Week 2: The Role of the Reading Specialist

1.  Read Chapters 3-4 in Bean, R.M. (2009).  The Reading Specialist:  Leadership for the classroom, school and community. Guilford Press.


Ch. 4 on p. 48, the author asks reading specialists to consider how they would respond to 9 factors in the classroom.  Identify 2 for which you have pretty strong beliefs and 2 for which you are not as concerned about.

Answer:  Bean relates nine topics that an effective collaboration between a reading specialist and teaching partner should include in regular discussions.  These are:  Instructional beliefs, when and how to plan, parity issues, confidentiality issues, noise levels, classroom routines (instructional and organizational), discipline, feedback, and pet peeves.  I would be most concerned about congruency regarding our instructional beliefs as well as noise, (and discipline) approaches.  I would be less concerned about the specifics of when and how to plan and parity issues.

I just think that we would need to be on the same page in terms of our overall instructional beliefs.  For example, if the data showed that Johnny really does need more help with decoding, then I would hope that would be a priority for both of us.  I really think it wouldn’t be a problem because I have yet to meet a teacher who didn’t want their students to progress as much as possible.  For me, and this might also be a pet peeve, an important question would be an agreed level of appropriate noise in the classroom.  Some people do not focus well with a lot of background noise, and I happen to be one of them.  As a result, I might seem less tolerant of super noisy classrooms than other people, but it’s because I know how hard it is for some children to concentrate with auditory distractions.  I do understand that there are people who can “tune out” the noise, but I don’t think it’s a risk worth taking when we’re trying to meet individual needs in a large classroom.  Overall, I think the level of noise is a classroom management or discipline issue, and that’s why I tie those together.  Effective teachers are really good at maintaining appropriate noise levels, in my opinion, because they are clear in their discipline and expectations.

The reason that I would be less concerned about the specifics of when and how to plan is because it’s a must happen type of thing.  I would be willing to flex to the classroom teacher’s schedule, and that includes coming in before or after school, using email, and any other way to meet up.  In terms of “how to plan,” I also would yield to the classroom teacher’s style.  I think substance is more important than style, and I would honor the preferences of my partner.  I really don’t think there would be parity issues because I am not there for the limelight.  The focus is really on the needs of the student(s,) so the percentage of time that I may lead a mini-lesson or work with a small group is only relevant to what is most needed.  It would be important that I let my partner know that I’m a team player focused on student needs above everything else.

2.  Question:

Ch. 4  Read the case studies of high school reading specialists, (i.e. Brenda pp.54-55 & Jennifer pp. 60-63).  In your blog address the lessons that you learn from these reading specialists.  Be specific and identify at least 3 different lessons keeping in mind that they could be things that you would do or things that you wouldn’t do.


After reading about Brenda and Jennifer’s experiences as secondary reading specialists, I can say there are at least three different lessons that I can take from this.  First, Brenda’s mini-lesson on text organization and note-taking for a content-area classroom is a great idea.  I think I would do this and also lead teacher in-services on it.  If students are reading below grade-level, then it would be so helpful to show them how to focus on text features such as bold print or compare and contrast text organization so they get as much as possible out of their content-area reading.  I think there are secondary teachers who are highly qualified in their field, and yet not as skilled at helping struggling readers grapple with the text.  Another lesson for me came from the vignette on Jennifer.  While she only had time to administer Globe Fearon’s Secondary Reading Assessment Inventory, (2000,) within a one-hour period, I like what she did next.  After scheduling struggling readers into a Reading Strategies class, then she went into a really thorough process of research to determine individual instruction.  I was impressed that she looked at their transcripts, administered inventories, gave assessments, and collected as much data as possible, (including from standardized tests,) to create a personal reading profile of each student.  This is a terrific practice to learn from.  Finally, I like the creative scheduling that Jennifer arranged with a math support teacher.  They split thirteen week trimesters in half, so they each only worked with ten students rather than twenty, and then they flipped the students at the six and one-half week mark.  This is smart scheduling!

3.  Question:   

After reading the article by Elish-Piper & L’Allier, reflect on the activities and characteristics of coaches who had an impact on student learning.


This study showed that the varied aspects of teacher quality was a substantial factor in student achievement gains, and the literacy coaches who spent the most time working with teachers made the biggest impact on student learning. In three of five predictive models, a positive relationship was found between coach observation hours and the total literacy gain by students.  The study authors speculated that coach observation time might be responsible for fostering rapport between the coach and classroom teacher, more deliberative planning, productive conversations, and as a result, increased learning by students.  Also, the students who had teachers supported by the most highly qualified literacy coach, (the one who had a Reading Teacher endorsement and was enrolled in an M.S. Ed. in Reading Program,) showed the highest average gain on the subtests of the ISEL.  This particular coach also had the highest number of interactions with teachers.  The study authors observed that strategic use of coaching time by helping less-experienced teachers and teachers who need specific assistance would be of highest benefit.  It was suggested that schools might employ a targeted approach whereby coaches identify teachers who need assistance to improve instruction in a specific area of literacy, like developmental spelling.  Overall, the biggest student reading achievement gains occurred with coaches who spent the majority of their time working with teachers, also know as “teacher-oriented” coaches.


Bean, R. M. (2009). The reading specialist: Leadership for the classroom, school, and community. Guilford Press.

Elish-Piper, L., & L’Allier, S. K. (2010). Exploring the relationship between literacy coaching and student reading achievement in grades K–1. Literacy Research and Instruction, 49(2), 162-174.

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