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As a candidate for a Master's in Literacy, I will need to do a case study. Which topic for my case study will help struggling readers the most?

In order to get a Master's in Literacy you must work on a case study and do research with the students you are currently teaching. Since the case study is a labor intensive process, I want to study something that will actually impact student learning and reading proficiency.

reading literacy masters masters-degree research

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Darla’s Answer

Anna, your case study will likely be assigned by the university/college you are attending. You have to get to know your case study student, determine how to best help him/her, then develop a plan to address the student's needs. Deciding what to do is guided by the student and your knowledge of literacy acquisition and strategies. There is no one size fits all in literacy interventions.

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Kathryn’s Answer

I've been a special education teacher for four years, which has included a lot of literacy interventions. I think Darla is right that your intervention will depend on your student(s).

Here are some starting steps that might be helpful:

  1. Assess the student(s): I used the Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI) to test students because it was easy to learn to administer and gives you a lot of information. You will learn a lot about the student's decoding (reading out loud) and comprehension. If you have a lot of students, giving the QRI will be time intensive. You may have other data for the whole class that helps you identify a handful of students to test individually. Another common and super easy test for decoding is the San Diego Quick. If you don't have these, you could print out leveled texts from and have students read aloud and answer comprehension questions. As they read, keep track of the mistakes they make on your own copy and write their answers down. You may want to have them retell the information and identify the main idea.
  2. Identify an area of need: Your intervention will be based on what the student is struggling with , so try to narrow down to a specific area/skill. For example, this could be decoding (reading out loud), understanding the main idea, making inferences based on a text, or recalling details from a text.
  3. Choose an intervention: This is the part that's hard to give advice on without knowing your students. For students who really struggle with decoding, I've used Wilson Just Words. For fluency (reading aloud), there are a lot of interventions involving choral reading, reading and repeating, or annotating and rereading. Comprehension can be tricky! Check out the books recommended below. Building reading comprehension can take time and skill, just like being a good teacher. I'd recommend guided reading and annotation, building student choice into reading, and choosing smaller topics to focus on (like main idea/ making inferences). Use guiding questions (and/or a repeated structure for annotation) to help students build those skills.

Two books I'd recommend on the topic are: Content Area Writing (it has lots of classroom strategies) and When Kids Can't Read.

Good luck!

Kathryn recommends the following next steps:

Check out the books Content Area Writing and When Kids Can't Read
Check out for texts by grade level
Figure out what data you'll have on students. Does the school have anything? If not, you'll need to do some kind of testing. If you can, get the Qualitative Reading Inventory (I'm happy to provide context on how to use it) or use Newsela for more informal assessments.
Feel free to reach out with questions!
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Jean’s Answer

I would love to give you ONE topic, but literacy is more complicated than that. Here are a few suggestions:

Balanced Literacy Instruction

Readers’ Workshop vs Basal Programs

Summer Slide

Screen Time

Early Literacy /Intervention

Family Involvement

Teacher Competency

Access to Quality Resources- Just Right Texts

Fixed Mindsets

Scaffolding vs Rescuing

Supporting All Learners

Jean recommends the following next steps:

Feel free to contact me. I am happy to help focus you, and give you feedback.
Best of luck! Schools need literacy experts in all grades.
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Jessica’s Answer

It depends on the age group of the students you are teaching. I would choose something that is easy to track and that is measurable. For younger students this could be phonemic awareness (which is also an important skill to focus on with dyslexic students - you could find a lot of research out there on this and could measure by quick first sound/phoneme segmentation tests) or sight words (could track with word lists). For older students accuracy (measured by grade-level reading passages) could be appropriate. Again, depending on the age, I would choose to focus on some type of instruction focused around the five big components of reading: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and/or Comprehension.
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Elisabeth’s Answer

How old is the youth? How long do you have? Is it taking place with a student during the school day or do you get to find a willing participant? The older they are the more potential there is for them to collaborate with you on a case study or do one in tandem which could provide opportunities for their own growing awareness about the constructedness of literacies, their own literacy practices, processes for accessing literacies in new spaces, etc.. The closer you can get to what they do or do with others, the more you can involve them, and the more you can explore their interests and desires, the greater likelihood it will impact their learning and reading proficiency. For example, they could help you study their reading practices across spaces and texts, take pictures, share videos, explain profiles, documenting their experiences. The more you explore the fuzzy fungible boundaries between school and out of school literacies with them, the better and more impact you might have long term on their way of conceptualizing themselves as a reader and the learning they do across spaces. Some authors to explore are Jon Wargo, Kevin Leander, Donna Alvermann.
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Peter’s Answer

Assessment of the reader/writer, regardless of age, begins with an assignment of their school grade level for basic reading levels. As an author and a physician (retired) a thorough medical and family history can be appropriate.
Matching pictures with words is a good place to start. I find the use of closed caption TV programs, again for the reading age level, is important in this regard.
Reading something the student has written and focusing on word choice will give a good clue as to vocabulary depth. Therefore establishing a vocabulary and looking up words not understood as reading progresses is incorporated into this.
Above all, I have found, reading and writing must be a pleasant experience. It must be fun. Subjects to be read are best when the reader can relate to the topic. Assessment of the students interests fits in here.
Reading T-shirt words is a fun thing. The new reader will find himself/herself doing this as part of a daily routine.
Gaining the student's confidence by reinforcing successes gains momentum in reading advancement. Such positive input can be enhanced by family and friends. Reading and Writing are some of life's basic satisfying skills.
And as both an author and a speaker, it is paramount that new readers read aloud, both what they see and what they write.
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Felicia’s Answer

I would definitely suggest that you begin with early reading instruction. This age group is between 5-8 years old. Early reading instruction has a direct link to students becoming fluent readers as they mature.