Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Shelby Barrentine


This study is about teachers’ reading minilesson instruction. Research questions sought information about teachers’ perceptions of their minilessons, what content was taught, and what instruction was like. Describing teachers’ minilesson instruction is of interest because this type of lesson is well-described in the reading education literature but relatively little is known about what occurs in classroom settings.

In this study teachers’ explicit instruction of reading content is viewed through the lens of the Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) model of instruction. In particular, the “Teacher Does” Phase of GRR model was of interest because it aligns with the explicit instructional aspects of reading minilessons. Four white, female elementary teachers from a single school in a small Midwestern town served as participants. All participants were experienced with teaching reading minilessons. Data collected for this study came from three principal sources: transcriptions of 36 video recordings of participants as they taught reading minilessons, interviews with participants and curriculum documents.

Two themes emerged from the data analysis. Derived from interview data, Theme 1 indicated teachers’ perceptions of their instruction were closely aligned with literature about minilessons: teacher as competent other, explicit instruction through demonstration and explanation, and brief guided practice. Theme 2, derived from observation data, showed that participants’ explicit instruction during minilessons was limited. Additionally, minilesson content was focused on thinking within the text.

Findings lead to asserting that in order to teach readers to learn to “have a conversation with text,” the minilesson content must challenge students to think in a variety of ways, not only within text. It was also asserted that some teaching moves result in teachers taking more responsibility for performing the reading task than others. Modeling, explaining, thinking aloud for example, result in teachers taking responsibility for making invisible reading processes visible. By contrast, when question and answer methods dominate the minilesson, teachers tend not to engage in explicit instruction of reading content, and Phase 2 of GRR model, “We do it together,” dominates the lesson. In this case study, teachers may have sacrificed what they knew about modeling and explaining due to the way the commercial program structured the minilesson.