August 12, 2022

By Dr. Rachel Brown, NCSP, Senior Research Consultant

As an educator, you understand the importance of Tier 1 core instruction, as well as goals and interventions, for students’ success. But you may not always know the best way to set those goals or provide the interventions in the general education classroom.

However, it’s not complicated if you break it down and have a system in place.

In this blog, I’ll explain the importance of Tier 1 interventions, lay out the steps for setting Tier 1 goals, and suggest ways to provide intensification when needed.

Student on tablet

The difference between differentiation and intervention

Two terms that we often use in schools when we talk about our teaching practices are differentiation and intervention. But there can be some confusion around these terms. What’s the difference between them?

Differentiation refers to student-specific efforts that teachers take to foster grade-level annual growth. In other words, it’s what you do every day in the classroom to help students get—or stay—on track to reach end-of-year learning goals. An example of differentiation is repeating information for a student with attention difficulties.

An intervention, however, is an additional instructional resource or support beyond the high-quality classroom instruction all students receive that is aligned to a student’s needs. It is a student-specific effort designed to foster grade-level catch-up growth. An example of a Tier 1 intervention is pre-teaching target vocabulary words to a student prior to presenting the words to the whole class.

The concept of growth is the key that distinguishes intervention from differentiation. Differentiation focuses on day-to-day practices for helping all students to reach grade-level annual learning goals. In contrast, intervention focuses on helping students catch up so they can get back on track.

Is intervention only meant for Tier 2 or Tier 3 students?

This is a common misconception, but the truth is that Tier 1 interventions can be done.

One way to do Tier 1 intervention is through intensification of instruction for some or all students. Here, you should consider the 80% rule: If fewer than 80% of students in your class are meeting a learning goal, it’s recommended that you intensify instruction for all students.

Research shows that this will benefit students who are farther behind, without holding back or delaying the learning of students who are already on track or even ahead.

But when 80% or more of students have reached a benchmark, it might make more sense to provide interventions on a small-group basis for some students, simply because the need is different. Overall, it’s a matter of using resources as effectively as possible.

Teacher and boy

5 steps for setting Tier 1 goals

When meeting with your data analysis team to discuss Tier 1 interventions after universal screening, you’ll want to address the five following points to set Tier 1 goals.

#1: Decide which goal you will aim for by your next meeting

You should always ground instructional decisions in data to decide if what you’re doing is working. When choosing your next goals, make sure they are SMART. This acronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

For instance, you may decide that you will try to have a certain percentage of students move from the some-risk to the low-risk range by the next screening period.

#2: Make a list of possible strategies that will address the goal

Once you brainstorm your list of strategies, you should rate them using the following questions:

  • Which ones are research-based?
  • Which ones are most practical?
  • What materials do we have available?
  • Which ones require additional training?

Having the answers to these questions will help you and your team to decide which strategies may be the most productive and efficient for your students at this time.

#3: Select the strategy that will be used

Once you decide on a strategy (or strategies, if you opt for more than one), be sure to explicitly describe it. Being as specific as you can about your Tier 1 intervention strategy helps you in the next step, where you plan exactly when and how you will implement it.

#4: Plan logistics for the strategy

When planning logistics, you and your team should ask questions like:

  • Do we need to purchase something?
  • What training is required?
  • Does this strategy require additional team members to be involved?
  • When can the strategy be implemented?

#5: Set your next review date

Finally, decide when you will sit down as a team and review the data again. Remember, part of your SMART goal is that it is time-bound, so you should always have your time frame in mind when assessing Tier 1 intervention goals.

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4 ways to provide intensification in Tier 1 interventions

Intensification is any teaching practice that is designed to accelerate learning. It’s a way of helping students engage in catch-up growth by providing more opportunities for learning.

Here are four ways we can help students meet Tier 1 intervention goals through intensification.

#1: Frequency of lessons

With more days of learning (or lessons per week), more learning happens. The more we can ensure that students are participating in targeted instruction on a daily basis, the more likely they’ll be able to engage in catch-up growth.

This will have important implications as you’re thinking about your schedule. The work is to figure out how to provide as many effective lessons as possible across instructional formats and to help students catch up to the learning goals.

#2: Duration of lessons

Based on research about time on task, it’s a tried-and-true finding that longer lessons will equal more learning. Here, you must consider how many minutes have been allocated for instruction, and what you can do to maximize that time for student learning.

#3: Opportunities to practice

Opportunities to practice allow students to have the repetitions that help them achieve mastery. It’s also part of making sure we have active student engagement. Finding ways to ensure that students are all actively engaged in lessons requires our creativity as teachers to optimize the likelihood that they will meet those learning goals.

We also need to be providing immediate feedback. The “honesty factor” plays a big role here, because the nature of our feedback will be a predictor of whether students will trust us.

For example, if teachers were to provide only one type of feedback, whether all positive (e.g., “Awesome! Great job!”) or negative (e.g., “Nope, that’s not right.”), students would start to tune it out. If the feedback being provided is not in relation to actual performance, it won’t be taken seriously.

Note: If you find that most of your feedback with a group of students is, “No, that’s not right,” it means the difficulty level of the material isn’t matched to where the students are right now. The teacher has a responsibility to adjust and scaffold the content in order for the students to have more success.

#4: Group size

Often, when we consider who might benefit from small group instruction, we think of active students who have difficulty with attention. However, other students can benefit as well, particularly very quiet students who might otherwise hide in the group and not speak up.

As you think about the format in which you would be able to provide any kind of intervention activity in your Tier 1 core instruction, consider the strategic use of subgroups—such as small groups within the larger class—as a way to make sure all students can engage. The goal for group size is to ensure that all students participate an equal number of times in activities.

Teacher and students

Examples of Tier 1 interventions

Tier 1 interventions can support all students in the classroom by creating a positive learning environment—but what do these interventions look like? Here are some guidelines and examples:

Establishing clear expectations

Both teachers and students can benefit when teachers clearly establish their expectations with their students. These expectations should include both behavioral and academic performance in the classroom.

By setting realistic expectations, students feel supported and safe, and teachers can create a positive learning environment for everyone.

Using positive reinforcement

Rewarding students for their academic performance and behaviors encourages them to continue to do well. This can even go beyond offering verbal praise or small prizes in the classroom. Teachers can reach out to families to let them know they’re grateful for their students’ positive behaviors.

These communications could involve:

  • Selecting one student every day to send praise to their parents or guardians about
  • Sending a weekly newsletter of positive events that happened in the classroom
  • Calling, texting, or emailing parents or guardians with a message of gratitude when a student meets expectations for the day

Implementing structure and routines

Consistency is key. When teachers implement procedures for instruction, classroom management, and transitions, students are provided with the structure needed to reduce—or even prevent—disruptive behaviors.

Avoid surprises when it comes to classroom structure. Provide expectations on how the classroom will be run:

  • How will students access learning materials?
  • What are the expectations surrounding homework?
  • How can students move about the classroom?
  • When can students interact with each other during instruction?

Providing opportunities for students to make choices

Tier 1 interventions can help empower students by enabling them to establish their own learning goals. Students are in the driver’s seat—though educators are assisting throughout the drive—in deciding how they will accomplish various learning goals.

Start small. Offer choices in activities that pair with teaching objectives. Things as simple as choosing their seats in the classroom or which books they will be reading for a lesson can greatly increase engagement.

Teen boy reading

Renaissance: Supporting Tier 1 interventions with a whole child approach

We believe in supporting the whole child, not just academically but socially and emotionally as well. Every student deserves the support they need to succeed. With Renaissance, your district can ensure you’re meeting the needs of every learner.

Our solutions help you to:

  • Provide early, evidence-based support to all students in your classroom or school, to prevent learning gaps before they become major barriers to success
  • Analyze student performance data and deliver tailored-to-your-student interventions

Our research-backed approach also provides ongoing support and guidance to teachers and students, allowing them to create a supportive, nurturing learning environment.

Learn more

Connect with an expert today to learn more about our pre-K to grade 12 solutions.

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