The Missouri Reader Vol. 41, Issue 1 - Page 48

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Tech Talk

Suggestions for Using the Optimal Learning Model

Begin using the Optimal Learning Model for just one subject and work to perfect that. I chose

writing in kindergarten because it was a time in which I could spend extra time modeling. The curriculum easily allowed for multiple days to teach one concept, which also gave me time to conference with the students. I have since moved to teaching third grade at the same school. I started the Optimal Learning Model in writing in this grade as well due to many of the same reasons. As I learn about a new grade level, I am continually thinking about ways I can integrate the Optimal Learning Model into other subject areas.

Clark and Graves (2005) suggested particular reading strategies that would work to make scaffolding a daily part of reading lessons, such as Questioning the Author (QtA), The Scaffolded Reading Experience (SRE), having dialogues with the whole group, small groups or individual students, and Reciprocal Teaching. Tzou (2007) stated about Vygotsky’s theory, “Knowledge is constructed as a result of social interaction and then internalized” (p. 35). This is a reminder that working collaboratively with other students and peers is also a scaffolding experience in which the teacher could still provide support while allowing students to work out questions on their own first. Teachers should continually be learning new strategies for any subject area through research, professional development, and conversations with colleagues.


“At any point in time, teachers should scaffold students enough so that they do not give up on the task or fail at it but not scaffold them so much that they do not have the opportunity to actively work on the problem themselves” (Clark & Graves, 2005, p. 571). It takes time and practice, but the benefits are so worth the time invested. My past kindergarten students inspired me to continue using this teaching strategy. My current third graders are already showing me the benefits of using this strategy. I assure you putting energy, time, and research into the Optimal Learning Model will help students succeed. This is the greatest benefit of all and is why we chose to teach.


Beed, P. L., Hawkins, E. M., & Roller, C. M. (1991). Moving learners toward independence: The power of scaffolded instruction. The Reading Teacher, 44(9), 648-655.

Clark, K. F., & Graves, M. F. (2004). Scaffolding students’ comprehension of texts. The Reading Teacher, 58(6), 570-580.

Jacobs, G. M. (2001). Providing the scaffold: A model for early childhood primary teacher preparation. Early Childhood Education Journal, 29(2), 125-130.

McGee, L. M., & Ukrainetz, T. A. (2009). Using scaffolding to teach phonemic awareness in preschool and kindergarten. The Reading Teacher, 62(7), 599-603.

Powell, K. C., & Kalina, C. J. (2009). Cognitive and social constructivism: Developing tools for effective classroom. Education, 130(2), 241-250.

Routman, R. (2005) Writing essentials: Raising expectations and results by simplifying teaching.Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Tzou, P. W. (2007). The tension between teacher control and children’s freedom in a child-centered classroom: Resolving the practical dilemma through a closer look at the related theories. Early Childhood Education Journal, 35(1), 33-39.

Heather Johnson has taught kindergarten at Sparta Elementary for nine years and now teaches third grade. She is currently finishing her MS Ed. in Literacy at Missouri State University. She enjoys reading, learning new teaching methods and spending time with her husband and their four teenagers.

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