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What Makes Intervention Instruction More Intensive?

Founder of Stephanie Stollar Consulting L.L.C.
and creator of The Reading Science Academy
Updated on
Modified on June 23, 2023
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One pervasive myth about dyslexia is that students with this neurobiological difference can’t or won’t learn to read. Fortunately, research indicates this is not the case. Students with dyslexia can and do learn to read, but doing so may require individualized and intensive intervention instruction that is sustained over time.

What does it mean to provide intensive instruction?

A great deal is known about the skills that should be taught in the primary grades during general classroom reading instruction for all students. Likewise, much is known about the instructional approaches that seem to work best for teaching those skills.

Various terms are used to describe those approaches, including direct instruction, explicit instruction, and Structured Literacy. These effective instructional approaches share common elements, including:

  • Breaking complex skills into smaller tasks
  • Sequencing instruction from easier to more complex
  • Modeling new skills explicitly
  • Reviewing previously taught skills over time
  • Eliciting frequent responses
  • Providing immediate corrective feedback
  • Offering purposeful practice

The last three elements in the list above provide an opportunity to intensify intervention instruction for students who have more complex reading needs, and to contrast the intervention instruction with the level of responding, the type of feedback, and the amount of practice that is typical in classroom reading instruction.

Intensive intervention includes more frequent responses:

Classroom InstructionIntervention Instruction
  • Whole group
  • Turn taking
  • Not responding is possible
  • Small group
  • Each student must respond
  • Not responding is not an option

Intensive intervention includes more immediate corrective feedback:

Classroom InstructionIntervention Instruction
  • Mistakes can go unnoticed
  • Mistakes can go uncorrected
  • Mistakes may be practiced
  • Mistakes minimized through pre-correction
  • All errors immediately corrected
  • Interaction to correct errors ends with the student producing a correct response

Intensive intervention includes more purposeful practice:

Classroom InstructionIntervention Instruction
  • Each student may only get one practice opportunity
  • All students practice even if they aren’t accurate
  • Skills may not be revisited for practice
  • Students practice only the skills they perform accurately
  • Time is allotted for sufficient practice
  • Practice can be cumulatively distributed over time

The comparisons above should not be seen as a criticism of classroom reading instruction, but rather an acknowledgment of its inherent constraints, and a recognition of the need for students who have reading difficulties to receive reading intervention that is qualitatively different.

By design, the intensive reading intervention provided to struggling readers must be more individualized, more supportive, and more explicit than the classroom reading instruction that has proven to be sufficient for students without reading difficulties. That is what it means for intervention instruction to be more intensive.

Next week, I will be offering a webinar, Effective Reading Intervention: Characteristics, Differences, and Systems of Support, that will elaborate on the characteristics of intervention instruction and what differentiates it as more intensive than classroom reading instruction. The webinar will include a description of the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) model and how the systems and processes of MTSS provide the foundation for intensifying instruction for struggling readers.

Hope to see you there!
About the Author
Dr. Stephanie Stollar
Dr. Stephanie Stollar
Founder of Stephanie Stollar Consulting L.L.C.
and creator of The Reading Science Academy
Dr. Stephanie Stollar is the former vice president for professional learning at Acadience® Learning Inc. She is an adjunct professor in the online reading science program at Mount St. Joseph University, and a founding member of a national alliance for supporting reading science in higher education. Dr. Stollar has worked as an educational consultant, a school psychologist, and an assistant professor in the school psychology program at the University of South Florida, and has provided professional development for teachers for the past 25 years. Dr. Stollar is a co-author of Acadience® Reading K–6Acadience® Reading Survey, and Acadience® Reading Diagnostic. She has conducted research in the areas of assessment, early intervention, and collaborative problem solving. As a member of the board for the Innovations in Education Consortium, she collaboratively plans the annual MTSS Innovations in Education Conference. 
Learn more about Dr. Stephanie Stollar