How is high-quality instruction integrated into the RTI approach?
Page 10: Effective Instruction at Tier 1
As part of the RTI approach, Mrs. Hernandez knows that she will need to implement a high-quality core reading program that includes 90 minutes of instruction for all of her students. This 90-minute instructional period, hereafter referred to as Tier 1, is made up of two main features:
- High-quality instruction
- Frequent monitoring
This page will make frequent reference to two types of RTI assessment: universal screening and progress monitoring. For more information on these assessments, view the following IRIS Module:
Mrs. Hernandez knows that Tier 1 consists of high-quality instruction for all students in her classroom. Implementing high-quality instruction ensures that inadequate instruction is not a factor contributing to students’ poor learning outcomes. Moreover, the needs of the majority of her students can be met with Tier 1 instruction.
Mrs. Hernandez is aware of the five comprehensive reading components (seen in the table below) that should be implemented as part of high-quality instruction with her first-grade students. As she continues her planning, she will include these components in the 90-minute core reading block, the standard amount of time recommended by No Child Left Behind to promote reading success.
|Phonics and Word Study
National Reading Panel, 2000; Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)
Mrs. Hernandez has learned that when students, including those who experience reading difficulties, are taught in small groups or with paired instruction, they increase their reading skills more than those who are taught using only whole-group instruction. Additionally, she can more effectively provide differentiated instruction, ample practice opportunities, and immediate corrective feedback to her students during small-group instruction.
Mrs. Hernandez has 22 students in her class. For small-group instruction, she divides her students into three groups based on ability level. For paired instruction, her pairs consist of mixed ability levels. She develops her plan for 90 minutes of reading instruction, as seen below.
|Daily Instruction Plan
(Complete progress monitoring
with five students per day)
A planned schedule like the one above might vary from day to day. For instance, some teachers might use more whole-group instruction on days when new concepts and skills are introduced, but they may prefer to use mostly small groups on days when students need to practice skills. In contrast to Mrs. Hernandez’s schedule above, some teachers may promote mixed groups in learning centers. For example, while Mrs. Hernandez is working with Group 1, students from Groups 2 and 3 could work together in the learning centers while other students from Groups 2 and 3 do so independently.
One of the benefits of a planned schedule is that Mrs. Hernandez can easily organize and manage her 90 minutes of recommended reading instruction. However, she will need to be able to efficiently implement quick transitions in order to stick with her schedule. Though teachers might at first feel overwhelmed with the prospect of teaching reading for 90 minutes, doing so becomes more manageable when:
- Flexible grouping practices occur
- Students understand and follow the routine
- Features of high-quality instruction are employed
Below is an explanation of the different instructional formats Mrs. Hernandez implements during her 90 minutes of reading instruction.
Mrs. Hernandez’s whole-group lessons provide activities that engage and motivate all of her students. She begins and ends her 90 minutes of reading instruction using a whole-group format. Mrs. Hernandez consistently begins each day’s lesson with a morning message, in which the objectives are directly connected to one of the five components of reading. In the example below, Mrs. Hernandez relates the morning message to fluency instruction. After her students add their capitals and punctuation, she asks them to read the sentences aloud as a whole group or in sub-groups (e.g., boys/ girls, first row/ second row/ third row). She reminds them to stop at the punctuation and to read the questions and the statements with different inflections.
For the last 10 minutes of reading instruction, Mrs. Hernandez reads a story to her students. The morning message and other portions of the daily reading lessons are often tied to this story.
Mrs. Hernandez provides the core reading instruction in small groups, allowing her to better accommodate students’ individual learning needs. Her instruction continues to be explicit as she models the skills. The small-group format allows Mrs. Hernandez to scaffold the lessons and activities into manageable steps that progress from simple to more complex skills. It also allows her to recognize problem areas and to adjust the instructional approaches to fit her students’ skill levels.
Keep in Mind
The composition of student groups can be determined by universal screening or core reading placement-test results. The number of students in small groups is not always equal. Generally, the average-ability group will have the greatest number of students, while the groups of higher- and lower-performing students may have fewer members. For example, Mrs. Hernandez’s group of average readers has nine members, her higher-performing group has eight members, and her group of struggling readers has only five members.
Here are the notes from Mrs. Hernandez’s lesson-plan book. Note that all three groups are working at different levels within the same reading series (e.g., Group 1 is working at the kindergarten level, Group 2 is working at the lower–first-grade level, and Group 3 is working at the upper–first-grade level.).
A learning center is an instructional format in which an individual or small group of students practices a skill or set of skills separate from the rest of the class. For example, Mrs. Hernandez’s learning centers include a listening center, computer center, writing center, skills center, and vocabulary center. Mrs. Hernandez plans these centers to offer students extended practice and review to reinforce the skills the reading curriculum has covered.
Students must complete activities in all five areas in the course of a week. In order for Mrs. Hernandez to be able to focus her attention on small-group instruction, she must be sure that the remaining students understand her expectations. Because of the variety of activities that students are expected to complete independently, Mrs. Hernandez spends considerable time during the first few weeks of school teaching the students how to:
- Work together cooperatively
- Follow classroom rules and procedures
- Access and put away materials
- Transition from one activity to another
Mrs. Hernandez is careful to require her students to account for their work during every learning-center activity so that she and the students can see their progress. Click on the links below to view some of the activities that Mrs. Hernandez uses for her learning centers.
Independent practice is often used to reinforce, enhance, or enrich the skills taught during small-group instruction. Mrs. Hernandez has developed her schedule so that both Group 1 (the lower-performing group) and Group 2 (the average-performing group) receive their independent practice immediately after small-group instruction. Meanwhile, the students in Group 3 (the highest-performing group) work independently prior to their small-group instruction with Mrs. Hernandez. Teachers should be cautious that independent practice activities are not simply busy work but, rather, that they support and strengthen the skills taught during whole- and small-group instruction.
During the paired-instruction portion of the lesson, each student works with a partner and practices reading words, sentences, and paragraphs from his or her reading lesson. Partners model good reading practices and give corrective feedback to one another.
Listen to Lynn Fuchs talk about Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS), one method teachers can use to implement paired instruction (time: 0:38).
Lynn Fuchs, PhD
Nicholas Hobbs Chair of Special Education and Human Development
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Mrs. Hernandez has formed her pairs of students based on methods described by research-validated studies that have measured the effectiveness of paired instruction or peer tutoring. The students are grouped by mixed ability levels. Follow the steps below to see how easily Mrs. Hernandez pairs her students.
Step 1: Rank the students
Step 3: Move the halves next to each other
Teachers must recognize that some adjustments to the pairings may be required. For example, there may be a discrepancy between students’ abilities too large to accommodate learning. If the stronger reader does not work well with the struggling student, the teacher may have to shift the partners. In other cases, pairs of students who have difficulty following instructions may not work well together as partners. Therefore, some changes may be required by rates of progress, behavior issues, or students’ needs.
If you wish to learn more about Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies, please see the following IRIS Modules:
- PALS: A Reading Strategy for Grades K–1
- PALS: A Reading Strategy for Grades 2–6
- PALS: A Reading Strategy for High School
In addition to high-quality instruction, frequent monitoring should be incorporated into Tier 1. When it comes to progress monitoring, teachers have two options: 1) conduct progress monitoring for all students at the Tier 1 level, or 2) conduct progress monitoring for only those students who are identified as struggling readers based on universal screening results.
Mrs. Hernandez decides to monitor her students’ progress every week while they are engaged in paired instruction. By implementing progress monitoring with her entire class, Mrs. Hernandez can determine whether she is implementing high-quality instruction, and she can use the data to inform her instruction. Additionally, informal assessments such as class-wide observations, in-class assignments, and homework can provide useful information. By using these various types of assessments, Mrs. Hernandez can determine whether there are reading skills with which a number of students are having trouble. For example, if the majority of students in a class struggle with the silent-e rule then Mrs. Hernandez will know that her instruction has not been adequate. She will have to determine a different and more effective way to instruct the students about the rule.
Finally, progress monitoring data can be used to guide the RTI decision-making process for struggling students. For example, because of her low score on the universal screening, Megan was initially identified as a struggling reader. However, the progress monitoring data that Mrs. Hernandez has collected during the ensuing 10 weeks indicate that Megan’s skills have improved and that high-quality Tier 1 instruction has been adequate to meet Megan’s instructional needs.
The table below offers a brief overview of Tier 1 instruction.
|Tier 1 Instruction
|Who receives instruction
|Amount of daily instruction
|Instruction should occur for at least 90 minutes
|When instruction is provided
|During core reading time
|Duration of instruction
|Entire school year
|How instruction is implemented
|Flexible grouping, which includes:
|Frequency of progress monitoring
|At least one time every 1–2 weeks
|Who provides instruction
|General education teacher
|Where students are served
|General education classroom