Your core curriculum defines Tier 1 instruction; it’s the curriculum your school expects you to deliver to all students. However, responsive teachers are flexible and make adjustments to their curriculum that meet the needs of individual students. Educators agree that quality Tier 1 instruction can support about 80 percent of the students you teach, enabling them to make solid growth during a school year.
There is no one correct way for building students’ reading and writing capacity using your core curriculum. I suggest that when you plan interventions, you focus them on a specific need and find two to three scaffolds that might work. That way, if one isn’t supporting a student, you have another idea at your fingertips.
There are five kinds of interventions you can use. However, longer interventions require the support of a resource and/or special education teacher. Of the five interventions that follow, the classroom teacher can integrate the first three into daily lessons. By circulating among students when they read, write, work at learning centers or computers, you can gain insights into who understands the lesson and who requires your support.
Intervention 1: Two-to-Three-Minute Conversations
An important purpose of this brief intervention is to decide which students you can support during a two-to-three minute conversation and who requires a five- minute exploratory conference. Observe, listen, and ask students’ questions as you circulate among them while they are reading, writing, or working in small groups. Such daily interactions enable you to check on the progress of students you previously helped and continue monitoring all students as they practice new tasks and work independently.
As you circulate look for behaviors that show students are disengaged from the work: the student isn’t reading, writing, or sharing during a student-led discussion; a student is doodling in his notebook, slumping in her seat, or resting his head on the desk. Have an on-the-spot informal conversation with each student and decide whether you need more than a short conversation to scaffold the learning. Difficulty with applying a strategy, completing a writing plan, revising a journal entry, or taking notes, usually requires a longer conference. However, issues such as changing a text that’s too difficult, figuring out the meaning of a tough word, or getting started on a response to a text can usually be supported during a two-to-three minute conversation. Jot the high points and suggestions of this conversation on a sticky note and give it to the student as a reminder.
While you find the time to confer with a student, have him or her work on a task that he or she can successfully complete independently such as reading a self-selected book or working on a project with a peer partner. If you have time, schedule a five-minute exploratory conference that day or the next day, so you can decide the kind of support that student requires.
Intervention 2: Five-Minute Exploratory Intervention
The purpose of this one-on-one intervention is to help you decide how much support a student needs to move to independence with a task. It’s possible that you can clear up the student’s confusion in one to two conferences. However, there will be times when your observations of the student practicing a task such as finding text evidence or comparing and contrasting two characters indicate the need for a series of three or more short conferences to move that student to independence.
Intervention 3: A Series of Five-Minute Interventions
If your exploratory intervention reveals the need for more in-depth scaffolding, schedule a series of five-minute conferences. Hold five-minute conferences in a quiet place in the classroom while other students are completing work independently. Set up a small table or a student desk away from other students so you have privacy while conferring. A student will be reluctant to share his or her feelings and concerns if everyone in the class can hear.
By spending five minutes a day with a student you gain the time to model, have the student practice and think aloud in front of you, then gradually release responsibility for competing the task to the student. These conferences support students if you focus the task. If students need help with text structure, decide what genre you’ll focus on and identify exactly what the student needs to understand.
Most five-minute conferences are between the teacher and one student. However, if there are two to four students practicing the same strategy with you, you might bring them together once they are close to achieving independence. Often, at this point in the scaffolding, asking students to practice together and share and discuss their process can quickly move them to independence.
Intervention 4: Ten to Fifteen-Minutes
Use if you observe little to no progress during a series of 5-mnute conferences. A longer intervention conference offers you more time for modeling , building student’s background knowledge, and observing what the student does. Extra time also provides students with an opportunity to ask questions, to reflect on progress, to pinpoint parts of a task the student does and does not understand.
This longer conference works best with one student and you can usually return to 5-minute conferences once the learning has been absorbed and you are releasing responsibility to the student. However, if you have two to three students working on the same strategy, then you can intervene with the small group.
Finding time is difficult. This longer conference doesn’t work n a short class period. You can meet with the student before school starts, during lunch, or ask a teacher to release the student for 15 minutes so you can work with him or her during a planning period. The goal is to return to shorter conferences.
Intervention 5: Twenty to Forty Minutes
Usually, a resource teacher works with students who require more time to understand a strategy and move to independence. This long intervention is usually for students reading two or more years below grade level. In addition, these students usually score below the 25th percentile on standardized tests.
The purpose of this intervention is to provide the time students need to improve. The goal should be to move students out of these interventions into support the classroom teacher can manage. These students, like proficient and advanced readers, need to read self-selected books at their independent reading level in order to accelerate their progress.
Once you move beyond the two-three minute repair conversations, you need to document all conferences on the form provided in this newsletter.
Pre-Plan Five-Minute Conferences and all Conferences
Preplanning asks you to carefully reflect on your observations of a student, focus the conference, but also develop several possible scaffolds. It’s beneficial to have several scaffolds ready to try because there is no one sure fix-up strategy for a student. The list of scaffolds for making inferences is from, The Reading Intervention Toolkit.
- Explain that an inference is not stated in the text; it’s implied.
- Make sure the student has enough background knowledge to be able to select text details and make a logical inference.
- Think aloud and show how you use a section of text to infer.
- Have he student reread a different section and you select key details. Ask the student to use these details to infer.
- Show the student details from the text and explain how you identify them.
- Have the student read headings and predict the kind of details they’ find in a section.
- Have the student use photographs, captions, charts, and diagrams to think of the details these features highlight.
Two Forms That Document Interventions
What follows are two forms you can use to document your work with students. The first is the form for a Five-Minute Scaffolding Conference. The second is a form that invites students to set a goal but also figure out what needs to be done to reach the goal.
Five-Minute Scaffolding Conference Form
BEFORE THE CONFERENCE
Teacher’s preparation notes:
AFTER THE CONFERENCE
____schedule another conference
____have the student work with a peer
____have the student wok independently
Name: ________________________________________________ Date: __________________
Setting a Goal
Directions: Set a learning goal by computing each section below.
☐ goal set independently
☐ goal negotiated with the teacher
☐ goal set with the support of a peer
State the goal:
List what you need to do to reach goal:
How much time do you need?
Evidence used to show achievement of goal:
The Principal’s Corner
Principals can create a climate where teachers value interventions and make them part of their teaching plans. Here are some tips for helping teachers understand that interventions matter.
- Have teachers discuss the kinds of interventions they use at team and depart meetings.
- Focus some of your walkthroughs on observing the teacher circulating among students with a clipboard in hand and completing on-the-spot repairs or scheduling an exploratory conference.
- Invite teachers to share a successful intervention with colleagues at a faculty meeting.
- Organize professional book study groups that focus on interventions; join a group so you model your investment. Give teachers choice of books and purchase them using school funds.
- Invite teachers to share the Tier 1 instructional practices that are working in their classrooms.
- Invite teachers to share students’ work that shows progress because of interventions.
Because the classroom teacher is the key to helping a diverse group of learners improve, it’s important to help teachers enlarge their knowledge of how to intervene and also to celebrate their success with a note from you!
Two Book Suggestions for Professional Study Groups
- RTI From All Sides: What Every Teacher Needs to Know, K-8, by Mary Howard, Heinemann, 2009
- The Reading Intervention Toolkit by Laura Robb, 4 to 8, Shell Education, 2016
Evan Robb, Principal Johnson Williams Middle School and author of:
The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook, Scholastic, 2007.
Follow Evan Robb on Twitter: @ERobbPrincipal
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