Effective Strategy and Interventions By Brandon Callahan

Table of Contents

Orton-Gillingham Phonemic strategies

Co-teaching and its effectiveness

Silent Reading Time

Learning Stations

Elkonin Boxes

Writing Workshop

Graphic Organizers

Cooperative Learning

Guided Reading

Career Awareness: Teacher Reflection

Orton-Gillingham phonics strategy is self described as a method, not a program, system or technique, that is designed to help those who struggle with reading, writing and spelling. If reading programs had a grandparent then it would be Orton-Gillingham. This 'method' also helped pioneer the multi-sensory approach. It is also built to help those who are "of a sort associated with dyslexia"(ortonacademy.org). The Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach uses "Systematic Phonics" and " Applied Linguistics". The systematic phonics in OG is built to take advantage of the structure (sound/symbol) of a alphabetic relationship. Simply, OG is focusing on building a relationship between what we see and what we say when reading. Also, Orton-Gillingham is focused on the decoding and encoding of our written language. This 'method' is trying to have the student be involved with integrative practices as all times (spelling, writing and reading). The focused age of this method is or course pre-school to 4th/5th grade when students are building those key reading skills.

With my class I noticed that my students had heard the language we use before but when they would attempt to read it there was a disconnect. As soon as I helped them say the word they would always exclaim "OOOOHHHH!" or " I knew that!". They have the vocabulary to speak this language but they needed the skills to decode the written form of our language for themselves. Orton-Gillingham was recommended to me and after reading through an instructional guide I started to see how the OG 'method' could help my students. OG is built of intensive one-on-one for the early stages. I was unable to perform the one-on-one each day so instead I rely upon one-to-one. My students are accessing the Orton-Gillingham material through their Macbook Airs. I have built a website of sorts that they are using to study the basic phonetic principles of OG. This use of technology allows my students to work at their own pace and I can move freely around the room to help them as needed. Now, this method is meant for students who are younger but I had to backtrack to help my students catch up with their peers. I looked at reading levels and Orton-Gillingham was set for that age range, 3rd-5th grade. Overall, I have seen success on a small scale but we have only started and I hope Orton-Gillingham will be able to bridged the gap my students have in reading.


The Orton academy website was very easy to navigate and was full of useful information. This website have detailed but brief descriptions of the instructional strategies used in the OG methodology. Sadly, this website lacked any depth and I was unable to get more that a 'scratch the surface' feeling. The website does have a membership so I suspect you have to sign up or pay in order to see more information. Overall, it was a great resource to have at hand and served as a quick reference guide.


This is the article that served as my launch point. The writers name is Peg Rosen and her article on OG is very to the point. As far as education articles go this was very well organized and easy to navigate. At first glance you can see that each section has a key focus such as 'The Focus of OG', 'Where to Find OG','How OG Works' and 'Key Takeaways'. Peg's article was very informative and when married to the academy website and the OG instructional guide I had all the information I needed.

Co-teaching or CTT is a hot buzzword flying around education in recent years. Simply put Co-teaching is a way for teachers to no longer be alone in their classrooms. It is no longer just 20-30 students and one lone teacher. Now, teaching is a collaborative experience that allows for teachers to bounce ideas off one another in the moment. For the future of special education we are seeing a greater push for inclusion. With more SPED students spending time in gen. ed. classrooms there is a greater push for SPED teachers to spend time in the gen. ed. classroom as well. This caption from a edutopia article by Marisa Kaplan highlights this perfectly "This is the path for many dually certified special education teachers in New York City as the push for inclusion continues to spread.". Teaching is set on a course for no longer being one teacher, one classroom. We will see teachers working together in a seamless balance of classroom control and responsibility. This is at least what the in-service facilitators of Ontario Ministry of Education are saying. In a video highlighting co-teaching the teachers appear to work well together and share responsibility in the classroom equally. Also, these teachers reflect together and plan together. All aspects of the classroom are shared.

For two class periods of the day I co-teach at the 7th grade level with two different teachers. One class for English and the other for Social Studies. These teachers at no point come into my classroom to co-teach. At first I was being implemented as a overpaid para-educator. As time has passed I have built a rapport with these two teachers and have been able to lead small groups and even plan whole lessons and units. Two off the bat benefits of co-teaching is the shared responsibility for classroom management and the sharing of ideas for lessons. All teachers have to have whats called 'with-itness'. This is the ability to have your whole room under your watchful gaze at all times. This isn't to just clamp down on students who misbehave but also to keep an eye out for the students who may not understand or are lost in the lesson. As a co-teacher I can move around the room and work with students one-on-one while the other teacher moves the lesson forward. This serves as a safety net for any student who is about to fall through the cracks. In education every lesson counts and we don't want a student to be lost in the shuffle. The other benefit is the sharing of resources. Countless times the co-teachers and I have bounced ideas off the other or have presented a planning 'roadblock' we have run into. Each time the other teacher in the partnership has presented a solution. As a solo teacher you miss out on that opportunity. This saves time and lowers stress levels. Now, as pointed out in Marisa Kaplan's edutopia article the co-teachers need to build a relationship before sharing the education space. Sadly, as a first year teacher I was unable to build that relationship before school started. Thankfully, both teachers have been very friendly and welcoming. Co-teaching has some holes in its research based armor that need to be discussed. First of all, as Kaplan so elegantly puts it 'Special education teachers often struggle to present themselves as equals to their students, and this becomes even more evident in the middle school setting.'. Kaplan nails the main problem here. Gen. ed. students have no idea who I am or what I do in the school. I have been mistaken by my students for a student teacher or a para-educator. There is a profound disconnect between SPED and gen. ed. students. Before the co-teaching can be seamless that gap has to be bridged.


This article is a great read and I have taken it upon myself to forward it on to my building principal. Kaplan nails the issues and the benefits and brings a very personal touch to the article. This is a must read article for any one who may experience a co-teaching setting. At the end of the article Kaplan has a set of 'codes' for co-teachers to follow. There are five listed but one sticks out to be the most 'All students are our students'.


This video offered the basic fact of co-teaching in a very impersonal/surgical way. The obvious benefit to this video is that it delivers the goals and research backing for co-teaching. This is a good starting point if you need to see and hear what exactly co-teaching means.

Silent reading time (SSR) has had its usefulness called into question since being implemented in schools. In an article by Steve Gardiner from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development reports that SSR was challenged on the grounds of student accountability. In the same article and a research paper published by Sherry Sanden of Illinois State University ,Out of the Shadow of SSR: Real Teacher's Classroom Independent Reading Practices, both report that there is not enough research to give SSR a final call. Sandens paper cites data from a 2004 study in which 94% of students who participated in SSR did as well as or better on assessments than students who didn't. Can this be chalked up to silent reading time? What environmental factors where at play? One major flaw of studies done on SSR is the inability to form a control group of students who don't read. One major argument both articles report hearing from teachers for SSR is based upon student choice. The idea that students will naturally develop a joy for reading if they are allowed to pick their own book for silent reading time. This builds interest and over time you have a life long reader. SSR is usable for many ages but is meant for upper elementary and above. In lower elementary and pre-school this reading time might be called 'story time' or a group read of some sort.

SSR will always have a place in my class until the research can tell me otherwise. My students have begged for SSR. Now, not every student makes the best use of that time, but I have seen a majority of my students show a rising interest in books. Reading is part of human growth and development. Its one of the oldest forms of entertainment , and reading is a gateway to a larger world. It is an exercise of the mind just as we go to the gym for our body. Also, the students I work with have had a not-so-pleasant history with reading. I wanted to use this year as a time to flip the script and not have reading be the bad guy. Now, my personal philosophies aside, my students have asked for SSR. At first I had my students keep a reading journal in which they had to answer specific questions. As time passed I watched student interest fall. So, I made it a challenge rather than a task. I put a bounty out on books. It was my goal to turn my students in to book bounty hunters. For every book summary students turned in they would earn themselves a reward. This immediately separated my class into two groups, readers and readers who wanted to share details about what they were reading. It also pin-pointed the small group of students who choose to not read. I have yet to find a way to combat this apathy. I became excited by this challenge! So excited in fact that I signed my students up as a class for a book challenge on Goodreads.com. If the classes could finish 40 books by December then we would have a pizza party on the last day of school before winter break. Both classes completed the challenge right before Thanksgiving and I couldn't be more proud. I think SSR can have a place in each classroom, but the students and the teacher need to work out a system of checking-in and rewards.


This article by Steve Gardiner provided some background information and a balanced look at SSR.As a former teacher Gardiner understands how customization SSR can be for each classroom. The article highlights this with personal stories woven-in among the citations. A good read for other teachers.


This article is a little dry but it gives you a hard look at the data and also explains the structure of the research that has proceeded Sandens paper. The data is clear and the tables are easy to find. Overall, its a great reference point.

Learning stations are varied 'centers' or 'stations' placed around the room that engaged students on an individual or small group setting. This setting is described in a edutopia article by a middle school science teacher Ted Malefyt. Learning stations provide a hands on approach and it allows a differentiated instructional environment (Centering Your Classroom: Setting The Stage For Engaged Learners by Gayle M. Stuber). The same paper reports that Learning Stations can provide a high interest level set of activities for your whole class. This also allows for students of all ages to practice being independent learners.

I have been using stations since the first week of school. My classroom implements stations that are used for building students understanding of that weeks spelling words. The class time and size only allows for three, five minute stations. Each station is a different activity that revolves around spelling words. Station one is a tactile station at which students use cups with letters on them to form the words. Station two is built as a slow down and breath station at which students either use the spelling words to fill in blanks in sentences ,or they use their vocab knowledge and complete a crossword by using the spelling words. Finally, station three is for the Elkonin blocks strategy. I have only used stations for this purpose so far ,but as the year goes on I find myself coming up with more and more ideas for Learning stations.


Edutopia is a great source of information. Each article is from an educator and for and educators. Also, each article cites its sources and serves as a great jumping off point for education research. This article on Learning Stations was perfect for my needs because it was written about a secondary setting and from the perspective of an educator observing the stations in action.


This paper/journal by Gayle Stuber is a great read and she also keeps the information clinical and professional. Stuber also cites several studies in this write-up. One piece I found particularly useful was the mock-up of a lesson plan. Its examples like this that can help a first year teacher start to visualize and attack the planning process.

Elkonin boxes are a phonetic awareness building activity that incorporate maniplutives (Elkonin Boxes: A Multisensory Technique For Teaching Literacy Skills by Laura Beller). In Beller's article she describes the Elkonin boxes as a way of fostering phonemic blending and segmenting among your students. Beller also describes how students will pronounce each phonemic sound in the word as they push a manipulative up into the box that corresponds with the sound being pronounced. This process is further described in a readingrockets.org article "They help students better understand the alphabetic principle in decoding and spelling.".

I have made use of Elkonin boxes in my classroom as part of my Learning Stations that are centered around spelling. I typically use paper to present this material to my students but I have used the SMART board to create a 'tech station'. The principal is the same as students still drag/push the manipulative into position while pronouncing the phonetic sounds of the word. This activity has forced me to increase the time of each station but I have no qualms about this due to positive student feedback. I hope to expand this activity. The readingrockets.org article provides a list of literature to go along with Elkonin box activities. In the future I will implement these books with students who have low DAZE scores that place them at a 3rd-4th grade reading level. I feel this will be a great way to increase these students reading skills and to help them develop into independent readers.


This article provided no author but the organization itself is dedicated to helping build better readers through research based methods. This .org also has a PBS show that lines up with the articles published on their website. This was a great find and I will reference it in the future for more ideas for my classroom. It provided a great description of the lesson at hand and it pushed me to think beyond just the Elkonin boxes by providing a list of books to be taught along side this activity. Great source for the first year teacher!


This article by Laura Beller is a clean cut look at the Elkonin boxes. A credit to Beller as she provides a clinical write up of the lessons and she even provides a clear set of guidelines to help direct a first time implementer. Beller also provides a way of making this activity 'high interest' by mentioning to use manipulatives that the target student has a high interest in using/touching.

A writers workshop is a process in which a writer, the student, develops a writing piece with the help of a writing coach, the teacher (Welcome to Writers Workshop by Steve Peha). This process also gives the students the ability to show their skills grow overtime (Reading and Writing Project: Turning Students Into Writers...). As pointed out by Tedd Finley of edutopia, this then opens up for some very meaningful feedback. Students need to write to help build up their linguistic skills. Also, writing at a young age can help them get over the fear of writing itself. Losing that fear could go a long way to reducing test-stress when word problems or essay questions rear their ugly heads.

I have only recently started using 'writers workshops' in my classroom, but I have to say that some of the most profound growth I have seen this year has been during these workshops. My set up is simple, day one is used as a day to teach the rubric and get the students started with an idea. Then for about 4-5 days the students are writing with pencil and paper. Working out rough drafts and getting coached by their 'writing instructors' which is composed of two para-educators and myself. Each student must meet the basic requirements of the paper before they turn it in to me. After the fifth and final day the students are to submit their final draft to me. After I read through the draft and make a few small corrections the students are free to type up the finished copy. I make the students keep every scrap of paper they used to write up the rough drafts. This is part of the feedback process and they staple all the rough drafts together with the rubric. After every student is done typing we have a read and share day. I will print up several copies of the finished work and make a little 'Readers Digest'. This gives the students a look at what the others have done and can help them form more ideas for the future. Then I will create an online discussion board where students can share positive thoughts about each-others work. Overall, I will keep using writers workshops ,and now that I have some more information and ideas for the articles above I can improve these workshops for next time.


This Todd Finley article is a solid starting point. The being said, Mr. Finley is not an educator. I have no doubt that Todd Finley has tons of experience around education ,and has observed educators at work. This is just not why I come to edutopia. I come to edutopia for a educators opinion. All in all I found the article to be very informative ,and it got me thinking about how I can improve my writers workshops.


The Reading and Writing project is based out of Columbia University. The article titled "Research Base Underlying the Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop’s Approach to Literacy Instruction" is written very passionately. I can appreciate the passion and I found myself getting swept up in their message. The article itself covers a wide range of topics. One of which is writers workshops. The workshop sections provides a large some of data and citations. Overall, a great source for anyone looking for information on writing.


This article is by Steve Peha of the organization called Teaching That Makes Sense. The goal of this organization is to provide research on education strategies that several teachers are implementing. The article itself is filled with great information. Also, Steve provides sets of instructional guides throughout the article. This gave me even more ideas on how to build my next writers workshop.

Graphic Organizers are a visual way to help a student organize their writing, notes or even their day (Rebecca Alber,edutopia). Alber goes on to say that teachers need to be careful what type of organizer they implement in class. The wrong type of graphic can confuse a student. There are several types of graphic organizers that range from Vinn diagrams, concept maps and tree diagrams/network trees (Manoli & Papadopoulou, University of Thessaly, Greece). Also, in order for graphic organizers to be effective in the classroom environment they need to be straightforward and clear (Brad Baxendell, William and Mary School of Education). The article from William and Mary goes on to explain that the effectiveness behind graphic organizers is there ability to help students visualize abstract concepts. All three articles talk about the usefulness of these tools at any age and can be used to help students who struggle with comprehending reading material.

Our school district has adopted KIM vocab as our go-to graphic organizer when teaching vocabulary. I use with my students to explain the meaning behind our spelling words or to pre-teach vocabulary associated with a reading. This task is always done on the computer because it makes the M(memory) clue easier for the students. They can simply go into a browser and find a picture they associate with the given term. I have also implemented a graphic organizer with students on an individual level. For instance, I have used a graphic to help a student remember what class was coming next and what they need for said class. After reading the article mentioned above I am going to implement graphic organizers more and more.


This article is titled "Graphic Organizers as a Reading Strategy:Research Findings and Issues" and was written by Polyxeni Manoli and Maria Papadopoulou from University of Thessaly, Greece. This article was a great resource because it showcased many major types of graphic organizers. The authors even went so far as to describe each type and highlight how they should be implemented. This is a great way to put a vocabulary with what you as a teacher may already be using in the classroom. This article was extensive and I may have only scratched the surface because this article goes on to talk about the usefulness of graphic organizers in the second language. Also, the citations are aplenty in this paper. I highly recommend giving this paper a read. Especially if you are unfamiliar with graphic organizers.


This paper titled "Graphic Organizers:Guiding Principles and Effective Practices" was prepared by Brad Baxendall from William and Mary School of Education. This article is again a great read for anyone who needs to get the basic information on the usefulness of graphic organizers. It also provides a 'when and where' to use this education tool.


Yet another article from edutopia titled "Using Graphic Organizers Correctly" by Rebecca Alber. This article served as more of a 'How to train your organizer' for the every day teacher. I found this as again a great quick reference guide. This article is not nearly as deep as others floating around but it served as a good way to check your classroom use of graphic organizers.

Cooperative learning is when students of different levels work in small groups cooperatively (Research Spotlight on Cooperative Learning, National Education Association). Coop learning is useful for promoting students to encourage one another, hold one-another accountable ,and ultimately build interpersonal skills (Drs. Roger and David Johnson, Cooperative Learning and Conflict Resolution, Johns Hopkins School of Education). Also pointed out in the article by the Drs. Johnson, Coop learning helps students learn the skills together so that they can then perform them alone. Another benefit of coop learning mentioned in the article from the National Education Association is that each student gets the chance to contribute and that can lead to more self esteem. Some educators warn against the overuse of cooperative learning because it can put too much pressure on higher students. It could pressure these high functioning students to always support the lower functioning students (Research Spotlight on Cooperative Learning, National Education Association).

For me it seems natural to let students work in small groups. Thankfully there is now research to support that decision. Cooperative learning has a place in my class ,but like some educators warn it can lead to the over taxing of higher functioning students. I have used coop learning in a variety of ways. One way is having students work in small groups to help support each other during our 'Spelling Stations' activity. The role of the groups is so students have an immediate support structure to keep them afloat through the activity. It also serves as a check/net. If students are misspelling the words on an individual level then they have a group of peers to correct the error. Another way I have used cooperative learning is during my co-teach in a Social Studies class. Students were placed together based on skill/social level. Then, students picked different roles in the group. The final product was presented by the group. Each student was graded on a rubric set for their particular role in the group. This individual score then played into the overall group score. The final product of this group project was very impressive and my co-teacher and I were very happy with the results. It is my opinion that small group instruction has its place in the classroom ,and ,as I mentioned above, the overuse of these groups can lead to the stress of your higher functioning students.


The National Education Association is organization made up of teachers from across the United States. Its goal is to help public schools improve through researched based methods. The article titled Research Spotlight on Cooperative Learning was organized by NEA staff and functioned as my basic introduction to the research behind cooperative learning. The article is very basic but it highlights the core components of coop learning. It also listed other articles that then lead me down a rabbit hole of cooperative learning research. All in all, this article served as my spring board and its a great ,if dry, read.


Do not judge this article by its size. I found Cooperative Learning and Conflict Resolution by the Drs. Johnson to be a very in-depth look at cooperative learning. This article highlights the impact cooperative learning could have on future generations. Especially those peoples who live under democratic systems. Again, this article can show the reader how effective and validated cooperative learning is in just a few words.

Guided reading is the act of reading with children in the classroom (Melissa J. Rickey, Johns Hopkins School of Education). In one section of the article Rickey pulls from Margaret Mooney who defined guided reading as ". . . when you [the teacher] and a small group of children, or when you and a child, talk, think and read through a text which offers manageable challenges for each reader. Your role is one of support ensuring that the children read with comprehension (p. 54).". From this excerpt from Mooney we can see that reading along with a student can help foster a students comprehension ability. In a article titled Grouping Students Who Struggle With Reading:Whole-class instruction, by Vaughn, Hughes, Moody, and Elbaum, the writers found through a study conducted by Elbaum that students who struggled with reading or who were LD preferred to be part of a small group or guided reading. The reasoning was that students who struggle with reading feel they need the extra support with word pronunciation. From this we can conclude that students who struggle with reading and reading comprehension feel they need the extra support of a group/guided reading practice.

I have used guided reading in my classroom for several weeks now. I use whole class reading in conjunction with individual reading time. The book was chosen from a small selection by the students via anonymous vote. The book itself is well know for its artwork and these drawings make for perfect talking points. I also ask students "who would like to read?". More often than not I have several students who want to participate. My class enjoys the guided reading along with individual reading time. I feel that guided reading used in conjunction with activities centered around comprehension can help students feel more confident in reading.


The readingrockets organization is focused on helping educators provide the best research based reading methods. This particular article didn't just cover whole-class guided reading but looked at research that looked into several reading group methods. If any educator is looking for great ideas on how to break their class into groups for reading then I would highly recommend this article.


This article for John Hopkins School of Education titled Guided Reading in the Balanced Reading Program by Melissa J. Rickey, Ed.D. covers lessons and methodologies prepared by Margaret Mooney. The article provided an in-depth look at how to implement guided reading in your classroom. This article goes heavy on the research and provides several studies to help guide you in further research.

The reflection process is a professional development an educator should perform daily(Julie Tice, Reflective Teaching: Exploring Our Own Classroom Practice,). An article from Lana M. Danielson at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) highlights four key ways a teacher can reflect. They are formulaic, situational thinking, deliberate, and dialectical. Each 'stage' of reflection grows in intensity from formulaic being the lowest and dialectical being the highest. The reason teachers need to reflect in ever deeper ways is best said by Danielson herself "Teachers face a myriad of daily choices: how to organize classrooms and curriculums, how to interpret students' behaviors, how to protect learning time, and so forth.". Danielson goes on to explain that these choices will resurface each day. Educators need to reflect daily so they can make the best possible choices everyday.

Being an active 'reflector' has been part of my training to be an educator since the beginning. At first it was an assignment that has now become habit. Oddly enough being reflective seems so natural. We as humans always want to recall memories and relive those moments. The problem I think for me is that I do not want to relive a moment in which my ego was hurt. To relive that pain is almost unbearable. As a teacher I have made bad choices or embarrassed myself. Being a reflective teacher means that you push beyond that drive to suppress and forget. As a teacher you have to remove your ego from the equation and analyze your behavior with a clear mind. This is very difficult and I have yet to master this skill. Now, with Danielsons article informing me of deeper methods of reflection I hope to further my skills. Thankfully at this time I am part of an online first year teacher group that I can use as a sounding board. I think in the future I will need to stay in contact with my peers to use them as sounding boards.


A fantastic source of information that helped me better understand the reflection process. This article from the ASCD is well sourced and organized. I recommend that any educator give this article a read. I will continue to check back on this work to better understand my reflection process.


This article served well as a way to get a surface feel. Unfortunately, the information in this article is the same information I was taught as an undergrad. I used this piece as a way of reminding myself what the reflection process is and used it to refine my search for deeper articles.

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