Closing the Gap – Using Interventions Effectively – #1

Through The Eyes of a
Struggling Reader
Teacher, help me…
I don’t know that word.
I don’t know what sound that
I don’t know what that word
I don’t know what the story
I don’t know how the character
I don’t know what the story
I don’t know what I’m
thinking….or how to tell you.
I don’t know how to be a good
Teacher, help me.  I am counting on you.
Hey teacher friends! 
Doesn’t this poem just tug at your heart?  That’s why you are such an amazing
teacher.  You care and you do whatever you can to make
sure that every child is successful and feels good about him or herself.  And you do it Every. Single. Day! 

This blogpost series aims to help you in that endeavor by getting
you started using interventions, or to refresh what you already know about
them.  We will give you some tips and
some ideas about how to provide effective interventions appropriate to your
students’ needs, and what you can do for different areas of need. 

In this first post, we will talk about the basics
and share ideas for what you can do in your core instruction and in the
classroom setting.  You, dear teacher,
are the first line of intervention defense and we want to help you with that.  Let’s get started!

Before you can begin to target instruction, you’ll need to
assess students with something that will give you essential information.  At our school, all students are screened with
the STAR Reading Assessment.  This is a
good start for us, but because of the way the assessment is designed, (too
complicated to describe here), it is not sufficient for our teaching
needs.  The students are also given the
DRA – Developmental Reading Assessment, to help us get the information we need
to target instruction.  If you don’t have
an assessment like the DRA or the Fountas and Pinnell BAS, running records on
leveled texts can do the trick.  You
might also want to do a phonics and sight word check as well.  Even if your students are intermediate
students, if they are really struggling, then a phonics and sight word check
will tell you if that is the problem. 
(Here is a free phonics assessment if you need it.)  

After assessing all of your students, you
will want to divide them into tiers based on their assessments.  We group our students by level first, then by
need in phonics, sight words, and/or comprehension. Students on or above grade
level are your tier one students. 
Students up to one year below grade level are your tier two
students.  Students one or more years
below grade level are your tier three students. 
(You can read more about tiering here.) 
Why does it matter?  It matters
because your interventions are based on student needs, but the intensity of
intervention is determined by how far below grade level your students are.

Here are some general things to keep in mind as you provide interventions to students in each of the tiers.

Tier 1
Students in
tier one are performing well with your differentiated core instruction, and
rarely need interventions.
If needed,
typical interventions include:
  •          Extra practice
  •          A second session of strategy modeling or
    explanation of concept.
  •          Conferring with students once a week, if you are
    using the conferring model.

Tier 2           
Tier two
interventions can be a little tricky, because the students that are closer to the
top of this tier, (closer to grade level), need something different than those
students who are performing closer to the bottom of this level.  However, all interventions in tier two are in addition to the core curriculum or
interventions include:
  • Additional small group teaching and coached
    practice of a specific needed skill or strategy, and…
  • Additional conferences each week if you use a
    conferring model
      (Conferring alone is
    not enough for tier two students)
  • Careful, consistent progress monitoring and
    documentation of student progress (Every two weeks)
  • Increased minutes reading “just right,” high-success texts

  For higher tier two students,
groups can meet as little as 3 days per week and can include up to 5 students
per group.
  For lower tier two students,
groups should meet a minimum of 4 days per week and include no more than 4
students per group.

Tier 3
Tier 3
interventions are far more intense in their focus and include even more time
for practice. They are also in addition
to core instruction. Typical interventions include:
  • Focus on no more than three skills (Example:
    words with one phonetic element/sound or feature such as -ay words, cvc words, -ed endings, etc., up to 5 sight words to practice, and one comprehension focus
    such as retell or finding main idea) in a small group setting at least 4 days
    per week and including no more than 3 students per group
  • Focus strategies, skills and/or words are sent home to
    parents each week for practice at home
  • Student conferences at least every other day if you
    are also using the conferring model
  •  Additional one on one practice if a
    paraeducator, tutor or parent volunteer is available  (older students can do this too, with
  • Even more minutes of reading “just right,” high-success texts
  •  Careful, consistent progress monitoring and
    documentation of student progress (Every week)
notes:  Tier 3 students are often being
watched closely to determine if further evaluation may be needed by the special
education team.  It is very important to
document all interventions and the student’s progress with them.
Now that you
have assessed and tiered your students, and have thought about how to provide
interventions in addition to your core instruction, let’s think about what you
can do within your core instruction every day in your classroom. Here are some
of the most effective things you can do.
  • Keep all kids engaged during all lessons – Don’t
    let their attention drift away or allow them to be “invisible.”
  • Keep learning active and engaging – Call on all
    students.  Turn and talk.  Chant and sing new learning.  Get up and move. (Think Ron Clark Academy and
    Go Noodle types of learning.)
  • Make sure ALL posted materials are able to be
    read by ALL levels of readers in your classroom, especially those at the lowest
    level, because they need the most practice – Anchor Charts.  Songs and Chants.  Poems. 
    Directions.  Schedules.  EVERYTHING! The more things you have that ALL students can read, the more minutes of practice they will have and the more their reading will improve!

                      Chart credit:  Aliya Raintree

  •  Differentiate, Differentiate, Differentiate! –
    Provide multiple levels of text for all reading tasks, for response sheets,
    reading center activities, and everything else that you can think of (even math
    problems).  It takes a little extra time
    to prepare the first time around, but you will have them for the future and
    best of all you will be rewarded by improvement in your students’ achievement.
    (Divide and conquer by creating them with a buddy teacher.)  We have lots and lots of leveled passage sets available for you here, if you need some. 

  • Put differentiated and individualized learning
    cards on student’s desks for them to practice at every spare moment, then
    between every lesson or at every transition time, have them take a minute to
    practice their learning cards by reading/explaining to their neighbor – Sight
    word cards.  Phonics word cards. Vocabulary word cards.  Concept cards.  Math formulas.
  • Talk, Talk, Talk!  Having students talk about what they are learning, increases their retention and understanding!  So allow purposeful talk at all possible moments!

We hope this
blogpost gave you some new information about interventions or sparked an idea
or two that you can use.
Click the pictures below to get more specific ideas for when and what to do in your tier 2 and 3 interventions, and we will share with you how we do it at our school. 



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