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- Keep the Engagement Alive: Start the Year with Purpose - August 5, 2018
- It's Our Fault: A Teacher's Confession - March 18, 2018
- Keeping Your Teaching Real: A Teacher's Role - March 11, 2018
- Sketch Notes in the Elementary Classroom - February 15, 2017
- Teach From the Heart - February 9, 2017
- Who is the Teacher: School or Family? - January 11, 2017
- Dear President Elect Trump, From Your Teachers - November 17, 2016
- Let them Be Children - October 21, 2016
- Print Resources: Great Tools for Kids - October 17, 2016
Education is known for their acronyms. Today our adventure will use two interchangeably and demonstrate how to focus skills in mathematics to reach all learners. Teacher are superheroes and this method enables you to meet all students needs through the power of many. Welcome to an exciting adventure in education…MTSS also known as RTI.
RTI (Response to Intervention) is the acronym used by the nation for focusing on fighting the crime of missed knowledge. In Kansas, we are using MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Support) . Whatever acronym you use this system is known for fighting FOR knowledge in education. This tiered strategy can be used across any area, including behavior, to focus on a particular skill and then meet students at their level for re-teaching, mastery, or advancement.
Our story starts three years ago when our building began using the MTSS system for mathematic in grades 3-5. During those three years we have had many failures and successes. Our biggest villain was “The Schedule”. We gathered a group of teachers, one representative from each grade level and one from special teams with our administrator, to look at and create a schedule with blocks of time. The purpose was to restructure the schedule so each grade level had a block of time together for reading and math instruction. Physical education, music, art, technology, counselor, library, lunch, recess, and all of the minor players in the game were structured around those blocks.
This was an ugly process and we learned more though our first year of implementation than anything. Over the three years there have been adjustments made, but we have committed to time blocks so math and reading can be taught at the same time in all grade level classrooms. For example, all five sections of third grade have a math block at the end of the day. All fourth grade levels have math black before lunch, etc. This is a 40 minute block and any additional teachers in the building without planning time or classroom responsibilities during the block are involved in facilitating or helping with groups. Those protected times allow for all students to learn at their instructional level.
The first phase is organizing and planning for the groups. This can be done in numerous ways. We often use online testing that aligns with our state standards and state tests. The advantage to online testing is the instant scores. However, you can also use paper/ pencil test, unit tests, fact tests, etc. but the focus should be on one skill.
After you test you must do something constructive with the data. We sort students based on advanced (100% mastery of the skill), benchmark (70-90%), strategic (50-69%) and intensive (49% and below). Those in the 90-100% are placed in the advanced group or benchmark group depending on the number of questions and skill tested. The data can be put into an excel document for simple sorting. Then filter the students based on their total score. Pay special attention for outliers, or students that you feel may need extra attention. Remember the focus should be on one skill. The intensive and strategic groups should be kept the smallest with the advanced group often being larger than your typical class size. Any extra manpower you have at this time can be used to help keep your ratios lower. Use paraprofessionals to come in for support (or any other support staff in your building) so student engagement remains high during this block of time.
What is done with this data is the most important part of the story. Each month for math we decide on two skills to focus on. We split the groups among our five classroom teachers and focus on our own personal teaching strengths. During this time we talk about the objective and what the skill should look like for proficiency and then lessons are planned to reteach, practice, apply, or extend.
The second phase of MTSS AKA RIT is implementation of hands on, engaging, meaningful activities for students. In the groups in each classroom is where differentiation begins. Teachers re-teach to the intensive groups using hands on manipulative and repetition, repetition, repetition. Video clips, songs, poetry, engaging games and activities are used to help this group learn the skill they missed during whole group instruction in the classroom. The strategic group often uses the same lessons and games but can usually move a faster pace. They need the teacher modeling but can often quickly move into instructional practice. The benchmark group of students is working on applying and extending the same skill. This time allows for a deeper level of understanding and experience with the math skills from the classroom. Having students look at a process and find errors, create a game using the skill or draw and label illustrations to teach the skill to someone new are all meaningful. The important thing with this group is to look at applying, evaluating, and synthesizing the skill with teacher assistance; not repeated practice of the same things done in the classroom lesson. Extension happens in the advanced group. These students have shown mastery of the skill so you can extend their learning to the next skill set or have them evaluate and synthesize the information. If there is a natural step in the skill that is later in your curriculum or in the next grade level that is a good lead into lessons. This group can also create review games or activities for the other groups to use allowing them to apply their skill mastery. The important thing about implementation is for each group to have meaningful work.
MTSS a.k.a RTI is a wonderful tool teachers can use to facilitate a higher level of learning in their school. Working together we are much stronger than working alone. Each group is getting what they need in that particular skill. The skills are tested at the end for proficiency. Seeing the growth and learning is the reward. MTSS allows you to use your teacher powers for the good of each student.
What are your experiences with RTI or MTSS?