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Back to School: How Can Teachers Use RTI to Help Their Students?

Posted by Zacc Dukowitz

Aug 6, 2013 7:37:00 AM

As the school year approaches,  teachers across our country are thinking of ways to improve their students’ classroom experience.  One phrase that comes up a lot when discussing education is Response to Intervention (or RTI).  But what is RTI exactly, and how can you use it to help your students?  

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Here’s a definition (from the National Association of School Psychologists): Response to Intervention (RTI) is an array of procedures that can be used to determine if and how students respond to specific changes in instruction. RTI provides an improved process and structure for school teams in designing, implementing, and evaluating educational interventions.

Simply put, RTI means planning work to help students improve specific concepts or skills, giving it to them, and then evaluating the effects afterward.

Here are some quick tips to follow when using RTI in your classroom:  

1.  Identify the concepts and skills to be addressed by the intervention.  In math, a good diagnostic can save you time in identifying the exact knowledge gaps each student should work on.

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2. Discuss your goals with the student.  Articulating the intervention to the student can really help the intervention be a success.  If a student can say, “I need to work more on factors,” for instance, not only does it help him or her understand the goal of the work, it empowers the student to understand how to move forward with his or her learning.

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3.  Follow up.  What was the response to the intervention you planned?  After a student has worked through the intervention materials and/or activities—whether it’s a handout, practice using an online program, group work, or some other kind of strategy—it's important to follow up with an assessment  to evaluate progress. Then make the decision as to whether the student can move forward, or if more work on the particular knowledge gap is needed.

4.  Follow up again!  Students need reinforcement in order to build new skill sets, and strengthen existing ones.  Use an excel sheet, a calendar item, or some other tracking system to remind yourself to check in a week later with another diagnostic or concepts-specific evaluation.  How did your students do?  Are you seeing progress, or are they still struggling with the concept or skill?

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5. Scale it!  Remember that RTI can be done on an individual student level, in small groups, or on an entire class level.  Again, diagnostics can be really useful when it comes to identifying knowledge gaps common to your entire class.  If you’ve covered a topic in class but the diagnostic reveals a general confusion about it, the diagnostic information may help you explore new approaches to teaching that topic.  

Some concepts and skills will only be knowledge gaps for certain groups of students in the class.  You can use class time to group students according to the work they need to do, and separate those students with particular needs to provide one-on-one attention while the rest of the class continues to work.

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Mathematics is a subject where RTI can be especially impactful.  As this New York Times article points out, most students excel in math more quickly than in English because math has clear goals that can be approached in a systematic manner.  Diagnostics can help you create that system, and RTI can help you make sure not a single student falls behind.  

Topics: Teachers Using LearnBop, Differentiating Instruction, Resources, Teaching & Learning

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