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Instructional Update 9-25-19
Kathy House
Wednesday, September 25, 2019

As we continue to explore the equitable learning environment, we need to unpack what it means to provide appropriate supports and challenges.  Attached you will find a PowerPoint that outlines the RTI plan for the district.  The second document explains the differences between the acronyms: MTSS/RTI/PBIS, as well as how they work together to create a system of supports for ALL students.

Below is a list of 12 strategies compiled through surveys with teachers across the country.  I encourage you to pick one to start with, and build from there.  These strategies work for all students no matter where they fall on the learning continuum.

1.      Encourage active learning. Hands-on activities are often the best way to get all students engaged in learning. Whenever you can, assign your students small-group and project-based assignments that promote active and collaborative learning. (If you have students work in small groups, they may need some initial guidance on how to work well together.)

2.      Give students choices whenever you can. Some students like to tackle challenging tasks first, while others might prefer to start simple and then ease into tougher tasks. Let students choose which activities to complete first. Giving them some control over their schedule shows that you respect each student’s individuality, strengths, and needs.

3.      Provide models. Modeling is a powerful teaching tool–when students see a new skill in action, it can help them learn that skill faster and more accurately. Look for opportunities to weave modeling into your lessons. You can model skills yourself, but don’t forget the power of peer modeling, too. Give students with disabilities plenty of chances to work directly with their classmates and watch them model important academic and social skills.

4.      Boost participation. Give all students lots of opportunities to respond in class, and many different ways to participate. Not only does this get every student more actively engaged with your lesson, it also increases the amount of positive reinforcement they’ll receive. Allow students with different strengths and needs to respond in different ways, such as speaking instead of writing and vice versa.

5.      Teach students self-management. Equipping students with the skills they need to manage their own performance is a useful way to keep them on track and learning. You might need to use several different forms of communication when teaching students to manage their own behavior and learning. For example, a student who doesn’t speak or read might use picture prompts to learn self-management skills. For other students, a written list carried in their wallets or backpacks may work better. You might also consider using a reward system that gives students points for steps toward increased independence. Be flexible and creative, and adapt self-management strategies to your students’ needs and preferred forms of communication.

6.      Build relationships.  The importance of them in the classroom never goes away.  As the education pendulum flies back and forth, one thing that you can always count on still being at the forefront of making a difference in the classroom is the idea of relationships.  If you don’t have a relationship with your students the work you do on a daily basis will be flat and not nearly as effective as what it could be.  Take the time to build connections with each and every one of your students.  What makes the tick?  What are their interests?  What are their hopes and desires? These are all things that you continue to build and cultivate as the year progresses, community and relationship building does not just stop after the first two weeks.   Regardless of class size or other circumstances that have an impact on the classroom, this is number one for a reason!

7.      Be intentional with your lesson planning.  As you sit down and plan out the upcoming week, really give some thought to how you are going to reach all your students.  What are the various entry points students are going to need to access the curriculum and reach your lesson target?  Or perhaps, how you can help engage students at the start so they are ready to learn?  Would a morning meeting or quick team building activity in table groups help get the kids primed for learning?  Have a warm up to settle and set a tone.  Review the learning targets for the lesson to inform the students and tune them in.

8.      Have high and consistent expectations.  Most of us would consider we have high expectations for kids, which is good.  However, don’t let your high expectations limit your students with what they can accomplish.  Your students will reach and often surpass your high expectations and when they do, don’t hold them back.  Often our perception of what they can accomplish limits them, even when they are set at high levels.  Push the students and they will surprise you…and you might surprise yourself.  Also, those expectations need to be held consistent throughout the building.  Expectations are the Constitution of the school and need to be known and upheld in all areas at all times.  Students from trauma or adverse backgrounds have significant difficulties adapting to differing systems or environments.

9.      Scaffold instruction to grade level standards. Kids need access to grade level curriculum and grade level expectations.  Yes, some students are not ready for it but if we keep playing catch up by working on math facts when they are in the middle school, they are never going to get exposed to higher level thinking.  Educators need to find ways to expose all students to grade level curriculum and standards while scaffolding their learning or finding ways to provide intervention to them outside of the core instruction.

10.   Reflect and reflect often. Teaching and learning can be a rushed, fast paced experience only it doesn’t have to be.  As an educator and learner, time needs to be built into the day or class period where students reflect on what they’ve learning and make meaning of it.  This helps with processing information as they reconcile it with their prior knowledge and work to make the information stick.  This is a great opportunity for thinking to be clarified, questions to be sought, or learning to be extended.  Simple journal responses are a great way to incorporate this into the classroom.

11.   Provide multiple opportunities. Strive to embed learning. We all have bad days and so do students.  Just because you taught something or gave a test doesn’t mean that you are done with the concept and move on.  Students come to school with a lot of baggage that we aren’t always aware of.  By allowing students to retake tests, learn from their mistakes, or circling back through the curriculum will allow more students to access your instruction and for you to have a better understanding of where they are at with their learning.  Let’s face it, learning can be messy and if you try to put it into a simple box or say a single class period and then move on, it isn’t always effective.

12.   Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. If you have a struggling student or a student who needs to be further challenged and you aren’t sure how you can help, just ask.  By showing that you are human too and not just an authoritarian figure, it can go a long way.

Thank you for all you do for the students of Trimble County!!