Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More on RTI


The second point that jumped at me from the IRA Guidelines for RTI is that RTI is a framework, not a specific program or model.  I like that because it brings the leadership back to the teacher.  How will you use these tools in your classroom to maximize service to your students?    If you need help, did you know that there is an organization (the National Center on the Response to Intervention), funded at two universities (Vanderbilt and University of Kansas) that can offer you free resources and support?  They can provide support to your center or your district.  Check them out!

RTI is about modifying the standard classroom approach if it doesn't work for a group of or an individual student.  Again, in my mind, that goes back to a renewed respect for the professionalism of teachers and educator-teams.  What a refreshing idea.  But with that renewed respect, comes a great deal of responsibilty.  Responsibility to stay on top of what works, best practices.  Responsibility to connect to your fellow educators and experts in the field and keep up with research.  Responsibility to take that part of your job seriously.  When I travel the country, I hear teachers tell me they are fed up, up to their eyeballs with the wrong type of staff development:  boring, etherial approaches without "take back to the classroom" tomorrow ideas that are confirmed by the experience of the teachers.  One more part of the responsibility of a professional is to communicate what you need.  Here are a few print and Internet resources to get you started:

Evidenced Based Reading Practices for Response to Intervention, a book that includes the voices of respected reading researchers speaking to the subject.

RTI Actual Network's Blog.  Every teacher needs a place to speak her mind and share her ideas, ask questions.  One of the greatest things I've discovered about blogs and listservs and online groups is that you can learn so much from that virtual community and contribute your knowledge at the same. For those of you that live in Florida, specifically, there is a blog on literacy from your state DOE.  Other states may offer the same type of interactive format. 

Webinars.  Tired of professional development that you don't select?  Try a webinar.  The IRA has listed a February event which will talk specific about RTI.  Hurry and you can get in on Missouri DOE's free one.

My friend, Emma McDonald of Inspiring Teachers (who just happens to be the publisher of my e-book, Powerful Picture Books), is on the same channel.  Her recent newsarticle on Tiered Instruction fits well into this list of resources. You'll notice that she created a personal copy of my newsletter but you just need to scroll down a page or so to find the article.  She brings an interesting idea: considering Montessori methods within the context of differentiated instruction.  I found it fastinating and it immediately gave me an idea. 

I always encourage teachers to look for those activities during small group time that work with students on a variety of levels.  For instance, in preschool or kindergarten when you have children on different levels of phonological awareness, activities that fit the range of the spectrum from not understanding rhyming, to being able to read rhyming pairs and recognize rhyming patterns in print.  Think about pulling activities from that range.  There's a great little puzzle I found called Find The Rhmye: A First Rhyming Puzzle.  I'm not into "advertising" but this is a great little tool.  I'm sure you know of plenty of other sets of materials or ideas that will work with a variety of students.  Organizing them by skill level is key to being able to pull them quickly to meet the needs of your particular group of students for a given year.

If you know of other resources you have found beneficial, please share them with a post to this blog.  If everyone shares a bit of what they find, we'll have a tremendous resource built on the subject.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Last Post of the Week: RTI

It's the end of the week and now we have one more chance to look back at IRA's Commission on RTI.

The last statement that struck me was "instruction and materials selection must derive from specific student-teacher interaction and not be constrained by packaged programs."  What does that mean to you?

In many cases, I see that we have become curriculum driven rather than student driven.  Getting back to the idea identified by IRA's expert commission is a challenge.  It reiterates the idea that we have all heard so often (and know to be true):  that there are "many roads to reading" - Dr. Peter Hannon, University of Sheffeld, England.  Rebecca Novick's new book, Many Paths To Literacy, is also a good verification of that sage statement.

Our friends in the educational publishing world (no names please) have become so expert at telling us that their product is the "fix all, end all" for instruction that it may have blinded us to this important fact.  I recently read this excellent article about supplements and alternative approaches that work well for students whom the curriculum "doesn't fit" and hope you will find it just as helpful.

Let's narrow in on literacy for a minute, down from the broader subject:

Reading Rockets (I hope you know this site) recently published an article entitled "Best Practice for All Students" and included a reference to a familar term "differentiated instruction".  This article emphasizes that Tier I instruction must be exemplary and not just "delivery of a stock curriculum".  It must include adaptations which include small group collaborations to address differences in skills such as fluency, vocabulary, or comprehension.  This article also correctly clarifies the distinction between groups in Tier I instruction and a Tier II level group.

Betty Hollas, author and veteran educator, provided a session at the last IRA conference in Phoenix, AZ (February 2009) entitled Differentiating Literacy Instruction for Intervention and Advanced Students in the Same Classroom.  What I love so much about Betty's presentation handouts are that she included useable tools like the Literacy Contract and a connection to Bloom's Taxonomy which helps level questions asked about literature or stories read.  She's also the author of several excellent books on the subject.

We've come to the end of our postings for this week.  I hope you've found valuable ideas and I encourage you to come back and visit us again.  And remember postings from you make this blog better so post away!

Resolutions and RTI

When I think of new year's resolutions, I often think of teachers.  You now have a good handle on the personalities, hot buttons, learning styles and capabilities of your students.  The second half of the year will fly by before you know it and you are already back in the middle of it all. 

As I was thinking about my own resolutions, I was reminded that the International Reading Association's Response to Intervention Commission has published their Guidelines (and a working draft of guiding principles).  These guidelines focus on several important keys for today's teachers and move us from a restrictive, repetitive approach to teaching which relies too heavily on curriculum (to the neglect of other important factors).

The next few blogs this week will address each in turn.  I solicit your comments about your experiences, what your school is doing with RTI, and how you'd like to see teaching change (for the better).  During your implementation of RTI, what have you learned?  There are even books such as Beyond the RTI Pyramid which have study guides to help you work through those answers.  After all, our resolutions (at least some of them) should be on behalf of our students and their families.

RTI is first and foremost "a prevention model", according to the Commission.

Are you seeing the form of RTI being implemented in your school or district as "just more work"?

Or, is it resulting in less referrals to special education, extensive intervention and diagnosed learning disabilities?

One of the purposes of RTI is to prevent unnecessary referrals (and perhaps premature ones) to those programs.

What a grand idea!  Giving students what they need in order to succeed.  Here's hoping that it makes its way from these high ideals down to the everyday classroom.  The National What Works Clearinghouse gives some guidelines of their own that can help make sure that happens.

One of the best ways I've seen for doing that is for the entire school staff to be on the same page:  literacy coaches/ reading specialists, librarians/media specialists, other staff specialists and classroom teachers, along with administration.  You may have heard of a "problem solving model" for RTI.   Is that happening where you are? How is it working?  What problems have you encountered in getting the end results you want?

Another way schools can insure proper implementation of RTI is to include parent education as part of the solution. There is a great resource to share with parents from NH's Parent Information Center which explains  RTI in a family-friendly format.   It may be that this helps you understand RTI better too.

When I talk about involving parents, I don't mean lecturing to parents about what they "ought to do".  That's counterproductive.  Instead I mean a genuine respect for what they can bring to the table in terms of authentic "in the real world" applications to what is being taught in the classroom. After all, what motivation will we give students of any sort to succeed and learn if they do not see any meaning for their lives?  That is nowhere more important than in the area of literacy.

Parent involvement as a part of RTI also means giving families information in a format that is friendly to them.  For some of you, that will be during parent/teacher conferences, for others through a website posting or email blast.  Think about your parent base at your school before you plan how to make them a part of RTI.  Your job of evaluating and identifying students, helping them at the various tiers will be easier with the engagement of families.

More later this week - add your comments and stay tuned!