Five Ways to Keep Interventions Fresh in Winter and Spring
As many of us venture into or just beyond the midpoint of the school year, thoughts will soon turn to spring and the rewards of a school year’s worth of instruction.
It is especially important to keep interventions fresh and delivered with fidelity during this critical time of potential growth in your students. The following tips can keep you energized and focused on delivering instruction and intervention as effectively as possible.
- Remember where you started
Take a moment to look at your students’ beginning-of-the-year assessment data. In all likelihood, they have come a long way since interventions started. Share the good news with teachers, administrators, parents, and students, of course. Your students’ progress creates a wonderful opportunity to share with others how particular interventions have been chosen and why they have been effective. This is also a good time to inventory the relevance and intensity of interventions. Are they still appropriate, based on progress?
- Keep progress monitoring well matched to interventions
If midyear benchmarking data is available, take a look at overall progress in your school. How is your group, class, or grade level doing overall and in comparison to school-wide data? Perhaps some follow-up diagnostic assessments could more strategically guide and reinvigorate your intervention planning at this vital juncture in the school year.
For students who are receiving literacy interventions, are progress monitoring assessments being delivered with appropriate frequency, and are they matched directly to interventions? If students are receiving interventions for word-level decoding, progress monitoring should be commensurate to those targeted skills. A phonics and word-reading survey would be appropriate in this case. For students who receive phonological or phonemic awareness interventions, a time-efficient phonemic awareness diagnostic will keep the focus on interventions with appropriate intensity and precision. Progress monitoring and diagnostic tools should yield the greatest amount of useful information in the shortest amount of time. Well-matched, time-efficient data collection can generate valuable information to guide and galvanize your intervention journey from midyear to end of year.
- Keep it real
Like many developing skills, beginners learn along a sequence of acquisition to mastery. Adherence to this progression is especially critical regarding the foundational skills of phonological/phonemic awareness and decoding. When reinforcing new skills, think multisensory. For example, when drawing students’ attention to proper articulation of phonemes, use mirrors and sound wall pictures to help students make a strong, multisensory connection to the way sounds look and feel.
If blending is a target skill, begin with manipulatives and gradually, yet purposely, advance to automaticity with increasing fluency. Start with blank tiles, colored chips, or other inexpensive objects such as buttons or pennies to represent sounds. (Many excellent multisensory kits and activities are readily available for purchase or can be teacher made.) Gradually extinguish these more concrete representations with tapping or clapping until students are able to complete the task independently, without physical representation. Mastery is considered when students demonstrate the skill independently and automatically, within a few seconds. A simple checklist for each skill and progression of multisensory to automaticity will keep intervention efforts focused and appropriately paced.
Thinking multisensory to introduce skills from phonological awareness to comprehension keeps learning concrete, engaging, and appropriately paced.
- Don’t forget BOTH sides of the Simple View
Many interventions for younger students are focused (and rightfully so) on foundational skills needed for accurate and fluent decoding such as phonological awareness, phonics, and decoding. Stay cognizant of building students’ oral language development and vocabulary as well. The use of decodable texts offers a rudimentary, yet burgeoning occasion to derive meaning from text. Another effective way to build in oral language opportunities throughout intervention time is through well-chosen read alouds. Choose read-aloud books that feature rich vocabulary and language structures. Stories may relate to words or concepts from an intervention lesson or current event to capitalize on students’ interests.
Incidental vocabulary-building opportunities abound when finding ways to integrate “teacher talk” during routine activities. Teachers’ intentional use of sophisticated vocabulary and language structures enrich students’ receptive understanding of many words and academic structures they may not otherwise hear. Taking a bit of time to read aloud and create opportunities for increased discourse in oral language is enjoyable and fun for both teachers and students.
For older students who may require intervention with a focus on comprehension, a very effective means of “double dipping” into the Word Recognition and Language Comprehension sides of the Simple View is through morphology. For example, by teaching students the meanings of the affixes and root in the word “restructuring,” the focus is on not only decoding known “chunks” of words but also on the meaning of each part. In this way, students are deepening their knowledge of word meanings while becoming more adept at decoding.
Although the components needed to ensure reading comprehension are anything but “simple,” being aware of building both the decoding and knowledge-building blocks of the Simple View will help keep interventions balanced, purposeful, and invigorated.
- Invite professional growth opportunities to enhance your effectiveness
One of the most significant factors in teachers’ effectiveness is their knowledge base in research-based instruction and intervention. LETRS® (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) professional development offers high-quality, deep pedagogical knowledge and strategies for immediate classroom integration. This “gold standard” of professional development assures participants the most relevant and current research-based practices to enhance teacher knowledge and subsequent student progress.
LETRS offers comprehensive professional development in all pillars of literacy, from oral development to comprehension and writing. Teachers’ deep understanding of assessment is absolutely essential to guide choices of intervention materials and their effectiveness for students at all tiers of instruction.
LETRS is offered in a variety of flexible formats to meet the needs of teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators. A professional learning community based in the online study of LETRS units connects teachers and enhances this literacy knowledge through meaningful collaboration. Face-to-face trainings create reflective learning opportunities with immediate connections to classroom practice.
Students deserve instruction based on the science of reading, and so do their teachers. Nothing invigorates planning, instruction, and delivery like the confidence and command that come from the rich knowledge of scientifically based reading research. Teacher knowledge is teacher empowerment.
Above all, celebrate student successes and progress. Ultimately, YOU are the most valuable influence in your students’ growth in reading and writing achievement. Never underestimate the power of your commitment to deliver interventions in the most informed ways possible. The investment in the time it may take to reflect upon your students’ progress and determine the best steps forward will be well worth revitalized efforts for spring.