Education Faculty Research and PublicationsEducation, College of
A Whole-Class Support Model for Early Literacy:
The Anna Plan
Pamela A. Miles
Lincoln Elementary School
Kathy W. Stegle
Lincoln Elementary School
Karen G. Hubbs
Lincoln Elementary School
Marquette University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marla H. Mallette
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Originally published inThe Reading Teacher, Volume 58, No. 4 (December 2004), online at:
1 Miles, Stegle, Hubbs, Henk, & Mallette
A whole-class support model for early literacy: The Anna Plan
Authors: Pamela A. Miles, Kathy W. Stegle, Karen G. Hubbs, William A. Henk, Marla H.
Abstract: The Anna Plan is a unique delivery model for enhancing schoolwide literacy
instruction in the primary grades. Based on the principles of Reading Recovery and Four Blocks
literacy instruction, it provides supplementary reading instruction through the distinctive use of
teaching staff. Over six years, it has resulted in sweeping changes in the way literacy instruction
occurs as well as noteworthy increases in children's reading abilities. This article gives a brief
history of the authors' work within the Anna Plan, explains each of the model's seven tenets, and
describes the research base that drives it. The focal point of the article is the detailed description
of the organization and components of the five-day framework used to augment classroom
reading and writing instruction. Finally, the authors recount how the Anna Plan has been
embraced by two elementary schools and offer some conclusions about what contributes to the
success of whole-class support models for early literacy.
The success of an elementary school is measured largely by the literacy levels of its
students. For this reason, principals and teachers routinely seek ways to enhance both the nature
and delivery of the reading and writing instruction they provide. This article explains how our
primary-level classroom teachers and reading specialists, with the support of our administration in
the Anna School District, changed the nature and delivery of our Title I and Reading Recovery
support services to significantly increase the reading achievement of our students.
Our whole-class support model has come to be known as the Anna Plan by the many
teachers and administrators who visit our school district in Illinois, United States, to observe it in
action at Lincoln Elementary School. These educators come to see how we apply the principles
of Reading Recovery (Clay, 1979, 1993) and Four Blocks literacy instruction (Cunningham & Hall,
1996) with all of the primary-age students in our school through the distinctive use of our teaching
Although the delivery of the Anna Plan differs uniquely from other successful programs for
the prevention of reading problems (see Pikulski, 1994), it shares several essential principles of
program success including small-group instruction, an emphasis on first grade, the use of
developmentally appropriate texts and repeated readings of them, a focus on word solving and
phonemic awareness, consistency between supplementary and classroom reading instruction, a
writing component, and ongoing assessment of students' progress.
2 Miles, Stegle, Hubbs, Henk, & Mallette
Success for our students
Our reform efforts began in 1996 and have resulted in sweeping changes in the way
literacy instruction occurs in our school and in the noteworthy increases in our students' reading
abilities. When we began our journey, only 50% of our students met or exceeded the state
standards for reading. Not long afterward, nearly 90% of our students consistently met the
standards on statewide assessments. Today, although our students come from low
socioeconomic status (SES) homes and tend to begin school at very low literacy levels, some
75% of them could be classified as fluent readers by the end of the program in first grade.
As a result of our efforts, we have been recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education
as an "elite high poverty/high achieving school," which means that more than 50% of our homes
are low income and 60% of our students meet or exceed state standards in reading and math. We
are also honored that the Anna Plan (see Table 1) has been adopted or adapted by several other
schools in our state and beyond and that we have been recognized nationally as a model site for
literacy and early intervention. While we are gratified that our approach has been recognized by
the International Reading Association as one of its Exemplary Reading Programs, we care more
about the actual literacy success of our students and those who have come under its influence.
Their accomplishments are why we have been encouraged to share our story with fellow
educators, and helping other students is our motivation for writing this article.
In the following sections, we attempt to (a) provide a brief history of our six-year effort, (b)
explain each of the seven tenets of the model, (c) describe its research base, (d) detail our
five-day plan for instructional delivery, (e) describe how our model has been embraced by two
elementary schools in our region, and (f) offer some conclusions about what we believe
contributes to the success of whole-class support models for early literacy.
A brief history
Prior to 1996 our elementary building had one half-time and three full-time reading
teachers serving grades 1-7 through a variety of pull-out and instructional programs, including
Reading Recovery. While our teachers were pleased with the individualized instruction the
program offered, we were intent on finding a way to serve all the primary students in our school
because our reading achievement scores were at or below the national average and had been on
the decline over several years. The district administration and school board decided to make
reading their top priority in the primary grades, and they asked three of us (Pam, Kathy, and
3 Miles, Stegle, Hubbs, Henk, & Mallette
Karen), as Title I reading specialists and Reading Recovery teachers, to present a plan of action
for reading improvement.
The plan needed to include alternatives to the existing Title I program (Title I is a federally
funded program for at-risk students), which until then had consisted of in-class support and
Reading Recovery for grade 1, small-group pull-out programs for grades 2 through 5, and in-class
support for grades 6 and 7. For this task, we were fortunate to have worked directly within our Title
I program and to have received training in, and experience with, Reading Recovery. We had
closely observed numerous children's reading behaviors and were pleased that many of our
at-risk first graders were becoming independent readers through the program.
As it turned out, the free and reduced-cost lunch count at our school (an index of SES)
showed that, in grades kindergarten through second, we would soon qualify for schoolwide
designation. This designation would permit Title I funds to be used to serve every student in the
primary grades. It also allowed us to implement a preferred-support model based upon seven key
tenets. That is, as we originally conceived it, the model for the Anna Plan was required to
• focus on research-based best practices,
• allow for common professional development,
• serve all students,
• provide for continuity within and between grade levels,
• permit time each week for collaboration among teachers,
• scaffold each student to work at her or his instructional reading level, and
• maintain a team orientation.
We began the change process with these seven tenets in mind and tried to remain true to them.
We spent the remainder of the school year visiting successful programs, attending conferences,
reading selected journal articles, and talking with experts about our literacy program. All of these
sources contributed to our plan.
Research base for the Anna Plan
Marie Clay's (1993) Reading Recovery research showed us the importance of explicit
reading strategy instruction with at-risk emerging readers. To learn more about strategy
instruction, we visited a classroom that used the Arkansas Plan for Early Literacy, a variation of
Reading Recovery, which was developed at the University of Arkansas. Here Reading Recovery
4 Miles, Stegle, Hubbs, Henk, & Mallette
strategies were taught to small groups of at-risk first graders (Dorn & Allen, 1996) but with an
important difference. What made the model innovative was that students whose strategy use
needed more scaffolding were given continued help in the first half of second grade. During the
second half of the school year, the Arkansas Plan focused on enhancing the reading readiness of
at-risk kindergartners instead. This creative use of time became an important part of the Anna
Our thinking was still not complete, however. At the 1995 National Reading Recovery
Conference in Columbus, Ohio, we attended an extremely helpful session that highlighted a team
approach for early literacy in one classroom. In this approach, the Title I teacher, aides, and
classroom teacher (who was trained in Reading Recovery) assisted small groups of students in
guided reading. This example gave us the idea of forming reading teams with our classroom
teachers for small-group instruction. By grouping students in each class according to instructional
reading levels, we could apply Reading Recovery strategies in reading and writing with every
student in our K-2 school.
The National Reading Recovery Conference also exposed us to the philosophy and
research base of the Four Blocks literacy instructional model developed by Patricia Cunningham.
She introduced us to a balanced approach to literacy lessons in which teachers engage students
in meaningful reading and writing activities and model word structure and independent thinking
strategies (Cunningham & Allington, 1994, 1998).
Common professional development
We knew that shared training for all K-2 teachers on the elements of balanced literacy
would help bring about important mutual understandings. For the remainder of the school year,
our instructional team (consisting of Pamela, Kathy, and Karen; the entire K-2 faculty; our
instructional aides; and our principal) attended literacy workshops. These workshops focused on
balanced reading and writing, guided reading, and taking and analyzing running records—all
integral aspects of the Anna Plan. Our primary-grades team began to develop a common
knowledge base and philosophy for reading instruction, and we would work hard at implementing
and maintaining these beliefs through ongoing professional development and teacher dialogue.
Inclusive of all children
Before the Anna Plan, our at-risk students missed a good deal of regular classroom
instruction and related assignments because of their participation in a pull-out program (Allington,
1994). The classroom teachers felt that these students most needed the classroom instruction,
and they felt uncomfortable introducing new concepts and skills during these times. They knew