Part 7: Supporting Tier 1

Part 7: Supporting Tier 1

When we started our discussion, we talked about tiers in the MTSS pyramid. Tier 1 is the foundation for all students. The instructional practices within the classroom are the key to strong student success. Today we are going to talk about ways to support Tier 1 instruction. 

To get started you need to analyze current instructional practices and find out where curriculum is weak. Your screener can help identify weak areas and common threads where students are struggling. This often identifies areas that require instructional renovation. This could include one domain or multiple areas of concern. 

So we saw this upside-down pyramid in Part 2 of our series. If effective instructional practices are not in place, Tier 1 instruction suffers and you might find a higher number of students falling into what we typically think of as Tier  2 or 3. 

Tier 1 requires effective teaching and strong instructional practices. So, the next step is to analyze those instructional practices and put powerful instruction in place. Have teachers reflect on what practices are incorporated -or need to be incorporated -into their day-to-day routines. 

So what are the characteristics of powerful instruction?

Let’s start with teaching critical skills and strategies. We know that effective teachers teach skills using strategies and by building conceptual understanding. These strategies empower students to independently tackle new concepts. 

Teachers should model expectations and strategies. In reading, for example, showing students how to look back through a text and make notes can help better prepare students for online assessments and give them a clearer understanding of digital texts. 

Complex text is often missing when looking for quality reading instruction. Make sure to have a reliable resource for content such as Classworks Classroom Reading passages where text-dependent questions, open-ended responses, and paired passages are included at all grade levels. 

Math activities need to be flexible, so they can be easily integrated into your current math instruction. With Classworks Classroom Math, students can work together in small groups or pairs to solve problems with the teacher as a facilitator.  Students show their understanding and mastery of the mathematical concept in a variety of ways. They can illustrate, write, or record their thinking to demonstrate their knowledge. 

Teachers should Differentiate and adapt instruction based on assessment data to meet student needs. Effective teachers recognize that one size doesn't fit all and are ready to adapt instruction—both content and methods.

Assessments identify student performance levels. Assign varying levels of passages to ensure students are reading at their own level while building comprehension skills. When reading on grade level, struggling students can have passages read aloud to build understanding. Have students work in pairs or small groups to promote discussion and engagement. 

In math, differentiate problems on grade level. Adjust the magnitude of the numbers, the number of required steps to solve, and the amount of support provided. Progressively increase skill and level of communication required to show methods of solving.  

Assign Classworks Skill Units or use the Classworks Individualized Learning Progression to remediate skills identified through assessment. Students get true independent practice on skills they need in order to close gaps. 

Make sure students have explicit instruction and lots of opportunities to practice skills. This practice occurs with and without teacher support. (Students should not have to infer what they are supposed to learn.)

Explicit instruction requires modeling the expectation within learning. Model finding evidence within texts using highlighting and note-taking when working with close reads.  

Demonstrate the expectations for communicating thinking in math. Build conceptual understanding by having students draw models and write out their thinking for each problem.  This lays the groundwork for student understanding and success!

Engage students using technology! Teachers can facilitate lessons using interactive whiteboards while students use their individual devices to read and interact with the activity and answer questions. Use a variety of instructional formats - whole group, small group, and independent practice.  

Once critical content is covered, check for understanding, reteach and monitor progress. 

Offering time for students to work on skills using assigned Classworks units, provides students with independent practice. Teachers then review data and conference with students to offer real-time feedback. Use the data to inform next steps in classroom instruction such as forming small groups for reteaching. 

As you analyze your Tier 1 instruction, think about: Are these instructional practices in place? What’s working? What’s not? Once instructional challenges are identified, provide professional development to support teachers and supply the resources they need to execute strategies to improve instruction. 

Strong Tier 1 instruction allows students to learn strategies that empower them to independently tackle new concepts. Teachers differentiate and allow time for students to practice and struggle! That’s how students grow!

Each tier plays a valuable role for students. RTI is a powerful process that, when done right, greatly impacts student outcomes. 

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