A Laboratory Classroom: The Result of a PDS Partnership

Pamela H. Segal, Assistant Professor of Literacy, Towson University, psegal@towson.edu
Katie Gjoni, Reading Specialist, Middle River Middle School, kgjoni@bcps.org

The PDS partnership between Towson University’s Middle School Education Program and Middle River Middle School (MRMS) in Baltimore County has been in place since 2012.  For the past two years I have been teaching the first, of two required reading courses (Using Reading & Writing in the Middle School) for middle school teacher candidates in the middle school reading classroom at MRMS.  This year we had two sections of the course, with 12 teacher candidates in each section. Mrs. Katie Gjoni, the reading specialist, opened up her reading classes for us to join in with her students. Between learning theory, strategies, and getting real classroom experience, the teacher candidates were able to take their knowledge and skills and apply them to the classroom setting.

Mrs. Gjoni and I created a lab like classroom where the teacher candidates worked with her middle school students on content area reading and writing strategies.  We also worked with students on skills (i.e., one-on-one, small groups, content area literacy lessons) throughout the semester. The teacher candidates were able to take the theoretical strategies and apply them to the reading classroom setting under the guidance and support of  Mrs. Gjoni and myself. At the same time, the middle school students received extra attention, time, and support from our future teachers.  Mrs., Gjoni felt that this was an invaluable experience for her students who appreciate all the help they receive.  At the end of the semester, the middle school students made our pre-service teachers better, while the middle school students improved their reading and literacy skills.

The practical application of content area reading and writing strategies, learned in a formal setting, and teaching struggling middle school readers is something that teacher candidates often do not have the opportunity to experience until their intern year. This course, with Mrs. Gjoni’s help and guidance, allowed the teacher candidates to grow and learn from the middle school students and the experiences in the classroom. In the end, this was a unique experience for everyone involved in the course.  Despite this being only the second year this course was taught in the middle school setting, there is no doubt that everyone benefited from this experience and we will be continuing this partnership in the coming years.