March 30, 2013

First Thing's First

I have reading interventions on my mind lately.  I know, I know, that's a SUPER exciting topic to have on my mind, but what can I say?  I am a literacy dork and will proudly admit it! :)  What I've been thinking about in regards to reading interventions is the idea of building the intervention based on what is going on in the classroom.  I think there are times that schools pull a random intervention out of their imaginary pool of interventions and tell a random teacher who isn't necessarily related to the student to do the intervention.

Below are the most important items I feel need to be in place in order for an intervention to be successful:

1.  Strong universal instruction within the classroom: This item is number one for a reason.  I don't believe there is a point in trying out an intervention unless the foundation of what a student is receiving for reading instruction on a daily basis is solid.  In the school I teach at, we have a 90 minute literacy block daily.  Half of that block is dedicated to reading workshop where students receive a whole-class minilesson on something related to reading.  After the minilesson while students are working on the application of the minilesson/have independent work time, the classroom teacher conducts homogeneous guided reading groups of 3-6 students, observes heterogeneous literature study groups of 5-6 students, or holds reading conferences.  If this universal instruction is not implemented with fidelity on a consistent, daily basis, the effectiveness of the intervention will decrease.

2.  Progress monitoring of data:  During the reading interventions that we use (LLI), students are given a weekly reading record that is recorded into a data system called North Star.  Every 6-8 weeks, a team of teachers (classroom, reading interventionist, literacy coach, principal) comes together to re-evaluate the students' progress within that reading intervention to decide if the intervention should continue, be altered, or if the student has made enough progress to discontinue the intervention.  Decisions should definitely be data-based, but only if there is enough data collected over a consecutive period of time.

3.  Getting students to commit to independent reading:  Along with providing a reading intervention to struggling readers, teachers need to ensure that students are selecting independent reading material that interests them and that they are able to read independently.  Fostering a love of reading and getting students "hooked" into the habit of consistent reading will help students close reading gaps rapidly.

4.  An intervention that connects to the classroom:  At the school I teach at, we teach using the Literacy Collaborative framework (reading workshop, writing workshop, word study) within the classroom.  For our reading interventions we use LLI, which is made by Fountas and Pinnell and compliments the framework and what students are doing within the classroom beautifully.  A consistent language and setting students up to make connections between what they do in the classroom and during the intervention is essential.

5.  Communication between the classroom teacher and the interventionist:  Open lines of communication between the classroom teacher and the interventionist is so important so that instruction compliments each other and doesn't go against what one person or the other is doing with the students.  A rule of thumb for an interventionist is not to assume that what a student is able to do in an intervention they will be able to do in the classroom.  You must stay on the same page with the teacher to know for sure that the students are able to transfer what they are learning and the growth they have made in an intervention into their daily classroom performance.

6.  Something to prevent the summer slide:  Putting so much work into students' reading skills only to have them take three months off of reading is so sad and unfortunate.  Summer school, sending books home, book lists, summer reading logs, whatever you have to do, make sure it happens to get students to read at least a little during the summer.

7.  Consistent time:  An intervention must be implemented with fidelity and consistency.  Committing to  doing an intervention 4-5 times a week will help students close reading gaps quickly and allow for new students to receive reading intervention.  If an intervention isn't working, attendance on the end of the student and teacher must be examined first before judging the intervention.  Another given is that the intervention is occurring on top of what is already happening in class on a daily basis.  The intervention should NOT come out of language arts time.  It should be on top of what every other child also receives in language arts instruction.  We conduct our reading interventions during study hall.  They could also happen during an elective class, if your school has an intervention block, or before/after school just to name a few ideas.

So there is a look into my perfect reading intervention world.  Catching students up in their reading to where they need to be is one of the most important jobs we will do as educators in order to students to be successful in life.

I hope everyone has a happy Easter weekend!


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