Sep 21, 2016

Handwriting: Tall, Small and Fall

I have been watching our OT the past few years when she's come into our classroom to do a few lessons here and there and I've picked up on a few of her tricks.  The good thing about this is.... she's on maternity leave this year, but I was still able to replicate a few of her lessons, which my firsties needed, believe me!  :)

The lessons I love are on Tall, Small and Fall letters. We started looking at letters and the lines they sit on.  Here's the chart I made for our firsties.

We looked at the letters and decided where we should put them.  Each person was given a letter and came up to place it on the chart.  A few were put in the wrong places, but we were able to look at the other letters to help us find the right home.
After a few days of practice, we moved to cutting (we need it desperately) sorting and gluing.
We also did some whole group sorting.


After that we looked at letters and found either tall, small or fall.  Then, we practiced writing them.

Some of needed some highlighting to make sure our letters were being formed correctly.  It's a work in progress. :)

I made a little packet to help our little firsties with recognizing and writing.  There are also a couple of sorts that can be used for an assessment.  Interested?????  I'll give this packet to the first five people that comment. :)

Happy Handwriting!

Sep 18, 2016

Analyzing RtI: Professional Development

After realizing our RtI model wasn't really working for us or our students, the teachers in my building decided to analyze the different components of our RtI model.  This blog series will go in depth with how we scrutinized each of the following parts of the model:
An overview
High Quality Instruction
Universal Screening
Research Based Interventions
Continuous Progress Monitoring
Fidelity
RtI meetings
Professional Development

 As I wrap up this blog series on RtI, I want to take a moment to recognize the power of professional development.  It comes in many, many forms.  And it can be all around us...if we are listening.


When analyzing the RtI in my own building, one of the most important things that I can do is listen to my peers.  The discussions that we can have around RtI meetings, interventions, classroom instruction, and progress monitoring are really important.  We are able to meet once a week as a K-2 vertical team in order to have these conversations.  As we discuss concerns, questions, and changes, we refer to the RtI framework that we created to help us lay out exactly how we want everything to run (ideally).  This is a working document and can be changed as we experience challenges.
These conversations have led to more trust and awareness in our building.  We have been able to determine where our instruction could be stronger for the next grade level and common vocabulary that we want to use.  Without these conversations, trust, and support from each other, I don't think change can occur as easily.

I think we are great professional development for each other, as well.  I know that each of our schools are different; however, we can learn something from each other.  From reading blogs about RtI, I was able to try out some of the organizational techniques that were explained.  This helped me to determine how I could tweak them for our building. 
Another great source for professional development are the RtI websites available to us that have research based interventions, progress monitoring ideas, or definitions that may be needed.  My two "go to" websites are: Intervention Central and RtI Action Network.
I also wonder what resources may be around you that you may not be aware of.  This was the case for me.  We have representatives at a county level that hold expertise in particular areas.  The RtI consultant that worked with my building helped me tremendously.  She pointed me in the direction of articles to read, books to recommend, and resources that could help me understand RtI more.  Maybe there is a mentor like this around your district?

Funding-wise I know that conferences are not always the best option.  But it is a great way to learn about new intervention techniques and high quality instruction.  I try to go to any conference that I can because I know that I can always get something from it!  For example, I went to Nerd Camp this summer in Michigan.  I knew that I was going to get A LOT from it because I had heard great things.  But I was not expecting to learn about intervention techniques.  And sure enough...I was wrong!  I came away with some great ideas to support our RtI.

I hope that overall this blog series has given you a glimpse into our process and from that you are able to pull some ideas for your own school.  For me, the reflection process has given me much insight.  I look forward to the growth that will take place in not only my students this year, but also in me!

Em

Sep 14, 2016

Analyzing RtI: RtI meetings


After realizing our RtI model wasn't really working for us or our students, the teachers in my building decided to analyze the different components of our RtI model.  This blog series will go in depth with how we scrutinized each of the following parts of the model:
An overview
High Quality Instruction
Universal Screening
Research Based Interventions
Continuous Progress Monitoring
Fidelity
RtI meetings
Professional Development

I have been really excited about this post of the series because it the area that we really needed to grow in.  Last year we focused a lot of attention on interventions, progress monitoring, storing data, and fidelity.  At the end of the school year we came with A PLAN for our RtI meetings.

This post from Conversations in Literacy was super helpful to us.  It helped us to form our thinking about how we wanted to structure the meetings.

Here's what we came up with: 

At the end of each intervention cycle (7-8 weeks long), my team and I will make sure we have all the intervention data for Tier II and Tier III students.  This includes the intervention progress monitoring and a DRA progress monitoring.  We want to analyze their progress on a skill based level (interventions) but also on the "big picture" level (DRA).  Once we have all of this, we will meet as an RtI team to discuss the interventions that stay the same, need to be intensified, or need to completely change.  These are the decision rules that we will be using this year:


Each person at the meeting will have an RtI folder within it that contains the decision rules, our grade level benchmarks, and a list of the interventions that are available to our students.


We will be sending home information to the parents to inform them about the interventions that their child will be receiving and how they can support those skills at home.  If the interventions must intensify or progress is not being made, then we will be scheduling additional meetings to meet with the parents.

Our goal is that meetings will be more fluid.  There will not be any questions about when they will occur.  They are already on the calendar and every Tier II and Tier III student will be discussed based on the data.  Our goal is that we will be better serving our students because decisions will be made and changes will be made in a timely manner.  This is our hope...and goodness...I really want it to work!

One question that we have had....What if we get a new student that is not in a Tier yet?  And what if a student all of sudden takes a turn and needs an intervention before our next RtI meeting?  These are important concerns.  So we created a consultation form that can be used anytime a teacher would like to meet with us about a student prior to our pre-scheduled RtI meetings. Then we can work together to come up with a plan for that student.

It will be really interesting to see how this plan turns out in action this year.  Next up...how do we all stay on the same page when it comes to RtI?  What professional development do we need?

Em

Sep 12, 2016

Analyzing RtI: Fidelity

After realizing our RtI model wasn't really working for us or our students, the teachers in my building decided to analyze the different components of our RtI model.  This blog series will go in depth with how we scrutinized each of the following parts of the model:
An overview
High Quality Instruction
Universal Screening
Research Based Interventions
Continuous Progress Monitoring
Fidelity
RtI meetings
Professional Development

Fidelity is the act of delivering instruction in the manner for which it is meant to be implemented.
 In the article titled: "Reviewing the Roots of Response to Intervention: Is There Enough Research to Support the Promise" by Tammi Ridgeway, Debra Price, Cynthia Simpson, and Chad Rose, it is stated that "...implementing instruction with fidelity is essential when measuring the outcomes of both the core curricula and individualized interventions."

In an earlier post within this series, I discussed our analysis of the core curriculum in our school and our need to be on the "same page."  We created a literacy framework for our Tier I instruction with the thought that each of us would follow it with fidelity so that students would be receiving instruction rooted in the best practices in reading.  This strong Tier I instruction is essential.

Fidelity is also essential when discussing interventions but for a slightly different reason. We use research based interventions in our RtI model; therefore, there is a protocol to follow in order for these interventions to potentially produce the same positive results. The routine that was established by the researchers needs to be what occurs during the interventions within our school, as well.

Why?

Well...our goal is to support a student in an area of need.  Let's say the intervention that we try does not work.  If we know that the intervention was carried out with fidelity, then we can get down to the matter of what is really go.  Does the student need a more intense intervention?  Is there another sub-skill that we missed and need to look at again?  Is there an intervention that would be more suitable for this child?

None of these questions have to do with the implementation process of the intervention received.  Honestly, there is not time for that.  Our students in intervention are behind.  They need us to do our best to get to the root of their need, support them, and then reanalyze.
 

Within the RtI model, I know that fidelity refers to much more than just the implementation of instruction.  The RtI Action Network lays out a comprehensive definition of fidelity with the model.  But, to be honest, I have a lot to learn.  I know that I need to pay attention to my delivery of instruction.  I know that I need to be consistent with my progress monitoring.

I also know that my building must be consistent with our meetings to reevaluate the data.  And this is the next topic within our blog series!

Em

Sep 11, 2016

Analyzing RtI: Continuous Progress Monitoring

After realizing our RtI model wasn't really working for us or our students, the teachers in my building decided to analyze the different components of our RtI model.  This blog series will go in depth with how we scrutinized each of the following parts of the model:
An overview
High Quality Instruction
Universal Screening
Research Based Interventions
Continuous Progress Monitoring
Fidelity
RtI meetings
Professional Development
Progress monitoring is an interesting beast.  It can feel like it is taking away from instructional time.  It can be time consuming.  It can be an organizational challenge. But...it provides necessary information.  It helps to drive intervention and instruction.  And it helps to illustrate what is working and what is not working.

It is a critical part of the RtI model because it allows you to analyze whether your core teaching and interventions are making a positive impact on student learning.  The trick...making sure you have a tool that measures what you are really trying to analyze and learn about your student.

This was one of the biggest conversations that we had to have around the topic of progress monitoring as we analyzed our RtI model.  Did we have the necessary tools to measure what we were actually teaching and intervening on.

The answer...not exactly.

Our main progress monitoring tools at the time were Aimsweb.  So this means we were measuring fluency, nonsense word fluency, and computation.  We could also use the letter naming and sound probes.  None of these are bad, but they really didn't match all the interventions that we starting to incorporate into our instruction.  We were missing tools to look at phonological awareness, number sense (or pre-computation skills), phonics skills other than short vowels (within nonsense words), and comprehension.

So the search began.  And we found some resources to help fill our gaps.  One important file that we found came from the Southwest Plains Regional Service Center (I think...please don't hold me to it!)  This resource has some quick phonological awareness and phonics progress monitoring tools.  I retyped some of them so that the directions were very specific to our student needs. (Okay fine...it was also because I wanted all the PM to look the same because I am super weird like that!)   But it was a great starting point for me.


 We keep the progress monitoring in the binders with the interventions.  This helps to keep it all together in one place.



These tools are great for the week to week data that lets us know what is working for a student when it comes to very specific skills that they need to work on such as blending sounds or reading fluently.  But one area that we found we were lacking in was "the big picture." (I realized this when reading Conversations in Literacy blog--so good!!)  Were these interventions actually impacting their ability to read on grade level?

To answer this question, we added a new component to our progress monitoring this year.  After our RtI cycle, my team will be completing DRA progress monitoring assessments on our Tier II and Tier III students.  These are shorter passages with fewer comprehension questions.  This will allow us to look at how our interventions are impacting a child's reading, as a whole.  I am really excited to see how this helps us to make decisions about interventions and individualized instruction.

With universal screenings complete, interventions in place, progress monitoring prepared...we are ready to begin.  But another question remains...how do we maintain fidelity in our RtI model?  This is our next topic!

Em




Sep 9, 2016

Analyzing Your RtI: Research Based Interventions

After realizing our RtI model wasn't really working for us or our students, the teachers in my building decided to analyze the different components of our RtI model.  This blog series will go in depth with how we scrutinized each of the following parts of the model:
An overview
High Quality Instruction
Universal Screening
Research Based Interventions
Continuous Progress Monitoring
Fidelity
RtI meetings
Professional Development
 In the previous post, I described our assessment flow charts that help us to "nail" down the skills that each student needs to begin working on.  For some it may be phonological awareness, while another group of students need an intervention for fluency, and others may need a more comprehensive program like LLI.

But then what?  And who does them?  And how do you fit them all in the schedule?

Well...this is also going to vary greatly from school to school because we all have different resources, different constraints, a varying amount of support, and unique populations of students.   But I want to share with you what we did in the hopes that it can help you along your journey.

First things first...we had to figure out what we even had available to us.  We were looking for interventions that were research based, could be completed with fidelity, had a script or at least a very clear sequence.  When we sat down and really looked at all of our resources, this is what we discovered:


This list will certainly grow and change as we grow with our RtI model.  But it was and is a place for us start.

Some of our interventions are actual programs that are sequential and include all that we need.  These include PALS, LLI, Orton Gillingham, and Do the Math. But there were some gaps that needed to be filled and the Florida Center for Reading Research and Intervention Central are great resources to help fill the gaps!

Florida Center for Reading Research has some great hands on activities that lend themselves well to being used as a phonological awareness intervention.  To fit our needs, I typed them up.  Here is one example:
All of these interventions were put into a binder with tabs to separate the different components of phonological awareness.  Then we put all the materials needed to do any of the interventions in a bin and labeled them by the intervention number.






Intervention Central has some research based interventions for fluency and sight words that we found worked well for our students.  So I printed them off and also placed them in a binder so that they could be easily accessible to anyone conducting that intervention. 

As we continue on our journey through RtI, we will continue to evaluate how our interventions are working for our students.  Some guiding questions for us include: Are there any gaps that we are not filling?  Are the interventions that we are using providing the support needed for each individual?  Are there interventions that are not proving to have solid and productive results?

LLI will be a new intervention piece for us this year and I am super excited to use it!

The next piece to our RtI model...progress monitoring.

Em

Aug 29, 2016

Analyzing Your RtI: Universal Screening

After realizing our RtI model wasn't really working for us or our students, the teachers in my building decided to analyze the different components of our RtI model.  This blog series will go in depth with how we scrutinized each of the following parts of the model:
An overview
High Quality Instruction
Universal Screening
Research Based  Interventions
Continuous Progress Monitoring
Fidelity
RtI meetings
Professional Development


The RtI Action Network has a great definition of for universal screening.  Basically, they say that the purpose of these screenings (within the RtI model) is to determine the students that are in need of additional academic support.  The assessments are given to all students and help a school to identify their "at-risk" students.

Universal screeners vary per school district and maybe even per grade level within a school.  But they are typically the first step.  As we worked to analyze our RtI, we had to take a close look at our screeners and what they were telling us...or not telling us.

Currently, my K-2 building uses Aimweb as a universal screener.  This is a decision made at the district level. This assessment provides us with a quick one minute look at the following literacy components: 
  • phoneme segmentation
  • letter names
  • letters sounds
  • nonsense words
  • fluency
  • maze completion
We also decided that, as a building, we wanted to use the DRAs to provide us with a reading level, strategies, comprehension, and general knowledge about each student as a reader. 

What we found was that these universal screeners gave us a starting point but did not provide us with the information that we needed to actually start intervening with our Tier II students. For example: if a student showed that they were having difficulty with phoneme segmentation, it is not clear as to where to start on the phonological awareness stair step because Aimsweb only looks at this one component. We needed to dig a bit deeper.

 We created a flow chart for each grade K-2 for what we would do if a student fell below proficient on the universal screeners.  Here is an example of our first grade chart:

flow chart of pre-assessments
 Once the universal screeners are complete and the data is in, we can use the flow chart to determine exactly what diagnostic assessments we need to give to our Tier II and Tier III students.  Our hope is that we are getting to the root of their achievement gap.  It can be easy to fall into a "one size fits all" model that does not reach the true gap that keeps the student from reaching their full potential.

But then came the next challenge: ensuring that we had diagnostic screeners for each of these smaller components.  And we didn't.  So we went searching.

Phonological Awareness Diagnostic:
I love the phonological awareness assessment in this book.  It covers all the parts of the continuum:
  • rhyming identification
  • rhyming utilization
  • alliteration identifcation
  • alliteration utilization
  • sentence segmentation
  • syllabication
  • onsets
  • rimes
  • blending task
  • phoneme segmentation
  • phoneme deletion
  • phoneme substitution
This assessment provides me with a great starting point.  I know exactly where to start my interventions for phonological awareness.

Phonics Diagnostic:
Aimsweb gives me a good starting point.  It tells me if they can quickly tell me letter names or letter sounds in one minute.  But if they cannot do this, it does not tell me exactly what letters and sounds they do not know.  It also does not tell me if they can read digraphs, vowel teams, or words endings.  This is necessary information for me to have, if they need a phonics intervention.

The University of Texas has a Quick Phonics Screener (QPS) that they put out.  I like the way that it is set up because I can pinpoint what phonics skills a student has mastered and where to begin our interventions.  My teammate and I reworked it and typed it up to match our exact needs.  But here is a snapshot of what part of it looks like:
Fluency:
Aimsweb gives us a pretty good picture of whether a student has fluency or not.  It is a quick snapshot.  But if the phonological awareness and phonics prove to not be a problem, then we really do not need to give an additional fluency assessment.

Comprehension:
This one is a bit more involved because there are different components to comprehension.  It is important to pin point where the gap is for each particular student.  Is it retelling, literal questioning, inferential questioning, or evaluative questioning that the student is struggling with?  The DRA or a similar tool is helpful for determining this. We also found a quick assessment on Neuhaus website.  

Once the assessments are complete and the needs are determined, it is time to look at an appropriate intervention to match the need.

Em