Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Earl H. Cheek, Jr


The purpose of this descriptive multiple-case qualitative study was to observe six students--three students who initially experienced difficulty with early literacy tasks and three who initially encountered success. It was conducted in a classroom with an exemplary teacher using literature-based instruction, the writing process, integration across curricular areas, and an intervention strategy designed to accelerate the learning of the students who encountered difficulties with literacy tasks. This research was conducted to examine the following questions: (a) How did each child interact with reading/writing materials and with other readers and writers within the classroom? (b) how did the teacher interact with each child? and (c) what were the similarities and differences between the school experiences of the initially successful and initially low-achieving students in a developmentally appropriate classroom? Results of the case studies showed that the six children followed diverse paths to literacy. At the end of the research, two of the students excelled at reading and writing tasks, three performed at a level comparable with others in the class, and one remained significantly at risk of reading failure. The most notable differences between the two groups of learners were that (a) the initially low-achieving group had significantly more opportunities to interact with texts and the teacher, and (b) the initially successful group remained superior to the low-achieving group in each student's oral reading accuracy, error rate, and self-correction rate on grade level basal reader selections. By providing an in-depth description and analysis of six students as they interacted with texts, other learners, and their teacher, this study provided insights into how literacy learning for first graders might be supported in other instructional settings. Specifically, implications for instruction and policy were examined.