College of Education

Reading Initiative Practicum


SUMMARY: The Reading Initiative Practicum (EXED 476) is aligned with the EXED 474 Assessment of Learning and Behavior, and EXED 450 Specialized Reading Instruction courses in the K12 Special Education licensure programs to provide targeted reading intervention for high needs students.

The College of Education at James Madison University strives to provide students with a variety of hands on learning experiences. Partnering with many local school systems gives JMU students a broad range of skills and understanding and provides much needed support for classroom teachers. One such setting is the reading intervention practicum currently supervised by Dr. Laura Desportes (EFEX) and Dr. Lori Hostetler (EFEX).

Started in 2007 with Dr. Karen Santos (Faculty Emeritus) the Reading Initiative Practicum (EXED 476) is aligned with the EXED 474 Assessment of Learning and Behavior, and EXED 450 Specialized Reading Instruction courses in the K12 Special Education licensure programs. JMU students are paired with students who need a high level of reading intervention. Some students at Clymore Elementary (Augusta County) and Spotswood Elementary (Harrisonburg City) need help in learning how to read, while students at Ft. Defiance High School (Augusta County) need targeted support to prepare for their Reading and Writing SOLs.

Working with Dr. Lori Hostetler (EFEX) for the last two years, this practicum provides invaluable learning and teaching experiences for the pre-service teachers and allows a great deal of growth for the primary and secondary students involved.


Dr. Emma Thacker, whose son participated in the program in the fall of 2019, says her son loved his experience. "She [the practicum student] was truly amazing – found out he was interested in Harry Potter and she themed their sessions around playing Quidditch, kept him motivated, and made the sessions the highlight of his week. He still has a note she wrote him at the end of the semester on his bulletin board."

Classroom teachers appreciate the comprehensive presentations prepared by the pre-service teachers. JMU students provide evidence-based interventions for their case-study student, creating data and graphs that the classroom teacher can use to further personalize instruction for their students. The practicum students then participate in a learning showcase to present their work to their cooperating teacher and practicum supervisors.

Ms. Converse, a Fort Defiance teacher (English 9 and 11, Special Education) says, "This is a program that I feel is a win-win for both our students and our JMU reading mentors! When we were first asked if we would like to be part of this, we jumped on the opportunity because, at the time, there wasn't a lot of support available for students at the high school. We have students who are three or more grade levels below their expected reading levels, so any opportunity for them to have one-on-one instruction is greatly appreciated!"

She goes on to mention, "As this has evolved, we have found that it is something our students look forward to each week, and our students have developed positive relationships with their JMU mentors that would not have been possible without this program. It has been a positive experience for them to form these relationships, and it is an additional benefit we had not originally considered. After working with their JMU mentors, the students have developed much better reading strategies and we find that they retain these strategies as they advance through each grade. We were afraid that we would not be able to have the program this year due to COVID-19, but we were able to work it out through small groups on different days, and it turned out to be even better than we had anticipated!"

Despite COVID making the face to face interventions more difficult than in the past, Dr. Desportes and Dr. Hostetler have continued to offer this practicum in Augusta County this year. They are proud of the learning that occurs, both for the College of Education students, as well as for the elementary and high school students involved.

*Note: Some of the pictures in this article are from pre-COVID when masking was not necessary.

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Published: Thursday, February 11, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2021

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