Supporting Students During Instruction #eduread


Several years ago – in the beginning of discussions / learning of RTI,  I remember a curriculum supervisor making a statement – that we need a file of several resources – addressing goal concepts at different levels of understanding – that we can pull from as we have need to address intervention needs of our students.

With recent reading, this statement comes to front of my thinking.  The reading supports the idea of formative assessment – to catch students during the learning cycle and address their immediate needs.  This book date was 2010 – just the beginning of my own learning cycle and implementation of true formative assessment.


There are five steps outlined in Chapter 2

How to Develop and Deliver an Intervention Plan

  1. Identify mastery thresholds.
  2. Establish “red flags.”
  3. Develop on-going assessment measures to identify red flags.
  4. Select appropriate interventions.
  5. Monitor the effectiveness of each intervention.

I found a statement interesting as we were asked to think about “What are some of your current mastery thresholds?  How can you tell when students have moved from “almost got it” to “got it”?  The statement was to look beyond mastery thresholds tied strictly to academic achievement, but also as related student behaviors implied by the curriculum – such as participation, note taking, study habits and work completion. ( page 36)  I see this as the behavior may actual cover-up the understanding, if I am not carefully seeing beyond the behavior.

The establishment of red flags is helpful – after all, its human nature to cover up what we don’t know – so as a teacher, we have thought about/anticipated student actions, behaviors to help us gather data and making decisions on next steps during instruction.  Red flags are objective – intervention based on data rather than my opinion of who low-performing, gives students who are not prepared or embarrassed to ask for help.  Students may seem to be getting it by their behaviors but miss the mark on an assessment.  The red-flag system provides a safety net, per se’.

Four rules for establishing red flags:

  • unambiguous
  • hard to ignore
  • trigger an action
  • focused on academic concerns not behaviors.

Well.  I had to stop after reading this.  I needed to reflect on the next Think About…

What methods do I currently use to determine that a students is struggling?  What signals let me know they are falling below mastery?  Or signals that I missed in the past?

How do I tell they are no longer struggling?  Or even bored and ready to move on?

These are questions I really have not considered.  However, I do feel that I am a responsive teacher in the classroom.  I began really listening and paying attention to student behavior, actions about the time this book was published.  I started listening to my students rather than for the answers (Thanks, Max!)

Pausing during instruction – noticing their actions – how long do they take to engage in the problem/task?  The looks on their faces.  The conversations at tables – really listening to what they are saying – when I ask them to turn and talk.  I walk around the room and truly listen.  Ask questions specifically to their conversations – to dig deeper and see if they are getting it.

I search for common misconceptions as I walk around the room.  And I like to share – using Leah Alcala’s “favorite no” structure.  Ask, “What do you think this student was thinking?”  But I love to also use the Two Stars and a Wish/a Question.  What does this student know?  What question could we ask them to help adjust their thinking and see their mistake?

I initially thought I did not have a red flag list.  But pondering my teaching – I feel that the sequence and choice of examples I present during a lesson allows for a large portion of my red-flags.  I anticipate their mistakes and even give them some “wrong” work to analyze the mistakes as part of the learning task.  I realize this may not be enough, but it is a beginning.

Step 3 is an area I worked on with a colleague in Algebra I with intention last school year.  We took our units and planned at least one formative assessment for every learning target in the unit.  We tried to plan a variety of tasks.  We have some planned followup for some of the FAs, however, this is work to continue and build upon each time it is taught.  Having planning FA is so helpful.  Ensuring those FA are also connected to a specific red flag is even more powerful.  Giving an example that is often missed during a feedback quiz, allows us the opportunity to see where the group may be.  IF a large number have issues, we can address with the entire class.  IF only a handful have issues, its an opportunity to sit one=on=one and have a quality conversation.

Step 4 on selecting appropriate interventions is an area that challenges me.  Thinking of support and interventions differently – I am still not confident in this thinking.  But this statement seems to help – The most effective interventions provide a temporary learning support, are available to students on an as-needed basis and are removed when they are no longer needed.  So intervention provides the support. (?)

I honestly stressed reading this section.  It felt overwhelming and not doable.  I wanted to give up and quit reading.  Then I continued and the following list confirmed I was doing some things right.

Types of interventions discussed:

  • Student Conferences
  • Feedback
  • Concrete Examples
  • Graphic Organizers
  • Cheat Sheets & Cues
  • Memory Strategies
  • Summarizing
  • “Break Glass” Strategies – this was new to me
  • Tiered HW Assignments
  • Modeling Thinking Strategies
  • Task Breakdowns
  • Mandatory Extra Help (not punitive)
  • Peer Tutoring (we do a lot of “buddy checks” at our tables, allows students to ask a peer a question they may not be comfortable asking to the entire class)

But note these are not things I just did.  These are strategies suggested by colleagues, gathered at conferences, read from a blog post or found during a book chat reading.  These things did not just happen.  I purposefully planned them along the way.  Some worked initially.  Some failed miserably.  But most are in my toolbox and ready to pick up at any given time when I recognize a red flag.

I believe this merits a reminder from Steve Leinwand – It is unreasonable to ask a professional to change much more than 10 percent a year, but it is unprofessional to change by much less than 10 percent a year. {MT, page 582, may 2007

We cannot possibly learn and change everything all at once.  But it is a disservice to our students if we do not change at all.  Pick a new strategy or change up a lesson with an new approach.  What is it you want to do/accomplish?  What do you want to learn?  How might you apply it to your classroom instruction?  Research. Plan. Action. Reflect.  Adapt.  This is how you build a vast toolbox of quality resources and strategies.

Interventions should…

  • be designed to get students quickly back on track, addressing immediate needs but also keeping up with current learning taking place.
  • NOT be punitive, even if students are struggling because of their irresponsible behavior (not lying, I struggle here.  but I must find ways for students to recognize their choices led them to this point, discuss possible choices and the outcomes of each, help remind them the next time they are at a place to make a choice.  behavior interventions and academic interventions are not the same – although as teachers we see how some behavior leads to the need of the academic intervention.  this in my opinion is where relationships trump everything else – knowing your students, having conversations with them can lead to my understanding of why they chose the way they did.  and hopefully those conversations will continue to grow trust between us and allow me to help direct them to choices that will lead to a greater outcome.)
  • seamless and unobtrusive
  • systematic
  • temporary
  • minimal
  • specific
  • not be labor intensive (let me know when you figure this one out!)

At this point in the reading – there is a worksheet to help you in the process of planning red flags and interventions.

Step 5 Evaluate the interventions for effectiveness.  Again – reflection, analysis, adapt, action.

A suggestion made I want to make note of for my own reminder – is weaning them off of the interventions.  For example – if we allow students to use notes on a test, if we continue to do this the entire year, they become dependent on their notes and may not learn the concepts as deeply as we like.  One suggestion was to gradually withdraw.  An idea – Test 1, all notes allowed, Test 2 notes allowed during last half of the test,  Test 3 notes allowed during last five minutes of testing period.  Test 4 no notes.  OR  T1 all notes, T2 one sheet of paper, T3 5 x 7 index card, T4 no notes.  Either one shows a need for good note taking but students cannot be totally dependent.

A final statement made – is that interventions assume students want help.  When they refuse help, we need to know the way.  This falls back to knowing our students.  Relationships matter.

Thanks for allowing me to muddle through my thinking on this reading!  Have an amazing day.



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