Course details

F 14, F 15, Sp 17, Sp 18
Course number
READ 551
Course title
Literacy Instruction for Special Needs Students
Course description

Designed to prepare effective and reflective teachers in language and literacy instruction for students with special needs. Participants will explore multiple perspectives, practices, and methodological approaches to literacy instruction which are research-based, and proven effective to promote literacy development. Topics include (but are not limited to):  language and literacy development; characteristics of special needs students; framework of effective literacy instruction within context of students with special needs; methods of effective basic literacy skills instruction; methods of teaching comprehension and critical thinking strategies; methods of promoting learning and meta-cognitive strategies for lifelong learning, and methods of appropriate and meaningful assessment.

Dr. Thomas Wolsey
Instructor bio

DrThomas DeVere Wolsey, Ed.D. is the founder of IAIE—The Institute to Advance International Education.  He worked in public schools for twenty years teaching English and social studies. Prior to working with IAIE, he served as program director for all graduate literacy programs at a large mid-western university. He is a frequent guest speaker and consultant in Latin America and Asia on language learning topics. He earned his BS at Southern Utah State College, his MA at California State University and his Ed.D. at the University of San Diego. 


Graduate standing. Learners are assumed to have experience working with elementary and/or secondary students.


1.1 Candidates understand major theories and empirical research that describe the cognitive, linguistic, motivational, and sociocultural foundations of reading and writing development, processes, and components, including word recognition, language comprehension, strategic knowledge, and reading-writing connections.
1.3 Candidates understand the role of professional judgment and practical knowledge for improving all students’ reading development and achievement.
2.2 Candidates use appropriate and varied instructional approaches, including those that develop word recognition, language comprehension, strategic knowledge, and reading-writing connections.
3.1 Candidates understand types of assessments and their purposes, strengths, and limitations.
4.1 Candidates recognize, understand, and value the forms of diversity that exist in society and their importance in learning to read and write.
4.2 Candidates use a literacy curriculum and engage in instructional practices that positively impact students’ knowledge, beliefs, and engagement with the features of diversity.
5.2 Candidates design a social environment that is low risk and includes choice, motivation, and scaffolded support to optimize students’ opportunities for learning to read and write.
5.3 Candidates use routines to support reading and writing instruction (e.g., time allocation, transitions from one activity to another, discussions, and peer feedback).

Practical applications

Course will enable learners to develop effective literacy instruction for special needs students.

Time commitment

Students should expect to spend approximately 9 hours per week for 10 weeks in course-related activities (e.g., reading the text and course materials, posting to discussion forums, completing written assignments). This course is online and does not require in-person attendance. Assignments are completed on the learner’s time schedule and are due as posted.


A textbook is required for this course. Please check with PSU’s ReadOregon program.

Historical offerings

Summer 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Fall 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011