The Missouri Reader Vol. 43, Issue 2 - Page 46



Figure 1 - Ryan's Pic Collage

The Value of the Optimal Learning Model


Heather Johnson


Classroom CloseUP

The first couple years of teaching my class had a bad case of, “I can’t find anything I want to read.” Despite having bins of award winners, popular series, and some funny picture books, my humble library struggled to keep my students satisfied. My initial attempts to




The implementation of a more collaborative model, co-teaching, in order to meet the diverse needs in the classroom has increased in recent years both for students who have an identified learning disability and for those who have an unidentified deficit in literacy. In a 2002 study, Bean, Cassidy, Grumet, Shelton, and Wallis surveyed reading specialists to find one of the biggest changes to the role of the reading specialist. These researchers found “77% said that in-class instruction had increased, while the remainder indicated that it had decreased” (p. 741). Similarly, a position statement from the International Reading Association (2000), argues:

The range of student achievement found in classrooms, with the inclusion of children who have various physical, emotional, and educational needs, requires that we move to different educational models from those of the past. These new models present opportunities for teachers and reading specialists to work collaboratively to provide effective instruction for all students. (p. 1)

In today’s schools, reading specialists provide support to students and teachers through many roles. The International Reading Association (2000) has advocated that reading specialist roles change from “educators who work with children who are struggling readers, supplementing or supplanting the work of the classroom teacher” (p. 3) to more a collaborative view where “the specialist and classroom teacher work collaboratively to implement a quality reading program that is research-based and meets the needs of students” (p. 3). To accomplish this more contemporary view, the co-teaching model would be beneficial, especially in upper elementary classrooms where students have already received intense reading interventions in younger grades but still struggle with reading.

In a 2002 study, Bean, et al. defined a reading specialist as “a specially prepared professional who is responsible for the literacy performance of readers in general, or struggling readers in particular, who believe that reading specialists should have some responsibility for improving literacy achievement of all students in the school” (p. 740). Bean et al. (2002) surveyed 1,517 reading specialists across the United States in a limited closed survey of 34 questions. A large majority of the respondents (over 90%) stated they guide instruction daily with 44% instructing both with co-teaching and through the pull-out model, and 37% stating they only use the pull-out model. However, in a follow-up open question in which reading specialists were asked to describe one of the biggest changes they had seen in the role of the reading specialist, the area that received the most feedback was in-class instruction. Of those that responded about instruction happening in the classroom, 77% stated that co-teaching had increased.

Similarly, in a qualitative research project conducted in 2003, Bean, Swan, and Knaub received completed questionnaires from 39 principals and then interviewed twelve reading specialists who worked in the same schools as the principals in order to see how schools with model reading programs use reading specialists. Principals indicated “the most frequent tasks of reading specialists were instruction, diagnosis, and serving as a resource to teachers” (p. 447). During the interviews with the reading specialists, most indicated they used both a pull-out and an in-class model. The in-class model usually consisted of co-teaching or demonstration. In these schools, the reading specialist felt comfortable with all models of instruction, both pull-out and co-teaching. Although, they stated many factors should be considered before choosing which model of instruction to use (Bean, Swan, & Knaub, 2003).

In a qualitative study of 20 staff of an elementary school which had been identified as a successful inclusion and co-teaching school, Magiera, Lawrence-Brown, Bloomquist, Foster, Figueroa, Glatz, and Rodriguez, (2006) found the most important variables to co-teaching were preparing, planning, relationships, and a co-teaching model is implemented. Many of the teachers interviewed stated initial training was important before beginning co-teaching. “The teachers received training on the various grouping for co-teaching as well as how to work together as a team” (Magiera, et al., 2006, p. 4). Teachers also felt co-planning needed to be available during the school day between teams and communication and teacher relationships were also critical to the success of co-teaching. The most common co-teaching model, reported by nearly one third of the teachers, was the complimentary model in which one teacher teaches and one teacher supports.

Similarly in 2017, Chitiyo surveyed 77 teachers working in an inclusive school in order to identify barriers teachers faced when using co-teaching. Of the 77 teachers, 67 were general education teachers and ten were special education teachers. The teachers rated eight statements about barriers to co-teaching. The researcher found 62% of the teachers felt they did not currently possess the skills necessary for successful co-teaching, but 82% saw the need and advantage to using co-teaching in the general education classroom. Chitiyo concluded that training was important to teachers in order for co-teaching to be most effective. It was also noted further research is needed to “examine the effectiveness of co-teaching” and “to examine the most effective co-teaching approach” (Chitiyo, 2017, p. 64).


Implementing Co-Teaching with a Reading Specialist


Nichole Dickinson

The writing workshop is a block of instructional time in which students practice the writing process (Dorfman & Shubitz, 2019). Writing workshops can be used with young children and with adolescent students. This article provides a brief overview of instructional methods involved in the implementation of a writing workshop.

Conducting a Writing Workshop

Increased time to write with a focus on the strategies of pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing are linked to increased writing quality (Graham & Harris, 2016). Unfortunately, students tend to demonstrate a decrease in enthusiasm for writing from early childhood to middle school and high school, due to less time to write and less engaging writing opportunities (Graham & Perin, 2007) so it is imperative to engage students in workshops that are personally and culturally meaningful. We recommend that it should be evident that multicultural literature is being read, enjoyed and analyzed across the curriculum. Writing workshops provide opportunities for lively inquiry and discussion about texts with diverse characters, settings, and cultures (Alexander, 2018).