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Tier 2 RTI Tips…Making RTI Work in your Classroom

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I read an article on Education Week’s website that shared a study of 20,000 students in 13 different states who were undergoing the RTI process. The study did not show promising results.

You can find that article here:

I was intrigued to read comments and see that many teachers are either for RTI or just not a fan of it in general. I have mixed feelings about RTI myself. I think the idea of it in general is a great. If it could be implemented correctly, then in a perfect world –it’s genius. However, we don’t live in a perfect world and in reality it’s usually being implemented by dumping more work on teachers with no guidance or help, at a time when we’re already stressed to the max.  Here are some tips to make the process smoother for you and your students.

  1. Understand the TIERS- this is usually the confusing part but doesn’t need to be. It is mostly confusing because everyone is on a different page. Make sure everyone at your school or on your team has the same definition. For example:
  • Tier 1 is typically core instruction. Your general teaching. However, it gets foggy when you start reading groups. Guided reading groups or strategy based reading groups are almost always a part of core instruction, especially for Early Elementary. General rule of thumb if you’re providing this same instruction to every student in your class its TIER 1.
  • Tier 2 is for your students who need additional instruction because they aren’t responding to core instruction. Tier 2 is taught in a small GROUP but it is different instruction (aka interventions) that your core group is not receiving. So tier 2 would receive regular reading or math group plus an intervention group lesson.
  • Tier 3 is for when your student still isn’t responding to interventions. Tier 3 should be as individualized as possible. If not individual instruction as it is the last tier before a student would qualify to get tested for SPED services. Tier 3 is typically taught by an interventionist and not a classroom teacher.
  1. Get help. – HOW CAN A TYPICAL TEACHER DO TWO TIERS OF INSTRUCTION IN THEIR CLASSROOM, IN ONE DAY, BY THEMSELVES? It’s near impossible, unless you’re school is blessed with reading/math specialists who can pull the students for you.  In a typical classroom you will have at least 2-3 students who will need RTI. Of course those 2-3 students are not going to need the same type of interventions. One will be RTI for math and the other two maybe for reading—but one for comprehension and one for phonics. So you will most likely need help.  Here are some places you can look for it:
  • The first place to look is your grade level team. My grade level worked out a specific time for Tier 2 interventions and each teacher would teach one specific intervention group (comprehension group, phonics group, etc.) we would switch the kids so that the students in RTI could receive their specific interventions.
  • If this is impossible, see if you can get a parent or grandparent or some kind of adult volunteer to help. They can’t teach your RTI group but they can help to run learning centers or pull your highest reading/math group in tier 1 if you pre-plan the lesson for them.
  • If worse comes to worse ask a higher grade level if they can help. When I taught kinder I would ask for a few 5th graders to come down and help me test site words often. You could ask for a few responsible students to come help run centers or do a reading buddy type program where the entire class comes down and pairs off with tier 1 students. This would give you a chance to pull a tier 2 group as well as the other teacher to pull their tier 2 kids at the same time.
  • Mix them up. Maybe your grade level team can do tier 2 interventions for reading, while you work with another grade level for your tier 2 interventions for math.
  1. Organize- Who’s teaching what? Who’s teaching who? What are you teaching? For how long? How are you going to monitor and check for growth (progress monitor?)
  2. Set specific goals- if you’re teaching a reading fluency intervention group are you targeting accuracy or words read per minute? Specific goals will help narrow down which interventions you should try.
  3. Document- Your RTI may give you paperwork to document with, but plan with your team or co-teachers how you would like to keep your data organized. Make sure you always keep track of student attendance; lessons taught and materials used; the amount of time and engagement of the lesson. If you visit teachers pay teachers I’m sure you will be able to find many different forms to help you organize your documentation for RTI.
  4. Plan a 5-10 minute buffer- at the end of your Tier 2 instruction time that you can use to jot down anecdotal notes and also confer with other teachers about how things are going. This buffer time will help you stay organized and keep you on top of documenting. This will also give your tier 2 students time to go and catch up with the rest of the class activity, so they don’t feel like they’re missing out on anything.
  5. Look at how you manage the students not in tier 2- Make sure that your intervention students aren’t missing anything important during tier 2 time. This is next to impossible sometimes. We had our classes do accelerated reader during our tier 2 instruction last year. We soon realized that the students who needed the practice time for silent reading and AR the most we’re never getting it because they were always being pulled for interventions. Try to treat intervention time as acceleration time for the rest of the class. The switch in thinking can help you to differentiate the instruction for all students more during this time. Suggestions? Setting up literature groups, creating leveled take it to your seat centers…. I’m still working on ideas for this one. Please share your ideas for this as well as how your school does RTI-tier 2 instruction. Thanks in advance!




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