, 2010; Samuels, 1979; Topping, 2006). Often
classroom instruction fails to provide students adequate initial exposure to
text. When students are not provided deep experiences with the text prior to
employing the words or ideas within the text in new ways, they can be placed
at a disadvantage. This disadvantage is exacerbated when fluency and
comprehension are compromised. By providing students multiple experi-
ences with the text before they are asked to work with it independently,
success can be fostered as learning is scaffolded.
After strong initial experiences, students must be offered opportunities to
make sense of the text in ways that are authentic to them. By identifying new
and interesting words, writing about the text or performing readings of the
text, students can inhabit language in ways previously unknown to them.
This close reading facilitates learning as students become more familiar and
proficient with words in context. Comprehension is also enhanced as fluency
grows. Fluency and comprehension are developed in concert with one other,
and growth in one improves growth in the other. Teachers can assure that
this occurs in their classrooms by regularly engaging in authentic and direct
instruction in fluency using methods such as the FDL and including student
performances of short, manageable passages of text. Furthermore, when
students read aloud texts that are provided by the teacher as well as texts of
their own writing in response to those texts, they begin to develop a
familiarly with text as an extension of their own experiences. In other words,
students can began to see that reading matters because it is part of who they
are and what they do.

Fluency is an important part of reading success. When activities stress

fluency in context rather than in isolation and reading for meaning rather
than reading for speed, students are able to employ fluency as a tool to
increase comprehension. In this way, understanding, rather than speed,
becomes the teaching objective and fluency serves as one instrument (along
with vocabulary, word recognition and the like) for successfully accessing
The importance of using texts as a tool for performance fosters fluency.
Repeated readings work best when students have an authentic reason for
reading a text multiple times. This means using texts that lend themselves to
meaningful performance. As such, the FDL stresses group and individual
repeated readings for the purpose of performance. As students ‘‘rehearse’’
by saying the words aloud with a focus on prosody and expression, they are
provided practice that increases their comfort with language and in turn,
enhances their progress and confidence. Additionally, teachers may find
ways for students to share their newly developed fluency abilities with
interested and enthusiastic audiences.
It is important to note that the FDL is not just a clinical practice. Rather,
it is an instructional routine that includes steps any teacher can employ and
modify, in any reading context, to meet the fluency, word recognition, and
comprehension needs of students. The FDL’s predictable and consistent
structure allows teaching time to be maximized. Teachers may successfully
employ the FDL routine with narrative, informational, or poetic texts
during the language arts block or as part of subject-specific reading in the
content areas. When new ideas or vocabulary are introduced outside of the
context of formal reading instruction, students’ comprehension and
vocabulary growth will follow. The FDL model provides teachers with a
relatively brief and focused protocol for introducing new ideas and terms as
well as improving fluency. The FDL also provides formative feedback to
teachers and students in terms of growth and areas of need. The intervention
provided by the FDL enhances other guided reading strategies in ways that
reinforce student learning.


At the clinic, it is acknowledged that ‘‘the great progress [on effective
literacy instruction] to date gives good reason to believe that even greater
progress can be made by researchers who are informed by what has been
discovered so far’’ (Pressley, 2002, p. 342). That said, as educators
When Kids Can’t Read, What a Focus on Fluency Can Do 157

committed to student learning and guided by research, the most current

understandings on how to provide high-quality literacy instruction to
struggling readers must prevail. By contributing to the research base,
studying practice, extending understandings, and refining conceptual
thinking, expert exemplary reading instruction is provided not only for the
children in the clinic, but for the future students whose educational
pathways and lives the teachers will touch.

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Cheryl Dozier and Julie Smit

Purpose – This chapter outlines a six-week graduate level writing
practicum that fosters collaboration among teachers, elementary school
writers, and families.
Design – Through the voices of teachers, students, and families, the
authors describe a newly developed writing practicum where teachers
engage in the writing process to build communities of writers and develop
partnerships with families.
Practical implications – Teacher educators can use the practices
presented in this chapter as a springboard to create their own school-
based writing practicum.

Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom

Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Volume 2, 161–179
Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2048-0458/doi:10.1108/S2048-0458(2013)0000002011

Originality/value – This approach to teacher education values commu-

nities of writers and family partnerships to build on student writers’
strengths and interests.

Keywords: Teacher preparation; writing communities; family


As Daniel, a second grader, walked upstairs to meet his writing teachers, he could not
wait to tell them about the arrival of his new baby sister, Laila. From the first night of
the practicum, Daniel’s teachers learned how important this new baby was to him. They
were surprised, when five days after giving birth, Daniel’s mom brought Laila to the
practicum site. ‘‘Of course I had to bring her in to visit. Daniel wanted me to introduce
her to his tutors.’’ When the teachers met Laila, they exclaimed, ‘‘Daniel, Laila looks just
like you described her in your writing.’’ That afternoon Daniel shared his writing with
his mom and baby Laila.


‘‘I never really understood how to teach writing. I just kept faking it, hoping
my cooperating teachers [during student teaching] didn’t notice.’’ Instruc-
tors in a master’s degree program for literacy specialists routinely heard
comments similar to this during the capstone practicum course. When asked
what they would like to focus on during final course seminars, graduate
students routinely responded they wanted to learn how to confer with
children, how to inspire children to write, and how to support children’s
writing development. Among graduate students, there was widespread
reluctance and nervousness to teach writing. As a result, program faculty at
the University at Albany created a new writing practicum as part of a larger
redesign of our master’s degree programs. In this newly created practicum,
we sought to create writing experiences that were ‘‘carefully coordinated
with coursework and carefully mentored’’ to prepare responsive teachers
who ‘‘successfully enact complex teaching practices’’ (Zeichner, 2010, p. 95).
Throughout the redesign process, we remained mindful that many graduate
students enroll in the writing course early in their master’s program, with
little teaching experience. In this chapter, we outline the design of this
practicum experience.
Building Writing Communities and Partnering with Families 163


The six-week practicum was embedded in a required master’s level writing

course for students enrolled in the university’s literacy specialist and
childhood degree master’s programs. The writing course, which met once a
week for a full semester (4:15 – 7:05 p.m.), focused on the theory and
practice of teaching writing from birth to grade six. Initial course sessions
were held at the university. Half way through the semester, we moved the
class to the six-week practicum location in a local elementary school.
As part of the practicum, teachers engaged in a 45-minute writer’s
workshop with children. Writer’s workshop included a mini-lesson, time for
sustained writing, writing conferences, and share time. For the writer’s
workshop, we drew from experts and practitioners in the field (Anderson,
2000; Atwell, 1998; Bomer, 2010; Calkins, 2003; Fletcher, 1996; Graves,
1994; Routman, 2005). Instructors observed each writing group weekly. A
30-minute debriefing and planning session followed the writer’s workshop.
Instructors held conferences with graduate students focusing on the
productive interactions during the lesson, uncertainties that arose, and
goals for future teaching. A 90-minute seminar followed the planning and
debriefing time. During the seminar, teachers engaged in and reflected on
the following: teaching, student, and family celebrations from each evening’s
work, conversations around research, collaborative problem solving of
teaching dilemmas, and the range of ways graduate students/teachers
engaged with families as part of writer’s workshop.
To design this new practicum, we first asked: What kinds of relevant,
meaningful, and purposeful writing experiences can we organize for children
to engage in during a six-night workshop practicum? We put children’s
experiences first, believing if we created engaging, purposeful writing events
for children, the teaching experience would be productive and powerful for
graduate students. We then considered: How do we structure and scaffold
these practicum experiences for novice teachers to become responsive
writing teachers?
With these considerations in mind, we created two primary goals for the
newly designed six-week practicum: to create communities of writers and to
partner with families. Just as we wanted writing teachers to be clear with
their goals and purposes, as teacher educators, we, too, needed to be clear
about our goals and purposes for responsive literacy teaching (see Table 1).
In creating these goals, we seek to understand and optimize the
consequences of our practices (Dozier, Johnston, & Rogers, 2006).
Ultimately, we wanted teachers to transfer practices to their six-credit

Table 1. Parallel Goals for the Writing Practicum.

Teacher Preparation Teacher Goals Student Goals Family Goals

 Build and engage in  Engage as writers  Engage as writers  Meet with

communities of across a range of  Experience a range teacher and
writers genres of interesting and student after
 Provide supervised  Grow as responsive engaging writing each writing
practicum writing teachers opportunities across session
experience where  Partner with families genres  Share insights,
teachers engage in  Transfer responsive  Share writing with feel welcomed
responsive literacy teaching to other families as part of the
teaching with contexts writing
children and families community
 Support transfer of  Engage as
responsive teaching writers

master’s degree capstone practicum course and to school contexts

(Bransford & Schwartz, 1999).


We met with the principal and teachers of the school where we held our
capstone practicum course to discover if they were interested in extending
our current university–school partnership with an additional after-school
writing practicum. The opportunity for extra support for their students
excited the principal and teachers. We emphasized to parents that the after-
school practicum was an opportunity for students who loved to write and
for those who wanted additional writing support.
We coordinated the practicum with the school district calendar. The
small city school, located in upstate New York, has 398 pre-K through
fifth-grade students. Approximately 73% of students are eligible for free
or reduced price meals. Students stayed after school with a district aide
(paid for by the school district) and were given a snack, completed their
homework, or played outside until the small group lessons started. There
were no fees for participating. Thirty-one first through fifth-grade
children, five African Americans, one Latina, and twenty-five Caucasians
Building Writing Communities and Partnering with Families 165


In this new writing practicum, we, as teacher educators, took to heart the
investment of graduate students, elementary students, and their families in
building writing communities in which all members’ position themselves as
meaning makers and inquirers. As teacher educators, we wanted our
responsiveness to foster responsive teaching (Dozier et al., 2006; Dozier &
Rutten, 2005/2006). We applied Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development
(ZPD) not only to support young learners but novice teachers as well. Our job
was to find the ZPD for teachers (Warford, 2011) just as the teacher’s job was to
find the ZPD for writers. To build our community of writers, we invited families
to write and to respond to their children’s work. Through this multilayered
approach, our graduate students experienced ‘‘families, children, and teachers
as makers of collaborative meaning’’ (Kroeger & Lash, 2011, p. 269).


From the first night of class, graduate students wrote in their writer’s
notebook (Fletcher, 1996). As part of this writing process, graduate students
brainstormed with partners and small groups. Graduate students con-
structed writing time lines that reflected their writing histories; wrote about
a school memory that changed them; wrote a short piece revealing
something their colleagues did not know about them; listed their needs as
writers before, during, and after writing; and reflected on their teaching.
After writing, graduate students shared their writing pieces with one
another. As teacher educators, we wrote side by side in our writer’s
notebooks. As writers, we all experienced celebrations and frustrations.
Graduate students noticed and named beautiful language in each other’s
writing pieces (Bomer, 2010). Graduate students also reflected on the
processes involved – what worked for them as writers, what did not, and
which genres they preferred (Dozier, 2006). As teacher educators, we created
this intentional structure to scaffold writing events for graduate students in
the same manner we wanted them to scaffold for their young writers.



Teachers worked collaboratively in groups of three to plan lessons for three

to four elementary students. The collaborative lesson planning created a

reason for dialogue, negotiation, and perspective taking with colleagues and
course instructors (Samaras, 2000). Through these conversations, teachers
noticed and named their practices (Dozier et al., 2006). The three-person
team structure allowed teachers to rely on each other and draw from each
other’s expertise.

Preparing Lessons

As teacher educators, we structured writing events each week to carefully

scaffold lessons. We first modeled a mini-lesson with possible mentor texts.
After the lesson, we analyzed instructional language and discussed ways to
engage writers. We then gave time in class for teachers to plan and tailor
their mini-lesson for their group of young writers. Lesson plans included
specific language/prompts for brainstorming, mentor texts, and craft
features. We offered specific prompts to guide teachers, ‘‘What will your
opening line be? What will you say next? How will you explain this craft
feature?’’ To help teachers imagine the logic of the learners and develop
lesson plans from this lens, we asked, ‘‘What do you imagine your learners
will say when you ask [this question]? How are you focusing on/building on
what you know about your writers?’’ This scaffolding led to a further focus
on language choices related to learners’ needs.

Lesson Structure

During each session, one teacher taught a mini-lesson. The teacher

introduced the writing with a mentor text and gave children time to
brainstorm. Children leaned in intently as the teacher shared mentor texts
and giggled while they brainstormed. During the mini-lesson, the second
teacher recorded the teacher’s instructional language and the third teacher
recorded children’s responses to the lesson.
After the mini-lesson, teachers and students gathered their materials and
began to write. Teachers and students wrote side by side. We insisted teachers
write side by side with the children so the children could see writers in action.
As the teachers and children wrote, they conferred with one another and talked
about craft features and ways to extend their writing (Anderson, 2000).
Following the sustained writing time and individual writing conferences,
students returned to share their writing with their small group. During this
Building Writing Communities and Partnering with Families 167

time, teachers and students identified specific features of the writing they
enjoyed. When family members came to pick up their children, they listened
to their young writers. Families often added details and shared their
insights. Writing and sharing together built writing communities.


On the first night of the practicum, students wrote What stories do your hands
tell? (Graves & Kittle, 2005). This writing event helped teachers learn about
their students. Students wrote of eating ice cream, throwing baseballs, digging
for worms, finger painting, and pinky promises. During the second session,
tutors used Wendy Ewald’s book (2002), The Best Part of Me, as a mentor
text. The young writers and teachers photographed and wrote about their best
features. Teachers took several photos so children and their families could
choose which one they preferred for their final bound book. Daniel’s photo
choice was a view from the top of his head, ‘‘I love my hair because it is my
third favorite color.’’ Manayah chose to include her eyes only in her
photograph and wrote, ‘‘The best of part of me is my eyes. My eyes are brown.
My eyes are beautiful.’’ On the third night, students wrote Where I’m From
poems using George Ella Lyon’s poem (2001) as a mentor text. To write their
poems students drew from their family foods, special places, family stories,
and family moments. Anthony wrote, ‘‘I am from family dinners on Friday
nights and special foods and plates on holidays. I am from a house with one
dog and thirteen finches. I am from a family that has green grass in their back
yard and takes me to the George Street Park.’’ Eric wrote, ‘‘I am from a baby
cousin who is so cute and screams with excitement when she sees me.’’
Angelica wrote, ‘‘I am from the soft and soothing sound of my backyard, and
the fireplace that smokes on a summer night.’’ Students wrote Someday pieces
on the fourth night based on Eileen Spinelli’s book Someday (2007) to
consider how they would contribute to their communities and the world.
Students wrote about their plans to become police officers, veterinarians, rock
stars, storm chasers, karate professionals, doctors, teachers, and animal
activists. On the fifth night, students wrote a Dedication, created an About the
Author page, and revised earlier writing pieces. Children carefully chose
photos, fonts, colors, and text layouts for their final bound books. They then
rehearsed the writing piece they chose to present to their families. On the sixth
night, families joined us to celebrate their writers in the cafeteria (see Table 2).
Table 2. Six-Week Writing Practicum.
Night Writing Event Materials/Mentor Texts Purpose Audience

1 These are the Hands by Resource notes for These To come to know writer’s interests, Child, tutor, and family
Donald Graves and are the Hands generate possible writing topics,
Penny Kittle Paper build relationships with writers
Writing materials
2 The Best Part of Me Copy of mentor text, To celebrate and write about each Child, tutor, family,
by Wendy Ewald, The Best Part of Me learner’s unique qualities other students
photo essay Cameras To select a photograph that
Photo paper represents ‘‘the best part of me’’
Writing materials
Internet resources, (examples
of children’s The Best Part of Me
writing, interactive photo essays)
3 Where I Am From To celebrate families Child, tutor, family,
by George Ella Lyon Downloaded materials from and family traditions extended family
Internet To encourage families to write members
Scaffolds for writers (i.e., items and extend student’s writing
from home, family names, through conversations
traditions, family sayings,
family foods)
4 Someday by Copy of mentor text Someday by To envision possibilities for Child, tutor, family
Eileen Spinelli Eileen Spinelli future: How will I contribute
Scaffolds for writers (now/In to the world?
the Future template)
5 Dedication Page Mentor texts (texts with examples To create a Dedication and Classmates, teachers,
About the of dedication pages and About the Author Page for family members,
Author Page About the Author pages suited their bound books extended family
to learners’ interests). members, principals,
Camera-photograph children and their tutors
6 Family Presentation Night: Each child chooses one piece of writing to share during the celebration. Students rehearse during Week 5
and right before the presentation (with a microphone). Tutors introduce each child. After the presentations, everyone shares food
brought in by the tutors. Tutors sit with families and children and share their final bound books with family members. For 30
children, the presentation generally lasts 1 hour.
Building Writing Communities and Partnering with Families



Graduate students found that writing in class each night changed them as
writers and as teachers. For Elizabeth, writing in class ‘‘rekindled my love of
writing and words.’’ Laurie ‘‘remembered my love for writing and
rediscovered the writer in me.’’ Kristine noted that teaching elementary
students allowed her to grow as a writer and a writing teacher, ‘‘When we talk
about seeing the beauty and brilliance in our students’ writing, I begin to see it
in my own. I have a new level of understanding and confidence.’’ While
students shared their nervousness on the first night of class that they would be
writing each evening and then writing side by side with children, in the end,
Beth echoed the comments of many, ‘‘I am part of a writing community.’’
When teachers and students wrote together, they listened carefully,
learned from one another, and celebrated each other’s writing. In doing so,
teachers became more responsive to students and their families. In writing
with her young students, Jessie noted, ‘‘I have come to understand that
writers are going to have good days and bad days and to honor this.’’
Teachers noticed that children engaged more intensively when they were
interested or saw relevance in their writing. Mike wrote, ‘‘The child has to
see relevance. When he’s interested and feels his writing has meaning and
purpose, he writes a lot more, as well as more detail. [He writes more when
he] connects his writing to families and his favorite things.’’
As graduate students reflected on their teaching, they noted the
importance of their language choices. Sasha wrote, ‘‘Certain prompts are
more effective than others. Prompts help generate ideas.’’ Teachers found
that naming their students as writers (Johnston, 2004) was especially
helpful. They also noticed writers engaged more willingly when prompts
were specific, ‘‘As a reader, I can tell how much you love your
grandmother.’’ This, in turn, influenced future teaching. Maria commented,
‘‘I now feel confident to use thoughtful and motivating language and
recognize the doors that open with one tweak of a word.’’
In her reflection, Jane noted the importance of the time spent engaging
with families to build community, ‘‘It was great to learn so much from the
families. They have a lot of great input and were able to give us insight into
our student’s lives.’’ Similarly, Chelsea learned, I used the child’s writing as
a lead into the conversation [with her mother]ybecause it enabled the
conversation to get more in depth as the weeks went on. In her final
reflective essay, Diana wrote about the importance of partnering with
Building Writing Communities and Partnering with Families 171

families, ‘‘The families shared that they really appreciated the fact that we
shared their children’s work with them after each workshop session. They
also mentioned that they appreciated the fact that we asked for their
additional input.’’ Tina commented on the impact collaboration had on
families, ‘‘The families shared how much they enjoyed hearing about their
students work afterwards. One family said they discussed everything over
dinner afterwards. Another family mentioned their child is excited every
Tuesday morning to come to school so she can write with us afterwards.’’



After the final presentation, families participated in a family survey.

Families rated their own experience, as well as their child’s experiences with
the writer’s workshop practicum. In the survey responses, 96% of the
families found the experience valuable, while 91% of the children found the
experience valuable. Elementary students said they enjoyed, ‘‘writing
stories,’’ ‘‘writing about what I want to be and meeting new people,’’ and
‘‘writing my own book.’’ Brandon noted the difference in the writing he
engaged in as part of the practicum, ‘‘I don’t do this much work in school
because she [teacher] doesn’t ask me what I want to be when I grow up. I am
going to ask her to do this because this was fun.’’ Students also appreciated
the one-on-one attention of the writing conferences. Several highlighted ‘‘the
tutors’’ as their favorite aspect of the experience. One student, Pete,
dedicated his book to ‘‘The best tutors in the world.’’ When asked what they
enjoyed most about the writing practicum, several students talked about the
collaborative aspects of the practicum, ‘‘I loved sharing my life and writing
about it’’ and ‘‘Working with friends.’’

Growing as Writers

Family members identified a range of ways their children grew within the
writing communities. One family noted the ‘‘confidence he gained and self
expression.’’ Another highlighted the child’s increased ‘‘creativity and
willingness to expand.’’ One family mentioned their child ‘‘learned how to
express his ideas in writing.’’ Another commented, ‘‘My child is able to read
and write very well. He has had a great improvement.’’ Several families said

their children now ‘‘wrote more’’ at home and in school. One dad remarked
that the practicum ‘‘challenged my son to use his mind.’’ Another mom,
sharing that her daughter was often tentative in school, noted, ‘‘She really
enjoyed the help she was given with putting her thoughts to words.’’


Family involvement supports children’s engagement and achievement in

educational settings (Daniel, 2011; Elish-Piper et al., 2012; Grace, Jethro, &
Aina, 2012; Hornby & Lafaele, 2011). In this newly designed writing
practicum, we wanted graduate students to view parents as having
‘‘knowledge and power with experiences and perspectives to offer rather
than [as] an individual to be coached or changed’’ (Kroeger & Lash, 2011, p.
270). We emphasized positive communication and learning from families.
Establishing positive communication between the school and the home provides an
important foundation for sharing knowledge and insights about individual students. In
this way, teachers and parents become a team with the common goal of supporting
students’ achievement and helping them feel known and valued. (Kyle, McIntyre, Miller,
& Moore, 2002, p. 23)

As teacher educators, we also asked teachers to be mindful of how they

represented learners during their interactions with families. Our emphasis on
positive communication and careful representations fostered trust with


While partnering with families was our goal as teacher educators, this was a
tentative space for teachers initially. Teachers worried they would not know
what to say to families or families would react to them negatively. We
instructed teachers to only share positives from the writing sessions when
they met with families. We did not want teachers to orient conversations
around discipline matters.
Teachers communicated with families each evening when family members
picked up the children. To start the conversations, teachers and children
shared the students’ writing from that evening. Families listened and often
added ideas for the writing pieces. This led to learning more from families as
they shared children’s interests, hobbies, and traditions. Teachers
Building Writing Communities and Partnering with Families 173

incorporated these insights into future lessons. In doing so, teachers built
trust with families.

Representing Learners

When teachers planned lessons and interacted with families, we asked them
to consider how they were representing learners and to consider whether
their representations invited trust or pushed families away. For all
interactions, we asked teachers to focus on thoughtfulness, specificity, and
intentionality of language choices.
Given our intensive focus on how we represent learners, we were surprised
and disappointed when teachers wrote initial introductions of the children for
family presentation night. Teachers had worked with the writers for several
sessions, had talked with families each evening, and had numerous writing
samples in front of them. We expected their introductions would be specific
and focused on the children as writers. However, initial introductions were
general and tended to be judgmental, ‘‘She’s sweet. She’s nice. He’s so
intelligent. She’s shy. He’s a talker.’’ Our intensive work noticing and naming
had not transferred. When we learned this, we spent more time focusing on
how to represent learners and move beyond judging them. We asked teachers
to include three points to introduce their students. First, teachers identified
student interests. Second, teachers specifically named a feature students used
as writers. Third, teachers named the writing piece each child would read that
evening. Using these three points, teachers included Jaquan’s interest in
Power Rangers, Emily’s fascination with Justin Bieber, Brandon’s love of
snakes, Kayla’s attention to details, Maria’s love of descriptive words, and
Brian’s intriguing leads. These new introductions assured families we knew
their children, their children’s interests, and their children as writers.

Graduate Students Reflect on Partnering with Families

In their reflective writing and during class seminars, graduate students

articulated how uncomfortable they were to engage with families initially.
Several had experienced difficult exchanges with families during their
student teaching placements and were especially uncomfortable. At the end
of the six weeks, Ariana shared, ‘‘I learned that engaging with families isn’t
as scary as I thought it was. The families are extremely interested in what
their students can do and want to hear the best.’’

When some families came to pick up their children, they had to rush to
sports practices or rush home to make dinner. This was unnerving for some of
the teachers, given our insistence that they communicate with families. Rather
than blame families for their busy lives, we helped teachers find ways families
preferred to communicate (i.e., emails and phone calls). Other family
members listened to the teachers, yet were quiet. This, too, was daunting for
some teachers. Jessica commented, ‘‘It is just as important to reach out to
families that are quiet because they need to know that we care. I have come a
long way to reach out to families that are not so comfortable talking with
me.’’ As Lisa noted, ‘‘It is our responsibility to listen and learn from families.’’
Graduate students came to see the importance of careful representation of
learners. Marta saw the impact of her specific celebrations with families,
‘‘Families LOVE to hear the positive and strong points about their child. It
really makes all the difference!’’ Laura commented on how attention to
detail mattered for families, ‘‘Ethan’s mother and Pete’s father thanked me
specifically for double-checking on how to correctly spell family members
names for the dedication pages in the final bound books. They both told me
they appreciated the fact that we cared enough to follow through with such
Over the course of the practicum experience, teachers came to realize how
much trust families placed in them, how much the families wanted to talk
about their children, and how honored families were to participate in the
program. Elisa captured the perspectives of her colleagues regarding the
importance of partnering with families, ‘‘We need to connect with families
and be accessible. I think because we made ourselves available to interact
with them after each session, we included them and welcomed them into
their child’s school life. We need to make these bridges with parents – it will
benefit our teaching and influence our lessons and interactions with the
child. I think parents want to know that we care and it is part of our job to
show them that we do. I like that we make a face-to-face connection with
parents – it’s a lot different than just a letter home or a phone call. I also
like that we accepted all family members – grandparents, stepparents, etc.
I think it is important to reach out to all children’s support systems.’’

Family Impressions

At the conclusion of each session when the teachers walked down with the
children to the school entrance, teachers invited children to read their
Building Writing Communities and Partnering with Families 175

writing to their families. As families listened to their children’s writing pieces,

family members often smiled, gave positive feedback, and suggested new
ideas. This process, with 31 children and teachers clustered around their
family members, facilitated conversations, sharing, and input for future
writing. One mom said, ‘‘I enjoyed her [daughter’s] excitement each week
when showing me what they had worked on.’’ One mom remarked that each
week, ‘‘She [her daughter] came home excited to share what she did in class.’’
Families valued our efforts to communicate with them. Family presenta-
tion night was filled with ‘‘Thank yous’’, hugs, and excitement. At the
celebration, Melissa’s mom noted, ‘‘I enjoyed that the teachers were very
nice and went out of their way to meet me.’’ When asked for
recommendations, one family commented, ‘‘Keep on doing them [writing
sessions]. You and this workshop are creating blossoming writers.’’


We wanted teachers to imagine possibilities for creating writing commu-

nities and partnering with families. Each night we asked specifically what
would transfer from their coursework and practicum experience to current
or future educational contexts (Dozier & Rutten, 2005/2006). Graduate
students currently in school settings shared several ways they transferred
their understandings from the course. Mark shared instructional practices
he tried in his sixth-grade classroom including offering choice for writers,
conferring one on one with students, and providing more time to write. As a
long-term substitute teacher, Karina incorporated several mentor texts and
lessons into her classroom. She created a PowerPoint of children’s writing
based on Eileen Spinelli’s Someday (2007) for a family presentation night at
the end of the year.
The focus on sharing and celebrations transferred for Stacy who
noted, ‘‘Special moments or awesome triumphs should be shared.’’
Teachers who did not yet have classrooms envisioned possibilities to
partner with families. Claire wrote, ‘‘I will walk out with students and
talk to parents as they pick their children up.’’ Nell reflected, ‘‘This
practicum experience has helped me to think about engaging with
families in a more powerful way. I have learned not to be as shy and to
speak up because some families may feel intimidated.’’ Our emphasis in
the course on transfer promoted internalization and deeper integration
of learning experiences into future professional identities (Samaras, 2000;
Warford, 2011).


The time intensive nature of practicum experiences in a teacher preparation

program cannot be ignored. As teacher educators, we responded to graduate
students’ written work, to their teaching, to children, to families, to
administrators, to school contexts (whose room can you tutor in? whose
room is off limits?), and to after-school program coordinators. After this
inaugural practicum course, we identified several challenges we navigated to
meet the needs of all participants.
Some graduate students found it overwhelming and unnerving to be
observed each week. They constantly asked, ‘‘How did I do?’’ and focused
exclusively on their grades. We emphasized that during practicum they
needed to focus primarily on the learners they were teaching. In this way,
we helped graduate students see their dual roles – graduate student and
teacher – dual roles they would once again experience in the capstone
practicum course.
For some elementary students, consistent attendance was an issue.
Therefore, we recruited additional elementary students to ensure that each
group had multiple participants. When new children joined the already
established small groups, teachers had to be flexible and quickly learn about
the new students. Some teachers handled these changes with more ease than
others. For those who found inviting new children into the tutorial difficult,
we joined the session and modeled ways they could adapt and readjust their
plans to welcome new members.
When teachers experienced difficult teaching moments during the
practicum experience, we intervened and joined lessons or writing
conferences. In this way, we provided models for responsive teaching.
When students in one group wanted to write on topics the teachers found
unacceptable, we needed to intervene as well. We started by asking about
audience and purpose, ‘‘Who are you writing this piece for? How will your
[mom] feel when she reads this? Do you think your baby brother will
understand your writing?’’ In situations when students did not ‘‘do’’ what
the teachers wanted (i.e., took too long to become engaged, did not
participate in brainstorming, finished quickly, and did not want to revise),
some teachers became frustrated and had a hard time seeing anything
positive in the student’s writing. When this happened, we guided teachers to
see interesting language and the beauty in the children’s writing, even if the
interaction was difficult.
While graduate students read extensively about conferring (Anderson,
2000; Routman, 2005), they initially found it difficult to receive writing
Building Writing Communities and Partnering with Families 177

pieces and then talk with writers in honest, genuine, and purposeful ways.
While most tutors could analyze writing pieces and find the hidden gems
in the writing (Bomer, 2010), conferences remained harder. Initial
conferences involved more sharing, ‘‘Read what you’ve written and I’ll
read what I’ve written.’’ Therefore, in future seminars, we asked teachers
to look through writing pieces and rehearse possible language for
conferences with one another. This rehearsal space gave teachers additional
practice and helped teachers become more fluent as they conferred with
young writers. Finding ways to help teachers gain confidence and
competence as they confer remains a work in progress for us.


In the redesign of our master’s literacy programs, we responded to graduate

students expressed need for improving their teaching of writing by
developing a writing practicum. Structures in this new practicum provided
numerous opportunities for teachers to teach responsively. Given that our
graduate students had little teaching experience we carefully supervised and
structured our practicum to support authentic, purposeful, engaging, and
intentional teaching and learning. To fulfill our goal to build communities of
writers, we ensured that everyone engaged in writing events. To fulfill our
goal to partner with and gain the trust of families, we ensured that teachers
communicated with families and represented learners in positive and
productive ways. In this way, we guided graduate students to ‘‘develop a
vision of what it means to be a professional’’ (Bransford, Derry, Berliner, &
Hammerness, 2005, p. 76). Therefore, we were delighted when instructors
shared that our graduate students transferred understandings from the
writing practicum to their capstone practicum course. Instructors noticed
our graduate students had more confidence during writing events and when
they engaged with families. As we further refine the course, we will focus on
adding additional schools, apprenticing new instructors, and continuing to
research our partnerships with families. As Sarah said, ‘‘Writing matters.
The relationships formed around writing matter – to us, to the students, to
their families.’’ We agree.
As families streamed into the cafeteria for our inaugural writing workshop family
presentation night, the cafeteria filled with the happy conversations of grandmas,
grandpas, cousins, and neighbors. Families clapped, cheered, and laughed as each child
read a writing selection. After the final applause, we all moved to two large tables filled
with food to celebrate the children’s work. As teachers and families ate together, the

children shared their bound books with their families. In all, 138 people packed into the
school cafeteria on the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving to listen to 31 children read
their writing.

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Mary Anne Prater, Nari Carter and

JoAnn Munk

Purpose – To share a model of preparing special educators to teach
reading to students with mild-to-moderate disabilities.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors describe a specific model
for preparing special educators to teach reading.
Findings – Data are provided regarding the effectiveness of this model of
special education teacher preparation based on performance of students
with disabilities who participated in the program.
Research limitations/implications – This research was done as a program
evaluation and may have validity and generalizability limitations.
Practical implications – Other institutions of higher education may gain
insight on how a similar preservice teacher preparation program could be
developed and implemented at their institution.

Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom

Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Volume 2, 181–196
Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2048-0458/doi:10.1108/S2048-0458(2013)0000002012

Originality/value – The school/university partnership described is

extremely unique and effective in preparing future special educators to
teach reading to students with disabilities.

Keywords: Students with disabilities; special education; teacher

preparation; reading

Martha, a teacher-in-training attending the local university, has chosen to

be a special educator because she struggled to learn to read as a child. An
exceptional teacher recognized her difficulties and got Martha the help she
needed. Martha always wanted to give back by becoming a teacher who
helped other children. Ivan, also a teacher candidate who is preparing to
become a special educator, knows he has a knack for working with special
needs students. He was a peer-tutor in high school, tutoring students with
intellectual disabilities who needed extra one-on-one practice with their
reading and writing skills. He loved the experience and decided to make it
his career. A third teacher candidate, Suzanne, was also motivated to
become a special educator because of previous experience. Her younger
brother, Sammy, has autism. Suzanne and her family saw Sammy grow as
he learned skills at school that he practiced at home. Suzanne wanted to
have this influence on others in similar circumstances by becoming a special
Individuals choose to become special educators for a variety of reasons.
The overarching motivation is to help children and adolescents who struggle
to learn; and a large percentage of these students have difficulty with
reading. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in
2011, 33% of all students in grades four and 24% in grade eight, scored
below the basic level in reading (NCES, 2011). Even larger percentages of
students with disabilities have difficulty in this area. In 2011, fourth- and
eighth-grade students with disabilities’ scored statistically significantly lower
on the National Reading Assessment than students who were classified as
not having disabilities (NCES, 2011). Given that students with learning
disabilities are identified as such because of their difficulties academically, it
is not surprising that 80% of students with learning disabilities struggle with
reading (Gersten, Fuchs, Williams, & Baker, 2001); however, students with
other disabilities, such as behavior disorders, also have pronounced
problems in reading (McDaniel, Duchaine, & Joviette, 2010).
Improving reading outcomes among students, and particularly those
with disabilities, requires teacher preparation in scientifically based reading
research (Smart & Reschly, 2007). A considerable amount of research
Preparing Special Educators to Teach Reading 183

indicates that explicit, systematic instruction in foundational skills (e.g.,

phonemic awareness and phonics), as well as higher level reading skills (e.g.,
fluency and comprehension), improves reading achievement among students
with disabilities and at-risk, struggling readers (Foorman & Torgeson, 2001;
Gersten et al., 2001; Jitendra et al., 2004; Swanson, 2000, 2001; Torgeson et
al., 2001; Vaughn, Gersten, & Chard, 2000; Wanzek, Wexler, Vaughn, &
Ciullo, 2010). Explicit instruction is a structured, systematic method for
teaching academic skills that focuses on critical content and sequences skills
in a logical order. Explicit lessons include clear statements of lesson
objectives, review of prerequisite skills, step-by-step demonstrations of new
skills, guided and supported practice, high rates of student response,
affirmative and corrective feedback, and distributed and cumulative practice
(Archer & Hughes, 2011; Vaughn & Linan-Thompson, 2004).
Several published curriculum feature explicit instruction, including
Reading Mastery (Englemann & Bruner, 2008), which is designed to teach
phonological awareness, sound-letter correspondence, decoding, and
fluency. Reading Mastery has been studied extensively. As one example,
Gunn, Biglan, Smolkowski, and Ary (2000) explored the impact of this
curriculum as supplemental instruction for low readers in the early
elementary grades. They found that the students’ reading skills improved
as compared to those who did not receive such instruction, regardless of the
children’s ethnic background, gender, or grade. A meta-analysis examining
the effectiveness of earlier versions of the curriculum found that in 14 of the
21 studies (67%), Reading Mastery was more effective than other
curriculum. Other reading programs were favored in three investigations
(14%) with no statistically significant difference discovered in four studies
(19%) (Schieffer, Marchand-Martella, Martella, Simonsen, & Waldron-
Soler, 2002).
Preparing special education teachers to use research-validated approaches
to improve reading outcomes for students with disabilities requires a focus
on elements of effective reading instruction; and preparation for addressing
students’ with disabilities instructional needs. Like general educators,
special education teachers need to acquire content-specific knowledge
(e.g., knowledge of reading skills and processes) (Salinger, 2010), and obtain
skills necessary for applying knowledge in classroom settings (Leko,
Brownell, Sindelar, & Murphy, 2012). However, special education teachers
must also be prepared to apply discipline-specific knowledge while teaching
reading. That is, they must apply knowledge of evidence-based intervention
strategies such as intense, explicit instruction to address the specific
problems that students with disabilities experience learning to read

(Brownell, Sindelar, Kiely, & Danielson, 2010). Special educators, therefore,

need a well-integrated knowledge base that spans content-area knowledge
and disciplinary preparation.
High-quality teacher preparation programs blend theory with discipline-
specific knowledge, content knowledge, and practice by integrating
supervised field experiences with coursework (Boe & Shin, 2007; Brownell,
Ross, Colon, & McCallum, 2005). Research has shown that well-designed
coursework coupled with structured practicum experiences enables teacher
candidates to increase content knowledge regarding how to teach reading, as
well as their ability to promote student reading achievement (Speak-
Swerling, 2009; Spear-Swerling & Brucker, 2004).
Arguably the best way for teacher candidates to prepare for the
profession is to practice teaching in an environment that is designed to
meet both the needs of the candidate and the needs of the students. In a
review of school/university special education partnerships across the
country, Prater and Sileo (2002) discovered that although the collaborative
nature of partnerships varied, the trend was to enter into formal partner-
ships when dealing with student teaching and much less formal procedures
for pre-student teaching practicum. For example, the university and school
district may sign legal documents supporting the student teaching
experience; whereas, pre-student practicum more likely involve university
faculty contacting individual teachers to make such arrangements. Both
experiences, however, take place in already existing classrooms. When
candidates enter schools to practice teaching, they are provided an
opportunity to learn in a ‘‘real-world’’ setting, but at the same time,
uncontrolled aspects of a typical school day (e.g., interruptions and other
teacher responsibilities) interfere with the candidate’s opportunity to solely
practice teaching.
Special education faculty at Brigham Young University (BYU) and the
local school district administers desired to create a pre-student teaching
practicum experience that fulfilled the needs of teacher candidates, mentor
teachers, and students with disabilities. The two parties worked collabora-
tively to construct a controlled and rich (a) mentoring environment in which
licensed teachers were unencumbered with noninstructional duties (to the
degree possible) so they could shape teacher candidates’ teaching skills, (b)
teaching environment providing candidates the opportunity to maximize
their time practice teaching, and (c) learning environment for students with
disabilities who need additional academic support. The best time of year for
providing this experience was during the summer months. Teacher
candidates in both the severe and the mild-to-moderate disabilities
Preparing Special Educators to Teach Reading 185

preparation programs participate, although in this chapter we focus only on

the mild-to-moderate preparation.


The summer practicum collaboration between the school districts and the
BYU special education program has existed for decades. But in 1999
the summer program was restructured to provide teacher candidates the
opportunity to explicitly teach reading, math, writing, and social skill
instruction. The practicum lasts six weeks and is held five days a week,
except for holidays (i.e., July 4th). District students attend for three hours a
day, with the teacher candidates in attendance four and one-half hours each
day. Although participating students attend many different schools
throughout the district during the school year, the summer program is held
in only one elementary school in each of the districts. Family members take
responsibility for driving the children to and from school each day. This is
not a special education extended school year (ESY) requirement for students
so the schools are not responsible for providing transportation.

School District Responsibilities

Given the collaborative nature of the summer practicum, both the school
districts and the BYU faculty share responsibility for carrying out the
necessary steps. The school districts identify students for participation.
Using guidelines agreed to by both parties, the districts send invitations to
the students’ parents well in advance of the school year ending. Students
who are invited to participate must (a) have an individualized education
program (IEP) which guarantees that he or she has an identified disability,
(b) be between grades 1 and 5, (c) be recommended by their special
education teacher, and (d) have no major behavior difficulties. The last
criterion was included to ensure that the teacher candidates would have
sufficient opportunities to teach reading and not be encumbered with
dealing with major behavior problems. The districts require parents pay a
nominal fee ($10 per child) that is spent on ice cream, pizza and other
‘‘treats’’ provided to students throughout the practicum. The district
believes that the small financial requirement ensures that the parents are
serious about their child’s enrollment. Over time the demand for the summer
program has increased and currently the districts keep waiting lists.

Unfortunately, the number of district students served is constrained by the

number of teacher candidates enrolled in the university’s program.
The school districts also take responsibility for communicating to parents
when and where the accepted students will be assessed prior to enrolling in
the summer program. Typically, one afternoon/evening is designated for
each district. The teacher candidates assess each student in reading and
math skills. For reading, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy
Skills (DIBELS) Benchmark and Program Monitoring Materials (Good &
Kaminski, 2002) is administered in order to determine the students’ current
levels for grouping, as well as to practice what is considered exemplary
practice in special education instruction.
The districts also take responsibility for hiring administrative staff to be
on-site during the course of the summer practicum. This may include district
and/or building-level administrators. They are responsible for the physical
building, for providing needed supplies, and for handling any student
problems typical of their responsibilities during the school year.

University Responsibilities

One of the major responsibilities of the BYU faculty is to ensure that the
teacher candidates are prepared for the summer practicum experience.
Teacher candidates complete 37 credit hours of coursework that is directly
related to the summer practicum prior to the summer term, six credits of
that are literacy courses and two credits of summer practicum preparation
(see Tables 1 and 2). Prior to implementation of the summer practicum,
teacher candidates assess the district students for grouping purposes.
University faculty organizes this event.
The BYU special education program provides one faculty member to oversee
the practicum, two site coordinators (one for each school), and a university
supervisor who assists with teacher candidate evaluation. The university also
identifies and trains eight or nine special education licensed teachers who
supervise and mentor the teacher candidates. A Utah State Office of Education
grant has provided the financial resources to pay the mentor teachers for this
summer work. Curriculum materials (e.g., teacher manuals and student books)
are provided by the university to ensure continuity across the districts and
consistency with what has been taught in the reading courses. Except for the
curriculum materials, the district pays for all supplies used by the district
students (e.g., paper and pencils), while the university or the teacher candidates
pay for supplies consumed by the teacher candidates (e.g., training materials).
Preparing Special Educators to Teach Reading 187

Table 1. Coursework That Directly Supports the Reading Portion of

Summer Practicum.
Number Abbreviated Name Description

425 Foundations in Provides a comprehensive overview of oral language

Language Arts development, language disorders, language and
learning, language and thought, language and culture,
listening comprehension, and the foundation skills for
reading and writing.
430 Teaching Reading Prepares teacher candidates to teach beginning and
remedial reading by using explicit instructional
methods, namely Reading Mastery. Also addresses
formative evaluation procedures, such as DIBELS.
452 Effective Teaching Focuses on designing and implementing teaching
Strategies strategies and instructional planning to meet the
educational needs of students with mild-to-moderate
466 Summer Practicum Introduces the requirements for the summer practicum
Preparation by reviewing effective teaching strategies, classroom
management techniques, and assessment procedures.
Other supporting coursework for the summer practicum includes:
403: Introduction to Special Education
410: Applied Behavior Analysis
420: Assessment
440: Secondary Curriculum
442: Behavioral Strategies
460: Collaboration
462: Teaching Math
480: Multicultural Issues
397/487: Integrating Technology

Before the practicum commences, mentor teachers participate in six hours

of training over the course of two or three days. This has been pared down
from the original 30 hours offered in 1999. Much less training is now
possible due to the mentor teachers’ previous summer practicum experience
either as a mentor teacher or as a teacher candidate. During training, BYU
faculty review content that candidates have been taught, roles and
responsibilities of all personnel, any procedural changes since last year,
and so forth. The training helps ensure continuity between coursework and
the summer practicum experience and consistency across sites and
classrooms. Faculty and mentor teachers also review the results of the
previous year’s teacher candidate and parent survey results and discuss how
to respond to any programmatic concerns.

Table 2. All Courses and Practicum Completed by Special Education Teacher Candidates.
Year Fall Winter Spring Summer
Semester Semester Term Term

Soph- 403: Introduction to Special

omore Education (3)
425: Foundations in Language
Arts (3)
Junior 410: Applied Behavior 430: Teaching Reading (3) 462: Teaching Math (3) 466: Summer
Analysis (3) 440: Secondary Curriculum (2) 466: Summer Practicum Practicum (6)
420: Assessment (3) 442: Behavioral Strategies (3) Preparation (2) 470: Legal Issues (3)
452: Effective Teaching
Strategies (3)
460: Collaboration (3) 446: Secondary Practicum (1)
397: Integrating 480: Multicultural Issues (3)
Technology (1) 497: Integrating Technology (1)
Senior 486: Student Teaching (12)
490: Capstone Seminar (1)
496: Internship (6) 496: Internship (6)
490: Capstone Seminar (1)

Note: Semesters = 16 weeks; Terms = 8 weeks; Credit hours are in parentheses.

Preparing Special Educators to Teach Reading 189

Teacher Candidates’ Preparation

Before enrolling in the summer practicum, teacher candidates complete 37

semester credit hours of coursework in special education across three semesters
and one term (which is equivalent to one-half semester). Although only one of
the 37 credits is an actual practicum experience (in a secondary school), almost
all of the courses require some type of fieldwork usually in the form of course
assignments. For example, the introduction to special education course
requires teacher candidates work with students with disabilities in preselected
schools for a minimum of 12 hours during the semester.
Two three-credit courses devoted to literacy instruction are required. The
first course provides an overview of language development and disorders, as
well as the foundation skills for reading and writing. Teacher candidates are
introduced to DIBELS in the first course. The second course focuses on
teacher candidates learning explicit methods for teaching basic reading skills
(i.e., phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehen-
sion). Teacher candidates demonstrate their ability to teach these reading
skills, as well as writing skills, and the use of progress monitoring data to
make instructional decisions (see Table 1).

Structure, Curriculum, and Assessment at the Practicum Sites

Each practicum site uses four classrooms; and assigned to each classroom
are one mentor teacher, three teacher candidates, and 15–24 students with
mild-to-moderate disabilities. Each teacher candidate is responsible for
teaching one-third of the students (5–8 students). Also in each school is one
site coordinator and one or more district representatives (see Fig. 1). In
recent years, the number of teacher candidates has equaled 24–26.
On a typical day, students are instructed in reading for 45 minutes, math
45 minutes, writing 35 minutes, spelling/penmanship alternating days 10
minutes, social skills 15 minutes, and art/music/physical education rotations
25 minutes each day. The teacher candidates are responsible for their small
group of students’ instruction with the exception of social skills and art/
music/physical education. Social skill instruction takes place in larger
groups allowing one or two of the other teacher candidates in the same
classroom to engage in DIBELS progress monitoring assessments with
individual students. Art/music/physical education is also held in larger
groups with the candidates rotating instructional responsibility. Those not
teaching provide instructional support to those who are.

Department Chair

Special Education Program


Summer Practicum

School District University School District

Site Coordinator Site Coordinator
Representative(s) Supervisor Representative(s)

4 - 5 Mentor 4 - 5 Mentor
Teachers Teachers

12 - 13 Teacher 12 - 13 Teacher
Candidates Candidates

60 - 90 Students 60 - 90 Students

Fig. 1. Summer Practicum Organizational Chart.

For reading instruction, the summer practicum personnel selected the

Reading Mastery curriculum, primarily because it adheres to the explicit
instruction model needed by students with disabilities. Although this is a
scripted curriculum, candidates are responsible for writing daily lesson
rationales and objectives that they submit to their mentor teachers. They are
also required to collect data daily on each student’s performance on
achieving the lesson objective. In addition, candidates collect weekly
progress monitoring data on each student using DIBELS progress
monitoring materials.


Teacher Candidates Outcomes

Although the teacher candidates teach from the very first day of practicum,
each mentor teacher is responsible for modeling instruction and shaping
their three teacher candidates’ teaching. When the mentor teacher believes
Preparing Special Educators to Teach Reading 191

the candidate is close to reaching mastery of 80% as measured by the

observation form, the candidate is formally observed by the site
coordinator, university supervisor, or summer practicum coordinator. The
observation form used is the Language Arts Rating Scale, adapted from
Project Targeting Instructional Effectiveness in Reading project in
Washington State (copies are available from the authors). This scale was
selected given the connection to the Reading Mastery curriculum. The scale
lists 20 different observation factors broken into five elements: (a) lesson
preparation (e.g., materials are organized and distributed and managed well
throughout the lesson), (b) overall lesson delivery (e.g., specific immediate,
positive academic feedback is dispersed throughout the lesson), (c) lesson
elements (e.g., vocabulary procedures are implemented accurately), (d)
corrections (e.g., proper correction procedures and accurate modeling occur
before moving forward in lesson), and (e) progress and assessment (e.g.,
collect and record appropriate data on student mastery of instructional
objective). Each of the 20 items is evaluated on a scale from one to three.
Not every element is appropriate for each grade level. Thus, the 80%
mastery level is determined by the candidates’ performance score divided by
the total number of points possible.
Candidates are also formally assessed teaching writing and math. They
must reach mastery in each content area and are given a total opportunity of
six observations across the three areas to do so. Approximately 300 teacher
candidates have participated in summer practicum since 1999 and over 97%
have passed at the mastery level.
During the 2011 summer practicum, teacher candidates represented both
postbaccalaureate students who were completing licensure in special
education without obtaining a degree (n=9) and undergraduate students
(n= 17). Only 2 of the total 26 were male and 4 were nonwhite. All but one
completed the practicum at the mastery level (96%). The student who did
not pass successfully repeated the practicum the following year.

Students with Disabilities Outcomes

The BYU summer practicum, like most teacher preparation programs, has
improved over time. One of those improvements has been consistency in the
collection of student outcome data. When the Reading Mastery curriculum
was adopted, the placement tests were used as pre-post measures of the
effectiveness of the six-week experience. When students were assessed before
practicum for grouping purposes, these scores provided a general idea of

Average Reading Fluency Score






Pre-test Post-test

Words Correct per Minute

Fig. 2. Summer Practicum Pre- and Posttest Reading Scores 2011.

their skills and level. Then, on the first day of practicum, the students were
again assessed using the Reading Mastery placement test. This served two
functions: first, to assign the appropriate reading level and curriculum to
each student, and second, to provide pretest data. The placement test was
then administered the last day of the practicum that provided the posttest
data. To simplify the data collection procedures, only the fluency portion of
the placement test was administered.
During 2011, 145 students with disabilities were enrolled in the summer
practicum. Students had completed first through fifth grades. The results of
the pre- and posttest scores are presented in Fig. 2. The ANOVA test
indicated a significant difference (F[3.1] = 1,24.56; p-value o .0001) in
students’ pre- and posttest scores. The difference was significant when
accounting for factors such as teacher candidates and the students. On
average, students’ reading fluency improved by 60.9 correct words per
minutes. At the beginning of the practicum, students read on average 58.1
correct words per minute; six weeks later, at the end of the summer
practicum students averaged 119 correct words per minute.
Although systematic data have not been collected on student satisfaction,
anecdotal comments indicate they generally enjoyed working with the
teacher candidates and having a place to go during the summer to associate
with other children. They seemed to particularly like the oral comprehension
Preparing Special Educators to Teach Reading 193

portion of the lessons where they verbalized what they read and linked it to
daily life. For example, recently one group read a story about forest fires at
the same time that fires were burning in the local mountains. The students
linked what was occurring close to their home to the printed text.

Parent Satisfaction Outcomes

Parents were surveyed regarding their satisfaction with the program.

Written responses indicated that they were highly satisfied. Representative
positive comments follow:

My daughter has benefited so much from this program. Thank you. I have seen her
improve this summer compared to last year when she declined so much it took all year to
recover. The fact that it is essentially free is a huge bonus.
This program has been amazing for my child. Not only has she been able to maintain
skills through the summer, but she has made exciting progress as well. The teachers
created strong connections with my child in a short period of time. She speaks adoringly
of them! Both my child and I will be sorry to see it end.
I think this is a wonderful program that I wish was available to more students. I had
several friends who said they wished their child could have attended. Your activities are
awesome and really helped my child to like school better and have a much better attitude
in general.

A few parents also indicated concerns, the major concern being

transportation. The school districts cover a large suburban area and parents
sometimes felt frustrated with having to transport their children daily.

I don’t like that it is so far away. We live in y and it was quite the trip every day. Wish
next time it will be closer.
Driving to and from became very difficult for me. I was hoping that the carpool list
would have worked out for me.

The other concern raised was lack of communication between the teacher
candidates and the parents.

I do wish there was more communication home so I would know what she was working
on i.e. level of reading and what math so I could continue at home.
When I ask my son what he has done I typically get very short answers so for me weekly
or biweekly communication with the teacher would be nice so that I can help reinforce
what he is learning at home.

Based on this feedback, a communication system with the parents has

been developed for future implementation.


Several limitations can be reported. First, these data were collected to

evaluate the efficacy of the summer practicum program. Thus, no control
group was used as a comparison. In addition, the measures used were not
standardized; and only fluency or number of words read per minute was
measured. Also, the teacher candidates assessed the students they were
teaching that may have biased the results. Currently only one year of
data has been collected and analyzed limiting the generalizability of the


Within this chapter we provided a description of a summer practicum

experience required of teacher candidates preparing to become mild-to-
moderate disabilities special educators. The practicum meets the criteria of
embedding well-designed coursework alongside structured practicum
experiences to increase teacher candidates’ knowledge about how to teach
reading, as well as promote student reading achievement (Spearl-Swerling,
2009; Spear-Swerling & Brucker, 2004). It also meets the criteria of teaching
about and providing experience with scientifically based reading methods
(Smart & Reschley, 2007). The summer practicum program also goes
beyond what is typically accomplished in university/school partnerships
(Prater & Sileo, 2002) by providing a controlled, but rich men-
toring, teaching, and learning environment during a pre-student teaching
Data collected thus far demonstrate that the BYU summer program was
effective in improving reading abilities of elementary-aged students with
mild-to-moderate disabilities in a relatively short amount of time (six
weeks). In addition, teacher candidates completed the practicum at high
rates of success. Anecdotal and survey data indicate that students generally
enjoyed and parents valued this experience. Mentor teachers also benefitted
from the practicum by providing opportunities to hone their own teaching
and mentoring skills.
Although data support the efficacy of this program, additional pre-
posttest data could be collected (e.g., reading comprehension and reading
errors). Also, student satisfaction could be collected more directly.
Importantly, additional research should examine the impact of the program
on both the students’ and candidates’ future performance. How well teacher
Preparing Special Educators to Teach Reading 195

candidates perform during student teaching and beyond, as well as how well
students retain their reading skills remain unanswered.
Plans for immediately improving future practicum experiences include the
use of videotaping to help shape teacher candidates’ instructional skills and
using a communication tool between the parents and the teacher candidates.
In addition, teacher candidates will be required to use the DIBELS data that
have been collected weekly to evaluate the progress of the student and based
on these data, candidates will implement appropriate instructional changes.
Data on student and teacher candidate progress, as well as parent
satisfaction will continue to be collected and will help shape and improve
the summer practicum program.

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Stephanie L. McAndrews and Shadrack G. Msengi


Purpose – This chapter describes the structure and environment of the

Cougar Literacy Clinic, the theoretical framework, and the transferred
and transformed knowledge and practices that support the constituents as
a community of learners.
Theoretical perspective/methodology – Our research embraces theories
of transfer and transformation, self-extending systems, intersubjectivity,
social constructivism, social learning, and social cultural that helps to
explain how children, families, teachers, other educators, administrators,
professors, and community members learn and benefit through mutual
interactions, as they find ways to help each other become better thinkers
and decision makers. The data were categorized into four types of
practices from the clinical experience that have transferred to and

Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom

Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Volume 2, 197–218
Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2048-0458/doi:10.1108/S2048-0458(2013)0000002013

transformed the school and community. These categories of practices

include assessment, instruction, coaching and consultation, and family–
school–community literacy connections. The data analysis and inter-
pretation demonstrate the importance of having a shared understanding
regarding literacy development, learning, and teaching that enhances each
member’s intellectual and academic growth.
Practical implications – Our Cougar Literacy Clinic innovations, built on
beliefs of shared understanding, can be a model for both existing and
newly established clinics that are striving to transform the thinking of
each member involved. During assessment practices, each of the
constituents will learn to make informed decisions on the selection of
assessments and analysis of assessment data, confidently identify their
own and others strengths and needs, and provide constructive feedback. In
the areas of instruction, reciprocal coaching, and family–school–
community literacy connections, each of the constituents will learn to
focus on strengths and prior knowledge, scaffold learning, and pose and
respond to questions.

Keywords: Literacy assessment; instructional literacy practices;

coaching; transfer; transformation; collaborative learning

What does it mean to develop a community of learners within the context of a
literacy clinic? The Cougar Literacy Clinic at Southern Illinois University
Edwardsville was established to meet the literacy learning, teaching, and
research needs of constituents namely children, families, teachers, other
educators, administrators, professors, and community members. The clinic
consists of three courses that are part of the graduate literacy program leading
to K-12 Reading Specialist Certification and approved by the International
Reading Association (IRA). Our literacy clinic includes multiple innovative
practices for assessment; instruction; coaching and consultation; and family,
school, and community literacy connections. The data collected from surveys,
interviews, observations, and debriefing analyses, conferences and discussions
from the children, family members, teachers, and professors indicated that
these practices have been transferred from the clinic to transform the school
Transfer and Transformation of Knowledge and Practices 199

and community. These data were collected before, during, and after
participation in the clinic from spring 2009 to spring 2012. Our clinic
emphasizes cognitive, social, cultural, linguistic, psychological and academic
development of children, teachers, and other constituents. In our program, the
term literacy is defined as the ability to competently read, write, speak, listen,
view, and visually represent, and apply ideas in life’s experiences. This chapter
describes the structure and environment of the Cougar Literacy Clinic, the
theoretical framework, and the transferred and transformed knowledge and
practices that support the constituents as a community of learners.



Teachers in the graduate literacy program take four foundational literacy

courses prior to the three-semester clinical practicum. After the clinical
courses, they take four literacy research and leadership courses. Upon
completion of the on-campus program, teachers earn their master’s or post
masters degree in literacy and their reading specialist certification. The
teachers in the literacy clinic, under professors’ supervision, provide literacy
assessment and tutoring services to children in grades K-12 who have
reading and writing difficulties. Families and school personnel from the
surrounding communities refer them to the clinic and complete the
application forms. The children are selected by the literacy program
director on a first come first serve basis. One clinic course is for elementary
aged children and the other is for the middle and high school children.
During the first semester, teachers learn to select, administer, and analyze
a variety of literacy assessments. After reviewing the selected child’s
background information, the teacher selects and administers individualized
assessments during three, two-hour sessions. In collaboration with their
peers and support from the professor, the teacher analyzes the qualitative
and quantitative data and writes an initial literacy development report. This
report of the student’s strengths and needs along with examples from the
assessments are shared with the family and child during the first hour-long
family conference. During each of the subsequent two semesters, teachers
plan 13 lessons, tutor children an hour and a half once a week, hold weekly
conferences with the families, and participate in weekly hour and a half peer
coaching in consultation with the literacy professor. They write an

additional literacy development report containing assessment data and an

evaluation of objectives and strategies taught. Finally, they participate in the
celebration of the children’s literacy learning and share the literacy
development reports with the family and the child at the end of each
semester. Even though the child may have tutoring more than one semester,
each teacher works with an elementary aged child during a one-semester
class and a middle/high school aged child during the other semester class.


The Cougar Literacy Clinic provides a nurturing physical, intellectual, and

social environment that greatly supports and increases bidirectional learning
among the constituents. The clinic is located on the university campus and
on the first floor of one building. It includes a library with diverse, current,
and historical collection of over 13,000 children’s fiction and nonfiction
books and media, professional books, assessments, instructional materials,
and family resources. Within the library, there is a reception and family area
for people to use resources and interact with others. There are 13 state of the
art individual clinic rooms, eight of which have in-ceiling video cameras
connected to an observation room. Two rooms have a one-way mirror for
peer, family, class, and professor observation and there is an additional
classroom space with an interactive white board and wireless Internet
connection. The social environment in the clinic encourages collaboration
among constituents to support learning, share ideas, and pose and respond
to questions. The focus for collaboration is to build on each other’s
strengths and provide specific constructive feedback for intellectual growth.
This nurturing environment enhances the transfer of learning to new


Shared understanding, social interaction, and collaboration among children,

families, teachers, other educators, administrators, professors, and commu-
nity members have been identified by our clinical data as crucial with respect
to each member’s intellectual and academic growth. Based on this
knowledge, theories regarding transfer and transformation (Mezirow,
2000), self-extending systems (Clay, 1991; Dozier, 2006; Lyons, Pinnell, &
DeFord, 1993), intersubjectivity (Tharp, Estrada, Dalton, & Yamauchi,
Transfer and Transformation of Knowledge and Practices 201

2000), social constructivist (Vygotsky, 1978), social learning (Bandura,

1977), and social cultural (Brofenbrenner, 1979) help to explain how the
constituents learn and benefit through mutual interactions, as they find
ways to help each other become better thinkers and decision makers. The
clinic supports individuals, in collaboration with others, to construct their
own knowledge about literacy, learning, teaching, and research through
in-depth discussions and innovative practices within the Cougar Literacy
Clinic. The constituents apply this knowledge as change agents in multiple


The goal of our literacy clinic is to enable the constituents (teachers, children,
families, educators, professors, and community members) to transfer and
transform learning from the clinical experience to the schools and
communities. The transfer of learning is using the knowledge and practices
acquired from the literacy clinic and applying it to new contexts such as in the
schools and community. Transfer theory is envisioned as the structuring of
learning on a ‘‘trajectory’’ toward ‘‘expertise’’ and ‘‘preparation of future
learning’’ (Bransford & Schwartz, 1999, p. 68). Teachers transfer instructional
practices and theoretical foundations from clinic context to classrooms
(Applegate et al., 2010; Deeney et al., 2005; Deeney et al., 2011; Lyons &
Beaver, 1995; Roskos & Freppon, 1997; Roskos & Rosemary, 2001). This
transfer of learning also occurs between the other constituents such as
children, family members, educators, professors, and community members.
Transformative theory is ‘‘the process by which we transform our
understanding and how we learn to negotiate and act on our own purposes,
values, feelings, and meanings rather than those we have uncritically
assimilated from others’’ (Mezirow, 2000, p. 8). According to transformative
theory, adults learn to make informed decisions through reflection by
identifying, assessing, and evaluating alternative sources of information.
Transformation represents a new way of thinking as well as a new way of
acting. The data collected from the clinic indicate that each of the
constituents has transformed their ways of thinking and learning as a result
of participating in the clinic. The teachers and professors have transformed
the knowledge and practices in the school and community in making critical
decisions for assessment and instruction to help children become better
thinkers, readers, and writers. Children and family members have learned
new strategies and skills for enhancing children’s literacy development so

that children can become independent thinkers, readers, and writers. This
transformation of knowledge occurs when the constituents learn from each
other and value having mutual decision making and a shared understanding
of the literacy process, learning, and teaching, through a shared theoretical
perspective and instructional dialogue.


One of the ways in which learning is transformed from the clinic to the
schools and community is through developing a self-extending system.
Originally coined by Clay (1991), during the Reading Recovery program,
children use their theories of the world and of oral and written language to
solve problems during reading and writing and develop a self-extending
system of literacy expertise. These theories become an interactive system of
strategies, which enables the child to monitor, cross-check, and problem
solve during their own reading (and writing) and extend the potential of the
child engaging in more difficult activities (Clay, 1991). During clinic,
teachers encourage and support this metacognitive processing in the
children they teach. Just as we support children in constructing their own
learning, teachers can support others to ‘‘acquire reasoning skills that enable
them to construct a self-generating system for making powerful decisions’’
(DeFord, Lyons, Pinnell, 1991, p. 170). According to Dozier (2006), within a
learning community, these self-extending systems are generative whereby
‘‘coaches and teachers collaboratively engage in problem-posing and
problem-solving and seek ways to promote sustained learning for teachers
and students’’ (p. 67). As a result, ‘‘coaches and teachers will notice shifts
over time as teachers transfer their understandings flexibly and competently
into new contexts’’ (Dozier, 2006, p. 67). One of the purposes of our literacy
clinic is to build a learning community that is a self-extending system,
thereby providing opportunities for the constituents to inquire collabora-
tively, to construct shared meaning, and to make decisions regarding
literacy practices (assessment, instruction, family, coaching and consulta-
tion, and school and community literacy connections).


Intersubjectivity is a shared interpretation and understanding between and

among people (Tharp et al., 2000). Joint productive activities with shared word
Transfer and Transformation of Knowledge and Practices 203

meanings, concepts, motivations, beliefs, and expectations between people

help create common context of literacy experience (Tharp et al., 2000).
Research has revealed a deep tie among language, thinking, value, and culture,
which are best fostered through meaningful use and through purposeful
conversation (Tharp et al., 2000). For example, after viewing a child who had
difficulties reading and comprehending a passage, teachers discuss the child’s
strengths and needs and arrive at a shared understanding of how to support
the child’s literacy development. During this joint productive activity,
participants use language to establish the purposes and meanings of the
activity by using common cognitive strategies and problem solving. ‘‘These
common meanings, values, and discourse become the binding structure of life
and culture of every community including schools’’ (Tharp et al., 2000, p. 59).
Also, Matusov (2001) posits that intersubjectivity is ‘‘useful for analyzing
problems emerging when the instructor and the students with traditional
educational backgrounds try to develop a teaching design of a classroom
functioning as a community of learners’’ (p. 384). In our clinic, we analyze
issues presented by professors and literacy specialist candidates in developing
communities of learners in the schools and at home.


Vygotsky’s theory of social constructivism espouses the belief that children

learn as a result of social interaction with others, and development depends
on sign systems, which include culture, language, writing, and counting
systems. An influential concept within social constructivism is the Zone of
Proximal Development, which is the distance between the actual develop-
ment level, as determined by independent problem solving, and the level of
potential development, as determined through problem solving under adult
guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers (Vygotsky, 1978, p.
86). Another key idea is scaffolding that refers to the assistance that adult
and more competent peers provide during learning episodes. Vygotsky’s
theory suggests cognitive development occurs when people experience the
use of higher mental functioning in social situations before they can
internalize such functioning and independently use it (Tracey & Morrow,
2012). For example, teachers use data from assessments and previous
lessons to help children make connections to background knowledge and
scaffold their new learning. The Cougar Literacy Clinic data supports the
social constructivist theory that individuals have learned more efficiently
through the collaboration with others.


In social learning theory, people learn more from observing others than they
do from the consequences of experiencing things themselves (Bandura,
1977). According to Bandura (1977), humans are capable of observational
learning; without it, each learner would have to experience everything him/
herself in order to learn. Instead learners observe others – their success,
failures, efforts, and style. For example, in the clinic teachers observe other
teachers lessons either directly or through video recording. During and after
the viewing of the lesson, peers discuss the teacher’s actions and children’s
responses, provide feedback, and give specific suggestions. In this manner,
as a community of learners, peers vicariously experience the teaching and
learning interactions between teachers and children with diverse learning
needs, rather than just their own teaching. In addition, during paired
lessons, children interactively learn as they collaboratively work to
accomplish literacy activities.


Social cultural theory emphasizes the role of social, cultural and linguistic
factors, which contribute to learning. According to Brofenbrenner (1979),
three spheres of influence affect human development. The innermost level of
influence is the child’s immediate environment such as their home or school.
The second level of influence is the interaction between the child’s home and
school life. The third level of influence on a child is the parents’ work
situations. These influences are important factors in the child’s development.
For example, in the clinic we asked the families and child to share
information about their home environment, culture, language, work, and
interests. The teachers use this information to make decisions about
language use, material selection, and lesson design to align with the
children’s interests and needs. For example, we had one child who was from
Germany and spoke German at home and English at school. The teacher
researched similarities and differences between the German and English
languages. The child wrote stories about his cultural experiences living in
Since the social constructivist, social learning, and socioal cultural
theories are embedded within the transfer and transformation theories, this
chapter focuses on the latter theories. By understanding and applying these
theories, the child, teachers, family members, educators and professors, in
Transfer and Transformation of Knowledge and Practices 205

collaboration with others, were able to transfer the learning from the clinic
and use this learning to transform the thinking and current practices at
home, school, and in the community.


After analyzing survey, interview, observation, and discussion data from

our graduates and families, we have identified four categories of practices
from the clinical experience that have transferred to and transformed the
school and community. These categories include assessment; instruction;
coaching and consultation; and family–school–community literacy connec-
tions, these are described in subsequent sections.


During the clinical experience, the teachers learn to evaluate a variety of

formal and informal assessments, understand their purposes, select and
administer appropriate assessments, and then analyze and report data.
There are three purposes for using assessments: assessment for learning
(diagnostic and formative), assessment as learning (self-assessment), and
assessment of learning (summative) (Cooper, 2006; McAndrews, 2008b).
After identifying the purpose of assessments, teachers are able to evaluate,
select, and administer a variety of formal and informal assessments for
language development, vocabulary development, phonological and phone-
mic awareness, phonics, word identification, emergent text concepts, oral
reading and fluency, narrative and expository text comprehension, and
writing composition. Teachers also learn affective assessments such as
attitude and interest surveys, and literacy process interviews. Many of the
assessments were developed by McAndrews (2008a) and Leslie and Caldwell
(2010). Additional assessments are shared or developed by teachers from
their teaching experience or research. For individual children, the teachers
select appropriate assessments based on the case history derived from
information provided by the families and children’s schools and the tutor’s
knowledge of children’s literacy development. Each assessment session is
video recorded to facilitate the subsequent analysis as they revisit the
students’ responses.
In collaboration with their peers and support from professors, teachers
analyze the qualitative and quantitative data to identify children’s strengths

and needs through patterns of responses within and between assessments

from multiple sources. The analysis includes the children’s language
development in terms of the form (phonology, morphology and syntax),
content (semantics, vocabulary, and use of content and function words), and
use (pragmatics, levels of formality, and register). They examine the child’s
ability to use oral reading strategies and integrate the cueing systems
(graphophonic, syntactic, and semantic) and the ability to read fluently with
phrasing, expression, conversational pace, and comprehension. They
analyze the child’s ability to identify elements of text structure (expository,
narrative and persuasive) and evaluate the child’s ability to retell texts, pose,
and respond to implicit and explicit questions. They examine their ability to
use metacognitive strategies (predicting, making inferences, connecting
background knowledge, monitoring, analyzing, synthesizing, comparing,
and contrasting, summarizing, evaluating) for comprehension. Teachers
then examine children’s writing compositions and revising for ideas and
details, organization, voice, sentence fluency, and word choice. They also
determine their ability to use and edit for conventions such as grammar,
punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. Teachers identify the children’s
ability to spell specific phonetic elements in context and identified their
spelling stages (alphabetic, within word pattern, syllables and affixes, and
derivational relations) in spelling inventories developed by Bear, Invernizzi,
Templeton, and Johnston (2012). Teachers analyze data from multiple
sources to gain a better understanding of the child’s language, reading, and
writing development.
These in-depth analyses lead to the writing of a literacy development
report. This report contains the following sections: demographics and
background information of the child; description of assessments adminis-
tered; assessment results and analysis; summary of strengths and needs for
language, reading and writing; and recommendations for families and
schools. These reports are written, revised, and edited by the teachers in
consultation with peers and professors.
At the end of each semester, teachers meet to conduct mock family, child,
and teacher conferences with their peers for feedback. During the mock
conference, the teacher describes each assessment and data analysis, and
then point out specific examples of strengths and needs from each of the
assessments administered. The other people listen, share what they learned,
provide constructive feedback, and pose and respond to questions. The
teachers hold the conference with the child, family members, and invite
school personnel to explain and share the report and review the assessments.
The child shares their own identified strengths and needs, goals for learning,
Transfer and Transformation of Knowledge and Practices 207

and interests. Teachers then explain recommendations of strategies and

activities for families and school personnel to support the child’s literacy
growth. The conference participants are encouraged to share additional
information and ask questions.
Through this conference and reciprocal exchange of information, each
participant is transformed and empowered as they learn the purpose of each
assessment, the patterns of the data that demonstrate the child’s literacy
growth and specific strengths and needs, and how these data are and can be
used to assist the child’s literacy development in the clinic, home, school,
and community.


In planning literacy lessons, it is necessary for teachers to understand

diagnostic teaching, which is defined as ‘‘the process of using instruction and
assessment at the same time to identify the instructional adjustments that
facilitate all readers (and writers) to become independent learners’’ (Walker,
2012, p. 5). In diagnostic teaching, which is supported by constructivist
theory (Walker, 2012), teachers focus on the active process of children
constructing their own knowledge. Teachers collaboratively enhance their
critical decision making when analyzing assessment data and planning
instruction (McAndrews, 2009). They plan, implement, and debrief
individual and paired lessons that integrate the literacy processes (reading,
writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and visually representing) and content
area disciplines (science, math, social science, literature, visual arts,
performing arts, and physical education). These lesson plans take into
consideration the child’s cognitive, social, cultural, psychological, and
linguistic development. The lesson plans contain the following sections:
objectives with Common Core Standards (Common Core State Standard
Initiative, 2012); materials; procedures; strategies and evaluation for oral
reading and fluency, language and vocabulary, comprehension, writing
composition, phonics and spelling; modifications, adaptations, and exten-
sions; technology; closure with student’s reflection; evidence of student work;
family communication; and teacher’s self-reflection of teaching and learning.
Teachers first identify and sequence the objectives to align with the
assessment data or previous instruction. The objectives are written in
behavioral terms and included four components: rationale for learning,
student behavior, assessment with conditions, and evaluation criteria.
Teachers select instructional strategies from course materials and school and

peer resources that align with the initial objectives. The teacher and child
select materials that aligned with objectives, reading, or writing levels and
the child’s interest. During instruction, teachers explain and model
strategies, and provide guided and independent practice. Children learn
how to monitor their reading and writing through metacognitive processes,
then apply strategies to enhance reading comprehension and writing
composition. The teacher and the child evaluate the child’s learning and
the teaching based on the objective criteria. After each tutoring session, the
child shares their learning with the family members and the teacher
reinforces the learning and literacy strategies with the family.
According to the observational and interview data of our graduates,
teachers transferred this knowledge of instruction when they identified
specific objectives, selected appropriate strategies and materials from a
variety of resources, and supported children in developing a self-extending
system in their schools. They transformed other teachers’ and educators’
instructional practices when they collaborated to plan, implement, and
evaluate lessons, based on children’s individual strengths and needs.


In our clinic, we prepare teachers to be literacy coaches and leaders who are
reflective practitioners in their schools, districts, and communities. As per
the Standards for Reading Professionals (International Reading Association,
2010) reading specialists/literacy coaches responsibilities may include
teaching, coaching, and leading school reading programs. They ‘‘may also
serve as a resource in reading and writing for educational support personnel,
administrators, teachers and the community; provide professional devel-
opmenty; work collaboratively with other professionals; and serve as
advocates for studentsy’’ (International Reading Association, 2010, p. 49).
According to Dozier (2006), teachers and coaches inquire, share, and work
collaboratively as they engage in ‘‘joint productive activities,’’ which extends
their thinking and learning (p. 34). In this process, they gain trust and
improve their ongoing relationships between and among themselves. During
literacy coaching, it is important to understand the influence of past
experience, input and choice, and the need for reflection and inquiry
(McKenna & Walpole, 2008).
Reciprocal coaching and consultation between educators focuses on the
strengths and needs of each adult as they learn from each other to arrive at a
shared understanding. MacKeracher (2004) as cited in McKenna & Walpole
Transfer and Transformation of Knowledge and Practices 209

(2008) describes adult learning as a cycle: (1) the learner participates in

experiences and activities that result in the intake of information; (2) the
learner makes sense of the experience by giving it meaning and value; (3) the
learner uses meanings in problem solving, decision making, and other
cognitive processes to develop plans; (4) the learner acts on plans and tests
choices; (5) responses from others and observations by the learners provide
feedback as new information for learners, and then learner begins the cycle
again. In our clinic, we provide collaborative activities, which help to
develop coaching abilities in our teachers. Peers and groups work together
to share practices; plan, teach, and debrief lessons; and engage in and
facilitate professional development and leadership activities to enhance their
own and other’s thinking and instruction.


During the literacy program, teachers coach each other in using a variety of
literacy practices. They each develop a resource notebook containing
strategies, materials, assessments, and technologies for each of the literacy
processes such as language development, vocabulary, phonics and word
identification, oral reading, comprehension, study skills, and writing
composition. These resources come from professional books, professional
journals, web resources, libraries, previous teaching and learning experi-
ences, other professionals, and self-created resources. During each course,
teachers and professors present and share these practices, which include the
purpose, procedures, specific children’s examples, and adaptations. Tea-
chers share their resources in the notebooks in several ways. For example,
when a colleague wanted support on vocabulary instruction, the pair
discussed several strategies and selected the ‘‘Concept of Definition’’
(Schwartz & Raphael, 1985 as cited in McAndrews, 2008a) strategy to
identify word meanings on the basis of categories, properties, and illustrations
that aligned with the teacher’s instructional objective and children’s needs.
Another example was when a teacher’s school literacy committee identified a
need for improving instruction in writing, the teacher researched and
selected appropriate assessments and resources from the resource notebook
and other sources, and explained and modeled several of them for their
school faculty. The faculty then selected and applied the practices.
Afterward the faculty met to discuss their effectiveness and adaptations.
Teachers also shared strategies from their resource notebook with families
and other educators during phone and face-to-face conferences, family

nights, and through paper and online newsletters and handouts. Families
and teachers supported their children in using these practices at home and at
school. From presentations and lessons shared, professors also gained
knowledge of additional instructional practices and their effectiveness. This
allowed them to expand their repertoire of strategies, materials, assessments,
and technologies. This process of sharing practices transformed and
empowered teachers, families, and professors to make informed decisions
regarding using these practices in their schools and communities.


During clinic, teachers planned, taught, and debriefed individual and paired
lessons. The lessons were not only designed to meet the needs of the children
being tutored and their families but also to expand the teachers’
understanding of instruction and repertoire of strategies and materials.
The discussion and debriefing of the lesson and teaching materials with
another person actually transforms how each individual thinks (Cobb, 1988;
Vygotsky, 1978). As they discuss with peers, teachers clarify ideas, make
connections to prior learning, negotiate meaning, resolve cognitive conflicts,
develop new skills, and construct new knowledge, whereby learning becomes
the biproduct of that interaction (King, 1997). During planning, teaching,
and debriefing, teachers coached each other by examining data from
multiple sources including the assessments; reports; lesson plans; child, self,
and peer reflections; anecdotal records; children’s work samples; discourse
analysis from video, observations and debriefing; professor’s feedback and
family communication. Using the lesson plan format, the teachers
collaboratively brainstormed the selection of appropriate objectives,
strategies, and materials. Teachers also discussed the use of specific
language to scaffold children’s learning and metacognitive strategies. Paired
planned lessons, for two children, served as a beneficial tool for teachers as
well as children, to collaborate and learn from each other. During tutoring,
one of the teachers taught one lesson, while the other observed, took notes,
wrote a reflection, and vice-versa. At the end of each lesson, the child shared
what they learned from the lesson and explained the homework to their
family members. The teacher then reinforced what the child shred and
supplemented any additional information. After the lesson, the teacher and
peers debriefed the tutoring session to share ideas, develop and refine the
next lesson plan. Each lesson plan with reflection was also submitted to the
professor for feedback.
Transfer and Transformation of Knowledge and Practices 211

During instruction, lessons are also observed and/or video recorded.

Video serves as a ‘‘catalyst for reflection and critical dialogue’’ (Hartford &
MacRuairc, 2008, p. 1890). Video based instruction can capture the
‘‘complexities’’ of classrooms (Kurz, Llama, & Savenye, 2004, p. 68) and
represent a versatile medium for deconstructing practice (Newhouse, Lane,
& Brown, 2007), which may provide a window for examining the many
subtleness of classroom teaching (Brophy, 2004).In the clinic, the teachers
and professors use the video as a device to observe teaching, model
instruction, provide constructive feedback, and debrief the lessons. During
the debriefing they analyze discourse, pose questions, problem solve, notice
and name specific teacher and child behaviors using academic vocabulary,
and provide specific feedback to enhance instruction. Professors also use
archived videos to provide teachers with examples of instruction. Teachers
view, analyze, and discuss the videos to identify effective and ineffective
instructional practices, and problem solve alternatives. In addition, the child
and their families used the video or observation information to identify the
child’s strengths and needs, and learn about strategies to use at home or at
school. With permission from families, videos are also used as instructional
tools at professional conferences and teacher in-services to identify and
model effective instructional practices. According to the teacher surveys, the
video reflection and debriefing was beneficial in not only identifying areas
for improvement but also reaffirming teachers’ ability to make informed
decisions regarding their knowledge of literacy practices and development.
Initially the process of collaborative planning, teaching, and debriefing
lessons occur in the clinic, however, this reflective process serves as a model
to support and coach colleagues and transform the professional develop-
ment and instruction of teachers and other professionals in the schools and


The role of the reading specialist/literacy coach is not only to enhance the
literacy development of children but also to demonstrate and facilitate
professional learning and leadership in schools and communities (Interna-
tional Reading Association, 2010). Based on Guskey’s (2000) definition,
professional development includes those processes and activities designed to
enhance the professional knowledge, skills, and attitudes of educators, so
that they might, in turn, improve the learning of students. The knowledge
about reading improves when teachers and professionals participate in

intensive, extended programs of professional development in reading and

writing (Brady et al., 2009).
In our clinic, teachers are constantly engaged in and facilitate their own
and others professional development through activities such as professional
reading, action research, literacy leadership teams, conferences, and
organizations. Our teachers participate in book clubs and study groups.
For example, one teacher was concerned about her ability to conduct
writing lessons. She read articles and books on writing and started a book
club with teachers at her school using, Marvelous Minilessons for Teaching
Intermediate Writing, Grades 4–6 (Rog, 2011).
Teachers use action research to study a real concern in a real school or
classroom to reflect and improve the quality of action and instruction
(Hensen, 1996; Schumuck, 1997). As they prepare to become literacy
leaders, each teacher in our literacy clinic identifies their own concerns in
their school environment and designs a year-long action research project to
address the identified concern. In the process, they determine a concern,
conduct a literature review, plan the methodology, collect and analyze data,
discuss and reflect on the results and their learning. They conclude and
provide recommendations for future implementation and study. For
example, one teacher researched teaching kindergarten literacy skills in the
science content, while another researched strategies to support reading
comprehension at the high school level. Our teachers engaged in reflective
inquiry, considered theories, knowledge and beliefs; and designed,
implemented, and evaluated their action research.
Our teachers also participate in and facilitate literacy leadership teams in
their schools and develop yearly goals. One teacher developed a school
needs survey and then worked with her colleagues to develop a school-wide
writing curriculum with assessments. Another teacher worked with her
grade 3–5 school to implement reading comprehension strategies. Her
school piloted and adopted The Comprehension Toolkit (Harvey & Goudvis,
2005) that included instruction to monitor comprehension, activate and
connect, ask questions, infer meaning, determine importance, and summar-
ize and synthesize.
Our teachers participate in and facilitate presentations at their schools
and at professional organizations. For example, one teacher demonstrated
how to use smart boards to teach phonics and word recognition in context.
Another teacher, presented at the Illinois Reading Council Annual
Conference on how to conduct writing conferences with primary grade
children. We have five graduates who hold offices in local and state literacy
Transfer and Transformation of Knowledge and Practices 213

Our graduates became change agents who advocated for organizational

and instructional changes that promoted effective literacy instruction at the
school, district and state level.



Family, school, and community literacy connections are vital for supporting
children’s literacy development that reflects children’s background and
interests. Family literacy is a complex concept. According to Morrow
(2012), it ‘‘encompasses the ways families, children and extended family
members use literacy at school and in their community’’ (p. 418). Drawing
from Morrow’s (2012) descriptions of family literacy, family literacy may be
initiated by a family member, school personnel, or community member; it
involves family literacy activities that reflect the ethnic, racial, or cultural
heritage of the families involved; and it involves families participating in
home and school communication, family–teacher conferences, classroom
literacy activities, school-wide family literacy programs, literacy workshops
and community literacy programs. Frequent and positive school-to-home
communication (in the form of phone calls, progress reports, conferences,
personal notes, newsletters, and home visits) helps parents feel more self-
confident, more comfortable with the school, and more likely to become
involved (Epstein, 1994). Epstein (1994) also explains that parents are more
likely to participate in schools if they receive information from teachers
about classroom activities, the progress of their children, and how to work
with their children at home. Data from Msengi’s (2007) study indicates
educators should consider multiple sources of information in order to assist
the child’s reading efforts. ‘‘A better level of sharing needs to be encouraged
between family members, the child, and the child’s teacher regarding their
respective expectations and goals concerning the child’s reading effort and
achievement’’ (Msengi, 2007). Epstein (1994) points out that the involve-
ment of families in schools leads to overlapping spheres of influence between
the home, school, and community. Thinking of the school as an extended
family can help to create a positive school climate, increase their
understanding, and respect for student and family diversity, creating a
more caring school climate (Epstein, 1994).
In our clinic, teachers and families collaborate to support home and
school literacy connections through regular communication, conferences,

and providing resources. First, the family and teachers from the child’s
school learn about the Cougar Literacy Clinic from references, fliers, or the
university website. Then if interested, they complete the literacy clinic
application forms. These forms provide background information regarding
the child’s physical, social/behavioral, academic, cognitive, and language
development, as well as culture, interests and attitude.
Professors meet with teachers to discuss the family forms and how to
conduct family conferences such as being sure to include the child’s
strengths prior to the child’s needs and providing specific suggestions and
strategies. The teachers contact the family to introduce themselves and to
gain clarification and additional information in the application forms, if
needed. This baseline data provides the information for selection of the
initial assessments.
Ongoing family conferences are vital tools used for regular communica-
tion between teachers, children, family members, professors, and other
educators. They meet before and after assessment, and after every tutoring
session. Following the initial assessment, the tutor, child, and family hold a
conference to discuss the initial assessment results and potential instruc-
tional objectives based on the child’s strengths and needs. The child and
family share learning goals and interests, which helps the teacher to plan
lessons. Then, the teachers provide information about the structure of the
tutoring sessions and respond to any questions that the child or family had.
After each tutoring session, the teacher, child, and family hold a
conference to help make connections between what the child did at home,
at school, and in the clinic. First, the child shares the reading and writing
strategies used and learned during tutoring while the teacher supplemented
success stories about the child’s learning and areas of need with suggested
strategies. Next, the child and teacher explain the homework related to the
lesson’s objectives. Finally, the family share the child’s successes and
concerns at home and school.
At the end of each semester, the teachers meet with their peers and
professors to analyze data and write the literacy development report. The
family, child and teacher meet to celebrate the child’s literacy development
and review the literacy development report. During the celebration of
learning, the child orally reads his/her writing published in the newspaper.
The teacher and child share the literacy development report with the families
and school personnel. The literacy report contains background knowledge,
pre- and post-literacy assessment results and analysis, evaluation of
objectives and strategies taught, and suggestions of strategies for family
and teachers to enhance the child’s literacy development. In addition, the
Transfer and Transformation of Knowledge and Practices 215

family share orally and complete a survey about the overall observation of
the benefits and suggestions regarding the future development of the clinic.
The professors and teachers provide the families with demonstrations,
handouts, articles, websites, and books of suggestions and strategies to use
when encouraging and supporting reading at home and at school. Children,
family, and community members can also check out books and materials
from the clinic library. Families often share information about their child,
family, and school. They regularly ask and respond to questions. During
this bidirectional communication, each participant gains knowledge about
ways of communicating especially as related to instruction, literacy
development, areas of the child’s strengths and needs, and interests. This
shared understanding of the child’s development enables teachers, families
and educators to better support the child in their literacy growth.


The major focus of this chapter was to explain how our literacy clinic
supported the transfer and transformation of knowledge and practice from
the clinical experiences to schools and communities. Our clinical practices
are based not only on theories of self-extending systems, intersubjectivity,
social constructivist, social learning, and socioal cultural but also on
theories of transfer and transformation. We explained how the synergy
between the child, family, teacher, educators, and professors, reflectively
transformed each other’s thinking and learning as they strived to achieve
shared goals. The data from our research has unveiled several elements of
transformation with implications for newly or already established clinics.
Each of the constituents became transformed individuals when they
changed their thinking and perspectives as a result of collaborating with
others. They transformed their thinking about the areas of assessment;
instruction; coaching and consultation; and family, school, and community
connections. First, in the area of assessment, each of the constituents have
learned to confidently identify their own and others strengths and needs, and
provide constructive feedback. Teachers, other educators, and professors
learned to make informed decisions on the section of assessments and
analysis of assessment data. While, in the area of instruction, each of the
constituents have learned to focus on strengths, pose and respond to
thoughtful implicit and explicit questions, and select appropriate materials
and literacy activities. Children learned to monitor their learning and use
reading and writing strategies for authentic purposes. Teachers, other

professionals, and professors became experienced in making informed

decisions about instruction and design lessons that reflected the diverse
strengths and needs of children and adults. Next, in the area of coaching and
consultation, teachers, educators, and professors learned to develop a
community of learners. They supported their own and other’s learning by
participating and conducting professional development. They modeled
effective instructional practices and provided and received resources.
Through these experiences they reflected on and adapted their current
thinking and instructional practices. Lastly, for developing family, school and
community connections, all constituents engaged in bidirectional commu-
nication, supported each other’s learning, and shared their ideas, values,
cultural beliefs, and resources. Families were regularly invited to share their
child’s achievements and concerns, and to participate in ongoing conferences.
Based on these collaborative clinical practices and experiences, the
thinking of each child, teacher, family member, educator, and professor has
been changed and transformed as they gained a shared understanding
regarding literacy development, learning, and teaching. As a community of
learners, our work and thinking continues to evolve as we interact with
others to discover new ideas and practices to further enhance the experience
in the Cougar Literacy Clinic. To further transform our clinic, we are
planning to create a website for the reading clinic providing information and
resources to families, develop an archive of teaching videos of effective
literacy practices, and an archive of coaching videos to support teachers’
self-study, reflection, and professional development.

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Patricia Paugh and Mary Brady

Purpose – To provide educators with an overview of issues and strategies
important for preparing preservice teachers to plan instruction, engage
students, and assess learning in culturally and linguistically diverse
Design/methodology/approach – The chapter reviews sociocultural,
sociolinguistic, and cognitive literature that informs differentiated
instruction for linguistic diversity. It then offers a case study example
of a preservice student teaching seminar where this knowledge was put
into practice.

Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom

Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Volume 2, 219–241
Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2048-0458/doi:10.1108/S2048-0458(2013)0000002014

Findings – Content provides detailed information about the design of a

preservice seminar that included the role of a nationally piloted per-
formance assessment. It demonstrates how preparing the assessment
portfolio provided a vehicle for a structured and useful focus on diversity
within the seminar.
Research limitations/implications – The chapter highlights literature
that is specifically useful for preservice teachers and their instructors who
are seeking to address the specific needs of English Language Learners
and the culturally diverse population of students found in U.S. classrooms.
This is important to those who seek to expand this attention to diversity
within general teacher education practices.
Practical implications – This chapter serves as a resource for all clinical
instructors, providing ideas for incorporation into their clinics and
Originality/value of paper – Culturally responsive teaching and a specific
focus on teaching English Language Arts for linguistically diverse
students are infused in clinical teacher education practices rather than
as ‘‘add-on’’ practices.

Keywords: English Language Learners; culturally responsive teaching;

preservice performance assessment; differentiated instruction

Preservice teacher education programs are challenged to prepare candidates to

support an increasingly diverse population of students within today’s literacy
classrooms. This is especially urgent in high-poverty communities where a lack
of such preparation contributes to low teacher retention (Moore Johnson,
2004). This chapter responds to the call for specific attention to cultural and
linguistic diversity as a priority, rather than an ‘‘add on’’ for preservice
preparation. It explores the question, ‘‘In what ways can US teacher educators
prepare preservice candidates to teach diverse learners in the complex political
and social settings that make up urban literacy classrooms?’’ The authors, two
university teacher education faculty members, in literacy and special education
respectively, offer theoretical and practical insights about preparing preservice
candidates to teach English Language Arts in these classrooms. They frame
the discussion using the experience of working with six preservice teachers in
the practicum seminar.
Preparing Preservice Teachers to Differentiate Instruction 221



For these preservice candidates, the social and political context of their teacher
education experience requires learning to adapt instruction to a range of
learners. The ‘‘urban mission’’ of their university nurtures a goal of academic
success embedded in respect for differences across perspectives, values, and
cultures. The teacher education programs at this public university place a
majority of student teaching candidates in local public schools in a nearby
high-need urban district. As evidenced by intractable achievement gaps
between dominant and nondominant cultural groups, students in poorer
districts such as this are not being well served (Artiles, Kozleski, Trent, Osher,
& Ortiz, 2010; Heyman & Vigil, 2008). Teachers need focused scaffolds during
their preservice preparation specifically intended to develop confident and
successful literacy educators who remain teaching in urban classrooms where
they are most needed (Darling-Hammond, Wei, & Johnson, 2009).
National and state educational reforms continue to reshape teachers’ work
especially in high-need schools. At the national level, the 2004 reorganization
of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) changed the
identification process for students with learning disabilities from a ‘‘dis-
crepancy’’ model (i.e., defining learning disability by gaps between tested
intelligence and achievement) to a model known as Response to Intervention
(RTI). RTI refocuses attention on meeting the instructional needs of
struggling students quickly and within the mainstream classroom through
ongoing assessment and differentiation of instruction. It is now necessary that
mainstream teachers differentiate instruction for all students. As cultural and
linguistic difference is often conflated with learning disabilities, it is important
that preservice teachers have tools they need to understand their students’
abilities (e.g., the cultural and linguistic resources they bring to the classroom)
while also knowing how to respond instructionally to those who struggle. This
is especially needed to serve those who are currently English Language
Learners (ELLs) (Lucas, Villegas, & Freedson-Gonzalez, 2008). This was a
critical expectation for these six candidates due to state-level legislation passed
in 2002 eliminating bilingual education. The result has been placement of large
numbers of ELLs in classrooms where teachers have not been prepared to
address their content and language learning needs (Nieto, 2009).
All of these reform efforts and realities affect the role of classroom
teachers. Therefore, quality preservice education necessitates that candi-
dates are able to focus on the local context as they

 differentiate instruction in classrooms that simultaneously supports their

students’ linguistic and content development;
 engage in dynamic assessment to determine instructional practices for all
students within a learning environment, especially those who are
 and, recognize and fully utilize the resources within the local and school
community including families and specialist supports.

Involvement in a national pilot of a preservice performance assessment

focused on teaching English Language Arts provided an opportunity to
better understand and respond to the needs of these candidates as they
transferred their learning from courses and the seminar itself to teaching of
first- and second-grade urban students.



The federally mandated meta-analysis of research on the teaching of reading

conducted by the National Reading Panel (NRP) and published in 2000
ushered in the age of No Child Left Behind in the United States. The NRP
analyzed experimental and quasi-experimental research on learning to read and
consolidated knowledge for teaching reading into five ‘‘pillars’’: phonemic
awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension that have been
extensively adopted as guidelines for the teaching of reading (National Institute
of Child Health and Development, 2000). This definition of ‘‘what counts as
reading’’ has been both welcomed and highly critiqued within the educational
establishment. For many, these findings have ‘‘solved the reading wars’’ (Snow,
Burns, & Griffin, 1998) by offering solid guidance for understanding effective
reading and linking this process to clear instruction. For others, distorted
applications of this research have ‘‘unbalanced’’ reading instruction in several
ways: (1) through narrow use of prescriptive curriculum programs (McGill-
Franzen, 2005); (2) through the erasure of practices complementary to basic
reading skill instruction such as attention to student engagement, inclusion of
culturally relevant instruction, and development of students’ metacognition
about ‘‘how language works’’ (Cummins, 2007); and (3) by the misuse of
assessments that have not been validated on special populations such as ELLs
(Klingner & Edwards, 2006). Many of the critiques above are especially
relevant in high-poverty urban school districts where prescriptive curriculum is
Preparing Preservice Teachers to Differentiate Instruction 223

more prevalent and the student population is more culturally, linguistically, and
ethnically diverse. In an age where student learning is the central focus for
analyzing the success or failure of instruction, the paradigm of ‘‘best practices’’
or ‘‘what works’’ must be tempered to include a focus on the students within the
context of their community, schools, and classrooms. As Klingner and
Edwards argue, finding instruction that ‘‘works’’ needs to include ‘‘what works,
with whom, by whom, and in what context?’’ (p. 108).
To meet the challenge of preparing candidates for context-based, student-
driven instruction, both authors utilized the opportunity to participate,
along with the candidates, in a national pilot of the Elementary English
Language Arts portion of the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA), a
multiple measure assessment of preservice teaching focused on student
learning (edTPA, 2012). TPA provided an opportunity to explore how
candidates made meaning of their emergent instructional practices at an
important transition point between their course completion and their first
experiences as licensure candidates taking responsibility for teaching in early
elementary classrooms.


The TPA is a multiple measure assessment currently undergoing a national
pilot for preservice teacher credentialing purposes. Its development evolved
from the Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT). The
PACT was developed by a consortium of California universities and adopted
as a valid and reliable instrument for use in that state (Pecheone & Chung,
2006). The TPA requires teacher candidates to assemble a structured portfolio
around four performance tasks that reflect the teaching process: planning,
instruction, assessment, and academic language. The tasks, intended to
represent a capstone practicum experience, document learning in a 3–5 lesson
‘‘learning segment’’ in a single subject area. Throughout, the focus is to
connect their teaching to students’ learning. Candidates are asked to plan and
reflect on their teaching of a set of lessons differentiated to meet needs of all
learners in the classroom. A component of the planning task is a ‘‘Context for
Learning’’ form that requires gathering information such as language
background, interests, and/or identified special education needs for all

students in the class, and information on school conditions that might impact
teaching of the lessons. The lesson planning process requires both content and
language objectives with specific attention to academic language. Candidates
are asked to assemble and reflect upon evidence of students’ learning including
a video segment of their teaching, student work samples, and other unit or
lesson specific assessment instruments. Written responses are integrated into
all tasks and scored using a series of rubrics. The assessment is designed to be
scored by outside evaluators, although in the case framed here, it was scored
by two readers at the university in partial fulfillment of the portfolio
requirement for graduation from the university master’s degree program.
PACT/TPA is described in the literature as providing a reflective view of the
complex act of teaching that is not adequately measured by incidental
classroom observational visits or standardized tests of teacher knowledge
(Chung, 2008; Milanowski, Heneman, & Kimball, 2011). The literature
illuminates unique features of the PACT/TPA that differ from traditional
forms of preservice assessment. The first is an ‘‘educative’’ design focus
(Pecheone, 2012) based on social learning theories such as reflection in action,
situated learning theories, and apprentice-based learning (Chung, 2008).
Another feature is the focus on the complex language demands needed for
teaching the content, an issue especially necessary for the teaching of ELLs
(Bunch, Aguirre, & Tellez, 2009). The political implications of the TPA as a
nationally adopted, standardized assessment system for preservice teachers
remain controversial (see Cochran-Smith, Piazza, & Power, in press). Useful to
this program, however, was its theoretical framing of teacher learning that
centered the practicum as a learning site where local, state, and national issues
pertinent to an urban context were integrally related to each candidate’s
practice. The following section explores how two major theoretical frame-
works can inform candidates in developing and enacting English Language
Arts pedagogy directly focused on the students taught in their practicum


A supportive framework for preservice teachers to effectively differentiate
instruction for the specific configuration of students within their local
classrooms requires addressing the problem of ‘‘complexity’’ at both macro
and micro levels (Artiles et al., 2010). What this means is attending to the
Preparing Preservice Teachers to Differentiate Instruction 225

differentiation focus suggested by federal and state policies but understanding

how to render them productive for all students in the local contexts of practice.
For example, the founding goal of the IDEA legislation is to protect the civil
rights of students with special educational needs. Artiles et al. (2010) question
whether these goals are being realized for the range of culturally and
linguistically diverse (CLD) students in local classrooms. The current iteration
of this legislation, RTI holds as its central tenet the focus on differentiated
instruction in mainstream classrooms. Preparing classroom teachers in an
‘‘English-only’’ state prompts closer attention to the specific learning needs of
ELLs as a case for differentiation (Lucas, Villegas, & Freedson-Gonzales,
2008). Santamaria (2009) offers a unique opportunity to consider the
overlapping intentions of both Differentiated Instruction and Culturally
Responsive Teaching (CRT), two theoretical frames that are rarely included
as complementary within the educational discourse.

Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated instruction is a philosophical orientation that recognizes that

student differences and the educational responses to them are socially
constructed phenomenon (Santamaria, 2009). Thus, it is the main thrust of
the RTI model. Here the goal is to shift the orientation from the student’s
individual capacity as a learner to a focus on the interactions between the
student and the learning environment. The affordances of RTI’s three-tiered
model for struggling students is the immediate attention given to their
academic achievement within their current classroom (Tier 1); as opposed to
the formerly lengthy process of identification and ‘‘diagnosis’’ that often
leaves learners’ unaccommodated for too long (i.e., ‘‘waiting to fail’’), RTI
provides universal screening, immediate interventions with research-based
instructional practices, and ongoing progress monitoring that aligns closely
with regular classroom instruction. Teachers who are familiar with such
practices are able to adjust the classroom instruction to meet a greater range
of students’ needs. As result, there is a more accurate and finely tuned
process for assigning intensive small group and individual interventions at
Tiers 2 and 3 to those who truly need this attention (Gersten & Dimino,
2008). Differentiated instruction as described by Tomlinson (2003 as cited in
Santamaria, 2009) can be envisioned across the following areas:
 Content: All students should have access to the content, all key concepts
and generalizations must be clear, and adjustments to instruction must be
made to account for student diversity;

 Process: Critical and creative thinking must be emphasized and managed,

and flexible opportunities for student interactions and engagement must
be provided;
 Product: Expectations and requirements must be adjusted appropriately.

Critiques that address the affordances and constraints of differentiating

instruction within RTI point out that cultural and linguistic diversity are not
adequately addressed in this model. Santamaria and others suggest that
theoretical models, specifically sociocultural and sociolinguistic theories
focused on cultural and linguistic diversity, can productively inform this

Culturally Responsive Teaching

While differentiated instruction addresses student diversity, its central focus

is on academic differences in the cognitive domain (Tomlinson, 2003). Peda-
gogical models that look to the integration of the academic with attention to
culture and language require theoretical models that expand outside the
cognitive domains. CRT is socioculturally centered, that is, it is a way of
teaching that uses cultural references to impart knowledge, skills, and atti-
tudes (Ladson-Billings, 1995). This expanded perspective (Ballantyne,
Sanderman, & Levy, 2008; DeJong & Harper, 2005; Esparza-Brown &
Doolittle, 2008; Klingner & Edwards, 2006) addresses current problems
within institutional schooling that lead to the achievement gaps described
earlier including:
 Issues of cultural differences within classroom participation structures:
This includes understanding students who are not acculturated to public
participation in classroom routines, or students whose expectations about
interacting do not match US classroom cultures that expect competition
or collaboration.
 Issues of cultural difference related to student background: This includes
families who associate literacy practices with school success and as a result
misunderstand messages sent home from school to work with their
children, or students who are unfamiliar with US conceptions of race or
ethnicity and may be confused with how nondominant groups may be
positioned within society.
Mismatches such as these between teachers’ and students’ cultural
expectations often produce attitudes that further marginalize the latter.
Preparing Preservice Teachers to Differentiate Instruction 227

The rich literature on CRT offers guidelines for addressing cultural

diversity in the classroom. Richards, Brown, and Forde (2007) summarize
this literature across three dimensions: institutional, personal, and instruc-
tional. The latter two dimensions provide guidelines especially useful in the
clinical preparation of preservice teachers. On a personal level, beliefs and
cultural assumptions held by teachers may interfere with cross-cultural
communication. Exploring personal history with students to welcome a
greater range of perspectives within the classroom is recommended. On the
instructional dimension several techniques are suggested to engage students.
These include acknowledging cultural and linguistic differences as well as
similarities; validating students’ cultural identities in classroom practices
and materials; educating students about the world around them, promoting
equity and respect among students of diverse cultures and languages within
the classroom; assessing students’ ability and achievement using instruments
validated on students like them; fostering positive relationships among
school, families, and community; motivating students to actively participate
in their learning; holding high expectations for all students to strive for
excellence; and assisting students in becoming socially and politically
Such practices reshape curriculum across an additive rather than a
subtractive or deficit view of difference. In addition, when differentiating
instruction in linguistically diverse classrooms, culturally responsive
curriculum requires guidelines that are specifically related to language. This
is a priority for ELLs who are learning academic content (Esparza-Brown &
Doolittle, 2008).

Linguistically Responsive Pedagogy for English

Language Arts

Preservice teachers can expect that they will be responsible for teaching
ELLs (Lucas & Villegas, 2008). This expectation is certain for the candidates
who are placed in urban schools. Yet, as of 2008, only one in six preservice
teacher education programs required ELL-oriented content (Ballantyne
et al., 2008). Thus, the preservice experience must begin to build specific
knowledge about ELLs and provide specific guidelines attending to their
needs within the mainstream classroom. This knowledge spans both
attitudes and beliefs about ELLs as well as knowledge about the roles of
both first and second language and academic success.



In accordance with tenets of CRT, it is important to avoid stereotypes that

consider ELLs to be a homogeneous group. Therefore, including a student’s
life and language history as part of the formative assessment and
instructional planning is fundamental. Teachers who do not understand
how a student’s first language (L1) relates to English (L2) can fall into a
‘‘deficit’’ thinking trap where limited English is equated with limited
cognition. The consequences of such expectations are instruction that is
unnecessarily narrow in focus or at lower levels of cognitive complexity
(DeJong & Harper, 2005; Klingner & Edwards, 2006). It is helpful for
teachers to recognize bilingual strategies such as code-switching are
beneficial and helpful in promoting L2 English development. Linguistically
responsive teachers understand that L1 skills benefit English learning and
that use of L1 does not indicate language delay or language confusion.
In the classroom, depending upon ‘‘research-based’’ instructional
practices is only beneficial if the validity of those practices for ELLs is
examined. For example, ‘‘best practices’’ often assume that all students in a
classroom possess a strong foundation in oral English and/or an intrinsic
understanding of its grammar and discourse practices that is not the case for
ELLs (DeJong & Harper, 2005).The use of assessments that are valid for the
population represented ensures that resulting interventions are not overly
narrow in focus or result in misdirection of ELLs into inappropriate special
educational programs (Artiles et al., 2010; Esparza-Brown, & Doolittle,
2008; Meskill, 2005; Santamaria, 2009).



Prioritized in guidelines for ‘‘how’’ to teach English Language Arts as a

content area in linguistically diverse classrooms is explicit attention to the
structures and functions of English in relationship to those of students’
primary languages. Thus, it is important that teachers know the primary
languages and literacy levels in those languages for all their students. DeJong
and Harper (2005)1 provide a concise summary of key differences important to
reading and writing development for ELLs. These understandings are helpful
Preparing Preservice Teachers to Differentiate Instruction 229

for responding to linguistic difference when considering the ‘‘five pillars’’

practices offered by the NRP. Briefly, as noted above, many classroom reading
programs assume a depth and breadth of vocabulary and structural
understandings about English that ELLs do not possess. Thus, ELLs may
need more time developing background and content understandings. Scaffold-
ing reading discussions helps these students develop both oral and literacy
skills in English. Second, ELLs’ native languages may differ substantially in
grammatical structures affecting word structure, word order in sentences and
phrases, as well as full-text organization structures. Issues affecting ELLs’
academic English development may include differences between L1 and L2 in
use of tense, plural forms, or larger topic-centered text organizational struc-
tures (e.g., typical English paragraphs lead with a topic sentence followed by
supportive details). This affects the underlying cuing systems that these readers
rely on. Linguistically responsive teaching is (1) explicit in these areas for both
reading and writing, (2) willing to value and connect L1 and English as a central
part of the classroom instructional process, and (3) aware that ELLs whose
oral English proficiency may appear well developed still need explicit teaching
of academic forms of English necessary in school.



Six preservice teachers who participated in a practicum seminar during the

spring of 2012 offer a mini-case study of ‘‘how’’ candidates can be best
supported as they differentiate English Language Arts instruction in urban
classrooms.2 All identified English as their primary language. The age
range of the candidates spanned mid-50s (1), early 40s (2), and mid to late
20s (3). Four identified ethnically as non-Hispanic White, one as African
American, and one as Iranian American. The candidates were required to
complete the TPA performance assessment by analyzing a ‘‘learning
segment’’ in the English Language Arts in either a first- or second-grade
classroom placement in an urban school. The essential literacy goals for
each of the segments spanned both reading and writing. Topics included
author’s purpose, biography as a genre, differentiating fact from opinion,
writing a persuasive letter, finding details for describing characters and
events, distinguishing fantasy and reality, and writing ‘‘how to’’

(procedural texts). While their coursework had included study of practical

and philosophical aspects of the frameworks for differentiating instruction
described above, it was in the seminar that they were expected to act on
that learning.



Their performances, assessed through the TPA, required that they take on
positions of responsibility for their students’ learning. The TPA framework
anchored their focus on differentiation. The TPA served to mediate the
structure of the semester-long seminar. Before planning their lessons,
candidates completed the Context for Learning Form, by collecting learning
profiles for all students in their classrooms. This process necessitated confer-
encing with the classroom teacher and other specialists in the school, a
recommendation prominent in the literature on differentiation for ELLs. In
the following section, the authors will outline two specific seminar activities
designed to then scaffold candidates in preparing, teaching and later reflecting
on this differentiation during their ELA ‘‘learning segments.’’ First, Mary
Brady will share her lesson planning strategies that incorporated both
Principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and the Sheltered
Instruction Observation Protocol model (SIOP). Next, Pat Paugh will share
highlights from a workshop on academic language where she extended notions
of academic language begun with SIOP to help candidates analyze the
language demands of the content.



In creating the seminar, the cautions expressed by Santamaria (2009) were

fore grounded, ‘‘What differentiation academicians fail to do, is provide
practitioners with specific guidelines and strategies on how to differentiate
instruction for ELL and CLD learners to support their academic success’’
(p. 222). One important purpose of the practicum seminar and
Preparing Preservice Teachers to Differentiate Instruction 231

observations of teaching was, then, to present specific frameworks to

guide planning in instruction. The SIOP and UDL provided scaffolds for
acting on the theoretical understandings shared above.
First, SIOP model provides an intervention designed to teach subject
area curriculum to students learning English as an additional language.
Developed from a valid observation tool, it offers specific techniques for
teachers to make content learning accessible to ELLs while simultaneously
developing their second language skills. Its goal is to make the content
comprehensible across all language domains (speaking, listening, reading,
and writing). It combines pedagogical strategies such as cooperative
learning and reading comprehension instruction with features specifically
designed for ELLs. The flexible set of techniques allow for different
teaching styles while always keeping the lesson focus on academic literacy.
SIOP techniques span: preparation that includes language and content
objectives, integration of processes, scaffolding (building background,
comprehensible input), application (explicit instructional strategies),
continual opportunities for interactions in flexible groupings, multiple
opportunities for practice and application, lesson delivery, appropriate
feedback for review, and assessment (Short, Echevarria, & Richards-
Tutor, 2011).
Second, UDL offers a lens through which the candidates revisited the
SIOP differentiation planned for ELLs to ensure that the needs of
students with identified special education needs are also addressed. UDL
is a set of principles for curriculum development and lesson planning that
gives all individuals equal opportunities to learn. Principle #1: Providing
multiple means of representation includes options for perception, for
language, mathematical expressions and symbols, and for comprehension.
Principle #2: Providing multiple means of action and expression includes
options for physical action, for expression and communication, and for
executive functions (e.g., planning and goal setting). Principle #3:
Providing multiple means of engagement includes options for recruiting
interest, for sustaining efforts and persistence, and for self-regulation (e.g.,
high self-expectations and reflectivity) (Hall, Strangman, & Meyer, 2009).
Developed by Center for Applied Special Technologies (CAST) to reduce
barriers to learning for students with disabilities, UDL design invites the
use of technology tools and other instructional strategies that expand
access to a lesson’s content.3 UDL provided candidates with the above
principles and accompanying guidelines that invite multiple ways to create
more inclusive lessons.



In the seminar, the lesson plan template required consideration of both

SIOP features and the principles of UDL. The candidates described,
analyzed, and reflected using these two frameworks and their perceived
impact upon student learning throughout their TPA assessment process
described and illustrated in Fig. 1.
Candidates began the practicum seminar by learning about the students
they would be teaching. Through the Context for Learning and the Planning
Commentary TPA tasks, candidates gathered information about the context
of their school and classroom, the staffing, required curriculum materials,
special programs, and connections to the community. They also obtained
assessment data identifying the performance of the group as a whole and of
each child and were asked to analyze class trends and individual needs of
learners who are identified as ELLs and/or with Special Needs. With

Fig. 1. Practicum Lesson Planning Process.

Preparing Preservice Teachers to Differentiate Instruction 233

quantitative and qualitative data, they were able to prepare to ‘‘teach

students rather than teach lessons.’’ The initial assessment provided access
to a depth of understanding about what individual and groups of students
knew and could perform, and the unique ways in which they best learned.
They were then asked to differentiate their lesson plans drawing on the
overlapping but also unique guidelines and suggestions provided by the
SIOP techniques and UDL principles. After the later workshop on
Academic Language they also were asked to include the forms, functions,
and vocabulary students would need to learn to access the essential content
of the planned lesson sequence.
Given that the SIOP contained the most explicit framework, applying the
SIOP features to the lessons planned was the initial stage of the seminar.
After candidates had identified and aligned the curriculum standards,
objectives, and assessments, they submitted explicit ways they would embed
language supports into each of the 24 specific features of a lesson, clustered
under the SIOP headings of Preparation, Integration of Processes,
Scaffolding, Applications, Grouping Options, and Assessment. Students
submitted their planned SIOP features in advance of teaching the lesson
and received detailed feedback, most often in the form of clarifying
questions from the practicum instructor, with the expectation that revisions
would be resubmitted. This submit, feedback, revision cycle continued until
the candidate was able to clearly articulate how each SIOP feature was used
to scaffold potential barriers in the lesson that might occur due to the
student’s level of English language proficiency. For example, when
addressing the SIOP feature of promoting engagement, Milli, preparing her
lesson on fact and opinion, wrote, ‘‘Students prior knowledge is activated so
they are a part of the discussion and comprehend what is being discussed.’’
The practicum instructor replied, ‘‘Add a specific example so that this
statement relates to a particular lesson.’’ In retrospect candidates
commented that the UDL and SIOP frameworks along with the feedback
cycle in the middle of their student teaching experience pushed their
understandings. It prevented defaulting to the type of comment exemplified
by Milli who simply reiterated a requirement rather than specifically thinking
through the intended plan. Roberta noted, ‘‘I got back on track because I had
someone else looking at it [my lesson]’’ and Clare reflected, ‘‘ was so
important to get feedback and stay focusedywhile you are in the middle of it
[student teaching] you forget because you are trying so hard.’’ In reviewing
the lesson plans, Mary Brady, the instructor observed that the frameworks
provided through the UDL principles and SIOP features also structured her
own continuing feedback. For example, she noticed that some candidates

initially suggested the use of small groups, but instead, after revising, could
elaborate ‘‘how’’ they were using grouping strategies to support the ELLs’
understanding of the lesson’s language requirements.
Both SIOP and UDL consider assessment as a major component of
differentiation. UDL instructs candidates to design multiple ways to show
student learning, and SIOP guides candidates to ensure fair assessment of
ELLs individually or within a group, using written or oral modes of
expression. But neither model offers differentiated formative assessments
throughout the lesson that gather data on learning of content and language
objectives. To ensure that the candidates could recall and monitor what they
intended to teach throughout the lesson, the practicum instructor built in an
expectation for collecting formative data to determine the level of support
needed for students to demonstrate what they knew and could perform.
Often this took the form of checklists listing what the candidate intended for
students to learn throughout a unit of study. Candidates frequently used
these checklists during small group or independent practice observing
students while they worked. Paula found this helped her focus on each
student’s learning, especially since the cooperating teacher in her placement
did not have a system for tracking the learning of each child:

I made my own graphyI have a big chart for each child and what their scores are. [My
cooperating teacher] doesn’t have that so I made up my own chart and took bits and
pieces that she gave me just to show where the kids were.


In his arguments for expanding what counts as literacy instruction in the
post-NCLB era of school reforms, Cummins (2007) stresses the need to
prioritize metacognition or an awareness of how people learn and how
language works. For ELLs, who may operate within multiple cultural and
linguistic contexts, ‘‘making language visible’’ provides cues about the
power codes connected to language use and expands their repertoires of
linguistic choices (DeJong & Harper, 2005; Schleppegrell, 2004). Two tasks
of the TPA prompted candidates to (1) reflect on evidence of academic
language in their teaching video or by analyzing student work samples and
(2) describe how they scaffolded their students’ awareness of academic
language. In response, the seminar provided a workshop overview to help
candidates revisit their personal awareness about academic language and
Preparing Preservice Teachers to Differentiate Instruction 235

identify areas where they needed further support. The workshop was
designed to connect candidates with the focus of the TPA that paralleled
many of the recommendations found in the literature on linguistic diversity.
It asked candidates to attend to the language of instruction that is the
language teachers use to engage students in learning the content and the
language of the discipline that includes vocabulary as well as the forms and
functions associated with learning concepts in the disciplines of particular
subject areas (see Fig. 2).
The SIOP lesson planning process had already addressed how to shelter
the language of instruction; therefore, this later workshop extended the
analysis directly to the disciplinary language found in classroom texts.
Vocabulary instruction, the first dimension, was more familiar from
candidates’ reading methods courses. Therefore, the workshop quickly
reviewed three areas important to vocabulary instruction: high frequency
words, selection-critical (technical) terminology, and multi-meaning words
(those whose everyday meanings differ from more content specific uses –
e.g., ‘‘conflict’’ has both an everyday meaning of ‘‘struggle’’ but a specific
connotation in narrative structure). The bulk of the workshop then
introduced the general forms and functions of language commonly used
in schooling such as narrative, recount, description, explanation, procedure,

Fig. 2. Structure of Academic Language Workshop.


and argument (Derewianka, 1990) as well as a brief overview of the specific

grammatical features of these in relation to content disciplines (e.g.,
language of science that emphasizes objectivity and procedures, language of
history that emphasizes past events and the temporal relationships between
them, and the language of mathematics that emphasizes articulation of
precise relationships and procedures involving numbers (DeJong & Harper,
2005 citing Schleppegrell, 2004)).
The workshop began with a review of the six commonly used academic
genres summarized by Derewianka (mentioned above) and discussion of the
purposes for which they might be used. This only taps the surface of more
intricate linguistic theory that connects the grammatical and structural
features of texts with the contexts in which they are used (see Schleppegrell,
2004). However, for the elementary level candidates, who had little
experience with metalinguistic teaching, this entry point for connecting
language and content fit within their zones of proximal development. Both
Roberta and Clare noticed that the concept of general forms connected
closely with their grade level reading curriculum focus on procedural and
persuasive texts. The workshop shared two concrete examples of reading
and writing instruction from the third-grade classroom of a frequent
cooperating teacher, Ms. Mary Moran. Ms. Moran follows Derewianka
and others. She analyzes the functions of grammar and structure with her
students as they read as a class. With Ms. Moran’s consent, Pat Paugh
utilized artifacts from routine ‘‘On the Rug’’ book discussions. During
these discussions, Moran and her students look in depth at how grammar
and text organization features create language demands. Students look at
features of how texts are structured (e.g., introduction, sequence of events,
conclusion, captions, glossaries, indexes, charts, and graphs), what cohesive
devices are used (e.g., connectives that show time or location), how the
language creates specific relationships between author and reader (e.g.,
imperatives in a procedure that position author as an ‘‘expert’’), and how
parts of speech such as nouns, noun groups, verbs, adjectives work within
clauses to create meaning (e.g., past tense verbs used for recounting an
experience while present tense ‘‘timeless’’ verbs are used in a science
Ms. Moran’s work was chosen as it represents integration of purposeful
thematic study with language awareness where meaning is first then followed
by explicit study of grammar and its functions (DeJong & Harper, 2005),
rather than grammar study that is disconnected from language in use.
Candidates later noted that a classroom video and several writing charts
created by Moran and her students for a plant and garden unit were
Preparing Preservice Teachers to Differentiate Instruction 237

especially helpful. When asked to use information from garden journals to

create a writing project, some of Moran’s students chose either to ‘‘recount’’
their experience for second-grade friends while others chose to write
‘‘procedures’’ for teaching friends how to plant seeds or create compost. The
environmental print charting the language structures and grammar for each
genre or purpose evolved from useful learning tools for Moran’s students to
an extended set of scaffolds for the preservice candidates in the seminar
workshop. Clare reflected in a focus group,
[The teacher education program] needs to do a lot more with [academic language]
because I had not an idea about what it meantyso the day you came in and did the
charts I remember I wrote down notes and copied the chartsy[I said to myself] I didn’t
know any of this and I was an English major!

The two vignettes shared by the authors in this section provide a quick
view of how the TPA mediated and the practicum seminars responded to the
complex demands placed on urban student teachers. In this chapter’s final
section, candidates’ feedback is reviewed to reflect on the theoretical and
practical frameworks shared above and connect these to the candidates’
ability to enact responsive academically effective ELA instruction.


In creating productive integration of theory and practice within the

preservice practicum, a performance assessment that focused the candidates
directly on the success of all students in their mainstream classes and asked
them to monitor their own learning along with that of their students was
productive. It provided feedback that was not previously available to either
the candidates or the teacher education faculty. Limited space allows just a
few of the many insights gained in the three vital areas listed earlier:
differentiation, assessment, and cultural connections.


Candidates’ lesson sequences varied in consistency in fulfilling the intended

process of planning for both content and language goals and using
formative assessment for ‘‘next steps.’’ When asked, candidates noted a
tension between formative teaching and preset paced curriculum expected at
their schools. Sandra’s experience was echoed by three others,

I did a fantasy and reality lesson because that’s what fell in the [commercial] curriculum
and then the grammar skill which isn’t necessarily [part of] the full lesson but that you
were supposed to doy It was a little bit of a conflict because the way she [cooperating
teacher] teaches is just kind of [what] she has to follow in the book.

Roberta, however, offered a solution,

We followed the [commercial curriculum] but there was flexibilityywe knew they were
going to have an assessment on ‘‘how to’’ and it came at the end of unit twoy . I was
allowed to take what they needed to be assessed on and I had an idea of how I wanted to
break it up and teach ityit was a clear goalyand I was able to change it [to fit].

Not only do preservice teachers need to negotiate their teaching at the

practicum site but also they will need this skill as novices in many urban
schools. They will also need to be confident enough in their grasp of ELA
content to fit curriculum to the students and not vice versa. Realizing this,
next steps for the practicum and for the ELA methods courses are to
provide more guided experiences for aligning curriculum to specific contexts
and negotiating its use.


Engaging in focused and formative assessment resulted in ‘‘surprises’’ and

improved teaching for two candidates. Jenni’s assessment indicated that
after teaching a carefully planned lesson ‘‘ALL the students had
difficultiesythey all needed more exposure which is what I reflected on
and why the lesson was tweaked at the beginning [for] the next time.’’
Clare’s assessment on the other hand, found competencies beyond what was
reported on one of her students’ Individual Educational Plans (IEP).

I have a student with a behavior plan andyliterally instructions were to keep him in the
class so that’s what I expected him to doyjust stay in the classyI didn’t even expect
him to write to be honestybut he responded to the [lesson plans]yso much of his
behavior was because the IEP says to keep him in the classroomyyou’re realizing yes
but I have a job [to teach him]yso I had to combine the IEP goal with my teaching goal.

Cultural Connections

Candidates reflected on expanded understandings about linguistically

diverse students. Deeper understandings led to raised expectations for
Sandra who realized:
Preparing Preservice Teachers to Differentiate Instruction 239

You are setting up so that they [ELLs] can learn without you standing next to them
translating everythingyyou are [focusing on] setting it up for your students to learn, not
[focusing] on how you are teaching, if you see what I mean.

On the other hand, despite asking candidates to investigate family/

community/cultural assets in planning, the TPA prompts and the practicum
activities did not elicit the depth of cultural attention recommended within
the CRT frameworks we explored. Therefore, the addition of further
guidelines and cycle of feedback on CRT is warranted.
In conclusion, expectations that candidates demonstrate effective teaching
for diverse learners that is academically, culturally, and linguistically
responsive led to deeper and more attentive professional growth during
the practicum. However, the authors argue that their practicum and the
performance assessment could provide greater visibility for CRT in the
lesson planning as well as an additional structured guidance in helping
candidates draw on their knowledge of ELA content and feel confident in
using their own knowledge to adjust the school-based curriculum when
needed. This includes revisions to the entire program. Beginning with our
2012–2013 academic year, we’ve begun a ‘‘backwards design’’ process that
includes collaborative attention by all faculty to the preservice syllabi using
the TPA as the first step for extension and reform. Content faculty, special
education faculty, ESL experienced faculty, and elementary supervisors will
be instrumental in this process.

1. See for a helpful and concise summary of specific knowledge about language
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Lee Ann Tysseling and B. P. Laster

Purpose – This chapter explores how teachers and learners can use
technology in powerful and agentive ways for literacy development. It
presents information about communication technologies (ICTs) that can
be used to develop student literacy skills in each of the major areas of
literacy learning: emergent to beginning literacy, fluency, vocabulary,
comprehension, and writing. It also addresses how assistive technologies
fit within a literacy development program.
Design/methodology/approach – A brief overview of the breadth of
technologies available for instructional uses and the pedagogical perspec-
tive used is followed with specific ideas for free or inexpensive technologies
that can be used to address literacy development. Additionally, websites for
professional reviews of software are included to help readers learn about
emerging technologies and software applications as they become available.
Practical implications – Specific ideas for instruction that addresses
student literacy development while integrating 21st-century technology
are included. Teachers and teacher educators will find immediately

Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom

Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Volume 2, 245–264
Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2048-0458/doi:10.1108/S2048-0458(2013)0000002015

useful, practical ideas for boosting literacy learning with technologies

matched to specific literacy needs such as sight words, fluency, and
Social implications – Struggling readers and writers deserve and need
experiences that help them acquire technology skills. Too often these
students are excluded from technology activities because they are
participating in intervention instruction or do not finish seatwork and
have no available ‘‘free’’ or ‘‘choice’’ time. Technology can be a
powerfully motivating tool for literacy instruction. It can also provide
engaging practice, targeted specifically at the learning needs and
developmental stage of the literacy learner. Most importantly, struggling
readers and writers need exposure to the academic possibilities of

Keywords: New literacies; phonics; vocabulary; fluency; writing;


In this chapter, we explore the possibilities of how technology can be used to

support and transform literacy development. The theoretical basis of
literacy development, already covered in other chapters of this book, is
infused here with technologies that can support or motivate learners. We
do not suggest ‘‘adding on’’ technologies, rather merging or replacing
familiar strategies and instructional routines with technologies that offer
increased efficiency, improved motivation or attention, and a basis for
effective work in the 21st century. A brief overview of how technologies are
changing teaching and learning of literacy skills and strategies will help
anchor the technology-based practices that we recommend following the
A wide range of information and communication technologies (ICTs) are
changing the literacy lives of readers and writers (Greenleaf & Hinchman,
2009; Leu et al., 2009). The Internet, computers, tablets (e.g., iPads),
smartphones, ebooks, and text-to-speech programs are just a few examples
of the ICTs that can support students with a range of aptitudes and attitudes
to participate actively in learning communities, whether in the traditional
classroom, the reading clinic, or their neighborhoods. New technologies
offer the promise of innovative ways to help learners develop skills,
strategies, and independence in reading and writing in the classroom, while
making connections to the new literacies in which students engage outside of
Taking Technology from Clinic to Classroom 247

school (Alvermann, 2008; Lankshear & Knobel, 2011). The digital universe
is also creating literacies that readers and writers must master to be fully
functioning in the 21st century (NCTE, 2008).


The technology challenges of 21st century have changed ‘‘the focus of the
conversation about the digital divide from questions of technological access
to those of opportunities to participate and to develop the cultural
competencies and social skills needed for full involvement’’ in a
participatory culture (Jenkins, 2006, p. 4). While more students in the
United States have access to computers and the Internet than ever before,
the primary concern of the second digital divide revolves around unequal
access to the kinds of cultural and social capital that are increasingly needed.
The second digital divide refers to whether a person uses technology in
active or transformative ways (Lohnes Watulak, Laster, Liu, & LERN,
2011). Clinics, labs, and schools have an opportunity to play a central role in
ameliorating this second digital divide.
There is great variation in how teachers of reading and writing permeate
their teaching with technology, according to the self-reports of teachers who
graduated from reading clinics/literacy labs from across the United States
(Dubert & Laster, 2011). Some use technology regularly with careful
selection to match the learner needs and curricular goals with an aim to
support students in mastering the complexities of the literacy process. Other
teachers do not always have the skills to integrate technology into their
teaching (Fullan, 2001) or to integrate it in ways that powerfully impact
student literacy learning (Lohnes Watulak et al., 2011). We should consider
how teachers perceive and use instructional technology. In the recommen-
dations that we make below, we encourage student-directed, agentive uses of
technology in clinics and classrooms. We describe how teachers use
technology in a continuum of teacher-centered to student-centered ways,
with the hope that the emerging wave is one of students as agents of their
own learning.
Many reading clinics/literacy labs have assimilated technology to enhance
instruction for struggling readers as technologies have evolved. Because of
the rapidity of change, we all must take a deictic stance toward its
instructional uses (Leu, 2000). In this chapter, we share specific, accessible,
and affordable ways that learning with technology can enhance the

development of struggling literacy learners, knowing that new uses will be

discovered an hour or a day after we finalize this chapter. Our emphasis is
on suggesting general practices rather than specific ICTs. Throughout this
chapter, we include websites that will provide regular updates about
emerging ICTs.

Selecting Software and Technology for Reading Development

Selecting Software and Technology for Reading Development

There is a dazzling array of software (or ‘‘apps,’’ compressed forms of
software for use on a tablet) available claiming to be the answer to every
teacher’s need. Word of mouth or district purchasing decisions (frequently
guided by sales representatives) often steer teachers in selection of software,
but it is helpful to also check the reviews of software available that are
unbiased and completed by experts. Three such sites are Common Sense
Media, Apps for Children with Special Needs, and the Technology in
Literacy Education wiki (,,
and The first author of this chapter also keeps
a running list of recommended sites in her delicious account (www.
All resources should be reviewed with a critical eye. Too often purchasing
decisions about publishers’ digital series are made at the district level
without input from literacy specialists. Consequently, teachers complain
about being required to use digital programs that do not fit their students’
needs. Literacy teachers should demand appointments to district technology
committees that make purchasing decisions. We are excited about the
possibilities that ICTs offer, but are wary of their limitations.

Finding Appropriate Technology for Specific Students

In the rest of this chapter, we discuss digital resources in a variety of literacy

areas. We assume that in-depth assessment of students’ individual needs will
be a guide for the selection of appropriate instruction. We have grouped the
resources into these areas: Emergent to Beginning, Fluency, Vocabulary,
Comprehension, Writing, and Assistive Technologies. There is, however,
overlap among most categories. As explained in the introduction, all these
Taking Technology from Clinic to Classroom 249

technologies are congruent with existing theories and research in each of the
literacy development areas.


Children who are in the process of acquiring decoding skills can benefit from
practice using technology. Phonemic awareness, phonics skills, and an initial
stock of sight words (words instantaneously recognized) are presented in a
wide array of software. We will begin with a general warning: The quality
and educational value of software for beginning literacy skills is very uneven
and sometimes limited. Because it is relatively easy to build software and
apps for this literacy need, many are constructed without a robust
understanding of instructional principles for beginning literacy. Also, we
cannot offer a comprehensive review of available software. Instead, we will
highlight examples of software that can serve as models for evaluation of
future software releases.

Drill and Practice – Phonics and Sight Words

Most teachers are aware of Starfall ( and Reading A–Z

( Starfall is a free site that includes instruction in
basic graphophonic relationships and provides decodable ebooks and games
to reinforce these early skills. Reading A–Z is a comprehensive ‘‘core
reading’’ website with a subscription fee. Many teachers and schools find
this an easy way to match readers with appropriate text supported by
lesson plans and worksheets for student practice. Both provide many
opportunities for work on phonics, sight vocabulary development, and
extended practice with decodable text (Reading A–Z extends beyond
beginning reading levels). However, using these resources requires careful
teacher selection and planning. As with all materials, careful matching to
student needs is essential. In fact, it is our suggestion that Reading A–Z be
used as a supplement rather than a core reading program. This resource can
be used for student independent work after specific instruction and/or
guiding reading practice within the context of many other texts and genre.
There are also numerous apps available for drill and practice of phonics
and sight words (a few that have been well reviewed include Word Wall
(, Sight
Word Hangman (, Wild Word

Garden (, and Bob

Books (
id405995002?mt=8). We have found YouTube a great way to preview
software/apps. In most cases, the YouTube samples show actual ‘‘play’’
with the software, saving the purchaser considerable money.
Many teachers are finding Spelling City ( to be a
very useful site. It includes a deep reserve of word lists, games, and articles
about spelling and vocabulary. Teachers can set up their own spelling or
vocabulary lists or use existing lists and games; they can also add a link to
their classroom website or blog. Students can access the lists, practice
activities, and games in the classroom or at home. One concern is that the
publisher devised new categories of words. For example, they created
‘‘Capitonyms,’’ that seem to be multiple meanings of words that change
because of a capital letter (e.g., mercury and Mercury). We do not think that
complicating vocabulary learning in this way is helpful.
Computer-based practice (skill and drill) can be useful for independent
practice or as recommendations for parents to use at home. Teachers will be
wise to have a ready list of games with educational value for children, and
their families. Games can also be motivating within the classroom for an
individual or a small group. The game and video format can entice students
who are resistant to reading or have a fear of failure. However, teachers also
need to be aware that the time will be best used if they carefully match
software to individual students. It is also advisable to carefully introduce the
game/activity to students so that they get the most value from their engaged
time. Many struggling readers will miss the central skill practice intended
without guidance and instruction (Olson & Wise, 2006). We also have
concerns about the overuse of such skill-and-drill software. As Henry (2007)
found, too often struggling readers are assigned to such rote activities;
missing the exciting, creative, and agentive opportunities that their more
able classmates have afforded which can lead to powerful mastery of literacy
(and of technology).

Self-Publishing and Digital Language Experience Approach

The Language Experience Approach (LEA) has been a reliable teaching

method for many years (Allen, 1968; Freire, 2000). Access to digital cameras
and a wide range of word processing/bookmaking software has made the
LEA easier to implement and more engaging for learners (Labbo & Ryan,
Taking Technology from Clinic to Classroom 251

2010). Teachers have quickly learned to use technologies such as interactive

whiteboards or word processing programs displayed via projectors routed
through computers to take some of the labor out of traditional approaches
to LEA lessons. Digital photos taken on a class field trip or photos uploaded
from a parent’s digital camera or cell phone can be quickly incorporated
into shared writing, morning message, or LEA stories that can subsequently
serve as the basis of reading lessons or practice.
Although LEA has been an important component of literacy education
for decades, its cousin ‘‘Digital Storytelling’’ has only recently gained steady
acceptance as a powerful instructional activity (Labbo & Ryan, 2010). Both
forms are student-generated, yet LEA is aimed at beginning readers of any
age (adolescent or adults learning to read) and requires a teacher or scribe to
write down what the student is saying. Digital storytelling, on the other
hand, is ideal for more fluent readers and is more fully described below
under Writing.

A Vignette
Here is an illustration of how LEA has come into the digital age. Recently,
Martin (a pseudonym), a six-year-old in one of our reading clinics,
overcame significant resistance to reading through LEA based on his
favorite action hero: Spiderman. This young man, mature beyond the
typical 1st grader in interests, frequently refused to read the guided reading
level A–D books that were in his instructional reading level. He was
sometimes willing to read nonfiction books at that level, but much preferred
spelling and writing activities to ‘‘eyes on the page.’’ We began attempting to
use his passion for Spiderman to increase the amount of time he was willing
to read connected text. Marvel Comics ( has a
create-your-own comic page in the website. We used this to create a comic
with blank speech bubbles for which Martin was to ‘‘write’’ text. He dictated
the content of the speech bubbles to his teacher who recorded Martin’s text
on sticky notes. Once all the speech bubbles were drafted, Martin reviewed
them and dictated appropriate revisions. The teacher then carefully printed
the text into the comic strip. This became Martin’s reading material for
several sessions. It is possible to allow students to work within the Marvel
Comics website itself to create their own comics, but to save time, we created
the comic. We also found it somewhat limited in characters and settings, so
for our second lesson, the teacher used a collection of Spiderman images
collected from a variety of websites. The teacher did not arrange them in a
story sequence, rather just printed a large number of images with Spiderman

and Martin’s favorite villain. Martin then composed a story, selected images
he wanted to use to illustrate the text, and combined all into his own original
Spiderman reader. Many of the elementary school-aged boys in our
classrooms have frightening familiarity with and passionate interests in
video games (including games that are rated well above their age), television,
movie, and comic book/graphic novel characters and plots. For our
emergent readers, whatever their age, allowing them to use these images and
plots in a LEA lesson may feel unfamiliar and even somewhat inappropriate
to teachers, but with the approval of the parents, the modification can make
a huge difference in their motivation and reading development. An
alternative to photos of real places and events is to use building blocks,
toys, or claymation to create a narrative based on students’ playtime
interests (see Stormtroopers365 project
st3f4n/sets/72157616350171741/for ideas to start such a project).

LEA Goes Global

ICTs are rapidly making it possible for emergent readers/writers to publish

their work to an international audience. RealeWriter (
is part of a nonprofit effort ‘‘dedicated to creating world-wide book
abundance through leveraging technology’’ (Unite for Literacy, 2012). The
software allows beginning readers to compose their own digital language
experience books and upload them to the RealeLibrary. Books can be
shared internationally through inexpensive technologies, including cell
phones. The RealeWriter is free software that allows children/families to
compose and print a book based on their own life experiences. The
company, Unite for Literacy, also hopes to begin offering translation
services so that stories can be translated into languages and shared around
the world. The rapid spread of cell phones, especially smartphones, makes
this a particularly promising approach to getting reading materials into the
hands of emergent readers around the world (Zickuhr & Smith, 2012).
A free website that provides illustrations and allows children to compose
their own stories is StoryBird ( Like other storybook
creation software, for example, Storybook Weaver, it provides graphics that
writers select and organize to support their composition of narratives. Like
language experience stories these can become the ‘‘textbook’’ for literacy
lessons. StoryBird has the advantage of being able to share the stories online
with other family members, as well as a generally wider selection of graphics
including work by artists from around the world. An additional advantage
Taking Technology from Clinic to Classroom 253

is that authors get feedback from readers. Authors return to the StoryBird
site regularly to see the most recent reviews. We have been surprised by how
quickly reviews are made and with the kindness of the comments by the
reviewers. This site allows teachers to create classroom accounts so
that students do not need email addresses to create and share their own


There have been many commercial software programs released that are
designed to improve reading fluency. Most are based on repeated reading of
short texts. These can be used effectively but have two weak points: they
rarely take into account student choice of reading material and they offer
limited opportunities for agency or engagement. We suggest other digital
resources that can be used the address issues of fluency.
Ebooks can be used effectively for fluency development. In selecting an
ebook, we look for the following characteristics: Professional quality of oral
reading of the text, the option to turn off the oral reading, the option to
have single words pronounced, and convenient opportunities to reread the
book with or without the audio available. An additional desirable feature is
the ability to record the reader’s speech, a feature available in Scholastic’s
Wiggle Works series. A site that we have found to be particularly well-
designed is TumbleBooks. The basic subscription for an entire school is quite
reasonable and many public libraries have subscribed to the service.
TumbleBooks includes professional readings of a wide variety of books as
well as activities to accompany them. Some TumbleBooks also have a ‘‘word
helper,’’ that offers online help with highlighted words. This assistance takes
the form of pronunciation and a little word analysis work. However,
younger readers would need to have some guidance in how to utilize the
word analysis support. Readers do have the option to turn off the narration
and read the book on their own. There are also books available in Spanish,
French, Chinese, and Russian. TumbleBooks also offers a dual language
format in which the reader can see/hear both the English and an alternative
language edition of the book. Most libraries offer a wide selection of
audio books in audio tape, CD, and digital formats. Learning Ally (www. a subscription service ($99 per year for parents and
students) provides opportunities for readers to hear professionally narrated
text that models fluent reading. We will also discuss the uses of audio books
for comprehension development later in this chapter.

Beyond listening to models of fluent reading, there are several techno-

logies that can be used to provide contexts for fluency practice. Using digital
audio or video recorders offers unlimited opportunities for fluency practice.
Teachers may choose relatively simple approaches to having students
practice a text selection and record it or become as elaborate as YouTube
videos or videos posted on a class website. Tablet computers and digital
audio recorders make it easy to create a video-recording of a student’s
reading and play it back immediately for review. Most readers are motivated
by listening to themselves read aloud or watching a video production. These
also provide opportunities for learning skills that connect to digital venues
that students may see as motivating and offering connections to their lives as
digital citizens. The Extreme Reading website Tarasiuck (2010) contains
wonderful examples of student interpretations of original poetry and video
book reports (
VoiceThread ( provides an opportunity to share
fluency practice with classmates and family members. Teachers can post a
piece of leveled text on VoiceThread for a small group of readers. Each
student in the group adds an oral reading of the passage on the
VoiceThread page. Teachers can keep the oral readings hidden or students
may listen to each other’s reading of the passage. A second option is to
have a student post a text and their reading of it on the page and then
have classmates, teachers, and family members add their responses to the
oral reading on the VoiceThread page. Comments may be added to
VoiceThread pages in text, recorded voice, recorded video, and even by
phoning in a response. VoiceThread offers many examples of ways to use
their service on their home page. VoiceThread also extends the opportunity
for the Great Poetry Race (Pitcher, 2009), an engaging activity for fluency
practice, to go digital. Grandparents a continent away can listen and
respond to their grandchild using the VoiceThread platform. Another
option to traverse distances is the use of Skype (or similar options) to have
students practice reading poems for fluency in real time. Similarly, using
Skype for a group of people across distances to do some collaborative
oral reading with Readers’ Theatre would be another way to advance
One of the disadvantages of some of the current published oral reading
fluency programs is that students can become discouraged, bored, and
resistant. We hope that the examples above demonstrate how fluency
practice can be revitalized. Adding these digital approaches also helps
address some of the 21st century skills our students need (NCTE, 2008).
Taking Technology from Clinic to Classroom 255


In addition to needing to master a large set of sight words, all readers, but
especially readers and writers who struggle, must build their vocabulary
knowledge (Graves, 2008; Snow, Lawrence, & White, 2009; Stahl & Nagy,
2006). Of particular importance for students is grasping the meaning of
words necessary for understanding content area materials and abstract
ideas. Technology is a blessing for those students who have to accelerate
their vocabulary knowledge. There is a wide array of online reference
resources to assist them; increasingly, there are embedded pronunciations
and definitions in ebooks and other digital texts too.

Online Reference Resources

Almost all online references provide adequate definitions and audio

pronunciations. Each has features that serve the purpose of individual
learners. The resources that we highlight are of particular value because
each in its own way encourages learners to explore word meanings in self-
directive, agentive ways. This is in contrast to instructional time that
requests students to only record and memorize definitions of words.
Additionally, each of these helps provide additional contexts through
images or rich examples of vocabulary words used in a variety of contexts,
which is essential to increased retention and future usage of words.
Although is the most frequently used online reference,
there are many better choices. For very beginning readers and English
language learners, the Visual Merriam Webster dictionary is particularly
helpful ( This dictionary helps beginning
readers by basing vocabulary development on attractive illustrations with
simple definitions linked to labels becoming in essence an illustrated word wall
built for a specific topic. Learners quickly develop an important set of
vocabulary words for subjects such as road transportation (e.g., cars, bridges,
tunnels, road signs, buses, and engines). Students can look up individual
words or complete categories and explore each subject in more detail using
hotlinks. A similar resource,, is slightly more
efficient but is designed for older learners. The drawings are a bit less elaborate
and engaging and more ‘‘explicit’’ than those in the Visual Merriam Webster.
Thinkmap’s Visual Thesaurus ( is a subscription
service but worth the small annual fee. It places words in a dynamic
semantic network and provides easy links to other reference sources

including encyclopedias and images. Although there are other free websites
that place words in semantic networks, none of the others move and grow
the way that Visual Thesaurus does. Students will click on words and links
for long periods of time, increasing their understanding of the fit of a target
vocabulary word in their semantic network of known vocabulary words as
well as exploring new connections. Students often explore an individual
word for 10–15 minutes. This amount of focused attention on the meaning
of a word is hard to replicate with other reference resources. A second
advantage to Visual Thesaurus is that users may add Spanish, French,
German, Dutch, and Italian words to the word map.
Wordnik ( offers a smorgasbord of information to help
learners understand words in many ways. These include definitions from
a number of online dictionaries; etymologies; text examples from contem-
porary media; Flicker images (an online photography sharing site); elaborate
lists of related words, including synonyms, equivalents, antonyms, and words
typically used in the same context; tweets; and sound effects. School firewalls
may block the Twitter feed. Teachers should warn families and students that
the Twitter feed sometimes contains offensive words or references. However,
the other resources provided make the site one that is most valuable to
learners. Older students appreciate seeing the examples of words being used in
contemporary media. The images are a particularly interesting resource, as
they are pulled into the Wordnik site by the tags that photographers have
added to the images they post on Flicker. However, not all the tags actually
result in words that help elaborate the meaning of a word. For example, if you
are looking up the word pinnacle in Wordnik, typically the feed will include
photos of parks that include the name pinnacle and images shot with a
pinnacle lens on a camera. An excellent activity is to have students sort the
images by those that help them understand the meaning of the word that they
are looking up and those that are nonexamples.

Embedded Dictionaries

Dictionaries that are embedded are proving to be particularly attractive to

readers. Ebook readers typically include a ‘‘look up’’ function through
which readers can quickly get a dictionary definition for words as they
appear in text. Larson (2010) found that young readers use this feature
frequently. Teachers should model quick look-up options that are available
while reading text online regularly so that students are reminded of their
availability. Many of the news websites, such as Time for Kids, Scholastic
News or The New York Times Learning Network, target younger readers and
Taking Technology from Clinic to Classroom 257

adolescents and include easy access to online dictionaries. With all online
reading it is easy to right-click on a word to access definitions. Teachers may
also choose to use these features in combination with Vocabulary Self-
Collection Strategy (Ruddell & Shearer, 2002) or other word study routines.


There are numerous games that provide extended practice with vocabulary
words; teachers can use these for reinforcement and motivation. There are
also games that promote word consciousness. Teachers are advised to
evaluate the games for the support they offer learners and use them in
conjunction with deeper instruction in vocabulary. We recommend that you
select games with the following characteristics: help features that scaffold
struggling readers, feedback on errors that provide instruction, and
automatic spaced repetition so that missed words are reviewed. A few that
contain the features described above include MissionUS (a vocabulary
emphasis game based on the Revolutionary War,, (, Freerice (, Roo-
tonym (, a wide
range of games at, and Words with Friends

It is important to provide engaging opportunities with digital texts for
struggling readers. As Leu et al. (2009) have noted, struggling readers are
the least likely to be provided with opportunities for interesting online work.
Too often they end up assigned to drill and practice activities in brief,
uninteresting texts. Comprehension development for struggling readers
requires more than quizzes and points. Our recommendations are that
teachers look to digital resources to support the instruction they provide for
comprehension development and find materials that will advance their
curricular objectives and motivate students. Even though there are many
intriguing opportunities provided by the Internet that typically motivate and
engage struggling readers, teachers need to play an active role in instruction
and scaffolding their use.
WebQuests, Internet Research Projects, and ePals (
provide opportunities for struggling readers to practice the real life skills
they need currently and in their futures. ePals is a free site that allows

teachers to find Internet projects involving collaboration with students in

other classrooms around the world. Teachers may initiate projects that fit
their curriculum or they may join an existing project. Struggling readers will
find the international collaboration very motivating both from the
standpoint of giving them a purpose for reading and writing and for having
an authentic audience for their work. Within the frameworks of WebQuests,
Internet research projects, and ePals, teachers have the opportunities to
teach lessons on the essential Internet comprehension skills of (1) identifying
important questions, (2) locating information, (3) critically evaluating
information, (4) synthesizing information, and (5) communicating informa-
tion (Leu et al., 2009). WebQuests are similar to the ePals activities or
Internet inquiry, but are more carefully structured by teachers. There are
many sites available with prepared WebQuestions including http://webquest.
org and (WebQuests designed by Tom
March). Teachers may adjust the prepackaged WebQuests to fit their
students. It is also possible for teachers to design their own WebQuests
focused on the reading comprehension skills they know their students are
ready to develop such as visualization, comparing points of view on a topic,
or sequencing events.
When working with struggling readers, recorded books can be used to help
focus attention on comprehension, text structure, literary analysis, and other
aspects of literary appreciation. They offer struggling readers opportunities to
participate in activities with their same age peers. However, teachers cannot
use audio books in place of ‘‘eyes on’’ for struggling readers. In addition to
audio books that have been read by professionals, it is also possible to use
either text-to-speech functions within your computer system or pay for the
Kurzweil text-to-speech program,
A step further, but more expensive, are digitally supported books
designed for reading interventions, such as myON Reader (Capstone Press)
or ThinkingReader by Tom Snyder Productions. Many of these are of very
high quality and have a promising track record but at a price that many
schools cannot afford. Teachers should use their professional judgment to
match these resources with struggling readers.
In a category of its own, Google LitTrips (
provides wonderful support for readers as they move through popular
classic literary titles and the opportunity for teachers and children to create
their own LitTrip. Devised by Jerome Bruner, LitTrips combine Google
Earth with teacher or student-created background information, vocabulary
support, graphics, and other resources/guides/questions to help scaffold the
reading of books. By combining a LitTrip with guided small group reading,
Taking Technology from Clinic to Classroom 259

teachers are extending the student’s understanding of the book as well as

map reading, navigation, and Internet skills that will be useful for other
tasks in their future.
Finally, we like to remind teachers that there are many free resources of
accessible or leveled reading materials available online. Time for Kids
(, Sports Illustrated for Kids (http://www., the National Geographic website section for children (http:// are examples of Internet sites where
teachers, children, and their families can find reading materials appropriate
for many struggling readers. Elfrieda Hiebert’s Text Project, http:// includes Summer ReadsTM for third, fourth, and fifth
grade readers. This portion of the site includes short reading passages
supported with comprehension and vocabulary activities designed for
students to use over the summer to counteract the summer slump. Teachers
can provide students with suggested online reading sites at the end of the
school year. Some teachers even set up blogs or wikis to encourage students
to ‘‘discuss’’ their summer readings. BookAdventure (www.bookadventure.
com) is a reading motivation resource designed to encourage students to
read outside of school. Although the texts are not provided, the site does
include quizzes and prizes for reading popular children’s books.
The links between comprehension and writing become glaringly obvious
when looking at students doing video remixing or mash-up. The idea of
taping existing published materials and putting them together in novel ways
is a fruitful platform for students’ close reading of texts and creative writing.
Machinima, an example of remix, is using a set of established characters and
put them together in new ways to create a new plot line, a political
commentary, or creative expression (Lankshear & Knobel, 2011).


We now turn to the use of writing to support the development of literacy

skills, as well as motivation and engagement. We have found that there are
many digital resources that provide motivating and engaging opportunities
for struggling readers. The opportunities to take their learning public
motivates them to read carefully, synthesize readings (intertextual compre-
hension, Hartman, 1995), and connect their learning to real world venues.
Some of these resources also lighten the teachers’ burden when it comes to
responding to student writing.

Creative Writing

Fanfiction websites offer multiple opportunities for literary analysis,

comprehension, reading development, and peer feedback. There are many
fan fiction sites including several focused on popular series or authors such
as; Harry Potter (e.g., Mugglenet,, Diary Of
A Wimpy Kid, and Cornelia Funke. The largest fan fiction site is http:// The disadvantage of this site is that it is relatively open,
requires an e-mail address, and includes writing for all levels of maturity and
interests. The advantage is that it provides an opportunity for your students
who are fans of particular television shows or video games to use these
interests to generate writing, analyze characters, and play with plot. Another
attractive feature of several of these sites is that students receive feedback
from other readers about their work. For example StoryBird (see above) is a
free web site designed for writers of all ages and includes beautiful artwork
by a variety of emerging artists. It is designed to be child friendly and is
carefully monitored. Authors receive quick feedback on their posted books.
And emphasis is placed on positive yet constructive feedback to authors.
Teachers who used Storybook Weaver recognize the concept immediately.
In our own practice, although we do have hesitations about how a preset
group graphics and scenery may confine writing, we have seen struggling
readers use the scaffolds to produce much more extensive and well-
developed writing than they ever could without such support.

Report Writing

For reporting the results of research projects digital platforms like

PowerPoint, Prezi, and Animoto are motivating for struggling readers and
writers and provide experience with presentation software that many adults
use for a variety of purposes. The daughter of one of our friends actually put
together a PowerPoint presentation to convince her mother that she should
be able to go to Venezuela for the summer with the family of a friend. We
also have seen first, third, and fourth graders effectively use Animoto as a
platform for reporting the results of research projects. In using any of these,
teachers find that it is important to teach research skills and require students
to complete note-taking and organization before they begin building their
PowerPoint, Prezi, or Animoto presentation. Students can get distracted by
selecting fonts and illustrations if teachers do not require that they build the
content first. Doing so offers valuable opportunities to teach main idea,
Taking Technology from Clinic to Classroom 261

supported details, well crafted conclusions, and the strong links between
comprehension, thinking, and writing.

Digital Storytelling

Like digital LEA, Digital storytelling also exemplifies the strong connection
between reading and writing with student-created texts. Both approaches
encourage divergent thinking and are highly motivating. We use the term
Digital storytelling to mean student-generated stories from many different
digital components, including video, audio, and multiple texts. It is ideal for
older students who can independently navigate many sites and multiple
ICTs. Use of iMovie or Windows Movie Maker are intuitive for many
students; teachers just have to step back and guide students. Here are a few
suggestions: (1) Provide lots of room for creativity but at the beginning ask
students to write a one paragraph description of their project along with a
schedule for completing the project. Teachers should hold students
accountable by having them submit segments every week or two weeks.
Some students will need more supervision than others. (2) As a motivator,
explain that their finished projects will be shown to the class (or to the entire
school or even the whole community). (3) Encourage collaboration among
students so that they can be leaders or improve their weaker skills in
technology or in storytelling. (4) Have students think of what makes a movie
so effective (or so poorly done). (5) When they get stuck, help them focus on
the story that they are telling. The Center for Digital Storytelling
( is a helpful site. Examples of digital storytelling can
be found also at these sites:

Assistive technologies, those for students with severe reading difficulties,
have been used effectively in clinics and classrooms. For example, students
with limited speech ability benefit from augmentative communication:
electronic and nonelectronic devices – such as special keyboards that they
can point to or use – that provide a means for expressive and receptive
communication. Students with vision limitations use magnifiers, Braille and
speech output devices, or large print monitors. Assistive technologies have

been used in reading clinics (McKenna & Walpole, 2007) so that reading
teachers learn the potential of these technologies.


Results of interviews with graduates of reading clinics in 2008 (Dubert &

Laster, 2011) indicated that teachers of reading also use technology for
administrative and assessment purposes. Teachers of the 21st century rely
heavily on such modalities as word processing, spreadsheets for analyzing
student data, software for matching books to readers, and/or text
readability estimates. Teachers also report that they frequently access
websites for lesson ideas or materials. We were surprised to learn that many
teachers also relied on reading incentive software, such as Accelerated
Reader and hardware/software for assessment purposes. In 2008, teachers
relied heavily on PalmPilots to record the results of DIBELS assessments
with software developed by The Wireless Generation. It is likely that these
same teachers are now using the new platforms supported by this software
for administration of AIMS web, the Texas Primary Reading Inventory
(TPRI), and other assessments. It is likely that we will observe more and
more use of technology for assessment.


The use of technology for enhancing student literacy proficiencies (Coiro &
Dobler, 2007; Dalton & Strangman, 2006; Squire, 2008) is very promising.
In the reconfigured landscape of struggling readers, particularly the
perspective of students’ identities related to literacy (Kucan & Palincsar,
2011), digital literacies can be instrumental in advancing literacy learners
who have been less-than-successful. We agree with the National Council of
Teachers of English’s (NCTE) definition of 21st century literacies (2008)
which states that students must develop competence with the tools of
technology and create, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts in order to be
successful readers and writers in the 21st century. The ability to move
among different texts, contexts and technologies, is a necessary skill for
success in our society, which is ‘‘based increasingly on the effective use of
information and communication’’ (Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004,
p. 1581).
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Erica Bowers, Ula Manzo, Ann Tarantine and

Melissa Base


Purpose – The purpose of the chapter is to provide the reader with an

overview of the ‘‘Pocket Tutor’’ project. This project created and
implemented read-aloud enhanced podcasts into a University Reading
Clinic. The authors provide suggestions for creating, implementing, and
modifying the project.
Methodology/approach – The chapter is organized from rationale to
creation to implementation. The chapter then makes recommendations for
future projects.
Practical implications – The chapter demonstrates how a University
Reading Clinic implemented read-aloud enhanced podcasts. These are
inexpensive to create and host on free websites for families to access.
Originality/value of paper – As many struggling readers need motivation
to read independently outside of school, the Pocket Tutor project provides

Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom

Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Volume 2, 265–281
Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2048-0458/doi:10.1108/S2048-0458(2013)0000002016

a viable resource for engaging these readers. Not only are they listening to
text at their instructional level, they are also being provided with
metacognitive comprehension prompts.

Keywords: Podcasts; read aloud; think aloud; metacognition;

technology; struggling reader


Fifth-grader Casey’s mom has just picked him up from school. His mom
hands him an iPod, earphones, and a book. He turns on the iPod, navigates
to the right section, flips open the book, and reads along with a recording of
the chapter. Fourth-grader Mary is sitting at the family’s kitchen table,
while her mom is getting dinner ready. Mary is reading a book, following
along as she listens to a recording of the chapter on an iPod. The books that
Casey and Mary are reading were selected for them based on their particular
interests, and are estimated to be at their instructional level – third-grade
level for both Casey and Mary. Importantly, the read-alouds that they are
listening to are not simply read-alouds. These read-alouds are embedded
with prompts to construct and respond to the meaning of the text. The
books and iPods were loaned to the children by the University Reading
Clinic, where they both attend tutorial sessions once a week.
The teachers in our University Reading Clinic have often lamented that
the one and a half hours they have with their struggling readers each week is
just not enough. They comment that between meetings their struggling
readers have sometimes forgotten what they worked on the session before
and that they have to spend valuable time revisiting the previous week’s
intervention lesson. However, by taking advantage of new technologies we
have been able to bridge this gap through the creation of a ‘‘Pocket Tutor.’’
A Pocket Tutor is an iPod ‘‘loaded’’ with podcasts of tutorial read-alouds,
in which a tutor models, in think-aloud style, essential comprehension
prompts: strategies for constructing the meaning of instructional-level text.
Research has shown that students’ comprehension is vastly improved if the
process of metacognition is made transparent (Duffy, Roehler, &
Herrmann, 1988). Unlike reading independent-level text, reading at the
instructional level requires the reader to actively engage with the text before,
during, and after reading (Fisher, Lapp, & Frey, 2011; Manzo & Casale,
1985; Manzo & Manzo, 1990; Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995). This active
Providing a ‘‘Pocket Tutor’’ 267

engagement is driven by intentional and flexible use of strategies such as

schema activation, metacognition, fix-up strategies, and schema reconstruc-
tion (Dole, Duffy, Roehler, & Pearson, 1991; Kucan & Beck, 1997; Pressley,
2002; Van Keer & Verhaeghe, 2005).
However, for most students, these strategies are not learned indepen-
dently. Therefore, it is essential that teachers model a range of strategies to
help students become strategic readers. Gambrell (2007) stated that
‘‘teachers who are effective reading mentors support students in developing
strategic reading behaviors that help them become proficient and
independent readers who read for pleasure’’ (p. 1). Research findings from
Garner & Krause’s (1982) landmark study comparing metacognitive
knowledge of good and poor readers confirmed that stronger readers
demonstrated more knowledge and control of reading than poor readers.
The stronger readers proceeded automatically with the comprehension
process until they encountered a challenge, at which time they employed
metacognitive skills to resolve the challenge. Our goal with the Pocket Tutor
project was to provide struggling readers with an engaging form of
technology that models how a skilled reader navigates instructional-level
text through the use of comprehension prompts, in the hope that struggling
readers eventually would internalize these strategies and use these when
reading other difficult materials.
Manzo, Manzo, and Thomas (2009) proposed that teachers develop a few
general phrases to use when modeling comprehension processes (or thinking
aloud) with students. At kindergarten through third-grade level, the
prompts included schema activation, comprehension monitoring, and
comprehension fix-up (i.e., using pictures and context clues, stopping to
go back, rereading, and asking questions). For older students in grades 4–
12, teachers can add prompts for visualization, and synthesizing,
summarizing, or paraphrasing a larger block of text. The teacher then uses
those generic comprehension prompts frequently, in read-alouds, with the
goal of having the student internalize and use them independently.
The Pocket Tutor Comprehension Prompts are somewhere in between
think-aloud prompts that are specific to the contents of the text at-hand and
more general prompts that ask for application of a particular type of
strategy. For example, in a narrative description of two children observing
movement within a cocoon, a specific prompt might be, ‘‘What do you think
the children will see next?’’ A general prompt might be, ‘‘What can we
predict will happen next?’’A Pocket Tutor Comprehension Prompt might
be, ‘‘So now I know there’s something inside the cocoon.’’ The phrase, ‘‘So
now I knowy’’ is a Prompt for synthesizing and paraphrasing. When the

phrase is completed, it is specific to the material just read – whether a

paragraph, a page, or a chapter. Thus, the Pocket Tutor Comprehension
Prompts are specific enough to be text-connected, but general enough to be
applicable to most text encountered (at a particular difficulty level).
In addition to strategy instruction, students also benefit from participat-
ing in stimulating tasks. Guthrie et al. (1996) concluded that when students
are motivated to read they are more likely to employ active strategies while
reading, and when they acquire effective strategies for reading they are more
likely to be motivated to read. However, coaxing struggling readers to
engage with text in the classroom is challenging enough; getting them to
read at home is an even greater challenge as technology competes for their
time and attention (Levy & Marsh, 2011). Our hope was that the iPod
technology would be a significant motivator for the children to willingly
engage with the read-alouds at home. This is supported by Considine,
Horton, and Moorman (2009) who stated that ‘‘today’s ‘millennial
generation’ youngsters seem to have boundless interest and curiosity about
emerging technologies’’ (p. 473). In addition, Lenhart, Madden, and Hitlin
(2005) surveyed 1,100 teens and found that today’s children are ‘‘technology
rich and enveloped by a wired world’’ (p. ii).
For these reasons, teachers must tap into their students’ digital ‘‘funds of
knowledge’’ to enrich literacy instruction. Levy (2009) found that digital
media allowed children to ‘‘develop not only general understandings about
how texts work, but allowed them to interact with print as part of the social
semiotic structure of multi-modal text use’’ (p. 89). Thus, educators are
increasingly calling for the incorporation of media literacy practices into the
literacy education curricula (Considine et al., 2009). Therefore, we
hypothesized that the best way to motivate struggling students to practice
reading comprehension at home was through a marriage of audio recordings
with an embedded think-aloud model and ‘‘cool’’ technology using iPods;
and the ‘‘Pocket Tutor’’ project was born.


The Pocket Tutor project provided children participating in a University

Reading Clinic, which is located in a large and diverse urban area of Southern
California, with iPods to use for nine weeks during the semester. The children
who participate in the clinic are generally one or more years below grade level
in reading and writing; which is determined based on a battery of assessments
that include an informal reading inventory and parent and teacher interviews.
Providing a ‘‘Pocket Tutor’’ 269

The project was implemented for three semesters from spring 2011 to spring
2012. When children first received their iPod, it was preloaded with a
comprehension prompt enhanced read-aloud of the first chapter or short
section of a book that was selected for them based on their instructional
reading level, general interests, and the readability level of the text. The
children were encouraged to use the iPod to listen to the read-aloud several
times throughout the week. When the children returned to the clinic for their
next session, a new ‘‘episode’’ read-aloud of the book was added. Each week
the graduate students who were providing the clinic intervention asked the
children to respond to journal prompts regarding their previous podcast
episode. At the end of the semester, the children were postassessed on their
reading level and think-aloud ability.


A total of 13 children (8 males and 5 females) ranging in grade from 3rd to

10th and varied instructional levels (2nd–6th) participated; some children
participated more than one semester (see Table 1). For the purpose of the
Pocket Tutor project, students whose instructional reading level was at least
at the second-grade level and who were found to be below grade level in
comprehension were selected to participate in the project.

Selecting the Books

Books were selected based on topic, readability level and the instructional
reading levels of the students. All books were fictional chapter books. To verify
the readability of the books, the Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level readability test
(Kincaid, Fishburne, Rogers, & Chissom, 1975) and the Fry (1990) Read-
ability formula were used (see Table 2). The readability levels of passages from
the beginning, middle, and end of the books were found and averaged. During
the first sessions with the students, the University Reading Clinic tutors
conducted an interest inventory and an informal reading inventory in order to
match students to high interest texts at their instructional level.

Constructing the Comprehension Prompts

At each developmental level, there are certain strategies that are important.
For example, at earlier levels it is important to prompt oneself to attend to

Table 1. Student Information.

Student Male or Spring 2011 Grade/ Fall 2011 Grade/ Spring 2012 Grade/
Female Instructional Instructional Instructional
Reading Level Reading Level Reading Level
Spring 2011 Fall 2011 Spring 2012

Albert M Y 3rd/2nd N ————— N ————

Sophia F Y 4th/3rd N ————— N ————
Ryan M Y 5th/2nd N ————— Y 6th/2nd
Erick M Y 4th/3rd Y 5th/4th N ————
Maria F Y 5th/3rd Y 6th/4th N ————
Emanuel M Y 5th/3rd Y 6th/4th N ————
Kerri F N ———— Y 7th/5th N ————
Billy M N ———— Y 5th/3rd N ————
Casey M N ———— Y 5th/4th N ————
Mary F N ———— Y 3rd/3rd N ————
Rita F N ———— N ———— Y 4th/4th
Ronald M N ———— N ———— Y 10th/6th
Doug M N ———— N ———— Y 5th/3rd

Note. Students have been given pseudonyms.

Table 2. Podcast Information and Readability of Books Used.
Book Title, Author Chapters Per Number of Episodes Total Minutes of Flesch–Kincaid Fry Readability
Book/Pages Per Book Recording Grade Level Average
Providing a ‘‘Pocket Tutor’’


The Magic Finger, 8/64 8 57 3.2 2nd/3rd

Roald Dahl
Basketball (or 16/166 8 228 4.6 4th
Something Like It),
Nora Raleigh Baskin
The Phantom of the 27/112 8 112 2.6 2nd
Subway, Geronimo
They Came from 9/96 8 102 4.5 3rd
Centerfield, Dan
The Chocolate Touch, 12/96 12 104 4.0 5th
Patrick Catling

the pictures, and use these to aid in the construction of meaning. Later, it is
important to prompt oneself to attend to the more complex language
structures, and sometimes reread when the written language is different
from typical spoken language, and also to attend to vocabulary that might
be unfamiliar, and to visualize while reading. At all levels with struggling
readers, it is also important to use prompts that sustain engagement and
motivation to read. A useful prompt to include at the beginning of an
episode is, ‘‘I think you’ll like it!’’ and after each pause to synthesize, in a
positive tone of voice and add, ‘‘Going on!’’ The strategies targeted with the
Pocket Tutor Comprehension Prompts are schema activation, clarifying
vocabulary, comprehension monitoring, comprehension fix-up, visualiza-
tion, synthesis, paraphrasing, and summarization. The tutor repeatedly
models the prompts using the same phrases, so that students may remember
and internalize them. Here is a sample from the story, Basketball (or
Something Like It):

(0 min to 2:30 min)

This is Dr. Manzo reading with you, and the book is, Basketball (or Something Like it)
(content set/purpose setting).
I think you might like this! (engagement/motivation)
We’ll read to page 8. (content set)
[NOTE: Each podcast begins with the previous 3 prompts]
On the very first page there’s an introduction. This part is called, ‘‘Perfect.’’ That must mean
y something good! (comprehension monitoring)
Maybe y something about basketball is perfect? (comprehension monitoring)
Let’s Read! (engagement/motivation)
(Dr. Manzo reads the text aloud)
(Stops and prompts) So I know y this may be about a boy who likes basketball – it makes
him feel good, and it sounds like he’s pretty good at it. The next part is called, ‘‘The North
Bridge Forum, Sports page B1. North Bridge Basketball Team Makes it to Semifinals.’’
That must mean that this is from the sports page of a newspaper. Maybey the boy in this
story goes to this high school. (comprehension monitoring/synthesis/prediction)
Let’s Read. (engagement/motivation)
(Dr. Manzo continues to read the text aloud)
(Stops and prompts) Wait (Dr. Manzo repeats a line from the text) ‘‘surprised all of the
basketball pundits by making it to the semifinals’’ yso pundits must be people who know
about this stuff. (clarifying vocabulary)
(Dr. Manzo continues to read the text aloud)
(Stops and prompts) Wait, that word seed (Dr. Manzo repeats a line from the text) ‘‘state
top seed Colby High and the sixteenth seeded Panthers’’ y so, seed must mean how good
they are? (clarifying vocabulary)
(Dr. Manzo continues to read the text aloud)
(Stops and prompts) Wait, prevail (Dr. Manzo repeats a line from the text) ‘‘they felt
confident that they would prevail’’ yso that must mean win. (clarifying vocabulary)
(Dr. Manzo continues to read the text aloud)
Providing a ‘‘Pocket Tutor’’ 273

(2:31-4:10 omitted; 4:11 min – 5:03 min)

(Stops and prompts) Wait, what’s that (Dr. Manzo repeats a line from the text), ‘‘these kids
have been working toward this moment since long before they ever got to high school.’’ So I
know y If North Bridge wins the semifinals they will play for the state championship.AND,
the story we’re going to read may not be about what happens next it may be about how the
North Bridge team GOT to this point. That must mean the story is starting way before that
high school quarter finals game AND maybe that really good player is Hank.
(comprehension monitoring/paraphrasing/synthesis)
Going on! (engagement/motivation)
(Dr. Manzo reads the text aloud)
(Stops and prompts) This part is called y Sixth Grade, and on the next page, this part is
called, ‘‘The Clinics’’ and ‘‘Hank.’’ That must mean y The story is starting way before that
high school game, and, maybe y that really good player is Hank. (comprehension
Going on! (engagement/motivation)
(Dr. Manzo reads the text aloud)
(Stops and prompts) I can picture that y The kid in pj’s standing at the sink listening to his
parents, who are downstairs, talking about him. (visualization)

The podcast continues from 5:04 minutes to 18:00 minutes. If you would
like to listen to this entire podcast, you can do so online at http://

Recording the Podcasts

Once a book was selected, it was divided into sections according to the
number of weeks the students would be attending the University Reading
Clinic, which in most cases resulted in sections of one to two chapters. The
Pocket Tutor project was allotted nine weeks of the twelve-week regular
semester intervention sessions. Each section of each book was recorded
using GarageBandt (only available on Apple Macintosh computers;
Audacityt could be used as an alternate program) and saved as an MP3
(.mp3) file on the researchers personal computer.
Four of the five books used in the project have 8 podcasts (The Chocolate
Touch has 12) and they range in playing length from an average of 7 minutes
to 28 minutes. The pocket tutor strategically modeled the Pocket Tutor
Comprehension Prompts by thinking aloud before, during, and after the
reading (see Table 3 for prompt language) when creating the podcasts. The
recorded read-alouds with incorporated comprehension prompts were
intended to heighten the reader’s engagement and demonstrate intentional
and flexible use of level-appropriate strategies for actively constructing
meaning from print (Manzo et al., 2009).
Table 3. Pocket Tutor Comprehension Prompts.
Purpose Comprehension Prompt 2–3 4–5 6

Content set ‘‘This is _____ reading with you, and we’re reading O O O
Engagement ‘‘I think you’ll like it!’’ O O O
Attention to pictures ‘‘There’s a picture here [describe]’’ O O O
Attention to difficult ‘‘What was that? [re-read] That must be _________’’ O O O
Attention to difficult syntax ‘‘What was that? [re-read, emphasizing enunciation O O O
to clarify meaning]’’
Continuous comprehension [at logical sections – each ½ page to 1 ½ page] ‘‘So O O O
monitoring now I knowy [clarifying information based on
new knowledge]’’
Focus on translation ‘‘So now I know [translation – put in own words]’’ O O O
Focus on characters by ‘‘So now I know [character wants/thinks/feels/is O O O
name going to/etc.]’’
Focus on plot essentials ‘‘So now I know [what has happened/might O O O
Focus on basic inference ‘‘So now I know [between the lines inferences]’’ O O O
End of section ‘‘So now I know [short summary]; what I don’t know O O O
comprehension review is [short prediction, phrased as a question]’’
and prediction

Note. Asterisk indicates readability level of text.

Providing a ‘‘Pocket Tutor’’ 275

Uploading the Podcasts

The MP3 files were then submitted to iTunes by a graduate student who
used her personal iTunes account. Because the participants were in the
University Reading Clinic weekly, the podcasts were loaded onto the iPods
by the graduate student to avoid placing this task on the parents. However,
the podcasts could also be made available online and updated weekly or the
entire podcast could be made available at once and the students could read
at their own pace. In addition podcasts may be published as an iTunes RSS
feed, to which parents and/or students may subscribe through their own
iTunes account using their personal iPod.

Role of the Podcasts in the Tutorial Sessions

We intentionally did not encourage the University Reading Clinic tutors to

incorporate the contents of the read-aloud books into their instruction. The
role of the read-aloud was meant to be similar to that of Sustained Silent
Reading – increasing the amount of time a student spends in engaged
reading, thereby increasing the student’s familiarity with the vocabulary, the
language patterns, and the informational content of instructional-level
materials – making the act of reading more comfortable and enjoyable. The
difference, of course, is that in Sustained Silent Reading students are
intended to be reading independent-level materials.

Monitoring Students’ Progress and Attaining Feedback

during the Project

We did, however, ask the University Reading Clinic tutors to write down the
responses their students gave each week to the Pocket Tutor journal
prompts to monitor the participants’ progress and to generate feedback.
Initially, the journal included basic questions about the use of the iPod and
podcast – how many times, where, and when they listened to the podcast,
what they liked/disliked, and what problems they encountered. As the
project developed, we revised the journals to include information about the
embedded comprehension prompts and to produce more substantial
feedback. The journal questions were revised two times, at the beginning
of each of the following semesters. The revised questions encouraged the
students to develop metacognition about the comprehension prompts. For

example, they were asked why they thought the tutor stopped to think-aloud
during the story, how the tutor’s thoughts helped them understand the
story, and if they started using the phrases that were repeatedly mentioned
by the tutor (see appendix for a sample journal).

Implementing the Pocket Tutor project has been both challenging and
rewarding. Over the past three semesters, we have gained substantial
knowledge about creating a podcast, copyright rules, and text selection.
Below, we highlight a few of the hurdles we overcame while developing our

Technology, the Potential, and the Challenge

Advances in technology have created enormous opportunity for creating

literacy interventions; however, there were many technological roadblocks
that we overcame while implementing the Pocket Tutor project. We had
purposely selected the Apple iPod to use for our audio recordings due to
what we felt was its ‘‘coolness’’ factor; but many of the obstacles we
encountered were due to Apple’s proprietary software. To protect recording
artists, Apple has ensured that each iPod can only sync with a set number of
computers. As the iPods for the project were loaned to different students
each semester, who listened to different recordings, it became difficult to
figure out how to allow the families to easily upload the podcasts
themselves. Therefore, we chose to upload the podcasts for our participants
each week when they returned to the University Reading Clinic. However, it
is possible to provide the MP3 recordings to the families so that they can
manually upload them to the borrowed iPod.

Copyright/Fair Use Issues

In addition to the challenge of syncing the loaned iPods, another path we

navigated was the policy on copyright and fair use. As the project involved
reading popular trade books out loud and making the recordings available
online, we wanted to ensure that only those students who were also provided
Providing a ‘‘Pocket Tutor’’ 277

with a copy of the book were able to listen to the podcasts. This was a
second reason for uploading the podcasts ourselves each week. It ensured
that the recording was only shared with a child that had a text. Another way
to maintain copyright would be to only provide those students who are
provided a book with a link to the MP3 recording.

Matching Readers to Text

The first semester we implemented the Pocket Tutor project, we were

experimenting with different types of books and lengths of podcasts. We
were essentially creating podcasts to equal the number of sessions that our
students would be able to participate. For example, during the first semester
of project implementation, we had matched two boys with a text we had
perceived to be high interest. However, we noticed that around the third
session of use they were losing interest as they were responding to the weekly
journal with ‘‘I forgot to read’’ or ‘‘the iPod didn’t work.’’
After reviewing the length of time of each podcast (average 28 minutes),
we realized that when read-aloud prompts were coupled with a lengthy
chapter it affected the engagement of these reluctant readers and that we
needed to factor in length of podcast to maintain interest. By the third
semester, we more proficiently matched students to text and length of
podcast. We considered the age of the student and the length of each
chapter, knowing that the recording length would be longer as we were also
embedding comprehension prompts.


Teachers have often lamented that the neediest students do the least amount
of reading at home. In addition, struggling readers need the comprehension
process to be made apparent to them if they are to increase their capacity for
constructing meaning from text. The theory of mental modeling (Manzo &
Manzo, 2002) proposes that (1) in instructional-level reading, the successful
reader uses strategy phrases (often questions) and fix-up strategies
intentionally and flexibly in order to reconstruct the author’s meanings;
that (2) these strategy phrases can be taught by demonstration in ‘‘read-
alouds’’ accompanied by ‘‘thinking aloud’’; and that (3) students’ repeated
experiences with teacher modeling of strategy phrases leads to their

internalization of the strategies for use when attempting to read instruc-

tional-level materials on their own (Duffy et al.,1988).
However, just sending students home with a read-aloud of a book may
not be motivating enough. Guthrie and Wigfield (2000) established the
theory of reading engagement which states that (a) Engagement in reading
refers to interaction with text that is simultaneously motivated and strategic,
(b) engaged reading correlates with achievement in reading comprehension,
(c) engaged reading and its constituents (motivation and cognitive
strategies) can be increased by instructional practices directed toward them,
and (d) an instructional framework that merges motivational and cognitive
strategy support in reading will increase engaged reading and reading
The goal of the Pocket Tutor project was to marry these two concepts,
mental modeling and reading engagement through the use of new
technology in the hopes of motivating students to practice their reading
comprehension skills at home between intervention sessions at the
University Reading Clinic. Our experiences in creating and providing the
prompted read-alouds, along with our weekly observations and the simple
weekly ‘‘journals’’ collected by the tutors confirmed that we realized this
goal. The prompted read-alouds were simple to create and, though the
process of making these available to students involved a steep learning
curve, we were able to begin the project with a basic knowledge and by the
third semester had streamlined production and created easily accessible
iTunes podcasts. Even the most reluctant readers did, with few weekly
exceptions, read/listen to the weekly book selections. All children completed
their books by the end of the semester.
An additional point in favor of the Pocket Tutor approach is that while it
is generally understood that ‘‘outside reading’’ should be at a student’s
independent level, when working with struggling readers it can be
challenging to find materials at their independent level that will not be
perceived by them as ‘‘babyish.’’ This can be as true of a third-grade student
given a kindergarten or first-grade level book as it is of an eighth-grade
student given a fifth or sixth-grade book. Children in the Pocket Tutor
project went home each week with an ‘‘outside reading’’ book that was at
their instructional level, and returned each week (again, with a few weekly
exceptions) having read/listened to the weekly section and having under-
stood it, at least at a basic level.
The extent to which the children in the project would successfully make
inferences and applications based on their basic understanding of the book
sections was not investigated in this project. Also not directly investigated
Providing a ‘‘Pocket Tutor’’ 279

was the extent to which the children may have begun to internalize the
comprehension prompts and to use these when reading other materials.
These questions could be incorporated into next levels of investigation.
Additionally, it would be important to learn the effectiveness of prompted
read-alouds of nonfiction material.
For now, the children who participated in the clinic for the past three
semesters spent more time outside the ‘‘classroom’’ engaged in successful
instructional-level reading. As one student said in response to the journal
question, ‘‘Is it better, the same, or not as good as reading a book by
yourself?’’ Casey (grade 5, 11/3/2011) said, ‘‘I think it is better because it
stops and makes me understand what I’m reading.’’

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Providing a ‘‘Pocket Tutor’’ 281


1. Why do you think the reader is stopping and thinking out loud during
the story?
2. How have the reader’s pauses and thoughts helped you understand the
3. Does the reader say something that you have begun to say, too? If you
are, why have you decided to use it?
4. Do you remember anything, besides certain phrases, that the reader
pointed out to you (such as descriptions or pictures)? If you do, give an
example (or examples).

1. How many times did you listen to the story? Why did you read the story
(Did you want to read it yourself or were you asked to by your parents or
other adults)?
2. Where and when did you listen to it?
3. What are some things you like about using it and what are some
problems (if any) you have with using it?

Joan A. Rhodes


Purpose – The chapter provides the reader with an overview of the impact
technology has on literacy education and makes a case for utilizing the
technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) framework for
incorporating instructional technology in the reading clinic. The focus
then shifts to how instructional technologies can be utilized to enhance
literacy learning during a one-on-one tutoring program.
Methodology/approach – The author describes the changing nature of
literacy instruction and the need for 21st century skills for teacher
candidates and the students they serve. Pedagogical possibilities and
instructional expectations are shared through discussion of the technology
activities used by teaching candidates participating in school-based
reading clinics.

Advanced Literacy Practices: From the Clinic to the Classroom

Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation, Volume 2, 283–301
Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 2048-0458/doi:10.1108/S2048-0458(2013)0000002017

Practical implications – In addition to descriptions of how teacher

candidates utilized technology within their reading clinic instruction, the
author notes affordances and challenges of integrating technology in one-
on-one instructional settings. Instructional uses of eReaders, laptops, and
iPads for literacy learning are noted in the chapter for possible replication
in other reading clinic programs. Future directions for additional research
are included.
Social implications – The chapter suggests how the university reading
clinic can provide opportunities for teacher candidates to work
collaboratively with students to incorporate technology into literacy
learning activities. Working with technology in a tutoring environment
serves as a foundation for incorporating digital literacy instruction in
teacher candidates’ future classrooms and ensuring that students have the
21st century skills necessary for college and employment.

Keywords: Reading clinic; digital literacy; tutoring; instructional

technology; technological pedagogical content knowledge framework;
teacher candidates


Look around any classroom, practice field, or shopping mall and you will
find evidence of the profound impact information communication
technologies have on modern society. Today’s students are engaged in
multiple forms of literacy learning in both formal and informal environ-
ments. In fact, Rosen (2010) reports that preteens, teens, and young adults
are consuming media upward of a nearly impossible, 20 hours a day.
Clearly, smartphones, eReaders, iPads, and the other myriad of technology
tools available to students are changing the nature of reading and study.
Adults, including faculty, have also experienced changes in the ways they
gather and process information in both their work and personal lives. The
reported gap between the levels of technology expertise of persons born after
1980, digital natives, and those born before this time period, the digital
immigrants, presents a challenging situation for educators (Prensky, 2001).
Recent AARP survey results (2010) indicate that 60% of persons over the
age of 50 either, do not use the Internet (17%), feel uncomfortable using it
(22%), or feel only somewhat comfortable working online (21%). Further,
only 4% of the over 50 population reported owning a smartphone and only
Innovative Practices in the Reading Clinic 285

2% owned an iPad (Koppen, 2010). Zickhur and Madden (2012) reported

similar results where the contrast in Internet adoption between adults ages
50–64 (77%) and adults ages 18–29 (97%) was significant. With the
proportion of teachers ages 50 and older in the K-12 teaching workforce
standing at 31% (Feistritzer, 2011), these statistics suggest that many
educators in the public schools may need support in incorporating
technology into their classroom instruction.
One way of assisting public schools in meeting the changing demand for tech
savvy educators is to ensure that new college graduates have the technology and
pedagogical skills necessary to infuse technology in the literacy classroom.
Faculty working toward this goal can utilize the technological pedagogical
content knowledge (TPACK) framework as a means of organizing instruction
to provide teacher candidates with the skills necessary for successful technology
integration (Graham, 2011). The TPACK framework represents the relation-
ship between and among the domains of pedagogy, content, and technology
knowledge and is useful for providing candidates with an interconnected
approach for integrating technology in the literacy classroom. Unlike
traditional technology training, courses designed using TPACK situate
technology instruction within pedagogical and content knowledge (Baran,
Chuang, & Thompson, 2011). Although some researchers (Archambault &
Barnett, 2010; Graham 2011) suggest that the framework needs further
clarification to define each of the relevant domains, its use recognizes the
interrelationships between pedagogy, technology, and content experienced in
authentic learning environments.
Faculty who provide experiences utilizing technology should ensure that
their instruction addresses the TPACK domains as well as curriculum
standards. National and state standards focused on the development of 21st
century workplace skills and technology use have formalized instructional
objectives related to information communication technology for those
working in public school classrooms. The Common Core State Standards
adopted within the United States in 2010 indicate that students should be
able to use technology and digital media to enhance their reading and
writing, use online searching to acquire information, and become familiar
with the strengths and limitations of technology tools. Further, the
standards indicate that students should be able to select and use the
appropriate medium for their communication goals (National Governors
Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School
Officers, 2011). The International Society for Technology in Education
developed the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) to help
define the skills and knowledge students, teachers, and administrators need

for effective learning in a digital society (ISTE, 2011a). The NETS-T,

standards for educators (ISTE, 2011b) and the International Reading
Association’s Standards for Reading Professionals: A Reference for the
Preparation of Educators in the United States (2010) both indicate that
teachers need to use a wide range of digital and online resources and provide
activities that encourage reading, writing, and creating products in digital
environments. For these reasons, many university education programs are
incorporating instructional technology learning activities into their courses.
One challenge presented by embedding technology into this changing
instructional environment is that research shows preservice educators are
not consistently utilizing digital media within their university preparation
programs (Carter, Smith, & Rhodes, 2011; Roscorla, 2010). Fortunately, the
momentum at both the national and state levels to include technology and
media literacy skills in curriculum standards provides an impetus for
university educators to refocus instruction to meet the demands of 21st
century literacy skills. Reading clinics provide faculty members with an
environment to embed technology into a practical field-based experience.
The clinic setting also allows opportunities to observe teaching candidates as
they develop integrated technology lessons using the TPACK conceptual
framework. The use of digital media can support educators in the reading
clinic by providing opportunities for students to develop information and
media literacy expertise, practice reading, speaking, and writing skills and
collaborate on projects with others from around the world.
Faculty in teacher preparation programs must ensure that teacher
candidates are prepared to meet a younger, more technologically
experienced student population at their own level. Twenty-first century
educators need preparation to help students transfer the technology skills
they use in daily life to new educational purposes. There is clear recognition
that to be successful in college and life in a technological society, students,
and teacher candidates must be both information literate – able to find,
locate, and use information (Henderson & Scheffler, 2004) and media
literate – able to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media information
(Hobbs, 2010; Walkosz, Jolls, & Sund, 2008)


As teacher candidates prepare for instruction with students in the K-12
language arts classroom, they must consider the expanding definition of
literacy. No longer does literacy’s general definition as the ‘‘minimal ability to
Innovative Practices in the Reading Clinic 287

read and write in a designated language, as well as a mindset or way of thinking

about the use of reading and writing in everyday life’’ (Venezky, 1995, p. 142)
fit the broadening manner in which technology has influenced communica-
tion. One view of modern literacy includes consideration of the overwhelming
amount of information encountered on a daily basis. Information literate
students need to be able to locate and evaluate information to enhance
personal learning and expand investigations. Students must use information
to accomplish specific goals while demonstrating awareness of the social and
ethical issues that surround information use (Association of College and
Research Libraries, 2000). However, information literacy is not enough when
we consider the need to capture the variety of ways students use digital
environments for creative self-expression and entertainment. These types of
activities require students to be cognizant of how media affects their lives.
Media literacy instruction encourages students to reflect critically on the
media messages they encounter in popular culture (, n.d.).
Instruction in media literacy begins in early grades with awareness activities and
later moves to the more complex activities of media analysis and production
(Media Literacy Clearinghouse, 2011). Hobbs (2010) describes five media
literacy components necessary to participate in a media- and information-rich
society. Literate citizens must possess the ability to
 Make responsible choices and access information by locating and sharing materials
and comprehending information and ideas
 Analyze messages in a variety of forms by identifying the author, purpose, and point of
view, and evaluating the quality and credibility of the content
 Create content in a variety of forms, making use of language, images, sound, and new
digital tools and technologies
 Reflect on one’s own conduct and communication behavior by applying social
responsibility and ethical principles
 Take social action by working individually and collaboratively to share knowledge and
solve problems in the family, workplace and community, and by participating as a
member of a community (Hobbs, 2010, pp. vi–vii).
Many teachers will need to move out of their comfort zones to tackle these
five components. Domine (2011) suggested that educators widen their focus
and increase their technological proficiency, moving away from viewing them-
selves of consumers of information to one of creators who share information.


Leading authorities in technology education have suggested that current

teacher candidates belong to the generation of digital natives, a group that

because of growing up in a technology-infused world is hard-wired for

multitasking and adapting to all things digital (Prensky, 2001). These future
educators should have the technological proficiency to integrate informa-
tional and media literacy into their classroom instruction. However, recent
research and first-hand experience in university classrooms suggest that
digital ‘‘nativeness’’ may not apply in all situations nor with all technologies.
In an exploratory study of 160 university students’ use of digital
technologies, Margaryan, Littlejohn, and Vogt (2011) found that students
use a limited range of mostly well-established technologies. They also found
no evidence to support claims that university students were adopting
radically different learning styles. If all contemporary teacher candidates are
like the students in Margaryan et al.’s study who favored passive,
conventional, and linear teaching and learning styles, how will they develop
the skills necessary for teaching with technology as well as the pedagogical
knowledge needed for incorporating technology into their lessons?
Vavra and Spencer (2011) suggest that teachers need to take advantage of
opportunities for exploring text sources and multimedia resources in digital
environments as well as use the production tools available in their schools.
When utilizing technology with students, Prensky (2010) proposes that the
educator’s role shift toward acting as a facilitator of knowledge acquisition
using a guide-on-the-side partnering model versus a more traditional sage-on-
a-stage model. Educators would should supply overarching guiding questions
and then coach students using the available resources. The reading clinic,
where candidates are able to work one-on-one with students, is a perfect
setting for experimentation with this type of facilitated instructional model.



Every academic year, teacher candidates participate in semester-long

reading clinic practicum experiences where they design remediation lessons
focused on the needs of individual learners in order to improve reading and
writing performance. In the past, lessons have primarily focused on using
paper-based curriculum materials and methods, but increasingly university
faculty are asking candidates to integrate technology into their lessons
(Staples, Pugach, & Himes, 2005). Faculty anticipate that incorporating
digital technologies in the reading clinic will provide a structured and
supportive environment where teacher candidates are able to experiment
Innovative Practices in the Reading Clinic 289

with technology tools and pedagogy while enhancing their tutees’ 21st
century literacy skills.
The remainder of this chapter focuses on instructional activities used by
teaching candidates participating in school-based reading clinics. The
activities are a sampling of ways technology can support instruction in
tutorial settings, which tend to work more easily in clinics where candidates
utilize instructional materials specifically selected or designed for individual
students’ needs rather than those who require prescribed curriculum
activities. The flexibility afforded in this model allows and encourages
candidates to test different types of materials and instructional methods.
Although lessons can vary significantly among course participants, all
candidates should be expected to provide instruction that meets the learning
standards outlined by the relevant policymaking bodies and that supports
the classroom teachers’ expectations. This type of clinic environment offers
unique opportunities for students to test Prensky’s facilitation model for
technology integration within a realistic teaching context.

Using eReaders (Kindles)

Pilot programs incorporating the use of Kindles with students in grades K-

12 are becoming commonplace (Barack, 2011). Even politicians have
suggested that the use of digital textbooks available on eReaders or laptops
is an affordable means of providing open source instructional materials
(Lewin, 2009). The rise of eBook use in America is an indication of a shift in
reading trends from paper-based texts to digital materials. In a Pew Internet
& the American Life Project report, 43% of Americans age 16 and older say
they have either read an eBook in the past year or have read other content
such as magazines, journals, and news articles in digital format on an eBook
reader, tablet computer, regular computer, or cell phone (Rainie, Zickuhr,
Purcel, Madden, & Brenne, 2012). The ease of use and inexpensive access to
literary works make eReaders a viable option for reading clinic classrooms.
One of the most important aspects of a reading clinic tutoring experience
is being able to tailor instruction to meet individual learners’ needs in an
environment where relative strengths are recognized and research-proven
teaching strategies are utilized (Ortlieb, Grandstaff-Beckers, & Cheek,
2012). The use of Kindles and other eReading devices support clinicians as
they differentiate instruction and improve student learning. One school-
based reading clinic had 5 Kindle eReaders available for use during the
semester to rotate between 15 candidate–student pairs as needed. The

candidates and instructor determined that they would use the eReaders to
assist students who were having difficulty comprehending text or showed
evidence of weak vocabulary knowledge. The small class size made sharing
devices relatively simple with students collaboratively determining a
schedule for use among their partner groups.
The Kindle eReaders offered a number of features to aid students with
comprehending and retaining information. The Kindle provided a text-to-
speech feature that allowed students to hear a story read orally while
tracking print, offering additional support to those whose comprehension
was impacted by nonfluent reading. Additionally, students increased and
decreased font size to improve the ease of reading. As practical experience
shows, students are often intimidated by reading materials printed in smaller
font sizes. Candidates found that some students would willingly tackle texts
that were more challenging when they simply increased the font size of the
reading material. Another feature that was extremely helpful for increasing
student comprehension was using the device dictionary to immediately
identify and study word meanings. One candidate working with a fifth-grade
English language learner (ELL) was quite surprised when her tutee started
using the pronunciation key in the dictionary to support her oral reading
performance. This unplanned discovery became a favorite strategy in this
candidate–student pair.
The Kindle also had a number of components related to studying in
digital text environments. Students highlighted information and took notes
while reading. Through the school’s WIFI connection, students also referred
to the Kindle’s Popular Highlights feature to determine what other readers
selected as interesting passages within a text (Amazon, 2004–2011). This
feature allowed readers to compare what they believed were important
aspects of a story with the ideas of members from the broader community.
This comparison resulted in interesting conversation between tutors and
students focusing on higher-level comprehension skills required when
reading deeply to analyze texts.
From an instructor’s point of view, introducing the Kindles to the teacher
candidates offered some challenge. The candidates, all digital natives
according to Prensky’s definition, were unfamiliar with using the Kindle
tool. Some students had experience with more advanced devices and were
frustrated by the lack of a touch screen on the available Kindles. However,
the majority of candidates reported that they could not afford an eReader
and wished they had more time for ‘‘playing’’ with the device to increase
their own comfort level before using it with their tutees. This slight
uncertainty allowed for the natural movement of teacher candidates into a
Innovative Practices in the Reading Clinic 291

position of mutual learner, a process rooted in sociocultural theory in which

all participants learn from and alongside one another (Martin, 2008). Tutors
actively provided scaffolding and coaching for their tutees as they worked
together. Students were energized by the introduction of the eReaders to the
tutoring sessions and in general were motivated to read from the devices.
However, the candidates primarily utilized reading material selected by the
course instructor rather than asking for content that related to their tutees’
interests. Across the course of the semester, candidates became more
familiar with using an eReader in their instruction, but continued to prefer
using mobile devices and laptops.

Using Laptops

As early as 1997, studies noted the positive effect of laptop use on student
writing performance. In an independent analysis of the Microsoft–Toshiba
partnership, Anytime Anywhere Learning Project, teachers reported that
students created more rough drafts and focused on content rather than
mechanics when using laptops for writing (Rockman et al., 1997). A more
recent investigation (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005) showed that sixth- and
eighth-grade students participating in a laptop immersion program exceeded
district and school mean scores on the school district’s writing performance
assessment when they worked with laptops. The use of laptops increased
students’ opportunities for composing, revising, and publishing written
work in Grimes and Warschauer’s (2008) study of elementary and middle
school students. Additionally, using word processing allowed for efficient
feedback from teachers as well as an increase in writing for authentic
purposes in a variety of formats and genres.
Teacher candidates participating in a reading clinic housed in an elementary
school with a large ELL population developed lessons to capitalize on the
positive results of previous studies in the areas of composing, revision, and
publication using their personal laptops during reading clinic lessons.
Although all teacher candidates were required to purchase laptops as part of
enrollment in the university, any who wished to borrow a laptop from the
university technology office for the clinical experience were allowed to do so.
The candidates had freedom to select software programs to encourage writing
during their tutoring sessions or utilize those introduced by the instructor
during the lecture portion of the course. Candidates were encouraged to
consider developing an eBook retelling using Rhodes and Milby’s (2007)
model as a foundation for their work.

One popular use of the laptop during writing was related to brainstorming
prior to composition. Teacher candidates asked their students to create mind
maps using the Inspiration software program to serve as a basis of their daily
writing projects. More advanced students used images, text, and hyperlinks to
prepare their maps. The use of images for planning was particularly helpful for
the ELLs who needed to review English vocabulary items.
Fortunately, the school was willing to allow the teacher candidates to use
their Internet connection for students to conduct searches for information
for writing projects. Candidates could take advantage of these activities and
offer instruction on the information/media literacy skills of accessing and
evaluating. The one-on-one instructional environment of reading clinics are
highly suitable for observing student Internet search behaviors and ensuring
students can express how they determine the credibility of an Internet site.
Students were expected to develop a piece of writing at each tutoring session.
Depending on their developmental level and writing expertise, students created
between one sentence and several paragraphs during the writing portion of the
clinical session. Following drafting, candidates focused on teaching students to
use the spelling and grammar check features of the word processing program.
Some students were not accustomed to writing for real audiences so publishing
and printing for their classmates and teachers became a prized opportunity. A
favorite writing project to share with others was made using Comic Creator
from (IRA/NCTE, 2012). This web-based program
allowed students to review story sequence while discussing the role of speech
bubbles in cartoon strips. Students found the ability to create and retell short
stories using images and dialogue particularly motivating. Composing on
laptops appeared to be one of the most beneficial uses of technology during
tutoring sessions. Overall, use of the laptops for enhancing the writing portion
of the clinic experience was viewed as successful even though some candidates
were somewhat anxious about allowing children to use their highly valued
computer hardware.

Using Mobile Technologies

Surprisingly, teaching candidates were not as protective of their mobile

smartphones as their laptops, lending them readily to youngsters as the need
arose. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that 46% of adults
owned a smartphone in February 2012, representing an 11% gain in users
within a period of nine months (Smith, 2012). Furthermore, 70% of adults ages
18–29, the ages of most college students who participate in preservice reading
Innovative Practices in the Reading Clinic 293

clinics, owned a smartphone. Initially, the faculty supervisor of the school-based

reading clinic was unaware of the level of access candidates had to mobile
phones and therefore intended to incorporate only laptops and eReaders into
the reading clinic activities. However, the teaching candidates began to bring in
their own devices for use with their students. This trend, Bring Your Own
Device (BYOD), has been evident in business settings for some time (Thomson,
2012) and is now beginning to be seen in educational settings as well. Cisco
Systems, Inc. (2010) conducted an international study of 2600 people in 13
countries to gauge employee expectations regarding access to work information.
Findings indicate that 66% of the workforce expects anywhere, anytime access
to workplace information and those with remote access spent up to an
additional three hours a day working, further blurring the division between
personal and work life. The 2012 Horizon Report lists BYOD as one of its
trends for adoption within a year, stating that schools are now rethinking bans
on mobile devices in favor of BYOD programs (New Media Consortium, 2012).
The reading clinic environment was an ideal setting for exploring BYOD
instructional approaches. The flexibility offered in an individual tutoring
model allowed candidates to use their mobile devices to enhance lessons
based on student need. Although, very few candidates had access to iPads or
tablet devices, almost all were able to utilize mobile phones. Candidates
primarily used smartphones for finding information needed during their
discussions and reading with students, for game play, and in the case of one
student as a reward for working hard during the tutoring session. Discussion
around new phone applications (apps) for instruction became a regular
topic during informal conversations prior to class. These informal
discussions will become a permanent feature of future reading clinic courses.
Susan Tancock (2012), who presented at a recent IRA Technology in
Literacy Education-Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG), provided an excel-
lent model for evaluating applications for use in the reading clinic. She
suggested that students evaluate apps using a format that includes reviewing
the curriculum connection, authenticity, types of feedback provided, and
differentiation capabilities among several others. She described her process
as one where reading clinic participants evaluated a specific number of apps
and then all shared their scoring with the total group of teacher candidates.
This formalized approach provided practice in looking at applications with a
critical eye while developing a listing for classmates to use with their tutees.
McClanahan, Williams, Kennedy, and Tate (2012) found tutorial
instruction using an iPad very beneficial to Josh, a remedial reader
participating in reading clinic sessions. Initially, Josh’s tutor planned to
use the iPad as a reward for maintaining focus during tutoring sessions.

School officials hoped that the self-paced, individualized format might also
be beneficial for Josh. Upon completion of the program, the researchers
noted that several iPad features seemed to influence his significant literacy
improvement. The integration of multimodalities (visual, kinesthetic) when
working on the touch screen, the ability to record and listen to his own voice
during reading, and the use of a stylus for maintaining control were factors
that contributed to his growth.
iPads are particularly useful for assisting students in developing multi-
media projects in tutoring sessions. Teaching candidates in reading clinics
can assist students in taking digital images related to stories they have read
or as brainstorming for writing. Candidates then email the pictures to
themselves for use in developing eBooks and Power Point presentations.
This type of multimedia exploration allows students to meet the require-
ments of media literacy standards as they engage in activities that ask them
to think critically about how and why they use particular images, music, and
text to represent their learning. The inclusion of mobile devices owned either
by the university or teacher candidates improved students’ written
compositions and reading fluency and encouraged the partnering methods
suggested by Prensky (2010) as students and tutors collaboratively created,
reread, and shared multimedia presentations.



As with all instructional adaptations, embedding a variety of technology into

the reading clinic has both challenges and benefits. Issues surrounding access
to technology and the digital divide are prevalent and must be addressed in
planning sessions between the school system and the university instructor.
Attewell (2001) indicated two types of digital divides separate the ‘‘haves’’
from the ‘‘have nots.’’ Initially, educators need to consider digital equity in
terms of student access to technology and secondly, in terms of student use of
technology for educational purposes. DeBell and Chapman (2003) noted
several inequities in access to technology for students ages 5–17. They found
that students without disabilities, those living outside urban areas and those
residing in two-parent households were more likely to use the Internet and
computers. Furthermore, 52% of youngsters from families living in poverty
access the Internet only at school, compared to 26% of those from families with
incomes above the poverty line. Becker (2006) in a study of digital equity across
40 states found that African-American students and those living in rural areas
Innovative Practices in the Reading Clinic 295

had less access to educational technology. The value of incorporating technology

into one-on-one instructional settings is evident. Reading clinic directors who
plan to incorporate technology must be aware of these issues to ensure that
teacher candidates understand the need to review basic computing skills with
their tutees. From a practical standpoint, directors should also consider the level
of Internet access prior to establishing a partnering relationship if they intend to
fully integrate technology activities within the reading clinic. Faculty leaders need
to understand which websites and types of software programs are acceptable to
the school system. Appropriate educational videos, images, and social
networking sites that have instructional value can be blocked by the school
system’s Internet security system. By collaboratively preplanning for technology
integration in the reading clinic, faculty can mitigate many potential problems
prior to providing instructional sessions.
Another challenge faced by faculty leading reading clinics can be the
technological inexperience of their own teaching candidates. In a study of
graduate students pursuing reading specialists’ degrees, Balajthy, Reuber,
and Robinson (2001) found that student clinicians were willing to use
technology and recognized its potential for learning, but may have
inadvertently limited its benefits because of less than optimal planning. The
clinicians frequently did not provide clear literacy objectives or target their
instruction directly to students’ needs when using computers. Instead, they
frequently used their time with computers for exploration and play. The
clinicians spent little time evaluating software programs so their selections
for instruction were random and less purposeful. The challenges found by
Balajthy et al. appear to be typical as teaching candidates begin to develop
skill in using technology with students. The ‘‘play’’ observed in this study
may be an essential part of learning. However, reading clinic directors may
want to provide opportunities outside of the tutoring sessions so candidates
familiarize themselves with technology tools and software and feel confident
in their ability to use technology to meet real literacy objectives.
Two final challenges related to the integration of technology in the reading
clinic are time and money. The number of competencies to be covered in the
typical reading clinic course is extensive. Faculty need to consider which
technology applications are critical for the students they are serving. Providing
practice time with technologies require universities to purchase hardware in a
sufficient quantity so that all candidates have an opportunity to learn how to
use a device prior to providing instruction with the tool. Funding for
additional devices and flexibility in allowing candidates to use tools outside of
the normal classroom sessions are essential for students to have enough time to
implement pedagogical changes within their tutoring.

The need for teaching candidates to develop technological and pedagogical

skills for working in learning environments focused on increasing 21st century
literacy skills outweighs each of the potential challenges. The ability of teacher
candidates to gear lessons to one individual student offers many benefits when
attempting to incorporate technology. One of the most apparent advantages is
the ability of candidates to experiment with the idea of working as a guide-on-
the side. In some cases, the candidates were learning how to use a technology
device a few days before they introduced an activity to their tutee. Although
somewhat nervous about using some of the technology tools, the candidates
began to develop essential skills for learning collaboratively with their tutee.
Candidates felt some relief at being able to support their students without
having to be ‘‘the master of all knowledge’’ in the tutorial setting.
The use of technology as a motivator was also very apparent in the
candidate–student interactions in the reading clinic setting. Balajthy et al.
(2001) reported that their clinicians found the use of a computer to be
motivational. Several of the candidates working with ELLs in the clinic
described above were surprised by their tutees’ interest in using the keyboards
on the laptop. Because the students had limited experience with working on a
laptop, they were willing to write more if they were able to practice on the
keyboard. Other candidates used mobile devices and eReaders as a reward for
attentive behavior during lessons. This allowed the candidate to work on
another literacy objective while the student felt successful. Students in reading
clinics reported being excited about using technology and felt ‘‘special’’
because they were able to work with a device they perceived as fun during a
pull-out remediation program.
Most importantly, candidates in reading clinics found gains in student
performance when incorporating technology into their instructional activities.
The candidates were able to increase students’ comprehension of text and
enhance their digital study skills by utilizing features of the Kindle eReader.
Writing performance was enhanced through the use of laptops and students
learned to locate information on mobile phones. The use of iPads offered
opportunities for increasing student awareness of essential media literacy skills
as they created products for real audiences. Overall, students were motivated
to participate in skill development activities because of the use of technology
tools in their reading clinic experiences.


Technology integration using digital text in the university reading clinic is in

the early stages of development. While students’ and candidates’ enthusiasm
Innovative Practices in the Reading Clinic 297

for using digital technologies within their sessions was encouraging, further
research is needed to determine how this motivation and learning can be
extended beyond clinic activities. While some attempts at sharing student
products from the clinic within classrooms were successful, organizing for the
systematic sharing of student work and furthering collaborative planning with
classroom educators around digital literacy instruction would be beneficial.
Additionally, further study is needed to determine in which portions of the
tutoring session students gain the most from utilizing instructional technol-
ogies. Seeking ways to maximize learning through technology integration is
essential, particularly for programs with limited contact hours. Candidates’
attitudes toward the use of digital technologies and their understanding of
TPACK itself offer opportunities for further exploration as university
educators continue to provide learning environments where the use of
instructional technology is expected.