RTI Academic Behavioral Evidence Based Interventions

RTI Academic Behavioral Evidence Based Interventions
RTI Toolkit: A Practical Guide for Schools
RTI: Academic & Behavioral Evidence-Based
Jim Wright, Presenter
January 2011
Newburgh Enlarged City School District
Newburgh, NY
Jim Wright
364 Long Road
Tully, NY 13159
Email: [email protected]
Intervention & Related RTI Terms: Definitions
Educators who serve as interventionists should be able to define and distinguish among the terms core instruction,
intervention, accommodation, and modification. (In particular, interventionists should avoid using modifications as
part of an RTI plan for a general education student, as they can be predicted to undermine the student’s academic
performance.) Here are definitions for these key terms.
 Core Instruction. Those instructional strategies that are used routinely with all students in a general-
education setting are considered ‘core instruction’. High-quality instruction is essential and forms the
foundation of RTI academic support. NOTE: While it is important to verify that a struggling student receives
good core instructional practices, those routine practices do not ‘count’ as individual student interventions.
 Intervention. An academic intervention is a strategy used to teach a new skill, build fluency in a skill, or
encourage a child to apply an existing skill to new situations or settings. An intervention can be thought of as
“a set of actions that, when taken, have demonstrated ability to change a fixed educational trajectory” (Methe
& Riley-Tillman, 2008; p. 37). As an example of an academic intervention, the teacher may select question
generation (Davey & McBride,1986.; Rosenshine, Meister & Chapman, 1996), a strategy in which the student
is taught to locate or generate main idea sentences for each paragraph in a passage and record those ‘gist’
sentences for later review.
 Accommodation. An accommodation is intended to help the student to fully access and participate in the
general-education curriculum without changing the instructional content and without reducing the student’s
rate of learning (Skinner, Pappas & Davis, 2005). An accommodation is intended to remove barriers to
learning while still expecting that students will master the same instructional content as their typical peers. An
accommodation for students who are slow readers, for example, may include having them supplement their
silent reading of a novel by listening to the book on tape. An accommodation for unmotivated students may
include breaking larger assignments into smaller ‘chunks’ and providing students with performance feedback
and praise for each completed ‘chunk’ of assigned work (Skinner, Pappas & Davis, 2005).
 Modification. A modification changes the expectations of what a student is expected to know or do—typically
by lowering the academic standards against which the student is to be evaluated. Examples of modifications
are giving a student five math computation problems for practice instead of the 20 problems assigned to the
rest of the class or letting the student consult course notes during a test when peers are not permitted to do
so. Instructional modifications are essential elements on the Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or Section
504 Plans of many students with special needs. Modifications are generally not included on a generaleducation student’s RTI intervention plan, however, because the assumption is that the student can be
successful in the curriculum with appropriate interventions and accommodations alone. In fact, modifying the
work of struggling general education students is likely to have a negative effect that works against the goals of
RTI. Reducing academic expectations will result in these students falling further behind rather than closing the
performance gap with peers
Davey, B., & McBride, S. (1986). Effects of question-generation training on reading comprehension. Journal of Educational
Psychology, 78, 256-262.
Methe, S. A., & Riley-Tillman, T. C. (2008). An informed approach to selecting and designing early mathematics interventions.
School Psychology Forum: Research into Practice, 2, 29-41.
Rosenshine, B., Meister, C., & Chapman, S. (1996). Teaching students to generate questions: A review of the intervention
studies. Review of Educational Research, 66, 181-221.
Skinner, C. H., Pappas, D. N., & Davis, K. A. (2005). Enhancing academic engagement: Providing opportunities for responding
and influencing students to choose to respond. Psychology in the Schools, 42, 389-403.
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Academic Interventions ‘Critical Components’ Checklist
This checklist summarizes the essential components of academic interventions. When preparing a student’s Tier 1, 2,
or 3 academic intervention plan, use this document as a ‘pre-flight checklist’ to ensure that the academic intervention is
of high quality, is sufficiently strong to address the identified student problem, is fully understood and supported by the
teacher, and can be implemented with integrity. NOTE: While the checklist refers to the ‘teacher’ as the interventionist,
it can also be used as a guide to ensure the quality of interventions implemented by non-instructional personnel, adult
volunteers, parents, and peer (student) tutors.
Directions: When creating an academic intervention plan, review that plan by comparing it to each of the items below.
 If a particular intervention element is missing or needs to be reviewed, check the ‘Critical Item?’ column for that
 Write any important notes or questions in the ‘Notes’ column.
Allocating Sufficient Contact Time & Assuring Appropriate Student-Teacher Ratio
The cumulative time set aside for an intervention and the amount of direct teacher contact are two factors that help to
determine that intervention’s ‘strength’ (Yeaton & Sechrest, 1981).
Intervention Element
Time Allocated. The time set aside for the intervention is appropriate
for the type and level of student problem (Burns & Gibbons, 2008;
Kratochwill, Clements & Kalymon, 2007). When evaluating whether the
amount of time allocated is adequate, consider:
 Length of each intervention session.
 Frequency of sessions (e.g.., daily, 3 times per week)
 Duration of intervention period (e.g., 6 instructional weeks)
Student-Teacher Ratio. The student receives sufficient contact from
the teacher or other person delivering the intervention to make that
intervention effective. NOTE: Generally, supplemental intervention
groups should be limited to 6-7 students (Burns & Gibbons, 2008).
Matching the Intervention to the Student Problem
Academic interventions are not selected at random. First, the student academic problem(s) is defined clearly and in
detail. Then, the likely explanations for the academic problem(s) are identified to understand which intervention(s) are
likely to help—and which should be avoided.
Intervention Element
Problem Definition. The student academic problem(s) to be addressed
in the intervention are defined in clear, specific, measureable terms
(Bergan, 1995; Witt, VanDerHeyden & Gilbertson, 2004). The full
problem definition describes:
 Conditions. Describe the environmental conditions or task
demands in place when the academic problem is observed.
 Problem Description. Describe the actual observable academic
behavior in which the student is engaged. Include rate, accuracy,
or other quantitative information of student performance.
 Typical or Expected Level of Performance. Provide a typical or
expected performance criterion for this skill or behavior. Typical or
expected academic performance can be calculated using a variety
of sources,
Appropriate Target. Selected intervention(s) are appropriate for the
identified student problem(s) (Burns, VanDerHeyden & Boice, 2008).
TIP: Use the Instructional Hierarchy (Haring et al., 1978) to select
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academic interventions according to the four stages of learning:
 Acquisition. The student has begun to learn how to complete the
target skill correctly but is not yet accurate in the skill. Interventions
should improve accuracy.
 Fluency. The student is able to complete the target skill accurately
but works slowly. Interventions should increase the student’s speed
of responding (fluency) as well as to maintain accuracy.
 Generalization. The student may have acquired the target skill but
does not typically use it in the full range of appropriate situations or
settings. Or the student may confuse the target skill with ‘similar’
skills. Interventions should get the student to use the skill in the
widest possible range of settings and situations, or to accurately
discriminate between the target skill and ‘similar’ skills.
 Adaptation. The student is not yet able to modify or adapt an
existing skill to fit novel task-demands or situations. Interventions
should help the student to identify key concepts or elements from
previously learned skills that can be adapted to the new demands
or situations.
‘Can’t Do/Won’t Do’ Check. The teacher has determined whether the
student problem is primarily a skill or knowledge deficit (‘can’t do’) or
whether student motivation plays a main or supporting role in academic
underperformance (‘wont do’). If motivation appears to be a significant
factor contributing to the problem, the intervention plan includes
strategies to engage the student (e.g., high interest learning activities;
rewards/incentives; increased student choice in academic assignments,
etc.) (Skinner, Pappas & Davis, 2005; Witt, VanDerHeyden &
Gilbertson, 2004).
Incorporating Effective Instructional Elements
These effective ‘building blocks’ of instruction are well-known and well-supported by the research. They should be
considered when selecting or creating any academic intervention.
Intervention Element
Explicit Instruction. Student skills have been broken down “into
manageable and deliberately sequenced steps” and the teacher
provided“ overt strategies for students to learn and practice new skills”
(Burns, VanDerHeyden & Boice, 2008, p.1153).
Appropriate Level of Challenge. The student experienced sufficient
success in the academic task(s) to shape learning in the desired
direction as well as to maintain student motivation (Burns,
VanDerHeyden & Boice, 2008).
Active Engagement. The intervention ensures that the student is
engaged in ‘active accurate responding’ (Skinner, Pappas & Davis,
2005).at a rate frequent enough to capture student attention and to
optimize effective learning.
Performance Feedback. The student receives prompt performance
feedback about the work completed (Burns, VanDerHeyden & Boice,
Maintenance of Academic Standards. If the intervention includes any
accommodations to better support the struggling learner (e.g.,
preferential seating, breaking a longer assignment into smaller chunks),
those accommodations do not substantially lower the academic
standards against which the student is to be evaluated and are not likely
to reduce the student’s rate of learning (Skinner, Pappas & Davis,
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Verifying Teacher Understanding & Providing Teacher Support
The teacher is an active agent in the intervention, with primary responsibility for putting it into practice in a busy
classroom. It is important, then, that the teacher fully understands how to do the intervention, believes that he or she
can do it, and knows whom to seek out if there are problems with the intervention.
Intervention Element
Teacher Responsibility. The teacher understands his or her
responsibility to implement the academic intervention(s) with integrity.
Teacher Acceptability. The teacher states that he or she finds the
academic intervention feasible and acceptable for the identified student
Step-by-Step Intervention Script. The essential steps of the
intervention are written as an ‘intervention script’--a series of clearly
described steps—to ensure teacher understanding and make
implementation easier (Hawkins, Morrison, Musti-Rao & Hawkins,
Intervention Training. If the teacher requires training to carry out the
intervention, that training has been arranged.
Intervention Elements: Negotiable vs. Non-Negotiable. The teacher
knows all of the steps of the intervention. Additionally, the teacher
knows which of the intervention steps are ‘non-negotiable’ (they must be
completed exactly as designed) and which are ‘negotiable’ (the teacher
has some latitude in how to carry out those steps) (Hawkins, Morrison,
Musti-Rao & Hawkins, 2008).
Assistance With the Intervention. If the intervention cannot be
implemented as designed for any reason (e.g., student absence, lack of
materials, etc.), the teacher knows how to get assistance quickly to
either fix the problem(s) to the current intervention or to change the
Documenting the Intervention & Collecting Data
Interventions only have meaning if they are done within a larger data-based context. For example, interventions that
lack baseline data, goal(s) for improvement, and a progress-monitoring plan are ‘fatally flawed’ (Witt, VanDerHeyden &
Gilbertson, 2004).
Intervention Element
Intervention Documentation. The teacher understands and can
manage all documentation required for this intervention (e.g.,
maintaining a log of intervention sessions, etc.).
Checkup Date. Before the intervention begins, a future checkup date is
selected to review the intervention to determine if it is successful. Time
elapsing between the start of the intervention and the checkup date
should be short enough to allow a timely review of the intervention but
long enough to give the school sufficient time to judge with confidence
whether the intervention worked.
Baseline. Before the intervention begins, the teacher has collected
information about the student’s baseline level of performance in the
identified area(s) of academic concern (Witt, VanDerHeyden &
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Gilbertson, 2004).
Goal. Before the intervention begins, the teacher has set a specific goal
for predicted student improvement to use as a minimum standard for
success (Witt, VanDerHeyden & Gilbertson, 2004). The goal is the
expected student outcome by the checkup date if the intervention is
Progress-Monitoring. During the intervention, the teacher collects
progress-monitoring data of sufficient quality and at a sufficient
frequency to determine at the checkup date whether that intervention is
successful (Witt, VanDerHeyden & Gilbertson, 2004).
Bergan, J. R. (1995). Evolution of a problem-solving model of consultation. Journal of Educational and Psychological
Consultation, 6(2), 111-123.
Burns, M. K., & Gibbons, K. A. (2008). Implementing response-to-intervention in elementary and secondary schools.
Routledge: New York.
Burns, M. K., VanDerHeyden, A. M., & Boice, C. H. (2008). Best practices in intensive academic interventions. In A.
Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology V (pp.1151-1162). Bethesda, MD: National
Association of School Psychologists.
Haring, N.G., Lovitt, T.C., Eaton, M.D., & Hansen, C.L. (1978). The fourth R: Research in the classroom. Columbus,
OH: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co.
Hawkins, R. O., Morrison, J. Q., Musti-Rao, S., & Hawkins, J. A. (2008). Treatment integrity for academic interventions
in real- world settings. School Psychology Forum, 2(3), 1-15.
Kratochwill, T. R., Clements, M. A., & Kalymon, K. M. (2007). Response to intervention: Conceptual and
methodological issues in implementation. In Jimerson, S. R., Burns, M. K., & VanDerHeyden, A. M. (Eds.), Handbook
of response to intervention: The science and practice of assessment and intervention. New York: Springer.
Skinner, C. H., Pappas, D. N., & Davis, K. A. (2005). Enhancing academic engagement: Providing opportunities for
responding and influencing students to choose to respond. Psychology in the Schools, 42, 389-403.
Witt, J. C., VanDerHeyden, A. M., & Gilbertson, D. (2004). Troubleshooting behavioral interventions. A systematic
process for finding and eliminating problems. School Psychology Review, 33, 363-383.
Yeaton, W. M. & Sechrest, L. (1981). Critical dimensions in the choice and maintenance of successful treatments:
Strength, integrity, and effectiveness. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 49, 156-167.
Jim Wright, Presenter
School-Wide Strategies for Managing...
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The ability to read allows individuals access to the full range of a culture's artistic and scientific
knowledge. Reading is a complex act. Good readers are able fluently to decode the words on a
page, to organize and recall important facts in a text, to distill from a reading the author's opinions
and attitudes, and to relate the content of an individual text to a web of other texts previously
read. The foundation that reading rests upon is the ability to decode. Emergent readers require
the support of more accomplished readers to teach them basic vocabulary, demonstrate word
attack strategies, model fluent reading, and provide corrective feedback and encouragement.
Newly established readers must build fluency and be pushed to exercise their reading skills
across the widest possible range of settings and situations. As the act of decoding becomes more
effortless and automatic, the developing reader is able to devote a greater portion of cognitive
energy to understanding the meaning of the text. Reading comprehension is not a single skill but
consists of a cluster of competencies that range from elementary strategies for identifying and
recalling factual content to highly sophisticated techniques for inferring an author's opinions and
attitudes. As researcher Michael Pressley points out, reading comprehension skills can be
thought of as unfolding along a timeline. Before beginning to read a particular selection, the
skilled student reader must engage prior knowledge, predict what the author will say about the
topic, and set specific reading goals. While reading, the good reader self-monitors his or her
understanding of the text, rereads sentences and longer passages that are unclear, and updates
predictions about the text based on what he or she has just read. After completing a text, the
good reader summarizes its main points (perhaps writing them down), looks back in the text to
clarify any points that are unclear, and continues to think about the text and its implications for a
period of time. Reading comprehension can also be thought of as a bundle of interdependent
skills that range from basic to more advanced. Teachers should ensure that students understand
and appropriately use simple comprehension strategies (such as looking back in a text to clarify
factual information) before teaching them advanced comprehension strategies such as SQ3R
('Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review'). Ultimately, reading is a competency that is continually
honed and improved over a lifetime. The teacher's goal is to build students into independent
readers whose skills improve with self-guided practice. Below are a number of instructional
strategies to promote word decoding, reading decoding, and reading comprehension.
Independent Practice: Set Up Reading Centers (Florida Center for Reading Research, 2005). When
students have mastered a reading skill, they can work independently at reading centers to
practice and become more fluent in that skill under the watchful eye of the teacher. The reading
center is set up with fun and engaging activities designed to extend and reinforce literacy content
presented by the teacher. Students work on independent reading-related activities individually or
in pairs or groups. As examples of reading center choices, students may listen to taped books,
read alone or to each other, use magnetic letters to spell a specified list of words, or create
storyboards or comic strips that incorporate pictures and words. Each reading center activity is
tied to specific student literacy goals. The activities in reading centers may change often to give
children a chance to practice new skills and to keep the content of these centers fresh and
Reading Comprehension: Activating Prior Knowledge (Hansen, & Pearson, 1983). The instructor
demonstrates to students how they can access their prior knowledge about a topic to improve
comprehension of an article or story. The instructor first explains the benefit of using prior
knowledge. The instructor tells students that recalling their prior experiences (“their own life”) can
help them to understand the content of their reading--because new facts make sense only when
we connect them to what we already know. Next, the instructor demonstrates the text prediction
strategy to the class by selecting a sample passage (displayed as an overhead) and using a
“think-aloud” approach to illustrate the strategy steps: STEP 1: THINK ABOUT WHAT AND WHY:
Jim Wright, Presenter
The teacher connects the article to be read with the instructor's own prior knowledge about the
topic. The teacher might say, for example, “I am about to read a short article about [topic]. Before
I read the article, though, I should think about my life experiences and what they might tell me
about [topic]. By thinking about my own life, I will better understand the article.” STEP 2: SELECT
QUESTIONS. The teacher chooses up to 3 main ideas that appear in the article or story. For
each key idea, the instructor poses one question requiring that readers tap their own prior
knowledge of the idea (e.g., “What are your own attitudes and experiences about [idea]?”) and
another that prompts them to predict how the article or story might deal with the idea (e.g., "What
do you think the article will say about [idea]?"). STEP 3: HAVE STUDENTS READ THE ARTICLE
INDEPENDENTLY. Once the teacher has primed students' prior knowledge by having them
respond to the series of prior-knowledge and prediction questions, students read the selection
Reading Comprehension: Anticipation Reading Guide (Duffelmeyer, 1994; Merkley, 1996). To activate
their prior knowledge of a topic, students complete a brief questionnaire on which they must
express agreement or disagreement with 'opinion' questions tied to the selection to be read;
students then engage in a class discussion of their responses. The instructor first constructs the
questionnaire. Each item on the questionnaire is linked to the content of the article or story that
the students will read. All questionnaire items use a 'forced-choice' format in which the student
must simply agree or disagree with the item. After students have completed the questionnaire,
the teacher reviews responses with the class, allowing students an opportunity to explain their
rationale for their answers. Then students read the article or story.
Reading Comprehension: Building Comprehension of Textbook Readings Through SQ3R
(Robinson, 1946). Students grasp a greater amount of content from their textbook readings when they
use the highly structured SQ3R ('Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review') process. (1)
SURVEY: Prior to reading a section of the textbook, the reader surveys the selection by
examining charts, tables, or pictures, looking over chapter headings and subheadings, and
reading any individual words or blocks of text highlighted by the publisher. (2) QUESTION: In
preparation for reading, the reader next generates and writes down a series of key 'questions'
about the content based on the material that he or she has surveyed. (3) READ: As the reader
reads through the selection, he or she seeks answers to the questions posed. (4) RECITE: After
finishing the selection, the reader attempts to recite from memory the answers to the questions
posed. If stuck on a question, the reader scans the text to find the answer. (5) REVIEW: At the
end of a study session, the reader reviews the list of key questions and again recites the
answers. If the reader is unable to recall an answer, he or she goes back to the text to find it.
Reading Comprehension: Conversing With the Writer Through Text Annotation (Harris, 1990;
Sarkisian, Toscano, Tomkins-Tinch, & Casey, 2003). Students are likely to increase their retention of
information when they interact actively with their reading by jotting comments in the margin of the
text. Students are taught to engage in an ongoing 'conversation' with the writer by recording a
running series of brief comments in the margins of the text. Students may write annotations to
record their opinions of points raised by the writer, questions triggered by the reading, or
vocabulary words that the reader does not know and must look up. NOTE: Because this strategy
requires that students write in the margins of a book or periodical, text annotation is suitable for
courses in which students have either purchased the textbook or have photocopies of the reading
available on which to write.
Reading Comprehension: Mining Information from the Text Book (Garner, Hare, Alexander, Haynes,
& Vinograd, 1984). With ‘text lookback’ the student increases recall of information by skimming
previously read material in the text in a structured manner to look that information up. First, define
for the student the difference between ‘lookback’ and ‘think’ questions. ‘Lookback’ questions are
those that tell us that the answer can be found right in the article, while ‘think’ questions are those
that ask you to give your own opinion, belief, or ideas. When faced with a lookback question,
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readers may need to look back in the article to find the information that they need. But readers
can save time by first skimming the article to get to the general section where the answer to the
question is probably located. To skim efficiently, the student should (1) read the text-lookback
question carefully and highlight the section that tells the reader what to look for (e.g., “What does
the article say are the FIVE MOST ENDANGERED SPECIES of whales today?”), (2) look for
titles, headings, or illustrations in the article that might tell the reader where the information that
he or she is looking for is probably located, (3) read the beginning and end sentences in
individual paragraphs to see if that paragraph might contain the desired information.
Reading Comprehension: Previewing the Chapter (Gleason, Archer, & Colvin, 2002). The student who
systematically previews the contents of a chapter before reading it increases comprehension--by
creating a mental map of its contents, activating prior knowledge about the topic, and actively
forming predictions about what he or she is about to read. In the previewing technique, the
student browses the chapter headings and subheadings. The reader also studies any important
graphics and looks over review questions at the conclusion of the chapter. Only then does the
student begin reading the selection.
Reading Comprehension: Question-Answer Relationships (QAR) (Raphael, 1982; Raphael, 1986).
Students are taught to identify 'question-answer relationships', matching the appropriate strategy
to comprehension questions based on whether a question is based on fact, requires inferential
thinking, or draws upon the reader's own experience. Students learn that answers to RIGHT
THERE questions are fact-based and can be found in a single sentence, often accompanied by
'clue' words that also appear in the question. Students are informed that they will also find
answers to THINK AND SEARCH questions in the text--but must piece those answers together
by scanning the text and making connections between different pieces of factual information.
AUTHOR AND YOU questions require that students take information or opinions that appear in
the text and combine them with the reader's own experiences or opinions to formulate an answer.
ON MY OWN questions are based on the students' own experiences and do not require
knowledge of the text to answer. Students are taught to identify question-answer relationships in
class discussion and demonstration. They are then given specific questions and directed to
identify the question type and to use the appropriate strategy to answer.
Reading Comprehension: Reading Actively (Gleason, Archer, & Colvin, 2002). By reading, recalling,
and reviewing the contents of every paragraph, the student improves comprehension of the
longer passage. The instructor teaches students to first read through the paragraph, paying
particular attention to the topic and important details and facts. The instructor then directs
students to cover the paragraph and state (or silently recall) the key details of the passage from
memory. Finally, the instructor prompts students to uncover the passage and read it again to see
how much of the information in the paragraph the student had been able to accurately recall. This
process is repeated with all paragraphs in the passage.
Reading Fluency: Listening, Reading, And Receiving Corrective Feedback (Rose & Sherry, 1984;
Van Bon, Boksebeld, Font Freide, & Van den Hurk, J.M., 1991). The student ‘rehearses’ a text by first following
along silently as a more accomplished reader (tutor) reads a passage aloud; then the student
reads the same passage aloud while receiving corrective feedback as needed. The student and
tutor sit side-by-side at a table with a book between them. The tutor begins by reading aloud from
the book for about 2 minutes while the student reads silently. If necessary, the tutor tracks his or
her progress across the page with an index finger to help the student to keep up. At the end of
the 2 minutes, the tutor stops reading and asks the student to read aloud. If the student commits
a reading error or hesitates for longer than 3-5 seconds, the tutor tells the student the correct
word and has the student continue reading. For each new passage, the tutor first reads the
passage aloud before having the student read aloud.
Reading Fluency: Paired Reading (Topping, 1987). The student builds fluency and confidence as a
reader by first reading aloud in unison with an accomplished reader, then signaling that he or she
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is ready to read on alone with corrective feedback. The more accomplished reader (tutor) and
student sit in a quiet location with a book positioned between them. The tutor says to the student,
“Now we are going to read aloud together for a little while. Whenever you want to read alone, just
tap the back of my hand like this [demonstrate] and I will stop reading. If you come to a word you
don’t know, I will tell you the word and begin reading with you again.” Tutor and student begin
reading aloud together. If the student misreads a word, the tutor points to the word and
pronounces it. Then the student repeats the word. When the student reads the word correctly,
tutor and student resume reading through the passage. When the child delivers the appropriate
signal (a hand tap) to read independently, the tutor stops reading aloud and instead follows along
silently as the student continues with oral reading. The tutor occasionally praises the student in
specific terms for good reading (e.g., “That was a hard word. You did a nice job sounding it out!”).
If, while reading alone, the child either commits a reading error or hesitates for longer than 5
seconds, the tutor points to the error-word and pronounces it. Then the tutor tells the student to
say the word. When the student pronounces the error-word correctly, tutor and student resume
reading aloud in unison. This tandem reading continues until the student again signals to read
Reading Fluency: Repeated Reading (Herman, 1985; Rashotte & Torgesen, 1985; Rasinski, 1990). The
student increases fluency in decoding by repeatedly reading the same passage while receiving
help with reading errors. A more accomplished reader (tutor) sits with the student in a quiet
location with a book positioned between them. The tutor selects a passage in the book of about
100 to 200 words in length. The tutor directs the student to read the passage aloud. If the student
misreads a word or hesitates for longer than 5 seconds, the tutor reads the word aloud and has
the student repeat the word correctly before continuing through the passage. If the student asks
for help with any word, the tutor reads the word aloud. If the student requests a word definition,
the tutor gives the definition. When the student has completed the passage, the tutor directs the
student to read the passage again. The tutor directs the student to continue rereading the same
passage until either the student has read the passage a total of 4 times or the student reads the
passage at the rate of at least 85 to 100 words per minute. Then tutor and student select a new
passage and repeat the process.
Word Decoding: Drilling Error Words (Jenkins & Larson, 1979). When students practice, drill, and
receive corrective feedback on words that they misread, they can rapidly improve their vocabulary
and achieve gains in reading fluency. Here are steps that the teacher or tutor will follow in the
Error Word Drill: (1) When the student misreads a word during a reading session, write down the
error word and date in a separate “Error Word Log”. (2) At the end of the reading session, write
out all error words from the reading session onto index cards. (If the student has misread more
than 20 different words during the session, use just the first 20 words from your error-word list. If
the student has misread fewer than 20 words, consult your “Error Word Log” and select enough
additional error words from past sessions to build the review list to 20 words.) (3) Review the
index cards with the student. Whenever the student pronounces a word correctly, remove that
card from the deck and set it aside. (A word is considered correct if it is read correctly within 5
seconds. Self-corrected words are counted as correct if they are made within the 5-second
period. Words read correctly after the 5-second period expires are counted as incorrect.) (4)
When the student misses a word, pronounce the word for the student and have the student
repeat the word. Then say, “What word?” and direct the student to repeat the word once more.
Place the card with the missed word at the bottom of the deck. (5) Error words in deck are
presented until all have been read correctly. All word cards are then gathered together,
reshuffled, and presented again to the student. The drill continues until either time runs out or the
student has progressed through the deck without an error on two consecutive cards.
Word Decoding: Tackling Multi-Syllabic Words (Gleason, Archer, & Colvin, 2002). The student uses
affixes (suffixes and prefixes) and decodable ‘chunks’ to decode multi-syllabic words. The
instructor teaches students to identify the most common prefixes and suffixes present in multisyllable words, and trains students to readily locate and circle these affixes. The instructor also
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trains students to segment the remainder of unknown words into chunks, stressing that readers
do not need to divide these words into dictionary-perfect syllables. Rather, readers informally
break up the word into graphemes (any grouping of letters including one or more vowels that
represents a basic sound unit—or grapheme--in English). Readers then decode the mystery word
by reading all affixes and graphemes in the order that they appear in that word.
Word Decoding: Teach a Hierarchy of Strategies (Haring, Lovitt, Eaton & Hansen, 1978). The student
has a much greater chance of successfully decoding a difficult word when he or she uses a ‘Word
Attack Hierarchy’--a coordinated set of strategies that move from simple to more complex. The
student uses successive strategies until solving the word. (1) When the student realizes that he or
she has misread a word, the student first attempts to decode the word again. (2) Next, the
student reads the entire sentence, using the context of that sentence to try to figure out the
word’s meaning--and pronunciation. (3) The student breaks the word into parts, pronouncing
each one. (4) If still unsuccessful, the student uses an index card to cover sections of the word,
each time pronouncing only the part that is visible. The student asks ‘What sound does ___
make?, using phonics information to sound out the word. (5) If still unsuccessful, the student asks
a more accomplished reader to read the word.
Duffelmeyer, F.A. (1994). Effective anticipation guide statements for learning from expository prose. Journal of Reading, 37, 452 457.
Florida Center for Reading Research (2005). Student center activities: Teacher resource guide. Retrieved August 20, 2006, from
Garner, R., Hare, V.C., Alexander, P., Haynes, J., & Vinograd, P. (1984). Inducing use of a text lookback strategy among
unsuccessful readers. American Educational Research Journal, 21, 789-798.
Gleason, M. M., Archer, A. L., & Colvin, G. (2002). Interventions for improving study skills. In M. A. Shinn, H. M. Walker & G.
Stoner (Eds.), Interventions for academic and behavior problems II: Preventive and remedial approaches (pp.651-680). Bethesda,
MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
Hansen, J. & Pearson, P.D. (1983). An instructional study: Improving the inferential comprehension of good and poor fourth-grade
readers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 75, 821-829.
Haring, N.G., Lovitt, T.C., Eaton, M.D., & Hansen, C.L. (1978). The fourth R: Research in the classroom. Columbus, OH: Charles
E. Merrill Publishing.
Harris, Jane (1990). Text annotation and underlining as metacognitive strategies to improve comprehension and retention of
expository text. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Reading Conference (Miami).
Herman, P.A. (1985). The effects of repeated readings on reading rate, speech pauses, and word recognition accuracy. Reading
Research Quarterly, 20, 553-565.
Jenkins, J. & Larsen, D. (1979). Evaluation of error-correction procedures for oral reading. Journal of Special Education, 13, 145156.
Merkley, D.J. (1996). Modified anticipation guide. Reading Teacher, 50, 365-368.
Raphael, T. (1982). Question-answering strategies for children. The Reading Teacher, 36, 186-190.
Raphael, T. (1986). Teaching question answer relationships, revisited. The Reading Teacher, 39, 516-522.
Rashotte, C.A. & Torgesen, J.K. (1985). Repeated reading and reading fluency in learning disabled children. Reading Research
Quarterly, 20, 180-188.
Rasinski, T.V. (1990). Effects of repeated reading and listening-while-reading on reading fluency. Journal of Educational
Research, 83(3), 147-150.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Robinson, F. P. (1946). Effective study. New York: Harper & Row
Rose, T.L., & Sherry, L. (1984). Relative effects of two previewing procedures on LD adolescents’ oral reading performance.
Learning Disabilities Quarterly, 7, 39-44.
Sarkisian V., Toscano, M., Tomkins-Tinch, K., & Casey, K. (2003). Reading strategies and critical thinking. Retrieved October 15,
2006, from http://www.academic.marist.edu/alcuin/ssk/stratthink.html
Topping, K. (1987). Paired reading: A powerful technique for parent use. Reading Teacher, 40, 608-614.
Van Bon, W.H.J., Boksebeld, L.M., Font Freide, T.A.M., & Van den Hurk, J.M. (1991). A comparison of three methods of readingwhile-listening. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 24, 471-476.
Copyright ©2008 Jim Wright
School-Wide Strategies for Managing...
A service of www.interventioncentral.org
Mathematics instruction is a lengthy, incremental process that spans all grade levels. As children
begin formal schooling in kindergarten, they develop ‘number sense’, an intuitive understanding
of foundation number concepts and relationships among numbers. A central part of number
sense is the student’s ability to internalize the number line as a precursor to performing mental
arithmetic. As students progress through elementary school, they must next master common
math operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) and develop fluency in basic
arithmetic combinations (‘math facts’). In later grades, students transition to applied, or ‘word’,
problems that relate math operations and concepts to real-world situations. Successful
completion of applied problems requires that the student understand specialized math
vocabulary, identify the relevant math operations needed to solve the problem while ignoring any
unnecessary information also appearing in that written problem, translate the word problem from
text format into a numeric equation containing digits and math symbols, and then successfully
solve. It is no surprise, then, that there are a number of potential blockers to student success with
applied problems, including limited reading decoding and comprehension skills, failure to acquire
fluency with arithmetic combinations (math facts), and lack of proficiency with math operations.
Deciding what specific math interventions might be appropriate for any student must therefore be
a highly individualized process, one that is highly dependent on the student’s developmental level
and current math skills, the requirements of the school district’s math curriculum, and the degree
to which the student possesses or lacks the necessary auxiliary skills (e.g., math vocabulary,
reading comprehension) for success in math. Here are some wide-ranging classroom (Tier I RTI)
ideas for math interventions that extend from the primary through secondary grades.
Applied Problems: Encourage Students to Draw to Clarify Understanding (Van Essen & Hamaker,
Making a drawing of an applied, or ‘word’, problem is one easy heuristic
tool that students can use to help them to find the solution. An additional benefit of the drawing
strategy is that it can reveal to the teacher any student misunderstandings about how to set up or
solve the word problem. To introduce students to the drawing strategy, the teacher hands out a
worksheet containing at least six word problems. The teacher explains to students that making a
picture of a word problem sometimes makes that problem clearer and easier to solve. The
teacher and students then independently create drawings of each of the problems on the
worksheet. Next, the students show their drawings for each problem, explaining each drawing
and how it relates to the word problem. The teacher also participates, explaining his or her
drawings to the class or group. Then students are directed independently to make drawings as an
intermediate problem-solving step when they are faced with challenging word problems. NOTE:
This strategy appears to be more effective when used in later, rather than earlier, elementary
1990; Van Garderen, 2006).
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Applied Problems: Improving Performance Through a 4-Step Problem-Solving Approach
(Pólya, 1957; Williams, 2003). Students can consistently perform better on applied math problems if they
follow an efficient 4-step plan of understanding the problem, devising a plan, carrying out the
plan, and looking back. (1) UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM. To fully grasp the problem, the
student may restate the problem in his or her own words, note key information, and identify
missing information. (2) DEVISE A PLAN. In mapping out a strategy to solve the problem, the
student may make a table, draw a diagram, or translate the verbal problem into an equation. (3)
CARRY OUT THE PLAN. The student implements the steps in the plan, showing work and
checking work for each step. (4) LOOK BACK. The student checks the results. If the answer is
written as an equation, the student puts the results in words and checks whether the answer
addresses the question posed in the original word problem.
Math Computation: Boost Fluency Through Explicit Time-Drills (Rhymer, Skinner, Jackson, McNeill,
Smith & Jackson, 2002; Skinner, Pappas & Davis, 2005; Woodward, 2006). Explicit time-drills are a method to boost
students’ rate of responding on math-fact worksheets. The teacher hands out the worksheet.
Students are told that they will have 3 minutes to work on problems on the sheet. The teacher
starts the stop watch and tells the students to start work. At the end of the first minute in the 3minute span, the teacher ‘calls time’, stops the stopwatch, and tells the students to underline the
last number written and to put their pencils in the air. Then students are told to resume work and
the teacher restarts the stopwatch. This process is repeated at the end of minutes 2 and 3. At the
conclusion of the 3 minutes, the teacher collects the student worksheets. TIPS: Explicit time-drills
work best on ‘simple’ math facts requiring few computation steps. They are less effective on more
complex math facts. Also, a less intrusive and more flexible version of this intervention is to use
time-prompts while students are working independently on math facts to speed their rate of
responding. For example, at the end of every minute of seatwork, the teacher can call the time
and have students draw a line under the item that they are working on when that minute expires.
Math Computation: Motivate With ‘Errorless Learning’ Worksheets (Caron, 2007). Reluctant
students can be motivated to practice math number problems to build computational fluency
when given worksheets that include an answer key (number problems with correct answers)
displayed at the top of the page. In this version of an ‘errorless learning’ approach, the student is
directed to complete math facts as quickly as possible. If the student comes to a number problem
that he or she cannot solve, the student is encouraged to locate the problem and its correct
answer in the key at the top of the page and write it in. Such speed drills build computational
fluency while promoting students’ ability to visualize and to use a mental number line. TIP:
Consider turning this activity into a ‘speed drill’. The student is given a kitchen timer and
instructed to set the timer for a predetermined span of time (e.g., 2 minutes) for each drill. The
student completes as many problems as possible before the timer rings. The student then graphs
the number of problems correctly computed each day on a time-series graph, attempting to better
his or her previous score.
Math Computation: Two Ideas to Jump-Start Active Academic Responding (Skinner, Pappas &
Davis, 2005). Research shows that when teachers use specific techniques to motivate their classes
to engage in higher rates of active and accurate academic responding, student learning rates are
likely to go up. Here are two ideas to accomplish increased academic responding on math tasks.
First, break longer assignments into shorter assignments with performance feedback given after
each shorter ‘chunk’ (e.g., break a 20-minute math computation worksheet task into 3 sevenminute assignments). Breaking longer assignments into briefer segments also allows the teacher
to praise struggling students more frequently for work completion and effort, providing an
additional ‘natural’ reinforcer. Second, allow students to respond to easier practice items orally
rather than in written form to speed up the rate of correct responses.
Math Homework: Motivate Students Through Reinforcers, Interesting Assignments,
Homework Planners, and Self-Monitoring (Bryan & Sullivan-Burstein, 1998). Improve students’ rate of
homework completion and quality by using reinforcers, motivating ‘real-life’ assignments, a
Jim Wright, Presenter
homework planner, and student self-monitoring. (1) Reinforcers: Allow students to earn a small
reward (e.g., additional free time) when they turn in all homework assignments for the week. (2)
‘Real-life’ Assignments: Make homework meaningful by linking concepts being taught to students’
lives. In a math lesson on estimating area, for example, give students the homework task of
calculating the area of their bedroom and estimating the amount of paint needed to cover the
walls. (3) Homework Planner: Teach students to use a homework planner to write down
assignments, organize any materials (e.g., worksheets) needed for homework, transport
completed homework safely back to school, and provide space for parents and teachers to
communicate about homework via written school-home notes. (4) Student Self-Monitoring: Direct
students to chart their homework completion each week. Have students plot the number of
assignments turned in on-time in green, assignments not turned in at all in red, and assignments
turned in late in yellow.
Math Instruction: Consolidate Student Learning During Lecture Through the Peer-Guided
Pause (Hawkins, & Brady, 1994). During large-group math lectures, teachers can help students to
retain more instructional content by incorporating brief Peer Guided Pause sessions into lectures.
Students are trained to work in pairs. At one or more appropriate review points in a lecture period,
the instructor directs students to pair up to work together for 4 minutes. During each Peer Guided
Pause, students are given a worksheet that contains one or more correctly completed word or
number problems illustrating the math concept(s) covered in the lecture. The sheet also contains
several additional, similar problems that pairs of students work cooperatively to complete, along
with an answer key. Student pairs are reminded to (a) monitor their understanding of the lesson
concepts; (b) review the correctly math model problem; (c) work cooperatively on the additional
problems, and (d) check their answers. The teacher can direct student pairs to write their names
on the practice sheets and collect them as a convenient way to monitor student understanding.
Math Instruction: Increase Student Engagement and Improve Group Behaviors With
Response Cards (Armendariz & Umbreit, 1999; Lambert, Cartledge, Heward & Lo, 2006). Response cards can
increase student active engagement in group math activities while reducing disruptive behavior.
In the group-response technique, all students in the classroom are supplied with an erasable
tablet (‘response card’), such as a chalk slate or laminated white board with erasable marker. The
teacher instructs at a brisk pace. The instructor first poses a question to the class. Students are
given sufficient wait time for each to write a response on his or her response card. The teacher
then directs students to present their cards. If most or all of the class has the correct answer, the
teacher praises the group. If more than one quarter of the students records an incorrect answer
on their cards, however, the teacher uses guided questions and demonstration to steer students
to the correct answer.
Math Instruction: Maintain a Supportive Atmosphere for Classroom “Math Talk” (Cooke &
Adams, 1998). Teachers can promote greater student ‘risk-taking’ in mathematics learning when they
cultivate a positive classroom atmosphere for math discussions while preventing peers from
putting each other down. The teacher models behavioral expectations for open, interactive
discussions, praises students for their class participation and creative attempts at problemsolving, and regularly points out that incorrect answers and misunderstandings should be
celebrated—as they often lead to breakthroughs in learning. The teacher uses open-ended
comments (e.g., “What led you to that answer?”) as tools to draw out students and encourage
them to explore and apply math concepts in group discussion. Students are also encouraged in a
supportive manner to evaluate each other’s reasoning. However, the teacher intervenes
immediately to prevent negative student comments or ‘put-downs’ about peers. As with any
problem classroom behavior, a first offense requires that the student meet privately with the
instructor to discuss teacher expectations for positive classroom behavior. If the student
continues to put down peers, the teacher imposes appropriate disciplinary consequences.
Math Instruction: Support Students Through a Wrap-Around Instruction Plan (Montague, 1997;
When teachers instruct students in more complex math cognitive
Montague, Warger & Morgan, 2000).
Jim Wright, Presenter
strategies, they must support struggling learners with a ‘wrap-around’ instructional plan. That plan
incorporates several elements: (a) Assessment of the student’s problem-solving skills. The
instructor first verifies that the student has the necessary academic competencies to learn higherlevel math content, including reading and writing skills, knowledge of basic math operations, and
grasp of required math vocabulary. (b) Explicit instruction. The teacher presents new math
content in structured, highly organized lessons. The instructor also uses teaching tools such as
Guided Practice (moving students from known material to new concepts through a thoughtful
series of teacher questions) and ‘overlearning’ (teaching and practicing a skill with the class to the
point at which students develop automatic recall and control of it). (c) Process modeling. The
teacher adopts a ‘think aloud’ approach, or process modeling, to verbally reveal his or her
cognitive process to the class while using a cognitive strategy to solve a math problem. In turn,
students are encouraged to think aloud when applying the same strategy—first as part of a
whole-class or cooperative learning group, then independently. The teacher observes students
during process modeling to verify that they are correctly applying the cognitive strategy. (d)
Performance feedback. Students get regular performance feedback about their level of mastery in
learning the cognitive strategy. That feedback can take many forms, including curriculum-based
measurement, timely corrective feedback, specific praise and encouragement, grades, and brief
teacher conferences. (e) Review of mastered skills or material. Once the student has mastered a
cognitive strategy, the teacher structures future class lessons or independent work to give the
student periodic opportunities to use and maintain the strategy. The teacher also provides
occasional brief ‘booster sessions’, reteaching steps of the cognitive strategy to improve student
Math Instruction: Unlock the Thoughts of Reluctant Students Through Class Journaling
(Baxter, Woodward & Olson, 2005). Students can effectively clarify their knowledge of math concepts and
problem-solving strategies through regular use of class ‘math journals’. Journaling is a valuable
channel of communication about math issues for students who are unsure of their skills and
reluctant to contribute orally in class. At the start of the year, the teacher introduces the journaling
assignment, telling students that they will be asked to write and submit responses at least weekly
to teacher-posed questions. At first, the teacher presents ‘safe’ questions that tap into the
students’ opinions and attitudes about mathematics (e.g., ‘How important do you think it is
nowadays for cashiers in fast-food restaurants to be able to calculate in their head the amount of
change to give a customer?”). As students become comfortable with the journaling activity, the
teacher starts to pose questions about the students’ own mathematical thinking relating to
specific assignments. Students are encouraged to use numerals, mathematical symbols, and
diagrams in their journal entries to enhance their explanations. The teacher provides brief written
comments on individual student entries, as well as periodic oral feedback and encouragement to
the entire class on the general quality and content of class journal responses. Regular math
journaling can prod students to move beyond simple ‘rote’ mastery of the steps for completing
various math problems toward a deeper grasp of the math concepts that underlie and explain a
particular problem-solving approach. Teachers will find that journal entries are a concrete method
for monitoring student understanding of more abstract math concepts. To promote the quality of
journal entries, the teacher might also assign them an effort grade that will be calculated into
quarterly math report card grades.
Math Problem-Solving: Help Students Avoid Errors With the ‘Individualized Self-Correction
Checklist’ (Zrebiec Uberti, Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2004). Students can improve their accuracy on particular
types of word and number problems by using an ‘individualized self-instruction checklist’ that
reminds them to pay attention to their own specific error patterns. To create such a checklist, the
teacher meets with the student. Together they analyze common error patterns that the student
tends to commit on a particular problem type (e.g., ‘On addition problems that require carrying, I
don’t always remember to carry the number from the previously added column.’). For each type of
error identified, the student and teacher together describe the appropriate step to take to prevent
the error from occurring (e.g., ‘When adding each column, make sure to carry numbers when
needed.’). These self-check items are compiled into a single checklist. Students are then
Jim Wright, Presenter
encouraged to use their individualized self-instruction checklist whenever they work
independently on their number or word problems. As older students become proficient in creating
and using these individualized error checklists, they can begin to analyze their own math errors
and to make their checklists independently whenever they encounter new problem types.
Math Review: Balance Massed & Distributed Practice (Carnine, 1997). Teachers can best
promote students acquisition and fluency in a newly taught math skill by transitioning from
massed to distributed practice. When students have just acquired a math skill but are not yet
fluent in its use, they need lots of opportunities to try out the skill under teacher supervision—a
technique sometimes referred to as ‘massed practice’. Once students have developed facility and
independence with that new math skill, it is essential that they then be required periodically to use
the skill in order to embed and retain it—a strategy also known as ‘distributed practice’. Teachers
can program distributed practice of a math skill such as reducing fractions to least common
denominators into instruction either by (a) regularly requiring the student to complete short
assignments in which they practice that skill in isolation (e.g., completing drill sheets with fractions
to be reduced), or (b) teaching a more advanced algorithm or problem-solving approach that
incorporates--and therefore requires repeated use of--the previously learned math skill (e.g.,
requiring students to reduce fractions to least-common denominators as a necessary first step to
adding the fractions together and converting the resulting improper fraction to a mixed number).
Math Review: Teach Effective Test-Preparation Strategies (Hong, Sas, & Sas, 2006). A comparison
of the methods that high and low-achieving math students typically use to prepare for tests
suggests that struggling math students need to be taught (1) specific test-review strategies and
(2) time-management and self-advocacy skills. Among review-related strategies, deficient testtakers benefit from explicit instruction in how to take adequate in-class notes; to adopt a
systematic method to review material for tests (e.g., looking over their notes each night, rereading
relevant portions of the math text, reviewing handouts from the teacher, etc.), and to give
themselves additional practice in solving problems (e.g., by attempting all homework items,
tackling additional problems from the text book, and solving problems included in teacher
handouts). Deficient test-takers also require pointers in how to allocate and manage their study
time wisely, to structure their study environment to increase concentration and reduce
distractions, as well as to develop ‘self-advocacy’ skills such as seeking additional help from
teachers when needed. Teachers can efficiently teach effective test-preparation methods as a
several-session whole-group instructional module.
Math Vocabulary: Preteach, Model, and Use Standard Math Terms (Chard, D., n.d.). Three
strategies can help students to learn essential math vocabulary: preteaching key vocabulary
items, modeling those vocabulary words, and using only universally accepted math terms in
instruction. (1) Preteach key math vocabulary. Math vocabulary provides students with the
language tools to grasp abstract mathematical concepts and to explain their own reasoning.
Therefore, do not wait to teach that vocabulary only at ‘point of use’. Instead, preview relevant
math vocabulary as a regular a part of the ‘background’ information that students receive in
preparation to learn new math concepts or operations. (2) Model the relevant vocabulary when
new concepts are taught. Strengthen students’ grasp of new vocabulary by reviewing a number of
math problems with the class, each time consistently and explicitly modeling the use of
appropriate vocabulary to describe the concepts being taught. Then have students engage in
cooperative learning or individual practice activities in which they too must successfully use the
new vocabulary—while the teacher provides targeted support to students as needed. (3) Ensure
that students learn standard, widely accepted labels for common math terms and operations and
that they use them consistently to describe their math problem-solving efforts.
Armendariz, F., & Umbreit, J. (1999). Using active responding to reduce disruptive behavior in a general education classroom.
Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 1(3), 152-158.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Baxter, J. A., Woodward, J., & Olson, D. (2005). Writing in mathematics: An alternative form of communication for academically
low-achieving students. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 20(2), 119–135.
Bryan, T., & Sullivan-Burstein, K. (1998). Teacher-selected strategies for improving homework completion. Remedial & Special
Education, 19, 263-275.
Carnine, D. (1997). Instructional design in mathematics for students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30,
Caron, T. A. (2007). Learning multiplication the easy way. The Clearing House, 80, 278-282.
Chard, D. (n.d..) Vocabulary strategies for the mathematics classroom. Retrieved November 23, 2007, from
Cooke, L B. & Adams, V. M. (1998). Encouraging "math talk" in the classroom. Middle School Journal, 29(5), 35-40.
Hawkins, J., & Brady, M. P. (1994). The effects of independent and peer guided practice during instructional pauses on the
academic performance of students with mild handicaps. Education & Treatment of Children, 17 (1), 1-28.
Hong, E., Sas, M., & Sas, J. C. (2006). Test-taking strategies of high and low mathematics achievers. Journal of Educational
Research, 99(3), 144-155.
Lambert, M. C., Cartledge, G., Heward, W. L., & Lo, Y. (2006). Effects of response cards on disruptive behavior and academic
responding during math lessons by fourth-grade urban students. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 8(2), 88-99.
Montague, M. (1997). Cognitive strategy instruction in mathematics for students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning
Disabilities, 30, 164-177.
Montague, M., Warger, C., & Morgan, T. H. (2000). Solve it! Strategy instruction to improve mathematical problem solving..
Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 15, 110-116.
Pólya, G. (1957). How to solve it (2nd ed.). Princeton University Press: Princeton, N.J.
Rhymer, K. N., Skinner, C. H., Jackson, S., McNeill, S., Smith, T., & Jackson, B. (2002). The 1-minute explicit timing intervention:
The influence of mathematics problem difficulty. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 29(4), 305-311.
Skinner, C. H., Pappas, D. N., & Davis, K. A. (2005). Enhancing academic engagement: Providing opportunities for responding
and influencing students to choose to respond. Psychology in the Schools, 42, 389-403.
Van Essen, G., & Hamaker, C. (1990). Using self-generated drawings to solve arithmetic word problems. Journal of Educational
Research, 83, 301-312.
Van Garderen, D. (2006). Spatial visualization, visual imagery, and mathematical problem solving of students with varying
abilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39, 496-506.
Williams, K. M. (2003). Writing about the problem solving process to improve problem-solving performance. Mathematics Teacher,
96(3), 185-187.
Woodward, J. (2006). Developing automaticity in multiplication facts integrating strategy instruction with timed practice drills.
Learning Disability Quarterly, 29, 269-289.
Zrebiec Uberti, H., Mastropieri, M. A., & Scruggs, T. E. (2004). Check it off: Individualizing a math algorithm for students with
disabilities via self-monitoring checklists. Intervention in School and Clinic, 39, 269-275.
Copyright ©2008 Jim Wright
School-Wide Strategies for Managing...
A service of www.interventioncentral.org
Jim Wright, Presenter
The act of writing contains its own inner tensions. Writers must abide by a host of rules that
govern the mechanics and conventions of writing yet are also expected—within the constraints of
those rules-- to formulate original, even creative, thoughts. It is no wonder that many students find
writing to be a baffling exercise and have little sense of how to break larger writing assignments
into predictable, achievable subtasks. But of course writing can be taught and writing can be
mastered. The best writing instruction places the process of written expression on a timeline:
Good writers first plan their writing. Then they write. Once a draft has been created, good writers
review and revise their work. While the stages of the writing process are generally sequential,
good writers also find themselves jumping frequently between these stages (for example,
collecting additional notes and writing new sections of a paper as part of the revision process).
Depending upon their stage of development as writers, struggling student writers may benefit
from the following strategies:
Content: Memorize a Story Grammar Checklist (Reid & Lienemann, 2006). Students write lengthier
stories that include greater detail when they use a memorized strategy to judge their writing-inprogress. These young writers are taught a simple mnemonic device with 7 elements: ‘WWW,
What=2, How = 2’. This mnemonic translates into a story grammar checklist: WHO the main
character is; WHERE the story takes place; WHEN the story occurs; WHAT the main character(s)
do or plan to do; WHAT happens next; HOW the story concludes; and HOW the character(s) feel
about their experiences. Students are taught this strategy through teacher demonstration,
discussion, teacher modeling; and student use of the strategy with gradually fading teacher
support. When students use the ‘WWW, What=2, How = 2’ tactic independently, they may still
need occasional prompting to use it in their writing. NOTE: Teachers can apply this intervention
idea to any genre of writing (e.g., persuasive essay), distilling its essential elements into a similar
short, easily memorized checklist to teach to students.
Fluency: Have Students Write Every Day (Graham, Harris & Larsen, 2001). Short daily writing
assignments can build student writing fluency and make writing a more motivating activity. For
struggling writers, formal writing can feel much like a foreign language, with its own set of obscure
grammatical rules and intimidating vocabulary. Just as people learn another language more
quickly and gain confidence when they use it frequently, however, poor writers gradually develop
into better writers when they are prompted to write daily--and receive rapid feedback and
encouragement about that writing. The teacher can encourage daily writing by giving short writing
assignments, allowing time for students to journal about their learning activities, requiring that
they correspond daily with pen pals via email, or even posting a question on the board as a bellringer activity that students can respond to in writing for extra credit. Short daily writing tasks have
the potential to lower students’ aversion to writing and boost their confidence in using the written
Fluency: Self-Monitor and Graph Results to Increase Writing Fluency (Rathvon, 1999). Students
gain motivation to write through daily monitoring and charting of their own and classwide rates of
writing fluency. At least several times per week, assign your students timed periods of ‘freewriting’
when they write in their personal journals. Freewriting periods all the same amount of time each
day. After each freewriting period, direct each student to count up the number of words he or she
has written in the daily journal entry (whether spelled correctly or not). Next, tell students to
record their personal writing-fluency score in their journal and also chart the score on their own
time-series graph for visual feedback. Then collect the day’s writing-fluency scores of all students
in the class, sum those scores, and chart the results on a large time-series graph posted at the
front of the room. At the start of each week, calculate that week’s goal of increasing total class
words written by taking last week’s score and increasing by five percent. At the end of each week,
review the class score and praise students if they have shown good effort.
Instruction: Essentials of Good Teaching Benefit Struggling Writers (Gersten, Baker, &
Teachers are most successful in reaching students with writing delays when their
instruction emphasizes the full writing process, provides strategy sheets, offers lots of models of
Jim Wright, Presenter
good writing, and gives students timely editorial feedback. Good instructors build their written
expression lessons around the 3 stages of writing –planning, writing, and revision— and make
those stages clear and explicit. Skilled instructors also provide students with ‘think sheets’ that
outline step-by-step strategies for tackle the different phases of a writing assignment (e.g., taking
concise notes from research material; building an outline; proofreading a draft). Students become
stronger writers when exposed to different kinds of expressive text, such as persuasive, narrative,
and expository writing. Teachers can make students more confident and self-sufficient as writers
when they give them access to plentiful examples of good prose models that the student can
review when completing a writing assignment. Finally, strong writing teachers provide supportive
and timely feedback to students about their writing. When teachers or classmates offer writing
feedback to the student, they are honest but also maintain an encouraging tone.
Motivation: Stimulate Interest With an Autobiography Assignment (Bos & Vaughn, 2002).
Assigning the class to write their own autobiographies can motivate hard-to-reach students who
seem uninterested in most writing assignments. Have students read a series of autobiographies
of people who interest them. Discuss these biographies with the class. Then assign students to
write their own autobiographies. (With the class, create a short questionnaire that students can
use to interview their parents and other family members to collect information about their past.)
Allow students to read their finished autobiographies for the class.
Organization: Build an Outline by Talking Through the Topic (The Writing Center, University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, n.d./ 23 December 2006). Students who struggle to organize their notes into a
coherent outline can tell others what they know about the topic—and then capture the informal
logical structure of that conversation to create a working outline. The student studies notes from
the topic and describes what he or she knows about the topic and its significance to a listener.
(The student may want to audio-record this conversation for later playback.) After the
conversation, the student jots down an outline from memory to capture the structure and main
ideas of the discussion. This outline ‘kernel’ can then be expanded and refined into the framework
for a paper.
Organization: ‘Reverse Outline’ the Draft (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, n.d./
Students can improve the internal flow of their compositions through ‘reverse
outlining’. The student writes a draft of the composition. Next, the student reads through the draft,
jotting notes in the margins that signify the main idea of each paragraph or section. Then the
student organizes the margin notes into an outline to reveal the organizational structure of the
paper. This ‘reverse outline’ allows the student to note whether sections of the draft are
repetitious, are out of order, or do not logically connect with one another.
23 December 2006).
Planning: Brainstorm to Break the ‘Idea’ Logjam (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill, n.d./ 28 December 2006). Brainstorming is a time-tested method that can help students to generate
motivating topics for writing assignments and uncover new ideas to expand and improve their
compositions. Here are four brainstorming strategies to teach to students: FREEWRITING: The
student sets a time limit (e.g., 15 minutes) or length limit (e.g., one hand-written page) and
spontaneously writes until the limit is reached. The writer does not judge the writing but simply
writes as rapidly as possible, capturing any thought that comes to mind on the topic. Later, the
student reviews the freewriting to pick out any ideas, terms, or phrasing that might be
incorporated into the writing assignment. LISTING: The student selects a topic based on an idea
or key term related to the writing assignment. The writer then rapidly brainstorms a list of any
items that might possibly relate to the topic. Finally, the writer reviews the list to select items that
might be useful in the assigned composition or trigger additional writing ideas. SIMILES: The
student selects a series of key terms or concepts linked to the writing assignment. The student
brainstorms, using the framework of a simile: ” _1_ is like _2_.” The student plugs a key term into
the first blank and then generates as many similes as possible (e.g., “A SHIP is like a CITY ON
THE SEA.”). REFERENCES: The student jots down key ideas or terms from the writing
assignment. He or she then browses through various reference works (dictionaries,
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encyclopedias, specialized reference works on specific subjects) looking randomly for entries that
trigger useful ideas. (Writers might try a variation of this strategy by typing assignment-related
search terms into GOOGLE or another online search engine.)
Proofreading: Teach A Memory Strategy (Bos & Vaughn, 2002). When students regularly use a
simple, portable, easily memorized plan for proofreading, the quality of their writing can improve
significantly. Create a poster to be put up in the classroom summarizing the SCOPE proofreading
elements: (1) SPELLING: Are my words spelled correctly; (2) CAPITALIZATION: Have I
capitalized all appropriate words, including first words of sentences, proper nouns, and proper
names?; (3) ORDER of words: Is my word order (syntax) correct?; (4) PUNCTUATION: Did I use
end punctuation and other punctuation marks appropriately? (5) EXPRESSION of complete
thoughts: Do all of my sentences contain a noun and verb to convey a complete thought? Review
the SCOPE proofreading steps by copying a first-draft writing sample onto an overhead and
evaluating the sample with the class using each item from the SCOPE poster. Then direct
students to pair off and together evaluate their own writing samples using SCOPE. When
students appear to understand the use of the SCOPE plan, require that they use this strategy to
proofread all written assignments before turning them in.
Proofreading: Use Selective Proofreading With Highlighting of Errors (Frus, n.d./18 November
2006). To prevent struggling writers from becoming overwhelmed by teacher proofreading
corrections, focus on only 1 or 2 proofreading areas when correcting a writing assignment. Create
a student ‘writing skills checklist’ that inventories key writing competencies (e.g., grammar/syntax,
spelling, vocabulary, etc.). For each writing assignment, announce to students that you will grade
the assignment for overall content but will make proofreading corrections on only 1-2 areas
chosen from the writing skills checklist. (Select different proofreading targets for each assignment
matched to common writing weaknesses in your classroom.) Also, to prevent cluttering the
student’s paper with potentially discouraging teacher comments and editing marks, underline
problems in the student’ text with a highlighter and number the highlighted errors sequentially at
the left margin of the student paper. Then (if necessary) write teacher comments on a separate
feedback sheet to explain the writing errors. (Identify each comment with the matching errornumber from the left margin of the student’s worksheet.) With fewer proofreading comments, the
student can better attend to the teacher feedback. Also, even a heavily edited student assignment
looks neat and tidy when teachers use the highlighting/numbering technique—preventing
students from becoming disheartened at the site of an assignment scribbled over with corrective
Spelling: Leverage the Power of Memory Through Cover-Copy-Compare (Murphy, Hern, Williams,
& McLaughlin, 1990). Students increase their spelling knowledge by copying a spelling word from a
correct model and then recopying the same word from memory. Give students a list of 10-20
spelling words, an index card, and a blank sheet of paper. For each word on the spelling list, the
student (1) copies the spelling list item onto a sheet of paper, (2) covers the newly copied word
with the index card, (3) writes the spelling word again on the sheet (spelling it from memory), and
(4) uncovers the copied word and checks to ensure that the word copied from memory is spelled
correctly. If that word is spelled incorrectly, the student repeats the sequence above until the word
copied from memory is spelled correctly--then moves to the next word on the spelling list.
Bos, C.S. & Vaughn, S. (2002). Strategies for teaching students with learning and behavior problems. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Frus, P. (n.d./18 November 2006). Commenting effectively on student writing. Retrieved November 18, 2006, from
Gersten, R., Baker, S., & Edwards, L. (1999). Teaching expressive writing to students with learning disabilities: A meta-analysis.
New York: National Center for Learning Disabilities.
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Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & Larsen, L. (2001). Prevention and intervention of writing difficulties for students with learning
disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 16, 74-84.
Murphy, J., Hern, C., Williams, R., & McLaughlin, T. (1990). The effects of the copy, cover, and compare approach in increasing
spelling accuracy with learning disabled students. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 15, 378-386.
Rathvon, N. (1999). Effective school interventions. New York: Guilford Press.
Reid, R. & Lienemann, T.O. (2006). Self-regulated strategy development for written expression with students with attention
deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Exceptional Children, 73, 53-68.
The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (n.d.). Brainstorming. Retrieved December 28, 2006, from
The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (n.d.). Reorganizing your draft. Retrieved December 23, 2006, from
Copyright ©2008 Jim Wright
School-Wide Strategies for Managing...
A service of www.interventioncentral.org
As students transition to middle and high school, they are expected to depend less on the teacher
to manage their instruction and to put increasing energy into becoming self-managing learners.
But students must master essential study and organizational skills before they can function as
independent learners. Individuals with strong study and organization skills are able to break class
and homework assignments into subtasks and use time efficiently to complete those
assignments, save and store graded papers and handouts for later retrieval, regularly review
class notes and course readings, and practice effective study techniques. Instructors can
accelerate the development of students into self-managing learners by explicitly teaching and
evaluating study and organization skills and by delivering structured lessons that students can
easily follow and capture in notes. Here are a range of ideas that can assist students to study
more effectively and become more organized:
Independent Work. Create Customized ‘Common Mistakes’ Checklists (U.S. Department of
Students can develop an individualized checklist of the kinds of errors that they
commonly commit on independent assignments and use this checklist to reduce or eliminate
mistakes before turning in those assignments. As a class exercise, give several examples to your
students of common mistakes that you find on their assignments (e.g., failure to show all work on
math problems; incomplete entries on term-paper outlines). Next, have the class brainstorm a list
of mistakes that they are most likely to make. Then direct each student to review the class list and
create a customized checklist by selecting the 4-5 mistakes that he or she is most likely to
commit. Direct students to keep their customized error checklists and use them to review their
assignments before turning in.
Education, 2004).
Independent Work: Assign an Adult Advisor (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Struggling students
will do a better job of managing their many academic work and study requirements when they can
have informal weekly meetings with an adult advisor. The advisor can be any school staff
member who has a good relationship with the student. The role of the advisor is to communicate
with other members of the student’s team to ensure that the student is caught up with all
homework and classwork assignments and is doing a satisfactory job of preparing for tests and
quizzes. The advisor should plan to meet with the student at a fixed time at the start of each week
for a brief meeting (1) to review academic progress, (2) help the student to get organized for
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upcoming assignments and prepare for tests, and (3) provide the student with encouragement
and ‘mini-skills’ lessons in organization and study skills as needed.
Independent Work: Have Students Break Larger Tasks into Smaller Sub-Tasks (U.S.
Department of Education, 2004). Students who easily become overwhelmed when given a large
assignment to do independently can boost their confidence when taught first to break that
assignment down into smaller, more manageable sub-tasks. Select an upcoming assignment that
students are expected to complete on their own (e.g., term paper, homework assignment with
multiple math problems). Demonstrate for the class or to the individual student how to partition
the larger assignment into smaller steps or ‘chunks’. Have the student(s) complete the
assignment independently, one sub-task at a time, using your work plan. On the next assignment,
have the student(s) subdivide the task into chunks to create their own work plan while you
observe and provide feedback.
Independent Work: Teach Students to Adapt Worksheets (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). If
students seem to struggle with the format of complex worksheets, teach them tricks to reduce the
complexity or ‘busyness’ of the sheet. If students appear to become anxious or to lose their place
when given a worksheet with a large number of math problems, for example, suggest that they
fold the page or use a blank piece of paper to hide all problems except the one on which they are
currently working. Or if a double-sided worksheet has a complex informational graphic (e.g., a
map) on one side of the page and questions to be answered on the flip side of the worksheet,
give the student an extra copy of that worksheet so that the student can look at the questions and
the graphic at the same time.
Instruction: Preview & Review Lesson Objectives (Beyda, Zentall, & Ferko, 2002; U.S. Department of
Education, 2004). Teachers can help students to retain the key points of a lesson by previewing the
important learning objectives, labeling important points during the lesson, and reviewing those
points at the close of the instructional session. Open the lesson by telling students what they will
be learning that day and the materials that they will need to accomplish the lesson. During the
lesson, emphasize important information that students should write into their class notes. At the
end of the lesson, briefly review the central points again to improve student retention.
Instruction: Signal Key Words or Concepts That Will Be on the Test (Sprick, Borgmeier, & Nolet,
2002). Teachers can improve students’ motivation and boost their performance on tests by writing
the examinations first and then structuring course content and review activities to help students to
successfully pass these tests. The instructor constructs the test in advance so that it contains the
essential elements of course content that students must master. During instruction, whenever the
teacher presents to the class any concept, fact, or operation that will appear on the test, the
instructor announces that ‘this will be on the test’ as a cue to alert students to attend closely to
the information. The teacher also selects review activities that allow students to practice and
master course material before they are tested on that material.
Study Skills: Effective Studying Requires Preparation & Follow-Through (University of North
Dakota Learning Center, n.d.). Effective study habits require that the student prepare before class to
more fully understand the instructional content, attend carefully during class for clues about what
facts or concepts the teacher views as most important, and quickly review notes after class to fill
in any missing information and to cement understanding. In preparation for the class period, the
student completes any assigned reading, and looks over notes and quickly skims the reading
from the previous class session. During class, the student focuses on the instructor, listening
carefully to how the instructor ‘cues’ the class that information is important (e.g., tone of voice,
repetition, notes written on the board). If the teacher announces that a particular fact, concept, or
idea will appear on a future test, the student records this information in his or her notes. Within 24
hours after class, the student reviews the class notes to help him or her to capture this course
information in long-term memory .The student also uses this review opportunity to additional any
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additional details, to reword notes to clarify their meaning, or to check with other students or the
teacher to fill in any gaps in the notes.
Study Skills: Study Actively (University of North Dakota Learning Center, n.d.; Wright, 2002). Students get
much more out of study sessions when they use strategies to actively review the material--such
as summarizing main ideas from passages, formulating possible test questions from class notes,
reciting information aloud, and studying with others. When reviewing readings from the course,
the student should pause after important passages to attempt to summarize the main idea, or
‘gist sentence’ of each passage. While reviewing class notes, the student should attempt to
identify concepts or facts from the notes that are likely to appear on an upcoming quiz or test. The
student then formulates a possible test question that would be answered by the selection from his
or her notes. Some students also find that they retain information more effectively during review
when they occasionally read aloud sections from their course readings or class notes. Studying
with others is another good method for reviewing course material, as students can motivate and
encourage one another during the study session.
Study Skills: Teach a Structured Note-Taking Process (Pauk, 1989). Students benefit in two
ways when using a highly structured note-taking process such as the Cornell System: Not only do
they recall more information from lectures because they made the effort to capture it in the form
of notes, but students also have a more complete set of notes to which they can refer when
studying for quizzes and tests. The Cornell Notetaking System is organized into the following
steps: (1) The student draws a vertical line on blank lined note paper. The line separates the
page into a left-margin section that is 2.5 inches in width and another on the right that is 6 inches
in width. (2) During reading or lectures, the student jots all notes in the 6-inch section of the page.
(3) After leaving class or finishing the reading, the student reduces the notes into key words or
key phrases. These condensed words or phrases are jotted into the 2.5-inch left margin of the
page. (4) When reviewing course material, the student looks over his or her notes and jots down
possible questions from the content that might appear on a test. The student then covers the
notes (6-inch section of the page) and attempts to recite answers to the questions that he or she
has created--using the key words or phrases in the left margin as prompts. (5) The student
reviews notes periodically (e.g., 2-3 times per week), repeating the procedure outlined in step 4.
Study Skills: Use Student Study Schedule (Wright, 2002). A daily study schedule can ensure that
the student makes the most efficient use of study time. Each day, the student makes a written
schedule for homework and study. The study schedule should also include time for leisure
activities—and the student should be sure to limit leisure activities to the time allotted. A study
schedule has greater weight if the student’s parent(s) monitor the student’s adherence to the daily
Work Materials: Organize the Backlog of Old Papers (Sirotowitz, Davis, & Parker, 2003). Students are
much better organized when they can identify old papers that should be saved for later review,
have a system for labeling and filing these archived papers, and stay caught up by filing papers
promptly. The teacher or parent (helping adult) first assists the student in carrying out a 'paper
search', rummaging through the student's backpack, school locker, bedroom, notebook, or any
other location where old papers may have collected. Next, student and helping adult sort through
the pile of amassed papers, deciding which should be tossed in the trash and which should be
saved. (Candidate papers to save include old tests, teacher handouts, and graded homework.)
Then student and adult write at the top of each saved page the subject, the approximate date that
the paper was created or handed out, and any other important identifying information (e.g., the
textbook chapter or page that a series of handwritten notes were drawn from or are linked to). For
each subject, label a manila folder. File all old papers for that subject in the folder, organized by
date or by chapter/page number (depending on which scheme seems a more useful way to group
the material). Put all folders of sorted papers into a single file cabinet drawer, crate, or other
easily accessible location. Then encourage the student to sort through old papers each day and
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file those that are to be saved away in the appropriate folder. Also, remind the student to review
the contents of folders when studying for quizzes and tests.
Work Materials: Schedule Regular ‘Clean Outs’ (Gleason, Colvin, & Archer, 1991; U.S. Department of
Students are most productive when they are periodically given time and guidance
to organize their work- and storage spaces to better manage the ‘paperflow’ of school work.
Prepare a class mini-lesson to present suggestions on how your students should organize their
desk or other class workspace, backpack, and/or locker. Work with your class to develop
organizational tips (e.g., what does belong in a locker and what does not) and a rubric to judge
the degree to which each student’s work- and storage spaces are appropriately organized.
Schedule time periodically for the entire class or selected students to organize their work and
storage spaces under your supervision. Have students refer to the class rubric and provide
teacher feedback as they organize their spaces.
Education, 2004).
Beyda, S. D., Zentall, S. S., & Ferko, D. J. K. (2002). The relationship between teacher practices and the task-appropriate and
social behavior of students with behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 27, 236-255.
Gleason, M.M., Colvin, G., & Archer, A.L. (1991). Interventions for improving study skills. In G. Stoner, M.R. Shinn, & H.M. Walker
(Eds.) Interventions for achievement and behavior problems. National Association of School Psychologists: Silver Springs, MD.
Pauk, W. (1989). How to study in college (4th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Sirotowitz, S., Davis, L., & Parker, H. C. (2003). Study strategies for early school success: Seven steps to improve your learning.
Plantation, FL: Specialty Press.
Sprick, R. S., Borgmeier, C., & Nolet, V. (2002). Prevention and management of behavior problems in secondary schools. In M. A.
Shinn, H. M. Walker & G. Stoner (Eds.), Interventions for academic and behavior problems II: Preventive and remedial
approaches (pp.373-401). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
U.S. Department of Education (2004). Teaching children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: Instructional strategies and
practices. Retrieved August 20, 2005, from http://www.ed.gov/teachers/needs/speced/adhd/adhd-resource-pt2.doc
University of North Dakota Learning Center (n.d.). Making notes instead of taking notes. Retrieved September 25, 2006, from
Wright, J. (2002) Managing test anxiety: Ideas for students. Retrieved September 23, 2006, from
Copyright ©2008 Jim Wright
Jim Wright, Presenter
‘How RTI Works’ Series © 2010 Jim Wright
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Reading Comprehension ‘Fix-Up’ Skills: A Toolkit
Good readers continuously monitor their understanding of informational text. When necessary, they also take steps
to improve their understanding of text through use of reading comprehension ‘fix-up’ skills. Presented here are a
series of fix-up skill strategies that can help struggling students to better understand difficult reading assignments.
 [Core Instruction] Providing Main Idea Practice through ‘Partner Retell’ (Carnine & Carnine, 2004). Students
in a group or class are assigned a text selection to read silently. Students are then paired off, with one student
assigned the role of ‘reteller’ and the other appointed as ‘listener’. The reteller recounts the main idea to the
listener, who can comment or ask questions. The teacher then states the main idea to the class. Next, the
reteller locates two key details from the reading that support the main idea and shares these with the listener. At
the end of the activity, the teacher does a spot check by randomly calling on one or more students in the listener
role and asking them to recap what information was shared by the reteller.
 [Accommodation] Developing a Bank of Multiple Passages to Present Challenging Concepts (Hedin &
Conderman, 2010; Kamil et al., 2008; Texas Reading Initiative, 2002). The teacher notes which course
concepts, cognitive strategies, or other information will likely present the greatest challenge to students. For
these ‘challenge’ topics, the teacher selects alternative readings that present the same general information and
review the same key vocabulary as the course text but that are more accessible to struggling readers (e.g., with
selections written at an easier reading level or that use graphics to visually illustrate concepts). These alternative
selections are organized into a bank. Students are encouraged to engage in wide reading by choosing selections
from the bank as a means to better understand difficult material.
 [Student Strategy] Promoting Understanding & Building Endurance through Reading-Reflection Pauses
(Hedin & Conderman, 2010). The student decides on a reading interval (e.g., every four sentences; every 3
minutes; at the end of each paragraph). At the end of each interval, the student pauses briefly to recall the main
points of the reading. If the student has questions or is uncertain about the content, the student rereads part or
all of the section just read. This strategy is useful both for students who need to monitor their understanding as
well as those who benefit from brief breaks when engaging in intensive reading as a means to build up
endurance as attentive readers.
 [Student Strategy] Identifying or Constructing Main Idea Sentences (Davey & McBride, 1986; Rosenshine,
Meister & Chapman, 1996). For each paragraph in an assigned reading, the student either (a) highlights the
main idea sentence or (b) highlights key details and uses them to write a ‘gist’ sentence. The student then writes
the main idea of that paragraph on an index card. On the other side of the card, the student writes a question
whose answer is that paragraph’s main idea sentence. This stack of ‘main idea’ cards becomes a useful tool to
review assigned readings.
 [Student Strategy] Restructuring Paragraphs with Main Idea First to Strengthen ‘Rereads’ (Hedin &
Conderman, 2010). The student highlights or creates a main idea sentence for each paragraph in the assigned
reading. When rereading each paragraph of the selection, the student (1) reads the main idea sentence or
student-generated ‘gist’ sentence first (irrespective of where that sentence actually falls in the paragraph); (2)
reads the remainder of the paragraph, and (3) reflects on how the main idea relates to the paragraph content.
Jim Wright, Presenter
‘How RTI Works’ Series © 2010 Jim Wright
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 [Student Strategy] Summarizing Readings (Boardman et al., 2008). The student is taught to summarize
readings into main ideas and essential details--stripped of superfluous content. The act of summarizing longer
readings can promote understanding and retention of content while the summarized text itself can be a useful
study tool.
 [Student Strategy] Linking Pronouns to Referents (Hedin & Conderman, 2010). Some readers lose the
connection between pronouns and the nouns that they refer to (known as ‘referents’)—especially when reading
challenging text. The student is encouraged to circle pronouns in the reading, to explicitly identify each pronoun’s
referent, and (optionally) to write next to the pronoun the name of its referent. For example, the student may add
the referent to a pronoun in this sentence from a biology text: “The Cambrian Period is the first geological age
that has large numbers of multi-celled organisms associated with it Cambrian Period.”
 [Student Strategy] Apply Vocabulary ‘Fix-Up’ Skills for Unknown Words (Klingner & Vaughn, 1999). When
confronting an unknown word in a reading selection, the student applies the following vocabulary ‘fix-up’ skills:
1. Read the sentence again.
2. Read the sentences before and after the problem sentence for clues to the word’s meaning.
3. See if there are prefixes or suffixes in the word that can give clues to meaning.
4. Break the word up by syllables and look for ‘smaller words’ within.
 [Student Strategy] Compiling a Vocabulary Journal from Course Readings (Hedin & Conderman, 2010). The
student highlights new or unfamiliar vocabulary from course readings. The student writes each term into a
vocabulary journal, using a standard ‘sentence-stem’ format: e.g., “Mitosis means…” or “A chloroplast is…”. If
the student is unable to generate a definition for a vocabulary term based on the course reading, he or she
writes the term into the vocabulary journal without definition and then applies other strategies to define the term:
e.g., look up the term in a dictionary; use Google to locate two examples of the term being used correctly in
context; ask the instructor, etc.).
 [Student Strategy] Encouraging Student Use of Text Enhancements (Hedin & Conderman, 2010). Text
enhancements can be used to tag important vocabulary terms, key ideas, or other reading content. If working
with photocopied material, the student can use a highlighter--but should limit highlighting to important text
elements such as main idea and key vocabulary terms. Another enhancement strategy is the ‘lasso and rope’
technique—using a pen or pencil to circle a vocabulary term and then drawing a line that connects that term to
its underlined definition. If working from a textbook, the student can cut sticky notes into strips. These strips can
be inserted in the book as pointers to text of interest. They can also be used as temporary labels—e.g., for
writing a vocabulary term and its definition.
 [Student Strategy] Reading Actively Through Text Annotation (Harris, 1990; Sarkisian et al., 2003). Students
are likely to increase their retention of information when they interact actively with their reading by jotting
comments in the margin of the text. Using photocopies, the student is taught to engage in an ongoing
'conversation' with the writer by recording a running series of brief comments in the margins of the text. The
student may write annotations to record opinions about points raised by the writer, questions triggered by the
reading, or unknown vocabulary words.
Jim Wright, Presenter
‘How RTI Works’ Series © 2010 Jim Wright
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Boardman, A. G., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J., Murray, C. S., & Kosanovich, M. (2008). Effective instruction
for adolescent struggling readers: A practice brief. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on
Carnine, L., & Carnine, D. (2004). The interaction of reading skills and science content knowledge when teaching
struggling secondary students. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 20, 203-218.
Davey, B., & McBride, S. (1986). Effects of question-generation training on reading comprehension. Journal of
Educational Psychology, 78, 256-262.
Harris, J. (1990). Text annotation and underlining as metacognitive strategies to improve comprehension and
retention of expository text. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Reading Conference (Miami).
Hedin, L. R., & Conderman, G. (2010). Teaching students to comprehend informational text through rereading. The
Reading Teacher, 63(7), 556–565.
Kamil, M. L., Borman, G. D., Dole, J., Kral, C. C., Salinger, T., & Torgesen, J. (2008). Improving adolescent literacy:
Effective classroom and intervention practices: A practice guide (NCEE #2008-4027). Washington, DC: National
Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of
Education. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc.
Klingner, J. K., & Vaughn, S. (1999). Promoting reading comprehension, content learning, and English acquisition
through collaborative strategic reading (CSR). The Reading Teacher, 52(7), 738-747.
Rosenshine, B., Meister, C., & Chapman, S. (1996). Teaching students to generate questions: A review of the
intervention studies. Review of Educational Research, 66, 181-221.
Sarkisian V., Toscano, M., Tomkins-Tinch, K., & Casey, K. (2003). Reading strategies and critical thinking. Retrieved
October 15, 2006, from http://www.academic.marist.edu/alcuin/ssk/stratthink.html
Texas Reading Initiative. (2002). Promoting vocabulary development: Components of effective vocabulary
instruction. Austin, TX: Author. Retrieved November 15, 2010, from
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Math Review: Promote Mastery of Math Facts
Through Incremental Rehearsal
Incremental rehearsal builds student fluency in basic math facts (‘arithmetic
combinations’) by pairing unknown computation items with a steadily increasing
collection of known items. This intervention makes use of repeated, or massed, practice to promote
fluency and guarantees that the student will experience a high rate of success..
Index cards and pen
Steps to Implementing This Intervention
In preparation for this intervention:
1. The tutor first writes down on an index card in ink each math fact that a student is expected to
master-but without the answer. NOTE: Educators can use the A-Plus Math Flashcard Creator,
an on-line application, to make and print flashcards in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and
division. The web address for the flashcard creator is:
2. The tutor reviews the collection of math-fact cards with the student. Any of the math facts that
the student can orally answer correctly within two seconds are considered to be known
problems and are separated into one pile. Math facts that the student cannot yet answer
correctly within two seconds are considered ‘unknown’ and collected in a second pile -- the
‘unknown facts’ deck.
3. The tutor next randomly selects 9 cards from the pile of known math facts and sets this subset
of cards aside as the ‘known facts’ deck. The rest of the pile of cards containing known math
facts is put away (‘discard deck’), not to be used further in this intervention.
During the intervention:
The tutor follows an incremental-rehearsal sequence each day when working with the student:
1. First, the tutor takes a single card from the ‘unknown facts’ deck. The tutor reads the math fact
on the card aloud, provides the answer, and prompts the student to read off and answer the
same unknown problem.
2. Next the tutor takes one math fact from the ‘known facts’ deck and pairs it with the unknown
problem. When shown the two problems in sequence, the student is asked during the
presentation of each math fact to read off the problem and answer it. The student is judged to
be successful on a problem if he or she orally provides the correct answer to that problem
within 2 seconds. If the student commits an error on any card or hesitates for longer than two
seconds, the tutor reads the math fact on the card aloud, gives the answer, then prompts the
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student to read off the same unknown problem and provide the answer. This review sequence
continues until the student answers all cards within two seconds without errors.
3. The tutor then repeats the sequence--taking yet another problem from the ‘known facts’ deck
to add to the expanding collection of math facts being reviewed (‘review deck’). Each time, the
tutor prompts the student to read off and answer the whole series of math facts in the review
deck, beginning with the unknown fact and then moving through the growing series of known
facts that follow it.
4. When the review deck has expanded to include one ‘unknown’ math fact followed by nine
‘known’ math facts (a ratio of 90 percent ‘known’ material to 10 percent ‘unknown’ material),
the last ‘known’ math fact that was added to the student’s review deck is discarded (put away
with the ‘discard deck’). The previously ‘unknown’ math fact that the student has just
successfully practiced in multiple trials is now treated as a ‘known’ math fact and is included as
the first item in the nine-card ‘known facts’ deck for future drills.
5. The student is then presented with a new math fact to answer, taken from the ‘unknown facts’
deck. With each new ‘unknown’ math fact, the review sequence is again repeated as described
above until the ‘unknown’ math fact is grouped incrementally with nine math facts from the
‘known facts’ deck—and on and on.
Daily review sessions are discontinued either when time runs out or when the student answers an
‘unknown’ math fact incorrectly three times.
Burns, M. K. (2005). Using incremental rehearsal to increase fluency of single-digit multiplication
facts with children identified as learning disabled in mathematics computation. Education and
Treatment of Children, 28, 237-249.
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Math Computation: Increase Accuracy By
Intermixing Easy and Challenging Problems
Teachers can improve accuracy and positively influence the attitude of
students when completing math-fact worksheets by intermixing ‘easy’
problems among the ‘challenging’ problems. Research shows that students are more motivated to
complete computation worksheets when they contain some very easy problems interspersed
among the more challenging items.
Math computation worksheets & answer keys with a mixture of difficult and easy problems
Steps to Implementing This Intervention
1. The teacher first identifies one or more ‘challenging’ problem-types that are matched to the
student’s current math-computation abilities (e.g., multiplying a 2-digit number by a 2-digit
number with regrouping).
2. The teacher next identifies an ‘easy’ problem-type that the students can complete very quickly
(e.g., adding or subtracting two 1-digit numbers).
3. The teacher then creates a a series of student math computation worksheets with ‘easy’
computation problems interspersed at a fixed rate among the ‘challenging’ problems. (NOTE:
Instructions are included below for creating interspersal worksheets using a free online
application from www.interventioncentral.org.)
If the student is expected to complete the worksheet independently as seat work or
homework, ‘challenging’ and ‘easy’ problems should be interspersed at a 1:1 ratio (that is,
every ‘challenging’ problem in the worksheet is followed by an ‘easy’ problem).
If the student is to have the problems read aloud and then asked to solve the problems
mentally and write down only the answer, the items should appear on the worksheet at a
ratio of 3:1 (that is, every third ‘challenging’ problem is followed by an ‘easy’ one).
Directions for On-Line Creation of Worksheets With a Mix of Easy and Challenging
Computation Problems (‘Interspersal Worksheets’)
By following the directions below, teachers can use a free on-line Math Worksheet Generator to
create computation worksheets with easy problems interspersed among more challenging ones:
The teacher goes to the following URL for the Math Worksheet Generator:
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Displayed on that Math Worksheet Generator web page is a series of math computation goals
for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Teachers can select up to five different
problem types to appear on a student worksheet. Each problem type is selected by clicking on
the checkbox next to it.
It is simple to create a worksheet with a 1:1 ratio of challenging and easy problems (that is,
with an easy problem following every challenging problem). First, the teacher clicks the
checkbox next to an ‘easy’ problem type that the student can compute very quickly (e.g.,
adding or subtracting two 1-digit numbers). Next the teacher selects a ‘challenging’ problem
type that is instructionally appropriate for the student (e.g., multiplying a 2-digit number by a 2digit number with regrouping). Then the teacher clicks the ‘Multiple Skill Computation Probe’
button. The computer program will then automatically create a student computation worksheet
and teacher answer key with alternating easy and challenging problems.
It is also no problem to create a worksheet with a higher (e.g., 2:1, 3:1, or 4:1) ratio of
challenging problems to easy problems. The teacher first clicks the checkbox next to an ‘easy’
problem type that the student can compute very quickly (e.g., adding or subtracting two 1-digit
numbers). The teacher then selects up to four different challenging problem types that are
instructionally appropriate to the student. Depending on the number of challenging problemtypes selected, when the teacher clicks the ‘Multiple Skill Computation Probe’ button, the
computer program will create a student computation worksheet and teacher answer key that
contain 2 (or 3 or 4) challenging problems for every easy problem.
Because the computer program generates new worksheets each time it is used, the teacher can
enter the desired settings and –in one sitting-- create and print off enough worksheets and answer
keys to support a six- or eight-week intervention.
Hawkins, J., Skinner, C. H., & Oliver, R. (2005). The effects of task demands and additive
interspersal ratios on fifth-grade students’ mathematics accuracy. School Psychology Review, 34,
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Applied Math Problems: Using Question-Answer
Relationships (QARs) to Interpret Math Graphics
Students must be able to correctly interpret math graphics in order to correctly
answer many applied math problems. Struggling learners in math often misread or misinterpret
math graphics. For example, students may:
overlook important details of the math graphic.
treat irrelevant data on the math graphic as ‘relevant’.
fail to pay close attention to the question before turning to the math graphic to find the answer
not engage their prior knowledge both to extend the information on the math graphic and to act
as a possible ‘reality check’ on the data that it presents.
expect the answer to be displayed in plain sight on the math graphic, when in fact the graphic
may require that readers first to interpret the data, then to plug the data into an equation to
solve the problem.
Teachers need an instructional strategy to encourage students to be more savvy interpreters of
graphics in applied math problems. One idea is to have them apply a reading comprehension
strategy, Question-Answer Relationships (QARs) as a tool for analyzing math graphics. The four
QAR question types (Raphael, 1982, 1986) are as follows:
RIGHT THERE questions are fact-based and can be found in a single sentence, often
accompanied by 'clue' words that also appear in the question.
THINK AND SEARCH questions can be answered by information in the text--but require the
scanning of text and the making of connections between disparate pieces of factual information
found in different sections of the reading.
AUTHOR AND YOU questions require that students take information or opinions that appear in
the text and combine them with the reader's own experiences or opinions to formulate an
ON MY OWN questions are based on the students' own experiences and do not require
knowledge of the text to answer.
Steps to Implementing This Intervention
Teachers use a 4-step instructional sequence to teach students to use Question-Answer
Relationships (QARs) to better interpret math graphics:
1. Step 1: Distinguishing Among Different Kinds of Graphics
Students are first taught to differentiate between five common types of math graphics: table
(grid with information contained in cells), chart (boxes with possible connecting lines or
arrows), picture (figure with labels), line graph, bar graph.
Students note significant differences between the various types of graphics, while the teacher
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records those observations on a wall chart. Next students are shown examples of graphics and
directed to identify the general graphic type (table, chart, picture, line graph, bar graph) that
each sample represents.
As homework, students are assigned to go on a ‘graphics hunt’, locating graphics in
magazines and newspapers, labeling them, and bringing them to class to review.
2. Interpreting Information in Graphics
Over several instructional sessions, students learn to interpret information contained in various
types of math graphics. For these activities, students are paired off, with stronger students
matched with less strong ones.
The teacher sets aside a separate session to introduce each of the graphics categories. The
presentation sequence is ordered so that students begin with examples of the most concrete
graphics and move toward the more abstract. The graphics sequence in order of increasing
difficulty is: Pictures > tables > bar graphs > charts > line graphs.
At each session, student pairs examine examples of graphics from the category being explored
that day and discuss questions such as: “What information does this graphic present? What
are strengths of this type of graphic for presenting data? What are possible weaknesses?”
Student pairs record their findings and share them with the large group at the end of the
3. Linking the Use of Question-Answer Relations (QARs) to Graphics
In advance of this lesson, the teacher prepares a series of data questions and correct answers.
Each question and answer is paired with a math graphic that contains information essential for
finding the answer.
At the start of the lesson, students are each given a set of 4 index cards with titles and
descriptions of each of the 4 QAR questions: RIGHT THERE, THINK AND SEARCH, AUTHOR
AND YOU, ON MY OWN. (TMESAVING TIP: Students can create their own copies of these
QAR review cards as an in-class activity.)
Working first in small groups and then individually, students read each teacher-prepared
question, study the matching graphic, and ‘verify’ the provided answer as correct. They then
identify the type of question being posed in that applied problem, using their QAR index cards
as a reference.
4. Using Question-Answer Relationships (QARs) Independently to Interpret Math Graphics
Students are now ready to use the QAR strategy independently to interpret graphics. They are
given a laminated card as a reference with 6 steps to follow whenever they attempt to solve an
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applied problem that includes a math graphic:
9 Read the question,
9 Review the graphic,
9 Reread the question,
9 Choose a Question-Answer Relationship that matches the question in the applied problem
9 Answer the question, and
9 Locate the answer derived from the graphic in the answer choices offered.
Students are strongly encouraged NOT to read the answer choices offered on a multiplechoice item until they have first derived their own answer—to prevent those choices from shortcircuiting their inquiry.
Mesmer, H.A.E., & Hutchins, E.J. (2002). Using QARs with charts and graphs. The Reading
Teacher, 56, 21–27.
Raphael, T. (1982). Question-answering strategies for children. The Reading Teacher, 36, 186190.
Raphael, T. (1986). Teaching question answer relationships, revisited. The Reading Teacher, 39,
Jim Wright, Presenter
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Math Computation: Increase Accuracy and Productivity
Rates Via Self-Monitoring and Performance Feedback
Students can improve both their accuracy and fluency on math computation
worksheets by independently self-monitoring their computation speed, charting
their daily progress, and earning rewards for improved performance.
Collection of student math computation worksheets & matching answer keys (NOTE:
Educators can use a free online application to create math computation worksheets and
answer keys at http://www.interventioncentral.org/htmdocs/tools/mathprobe/addsing.php)
Student self-monitoring chart
Steps to Implementing This Intervention
In preparation for this intervention:
the teacher selects one or more computation problem types that the student needs to practice.
Using that set of problem types as a guide, the teacher creates a number of standardized
worksheets with similar items to be used across multiple instructional days. (A Math Worksheet
Generator that will create these worksheets automatically can be accessed at
the teacher prepares a progress-monitoring chart. The vertical axis of the chart extends from 0
to 100 and is labeled ‘Correct Digits’ The horizontal axis of the chart is labeled ‘Date’.
the teacher creates a menu of rewards that the student can choose from on a given day if the
student was able to exceed his or her previously posted computation fluency score.
At the start of the intervention, the teacher meets with the student. The teacher shows the student
a sample math computation worksheet and answer key. The teacher tells the student that the
student will have the opportunity to complete similar math worksheets as time drills and chart the
results. The student is told that he or she will win a reward on any day when the student’s number
of correctly computed digits on the worksheet exceeds that of the previous day.
During each day of the intervention:
1. The student is given one of the math computation worksheets previously created by the
teacher, along with an answer key. The student first consults his or her progress-monitoring
chart and notes the most recent charted computation fluency score previously posted. The
student is encouraged to try to exceed that score.
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2. When the intervention session starts, the student is given a pre-selected amount of time (e.g.,
5 minutes) to complete as many problems on the computation worksheet as possible. The
student sets a timer for the allocated time and works on the computation sheet until the timer
3. The student then uses the answer key to check his or her work, giving credit for each correct
digit in an answer. (A ‘correct digits’ is defined as a digit of the correct value that appears in the
correct place-value location in an answer. In this scoring method, students can get partial
credit even if some of the digits in an answer are correct and some are incorrect.).
4. The student plots his or her computational fluency score on the progress-monitoring chart and
writes the current date at the bottom of the chart below the plotted data point. The student is
allowed to select a choice from the reward menu if he or she exceeds his or her most recent,
previously posted fluency score.
Bennett, K., & Cavanaugh, R. A. (1998). Effects of immediate self-correction, delayed selfcorrection, and no correction on the acquisition and maintenance of multiplication facts by a fourthgrade student with learning disabilities. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 31, 303-306.
Shimabukuro, S. M., Prater, M. A., Jenkins, A., & Edelen-Smith, P. (1999). The effects of selfmonitoring of academic performance on students with learning disabilities and ADD/ADHD.
Education and Treatment of Children, 22, 397-414.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Combining Cognitive & Metacognitive Strategies to Assist Students With
Mathematical Problem Solving
Solving an advanced math problem independently requires the coordination of a number of
complex skills. The student must have the capacity to reliably implement the specific steps of a
particular problem-solving process, or cognitive strategy. At least as important, though, is that the
student must also possess the necessary metacognitive skills to analyze the problem, select an
appropriate strategy to solve that problem from an array of possible alternatives, and monitor the
problem-solving process to ensure that it is carried out correctly.
The following strategies combine both cognitive and metacognitive elements (Montague, 1992;
Montague & Dietz, 2009). First, the student is taught a 7-step process for attacking a math word
problem (cognitive strategy). Second, the instructor trains the student to use a three-part selfcoaching routine for each of the seven problem-solving steps (metacognitive strategy).
In the cognitive part of this multi-strategy intervention, the student learns an explicit series of steps
to analyze and solve a math problem. Those steps include:
1. Reading the problem. The student reads the problem carefully, noting and attempting to clear
up any areas of uncertainly or confusion (e.g., unknown vocabulary terms).
2. Paraphrasing the problem. The student restates the problem in his or her own words.
3. ‘Drawing’ the problem. The student creates a drawing of the problem, creating a visual
representation of the word problem.
4. Creating a plan to solve the problem. The student decides on the best way to solve the
problem and develops a plan to do so.
5. Predicting/Estimating the answer. The student estimates or predicts what the answer to the
problem will be. The student may compute a quick approximation of the answer, using
rounding or other shortcuts.
6. Computing the answer. The student follows the plan developed earlier to compute the
answer to the problem.
7. Checking the answer. The student methodically checks the calculations for each step of the
problem. The student also compares the actual answer to the estimated answer calculated in a
previous step to ensure that there is general agreement between the two values.
The metacognitive component of the intervention is a three-part routine that follows a sequence of
‘Say’, ‘Ask, ‘Check’. For each of the 7 problem-solving steps reviewed above:
The student first self-instructs by stating, or ‘saying’, the purpose of the step (‘Say’).
The student next self-questions by ‘asking’ what he or she intends to do to complete the step
The student concludes the step by self-monitoring, or ‘checking’, the successful completion of
the step (‘Check’).
While the Say-Ask-Check sequence is repeated across all 7 problem-solving steps, the actual
content of the student self-coaching comments changes across the steps.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Table 1 shows how each of the steps in the word problem cognitive strategy is matched to the
three-part Say-Ask-Check sequence:
Table 1: ‘Say-Ask-Check’ Metacognitive Prompts Tied to a Word-Problem Cognitive Strategy
(Montague, 1992)
Metacognitive ‘Say-Ask-Check’ Prompt
Sample Metacognitive ‘SayStrategy Step
Ask-Check’ Prompts
1. Read the
‘Say’ (Self-Instruction) Target: The student
Say: “I will read the problem.
reads and studies the problem carefully before I will reread the problem if I
don’t understand it.”
‘Ask’ (Self-Question) Target: Does the
Ask: “Now that I have read
student fully understand the problem?
the problem, do I fully
‘Check’ (Self-Monitor) Target: Proceed only
understand it?”
Check: “I understand the
if the problem is understood.
problem and will move
2. Paraphrase ‘Say’ (Self-Instruction) Target: The student
Say: “I will highlight key
restates the problem in order to demonstrate
words and phrases that
relate to the problem
‘Ask’ (Self-Question) Target: Is the student
able to paraphrase the problem?
“I will restate the problem in
my own words.”
‘Check’ (Self-Monitor) Target: Ensure that
any highlighted key words are relevant to the
Ask: “Did I highlight the most
important words or phrases
in the problem?”
Check: “I found the key
words or phrases that will
help to solve the problem.”
3. ‘Draw’ the
‘Say’ (Self-Instruction) Target: The student
Say: “I will draw a diagram of
creates a drawing of the problem to
the problem.”
consolidate understanding.
Ask: “Does my drawing
‘Ask’ (Self-Question) Target: Is there a
represent the problem?”
match between the drawing and the problem? Check: “The drawing
‘Check’ (Self-Monitor) Target: The drawing
contains the essential parts
includes in visual form the key elements of the of the problem.”
math problem.
4. Create a
‘Say’ (Self-Instruction) Target: The student
Say: “I will make a plan to
plan to
generates a plan to solve the problem.
solve the problem.”
solve the
‘Ask’ (Self-Question) Target: What plan will
Ask: “What is the first step of
this plan? What is the next
help the student to solve this problem?
‘Check’ (Self-Monitor) Target: The plan is
step of the plan?”
Check: “My plan has the
appropriate to solve the problem.
right steps to solve the
5. Predict/esti ‘Say’ (Self-Instruction) Target: The student
Say: “I will estimate what the
mate the
uses estimation or other strategies to predict or answer will be.”
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6. Compute
the answer.
7. Check the
estimate the answer.
‘Ask’ (Self-Question) Target: What
estimating technique will the student use to
predict the answer?
‘Check’ (Self-Monitor) Target: The
predicted/estimated answer used all of the
essential problem information.
‘Say’ (Self-Instruction) Target: The student
follows the plan to compute the solution to the
‘Ask’ (Self-Question) Target: Does the
answer agree with the estimate?
‘Check’ (Self-Monitor) Target: The steps in
the plan were followed and the operations
completed in the correct order.
‘Say’ (Self-Instruction) Target: The student
reviews the computation steps to verify the
‘Ask’ (Self-Question) Target: Did the student
check all the steps in solving the problem and
are all computations correct?
‘Check’ (Self-Monitor) Target: The problem
solution appears to have been done correctly.
Ask: “What numbers in the
problem should be used in
my estimation?”
Check: “I did not skip any
important information in my
Say: “I will compute the
answer to the problem.”
Ask: “Does my answer
sound right?” “Is my answer
close to my estimate?”
Check: “I carried out all of
the operations in the correct
order to solve this problem.”
Say: “I will check the steps of
my answer.”
Ask: “Did I go through each
step in my answer and check
my work?”
Check: “”
Students will benefit from close teacher support when learning to combine the 7-step cognitive
strategy to attack math word problems with the iterative 3-step metacognitive Say-Ask-Check
sequence. Teachers can increase the likelihood that the student will successfully acquire these
skills by using research-supported instructional practices (Burns, VanDerHeyden, & Boice, 2008),
Verifying that the student has the necessary foundation skills to solve math word problems
Using explicit instruction techniques to teach the cognitive and metacognitive strategies
Ensuring that all instructional tasks allow the student to experience an adequate rate of
Providing regular opportunities for the student to be engaged in active accurate academic
Offering frequent performance feedback to motivate the student and shape his or her learning.
Burns, M. K., VanDerHeyden, A. M., & Boice, C. H. (2008). Best practices in intensive academic interventions. In A.
Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology V (pp.1151-1162). Bethesda, MD: National
Association of School Psychologists.
Montague, M. (1992). The effects of cognitive and metacognitive strategy instruction on the mathematical problem
solving of middle school students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 25, 230-248.
Montague, M., & Dietz, S. (2009). Evaluating the evidence base for cognitive strategy instruction and mathematical
problem solving. Exceptional Children, 75, 285-302.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Jim Wright
Sentence Combining: Teaching Rules of Sentence Structure by Doing
Students with poor writing skills often write sentences that lack ‘syntactic maturity’ (Robinson &
Howell, 2008). That is, these writers’ sentences often follow a simple, stereotyped format. In public
schools, grammar skills have traditionally been taught in isolation to give students the advanced
writing knowledge required to master a diverse range of sentence structures. However, isolated
grammar instruction appears to have little or no positive impact in helping poor writers become
better writers (Graham & Perin, 2007). A promising alternative is to use sentence combining
(Graham & Perin, 2007; Strong, 1986). In this approach, students are presented with kernel
sentences and given explicit instruction in how to weld these kernel sentences into more diverse
sentence types either by using connecting words to combine multiple sentences into one or by
isolating key information from an otherwise superfluous sentence and embedding that important
information into the base sentence.
In a simple demonstration of sentence combining, a student may generate these two sentences in
her composition on the American Revolution: The American army had few supplies in the winter of
1776. The American army had few trained military leaders.
The instructor might meet with the student and have the student recopy the two sentences in this
The American army had few supplies in the winter of 1776.
The American army had few trained military leaders. (and)
The student would be encouraged to combine the two shorter sentences into a more
comprehensive sentence by using the connecting word (coordinating conjunction) ‘and’ to combine
objects: The American army had few supplies and few trained military leaders in the winter of 1776.
Formatting Sentence Combining Examples
These simple formatting conventions are used in sentence-combining exercises (Saddler, 2005;
Strong, 1986):
In each example, the base clause (sentence) appears first. Any sentence(s) to be combined or
embedded with the base clause appear below that base clause.
Base clause: The dog ran after the bus.
Sentence to be embedded: The dog is yellow.
Student-generated solution: The yellow dog ran after the bus.
‘Connecting words’ to be used as a sentence-combining tool appear in parentheses at the end
of a sentence that is to be combined with the base clause.
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Base clause: The car stalled.
Sentence to be combined: The car ran out of gas. (because)
Student-generated solution: The car stalled because it ran out of gas.
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The element(s) of any sentence to be embedded in the base clause are underlined.
Base clause: The economic forecast resulted in strong stock market gains.
Sentence to be embedded: The economic forecast was upbeat.
Student-generated solution: The upbeat economic forecast resulted in strong
stock market gains.
Using Sentence Combining in Instruction
Teachers who use sentence combining in their writing instruction should follow a direct-instruction
approach (Saddler, 2005). The instructor fosters a learning atmosphere that encourages students
to take risks when participating in sentence-combining activities. When first introducing sentencecombining to the class, the instructor explains that using varied sentence structures helps writers to
better convey meaning. The instructor tells students that there are often multiple correct ways to
combine sentences. The instructor completes several sentence-combining examples in front of the
group, using a think-aloud approach to show his or her thinking process in successfully combining
sentences. Students should then complete sentence-combining examples in pairs or groups, with
the instructor circulating through the class to check for student understanding. Eventually, students
work independently on sentence combining tasks to demonstrate mastery. They may then be
asked to look in their own writing for examples in which they could combine sentences to improve
A listing of types and examples of sentence-combining appears below in Table 1. When creating
lessons on sentence combining, instructors should review the potential types of sentencecombining in Table 1 and decide the order in which those types might be presented to their class.
Table 1: Sentence-combining types and examples (Saddler, 2005; Strong, 1986)
Type of Sentence
Sentence Combining Example
Multiple (Compound) Sentence • Skyscrapers in the city were damaged in the hurricane.
Subjects or Objects:
Bridges in the city were damaged in the hurricane.
Skyscrapers and bridges in the city were damaged in the
Two or more subjects can be
combined with a conjunction
(e.g., or, and).
• When they travel, migratory birds need safe habitat.
When they travel, migratory birds need regular supplies of
Two or more direct or indirect
objects can be combined with a
When they travel, migratory birds need safe habitat and
conjunction (e.g., or, and).
regular supplies of food.
Adjectives & Adverbs: When a • Dry regions are at risk for chronic water shortages.
sentence simply contains an
Overpopulated regions are at risk for chronic water
adjective or adverb that modifies
the noun or verb of another
Dry and overpopulated regions are at risk for chronic
sentence, the adjective or adverb
water shortages.
from the first sentence can be
embedded in the related
• Health care costs have risen nationwide.
Those health care costs have risen quickly.
Health care costs have risen quickly nationwide.
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Connecting Words: One or
more sentences are combined
with connecting words.
The house was falling apart.
No one seemed to care. (but)
The house was falling apart, but no one seemed to care.
Coordinating conjunctions (e.g.,
and, but) link sentences on an
equal basis.
The glaciers began to melt.
The earth’s average temperature increased. (because)
The glaciers began to melt because the earth’s average
temperature increased.
Subordinating conjunctions (e.g.,
after, until, unless, before, while,
because) link sentences with one
of the sentences subordinate or
dependent on the other.
Relative Clauses: Sentence
contains an embedded,
subordinate clause that modifies
a noun.
Appositives: Sentence contains •
two noun phrases that refer to the
same object. When two
sentences refer to the same
noun, one sentence be reduced
to an appositive and embedded
in the other sentence.
Possessive Nouns: A sentence •
that describes possession or
ownership can be reduced to a
possessive noun and embedded
in another sentence.
The artist was the most popular in the city.
The artist painted watercolors of sunsets. (who)
The artist who painted watercolors of sunsets was the
most popular in the city.
The explorer paddled the kayak across the raging river.
The explorer was an expert in handling boats.
The explorer, an expert in handling boats, paddled the
kayak across the raging river.
Some historians view the Louisiana Purchase as the most
important expansion of United States territory.
The Louisiana Purchase was President Jefferson’s
Some historians view President Jefferson’s Louisiana
Purchase as the most important expansion of United
States territory.
Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). Writing next: Effective strategies to improve writing of adolescents
in middle and high schools – A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC Alliance for Excellent
Robinson, L. K., & Howell, K. W. (2008). Best practices in curriculum-based evaluation & written expression. In A.
Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology V (pp. 439-452). Bethesda, MD: National Association
of School Psychologists.
Saddler, B. (2005). Sentence combining: A sentence-level writing intervention. The Reading Teacher, 58, 468-471.
Strong, W. (1986). Creative approaches to sentence combining. Urbana, OL: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and
Communication Skill & National Council of Teachers of English.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Guided Notes: Increasing Student Engagement During Lecture and
Assigned Readings
Description: The student is given a copy of notes summarizing content from a class lecture or assigned reading.
Blanks are inserted in the notes where key facts or concepts should appear. As information is covered during lecture
or in a reading assignment, the student writes missing content into blanks to complete the guided notes.
Purpose: Guided notes promote active engagement during lecture or independent reading, provide full and accurate
notes for use as a study guide, and help students to identify the most important information covered (Heward, 2001).
Materials: Guided notes
Preparation: The instructor identifies the lecture content or assigned reading that will be covered in the guided notes.
Intervention Steps: Guided notes can be prepared and implemented through these steps:
1. A set of notes is prepared that contains the essential information to be covered in the lecture content or assigned
2. The instructor reviews the notes and highlights or underlines the key facts, concepts, or information that the
student will be responsible for writing into the final version of the guided notes.
3. Using a word processor, the instructor replaces the segments of notes identified in the previous step with blanks.
4. Prior to handing out copies of the guided notes in class, the instructor ensures that students understand their
responsibility to attend to content covered in the lecture or the reading and to fill in each of the blanks in the
guided notes with the appropriate concepts, definitions, or other content.
5. During lecture or while reviewing assigned readings in class, the instructor displays the guided notes (via
overhead projector, computer projector, or smartboard) and fills in blanks with appropriate facts or concepts as
they are presented.
Adjusting/Troubleshooting: Here are recommendations for using guided notes and addressing issues that might
Keep guided note entries brief. Shorter guided note entries promote student understanding of content as well as or
better than longer entries (Konrad, Joseph & Eveleigh, 2009). Also, short entries can increase student motivation to
write in responses.
Distribute entry items throughout the guided notes. Guided notes help to promote active student engagement during
lecture or reading (Heward, 2001). When entry items are distributed evenly throughout the guided notes, they require
higher rates of active student responding (Konrad, Joseph & Eveleigh, 2009), which can both promote mastery of
content and increase levels of on-task behavior.
Verify student completion of notes. To ensure that students are actively engaged in completing guided notes, the
instructor can occasionally collect and review them for accuracy and completeness (on a random and unpredictable
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schedule).. As an incentive, those students correctly completing their guided notes can be assigned bonus grade
points (Konrad, Joseph & Eveleigh, 2009). Or students can periodically pair off and compare their guided note
entries for completeness while the instructor circulates through the room conducting spot-checks of individual
students’ guided notes.
Have students tally notes-review sessions. Guided notes are a powerful tool for reviewing course content. Students
can be encouraged to write a checkmark on the cover of a set of completed guided notes each time that they review
them (Lazarus, 1996). These tallies assist students to monitor whether they have adequately reviewed those notes in
preparation for quizzes and tests.
Fade the use of guided notes. As the class becomes more proficient at note-taking, the instructor can gradually 'fade'
the use of guided notes by providing less pre-formatted notes-content and requiring that students write a larger share
of the notes on their own (Heward, 1996).
Give students responsibility for creating guided notes. The classroom teacher generally is responsible for preparing
guided notes. Instructors of older students, however, may discover that they can hand some responsibility to their
students to prepare guided-notes. For example, as a cooperative-learning exercise, a group of students might be
assigned a chapter-section from a biology text and asked to compose a set of guided notes based on its content. The
teacher can then review and edit the notes as needed.
Jim's Hints for Using...Guided Notes
Accommodating Diverse Learners. Students who have difficulty keeping up with even the modest writing
requirements of guided notes may benefit from being assigned a peer helper from the class with whom they can
meet at the end of the lecture. The peer helper reviews the student's notes to ensure that each section contains
complete and accurate information about the day's lecture content.
As another accommodation for students of diverse abilities, the instructor might prepare several versions of guided
notes. Students who find note-taking most challenging would be given a version of guided-notes that requires
relatively little writing, while more skilled note-takers could have a version of notes that call for the student to record
and synthesize a greater amount of lecture information.
•Heward, W.L. (1996). Three low-tech strategies for increasing the frequency of active student response during group
instruction. In R.Gardner III, D.M. Sainato, J.O. Cooper, T.E. Heron, W.L. Heward, J.W. Eshleman, & T.A.Grossi
(Eds.) Behavior analysis in education: Focus on measurably superior instruction (pp.283-320). Pacific Grove, CA:
•Heward, W. L. (2001). Guided notes: Improving the effectiveness of your lectures. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State
University Partnership Grant for Improving the Quality of Education for Students with Disabilities. Retrieved from
•Konrad, M., Joseph, L. M., & Eveleigh, E. (2009). A meta-analytic review of guided notes. Education and Treatment
of Children, 32, 421-444.
•Lazarus, B.D. (1996, Spring). Flexible skeletons: Guided notes for adolescents with mild disabilities. Teaching
Exceptional Children, 28(3), 36-40.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Homework Contracts: Tapping the Power of Parents
Students who regularly complete and turn in homework assignments perform significantly better in school than those
of similar ability who do not do homework (Olympia et al., 1994). Homework is valuable because it gives students a
chance to practice, extend, and entrench the academic skills taught in school. Parents can be instrumental in
encouraging and motivating their children to complete homework. This homework contract intervention (adapted from
Miller & Kelly, 1994) uses goal-setting, a written contract, and rewards to boost student completion (and accuracy) of
homework. Students also learn the valuable skills of breaking down academic assignments into smaller, more
manageable subtasks and setting priorities for work completion.
•Copy of Daily Homework Planner
Train Parents to Be Supportive 'Homework Coaches'. Parents are often very committed to helping their child
successfully complete homework. To ensure that parents have positive interactions with students around homework,
though, the school should sponsor one or more parent workshops to offer tips on how to be 'homework coaches'. In
particular, parents should be offered strategies for listening in a careful and non-judgmental manner to their child, to
avoid nagging about homework, and to brainstorm with their child about possible solutions for common homework
difficulties (e.g., writing down all homework assignments correctly). Additionally, they should be taught the essentials
for setting up and following through with a simple reward system at home (Miller & Kelly, 1994). At this introductory
workshop, parents would also be trained in the steps of the homework contract (described below).
Steps in Implementing This Intervention:
1. The Parent Creates a Homework Reward System for the Child. The parent should put together a short menu of
reasonable daily and weekly rewards that the child can earn for successfully completing homework. Good
choices for daily rewards are those that do not cost a lot of money, and do not take much time to deliver. While
weekly rewards should be somewhat larger than daily rewards, they should still be affordable and not require a
great deal of the parent's time. Because any rewards that the parent chooses must appeal to the child, the
parent should consult the child in the selection of rewards.
2. The Parent Negotiates the Homework Contract Program With the Child. Before starting the homework contract,
the parent should meet with the child to introduce the program and to set up a reward system (see Step 1).
Together, they agree on the percentage of homework goals the child must complete each day (e.g., 80%) to
earn the daily homework reward. They also agree on the number of times in a week that the student must earn
the daily reward in order to be eligible for the weekly reward (e.g., 3 times in a week).
3. The Parent and Child Fill Out the Daily Homework Planner. Each day when the student has assigned homework,
the parent and student sit down with a copy of the Daily Homework Planner [web page; pdf document]. Together
they preview the homework assignment for all subject areas. Then they break the assignment into manageable
'chunks' or subtasks. A description of each subtask is written into the Daily Homework Planner in enough detail
so that both parent and student know what must be done to complete that homework chunk. A description for a
math subtask, for example, might read "Complete 20 multiplication problems from pg. 40 of math book, then use
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answer key to check work". The parent and child might write on the homework contract that the child will reserve
30 minutes to complete that subtask.
4. The Parent Checks the Child's Homework Completion and Delivers Any Earned Rewards. When the student has
finished his or her homework, the parent and student hold a brief follow-up conference. They go through the
Daily Homework Planner sheet, circling Y[es] or N[o] to indicate whether each subtask was completed within the
time set aside for it.
a. If the student earned the daily reward, the parent has the student choose an item from the reward
menu. (Daily rewards should be given immediately if possible.)
b. If the student also earned the weekly reward, the student can also select an item from the weekly
reward menu (to be delivered in a timely manner but when convenient to the parent).
5. Fade the Reward System. As the child shows that he or she is able to complete daily homework assignments on
a regular basis, the parent may want to start 'fading' the reward system. First, the parent may stop the daily
rewards but continue the weekly rewards. Then the weekly rewards can be stretched out to biweekly and
eventually monthly rewards. In the final stage of fading, the parent can stop giving out regular rewards
altogether. Instead, the child's motivation can be kept high by the parent 'surprising' him or her occasionally with
an unexpected reward.
The parent cannot or will not use the homework contract. If a parent is unable or unwilling to use the homework
contract with a student, the intervention can be used in school instead. At the end of the school day, for example, the
teacher or other staff member might meet with the child to preview all homework assignments and assist the student
in filling out the Daily Homework Planner. If the student brings the Contract sheet and completed homework back to
school the next day, the teacher can give him or her the earned daily (and perhaps weekly) reward.
Jim's Hints for Using...Homework Contracts: Tapping the Power of Parents
Identify Other People To Help the Parent With the Homework Contract . If the student attends an afterschool program
where he or she completes homework, personnel from that program may be willing to set up and use the homework
contract with the child. Or if there is a responsible older sibling in the home, he or she may be willing to administer a
homework contract system. The parent would still be expected to deliver any rewards that the student may have
•Miller, D.L. & Kelly, M.L. (1994). The use of goal setting and contingency contracting for improving children's
homework performance. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis,27, 73-84.
•Olympia, D.E., Sheridan, S.M., Jenson, W.R., & Andrews, D. (1994). Using student-managed interventions to
increase homework completion and accuracy. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis,27, 85-99.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Daily Homework Planner (Adapted from Miller & Kelly, 1994)
Student: ______________________________
Date: _______________
Before starting my homework, do I:
• have all the materials that I need?
• know what homework has been assigned in all subjects?
• have a quiet place to work?
Description of Work
Academic Subject Goal Set by Student
Needed to
Daily reward: The student will earn the daily reward by completing at least ______ % of the
homework goals for that day.
Weekly reward: The student will earn the weekly reward by meeting the daily homework
goals for _____ days of the week.
Percentage of Goals Achieved Today (Number of Goals Achieved/Number of Goals Set)______ %
Circle those days that the student has met the daily homework goal for this week:
S M T W Th F S
Parent Signature ________________________________________________________________
Jim Wright, Presenter
‘How RTI Works’ Series © 2010 Jim Wright
Documenting Tier 1 (Classroom) Interventions: A Sample Form
When general-education students begin to struggle with academic or behavioral issues, the classroom teacher will typically select and implement
one or more evidence-based intervention strategies to assist those students. But a strong intervention plan needs more than just well-chosen
interventions. It also requires 4 additional components (Witt, VanDerHeyden, & Gilbertson, 2004): (1) student concerns should be clearly and
specifically defined; (2) one or more methods of formative assessment should be used to track the effectiveness of the intervention; (3) baseline
student data should be collected prior to the intervention; and (4) a goal for student improvement should be calculated before the start of the
intervention to judge whether that intervention is ultimately successful. If a single one of these essential 4 components is missing, the intervention is
to be judged as fatally flawed (Witt, VanDerHeyden, & Gilbertson, 2004) and as not meeting minimum RTI standards.
Teachers need a standard format to use in documenting their ‘Tier 1’ (classroom) intervention plans. The attached form, Tier 1/Classroom
Intervention Planning Sheet, is designed to include all of the essential RTI elements of an effective intervention plan. The form includes space to
Definition of up to two student academic or behavioral problems. The most significant step in selecting an effective classroom intervention is to
correctly identify the target student concern(s) in clear, specific, measureable terms (Bergan, 1995). The teacher selects no more than two
student concerns to address on the intervention plan.
Intervention description. The teacher describes the evidence-based intervention(s) that will be used to address the identified student concern(s).
Intervention delivery. The teacher writes down details necessary for implementing the intervention in the classroom (e.g., where and when the
intervention will be used; the adult-to-student ratio; how frequently the intervention will take place; the length of time each session of the
intervention will last; materials needed for the intervention, etc.
Checkup date. The teacher notes the date at which the intervention will be reviewed to determine whether it has been sufficiently effective.
NOTE: For academic interventions, it is advisable to allow at least 4 instructional weeks before deciding whether the intervention has been
Assessment data. For each intervention, the teacher selects the type(s) of classroom data that will be collected formatively throughout the
intervention period to judge its effectiveness. For each data source, in turn, the teacher collects baseline data on student performance—and
calculates an outcome goal that the student is expected to attain if the intervention is successful. (During the period in which the intervention is in
effect, the teacher collects ongoing data to judge student performance and attaches that data to the classroom intervention documentation form.)
Jim Wright, Presenter
‘How RTI Works’ Series © 2010 Jim Wright
While a Tier 1/classroom intervention documentation form is a helpful planning tool, schools should remember that teachers will need other
resources and types of assistance as well to be successful in selecting and using Tier 1 interventions. For example, teachers should have access to
an ‘intervention menu’ that contains evidence-based strategies to address the most common academic and behavioral concerns and should be able
to get coaching support as they learn how to implement new classroom intervention ideas. A future blog entry will review necessary Tier 1 teacher
supports in greater detail.
Bergan, J. R. (1995). Evolution of a problem-solving model of consultation. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 6(2), 111-123.
Witt, J. C., VanDerHeyden, A. M., & Gilbertson, D. (2004). Troubleshooting behavioral interventions. A systematic process for finding and eliminating
problems. School Psychology Review, 33, 363-383.
Jim Wright, Presenter
‘How RTI Works’ Series © 2010 Jim Wright
Tier 1/Classroom Intervention Planning Sheet
Teacher/Team: ______________________________________ Date: __________________ Student: _______________________________
Student Problem Definition #1: ________________________________________________________________________________________
Student Problem Definition #2: ________________________________________________________________________________________
[Optional] Person(s) assisting with intervention planning process: _____________________________________________________________
Intervention Description
Describe each intervention that you plan
to use to address the student’s concern(s).
Intervention Delivery
List key details about delivery of the intervention, such as:; (1)
where & when the intervention will be used; (2) the adult-tostudent ratio; (3) how frequently the intervention will take place;
(4) the length of time each session of the intervention will last;.
Check-Up Date
Select a date when the
data will be reviewed to
evaluate the intervention.
Interventions: Essential
Elements (Witt et al., 2004)
 Clear problemdefinition(s)
 Baseline data
 Goal for improvement
 Progress-monitoring
Assessment Data
Note what classroom data will be used to
establish baseline, set a goal for improvement,
and track the student’s progress during this
Type(s) of Data to Be Used:
Goal by Check-Up
Type(s) of Data to Be Used:
Goal by Check-Up
Type(s) of Data to Be Used:
Goal by Check-Up
Witt, J. C., VanDerHeyden, A. M., & Gilbertson, D. (2004). Troubleshooting behavioral interventions. A systematic process for finding and eliminating problems. School
Psychology Review, 33, 363-383.
Jim Wright, Presenter
School-Wide Strategies for Managing...DEFIANCE / NONCOMPLIANCE
Students who are defiant or non-compliant can be among the most challenging to teach. They can
frequently interrupt instruction, often do poorly academically, and may show little motivation to learn. There
are no magic strategies for managing the behaviors of defiant students. However, research shows that
certain techniques tend to work best with these children and youth: (1) Give the student positive teacher
recognition. Even actions as simple as greeting the student daily at the classroom door or stopping by the
student’s desk to ask ‘How are you doing?’ can over time turn strained relationships into positive ones. (2)
Monitor the classroom frequently and intervene proactively to redirect off-task students before their mild
misbehaviors escalate into more serious problems. (3) Avoid saying or doing things that are likely to anger
or set off a student. Speak calmly and respectfully, for example, rather than raising your voice or using
sarcasm. (4) When you must intervene with a misbehaving student, convey the message to the student that
you will not tolerate the problem behavior—but that you continue to value and accept the student. (5)
Remember that the ultimate goal of any disciplinary measure is to teach the student more positive ways of
behaving. Punishment generally does not improve student behaviors over the long term and can have
significant and lasting negative effects on school performance and motivation. (6) Develop a classroom
‘crisis response plan’ to be implemented in the event that one or more students display aggressive
behaviors that threaten their own safety or the safety of others. Be sure that your administrator approves
this classroom crisis plan and that everyone who has a part in the plan knows his or her role. One final
thought: While you can never predict what behaviors your students might bring into your classroom, you will
usually achieve the best outcomes by remaining calm, following pre-planned intervention strategies for
misbehavior, and acting with consistency and fairness when intervening with or disciplining students. Here
are other ideas for managing defiant or non-compliant students:
•Allow the Student a 'Cool-Down' Break (Long, Morse, & Newman, 1980). Select a corner of the room (or
area outside the classroom with adult supervision) where the target student can take a brief 'respite break'
whenever he or she feels angry or upset. Be sure to make cool-down breaks available to all students in the
classroom, to avoid singling out only those children with anger-control issues. Whenever a student
becomes upset and defiant, offer to talk the situation over with that student once he or she has calmed
down and then direct the student to the cool-down corner. (E.g., "Thomas, I want to talk with you about
what is upsetting you, but first you need to calm down. Take five minutes in the cool-down corner and then
come over to my desk so we can talk.")
•Ask Open-Ended Questions (Lanceley, 2001). If a teacher who is faced with a confrontational student
does not know what triggered that student’s defiant response, the instructor can ask neutral, open-ended
questions to collect more information before responding. You can pose ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, and
‘how’ questions to more fully understand the problem situation and identify possible solutions. Some
sample questions are "What do you think made you angry when you were talking with Billy?" and "Where
were you when you realized that you had misplaced your science book?" One caution: Avoid asking
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‘why"’questions (e.g., "Why did you get into that fight with Jerry?") because they can imply that you are
blaming the student.
•Assign a Reflective ‘Processing’ Essay After Misbehavior (Boynton & Boynton, 2005; Mayer & Ybarra,
2004; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). The student who gets into a conflict must write and submit to the
teacher a brief ‘process’ plan outlining how they will improve their behavior. At minimum, the plan would
state: (1) the role the student played in the conflict, (2) the part that other participants may have taken in the
incident, (3) the student’s suggestions for finding the best resolution to the problem, and (4) how the
student can act in the future to prevent the conflict from recurring. NOTE: Some teachers use a pre-printed
structured questionnaire containing these 4 items for the student to complete.
•Do Not Get Entangled in Arguments (Walker & Walker, 1991). The careful teacher avoids being dragged
into arguments or unnecessary discussion when disciplining students. When you must deliver a command
to, confront, or discipline a student who is defiant or confrontational, be careful not to get 'hooked' into a
discussion or argument with that student. If you find yourself being drawn into an exchange with the student
(e.g., raising your voice, reprimanding the student), immediately use strategies to disengage yourself (e.g.,
by moving away from the student, repeating your request in a business-like tone of voice, imposing a predetermined consequence for noncompliance).
•Emphasize the Positive in Teacher Requests (Braithwaite, 2001). When an instructor's request has a
positive 'spin', that teacher is less likely to trigger a power struggle and more likely to gain student
compliance. Whenever possible, avoid using negative phrasing (e.g., "If you don't return to your seat, I
can’t help you with your assignment"). Instead, restate requests in positive terms (e.g., "I will be over to
help you on the assignment just as soon as you return to your seat").
•Expand the Range of Classroom Behavior Interventions (Sprick, Borgmeier, & Nolet, 2002). The teacher
who has developed an array of in-class consequences for minor misbehaviors can prevent students from
being sent to the principal’s office or to in-school detention. First, list those common misbehaviors that you
believe should typically be handled in the classroom (e.g. being late to class, talking out). When finished,
categorize your list of misbehaviors into 3 groups: ‘Level 1’ (mild) misbehaviors, ‘Level 2’ (medium)
misbehaviors, and ‘Level 3’ (more serious) misbehaviors. Then, list next to each level of problem behaviors
a range of in-class consequences that you feel appropriately match those types of misbehavior. For
example, you may decide that a ‘soft’ reprimand would be a choice to address Level 1 misbehaviors, while
a phone call to the parent would be a choice for Level 3 misbehaviors. NOTE: In-class consequences are
intended for minor misbehaviors. You should notify an administrator whenever students display behaviors
that seriously disrupt learning or pose a risk to the safety of that student or to others.
•Give Praise That is Specific and Does Not Embarrass the Student (Sprick, Borgmeier, & Nolet, 2002).
Defiant students can respond well to adult praise but only when it is sincere and specific, and is not
embarrassing. Ideally, the teacher should deliver praise as soon as possible after the positive behavior.
Praise should be specific and descriptive—because vague, general praise can sound fake and does not
give the student any useful information about how their behavior meets or exceeds the teacher’s
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expectations. For older students who tend to dislike being praised in a highly public manner, the teacher
can use a more indirect or low-key approach (e.g., writing a note of praise on the student’s graded
assignment, praising the student in a private conversation, calling the student’s parent to praise the
•Give Problem Students Frequent Positive Attention (Sprick, Borgmeier, & Nolet, 2002). Teachers should
make an effort to give positive attention or praise to problem students at least three times more frequently
than they reprimand them. The teacher gives the student the attention or praise during moments when that
student is acting appropriately--and keeps track of how frequently they give positive attention and
reprimands to the student. This heavy dosing of positive attention and praise can greatly improve the
teacher’s relationship with problem students.
•Have the Student Participate in Creating a Behavior Plan (Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). Students can
feel a greater sense of ownership when they are invited to contribute to their behavior management plan.
Students also tend to know better than anyone else what triggers will set off their problem behaviors and
what strategies they find most effective in calming themselves and avoiding conflicts or other behavioral
•Increase 'Reinforcement' Quality of the Classroom (Dunlap & Kern, 1996; Mayer & Ybarra, 2004). If a
student appears to be defiant or non-compliant in an effort to escape the classroom, the logical solution is
to make the classroom environment and activities more attractive and reinforcing for that student.
Unfortunately, the student who fails repeatedly at academics can quickly come to view school as
punishment. Some ideas to increase motivation to remain in the classroom are to structure lessons or
assignments around topics of high interest to the target student, to increase opportunities for cooperative
learning (which many students find reinforcing), and to adjust the target student’s instruction so that he or
she experiences a high rate of success on classwork and homework.
•Keep Responses Calm, Brief, and Businesslike (Mayer, 2000; Sprick, Borgmeier, & Nolet, 2002). Because
teacher sarcasm or lengthy negative reprimands can trigger defiant student behavior, instructors should
respond to the student in a 'neutral', business-like, calm voice. Also, keep responses brief when addressing
the non-compliant student. Short teacher responses give the defiant student less control over the
interaction and can also prevent instructors from inadvertently 'rewarding' misbehaving students with lots of
negative adult attention.
•Listen Actively (Lanceley, 1999; Long, Morse, & Newman, 1980). The teacher demonstrates a sincere
desire to understand a student’s concerns when he or she actively listens to and then summarizes those
concerns. Many students lack effective negotiation skills in dealing with adults. As a result, these students
may become angry and defensive when they try to express a complaint to the teacher-even when that
complaint is well founded. The instructor can show that he or she wants to understand the student's
concern by summing up the crucial points of that concern (paraphrasing) in his or her own words.
Examples of paraphrase comments include 'Let me be sure that I understand you correctly…', 'Are you
telling me that…?', 'It sounds to me like these are your concerns:…' When teachers engage in 'active
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listening' by using paraphrasing, they demonstrate a respect for the student's point of view and can also
improve their own understanding of the student's problem.
•Offer the Student a Face-Saving Out (Thompson & Jenkins, 1993). Students sometimes blunder into
potential confrontations with their teachers; when this happens, the teacher helps the student to avoid a
full-blown conflict in a manner that allows the student to save face. Try this face-saving de-escalation tactic:
Ask the defiant student, "Is there anything that we can work out together so that you can stay in the
classroom and be successful?" Such a statement treats the student with dignity, models negotiation as a
positive means for resolving conflict, and demonstrates that the instructor wants to keep the student in the
classroom. It also provides the student with a final chance to resolve the conflict with the teacher and avoid
other, more serious disciplinary consequences. Be prepared for the possibility that the student will initially
give a sarcastic or unrealistic response (e.g., "Yeah, you can leave me alone and stop trying to get me to
do classwork!"). Ignore such attempts to hook you into a power struggle and simply ask again whether
there is any reasonable way to engage the student's cooperation. When asked a second time, students will
often come up with workable ideas for resolving the problem. If the student continues to be non-compliant,
however, simply impose the appropriate consequences for that misbehavior.
•Proactively Interrupt the Student’s Anger Early in the Escalation Cycle (Long, Morse, & Newman, 1980;
Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). The teacher may be able to ‘interrupt’ a student’s escalating behaviors
by redirecting that student's attention or temporarily removing the student from the setting. If the student is
showing only low-level defiant or non-compliant behavior, you might try engaging the student in a highinterest activity such as playing play an educational computer game or acting as a classroom helper. Or
you may want to briefly remove the student from the room ('antiseptic bounce') to prevent the student's
behavior from escalating into a full-fledged confrontation. For example, you might send the student to the
main office on an errand, with the expectation that-by the time the child returns to the classroom-he or she
will have calmed down.
•Project Calmness When Approaching an Escalating Student (Long, Morse, & Newman, 1980; Mayer,
2000; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). A teacher’s chances of defusing a potential confrontation with an
angry or defiant student increase greatly if the instructor carefully controls his or her behavior when first
approaching the student. Here are important tips: Move toward the student at a slow, deliberate pace, and
respect the student’s private space by maintaining a reasonable distance. If possible, speak privately to the
student, using a calm and respectful voice. Avoid body language that might provoke the student, such as
staring, hands on hips, or finger pointing. Keep your comments brief. If the student’s negative behaviors
escalate despite your best efforts, move away from the student and seek additional adult assistance or
initiate a crisis-response plan.
•Relax Before Responding (Braithwaite, 2001). Educators can maintain self-control during a tense
classroom situation by using a brief, simple stress-reduction technique before responding to a student’s
provocative remark or behavior. When provoked, for example, take a deeper-than-normal breath and
release it slowly, or mentally count to 10. As an added benefit, this strategy of conscious relaxation allows
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the educator an additional moment to think through an appropriate response--rather than simply reacting to
the student's behavior.
•Reward Alternative (Positive) Behaviors (Mayer & Ybarra, 2004; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). The
instructor can shape positive behaviors by selectively calling on the student or providing other positive
attention or incentives only when the student is showing appropriate social and academic behaviors. The
teacher withholds positive attention or incentives when the student misbehaves or does not engage in
•State Teacher Directives as Two-Part Choice Statements (Walker, 1997). When a student's
confrontational behavior seems driven by a need for control, the teacher can structure verbal requests to
both acknowledge the student’s freedom to choose whether to comply and present the logical
consequences for non-compliance (e.g., poor grades, office disciplinary referral, etc.). Frame requests to
uncooperative students as a two-part statement. First, present the negative, or non-compliant, choice and
its consequences (e.g., if a seatwork assignment is not completed in class, the student must stay after
school). Then state the positive behavioral choice that you would like the student to select (e.g., the student
can complete the seatwork assignment within the allotted work time and not stay after school). Here is a
sample 2-part choice statement, ‘John, you can stay after school to finish the class assignment or you can
finish the assignment now and not have to stay after class. It is your choice.’
•Use a ‘Buddy Teacher’ for Brief Student Breaks (Boynton & Boynton, 2005). Sending a mildly noncompliant student on a short visit to a neighboring classroom can give both the teacher and student a
needed break. Arrange with an instructor in a nearby room for either of you to send a student to the other’s
room whenever you need a short respite from the student. Set aside a seating area in each classroom for
student visitors. NOTE: These timeouts should be used only sparingly and should NOT be used if the
student appears to find the breaks rewarding or to seek them as a way to avoid work.
•Use Non-Verbal and Para-Verbal Behaviors to Defuse Potential Confrontations (Braithwaite, 2001; Long,
Morse, & Newman, 1980; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). When interacting with defiant or
confrontational students, teachers can use non-verbal and para-verbal techniques such as non-threatening
body language, soft tone of voice, or strategic pauses during speech, to reduce tensions. For example, if a
student is visibly agitated, you may decide to sit down next to the student at eye level (a less threatening
posture) rather than standing over that student. Or you might insert a very brief 'wait time' before each
response to the student, as these micro-pauses tend to signal calmness, slow a conversation down and
help to prevent it from escalating into an argument.
•Use ‘Soft’ Reprimands (Sprick, Borgmeier, & Nolet, 2002). The teacher gives a brief, gentle signal to direct
back to task any students who is just beginning to show signs of misbehavior or non-compliance. These
‘soft’ reprimands can be verbal (a quiet word to the student) or non-verbal (a significant look). If a soft
reprimand is not sufficient to curb the student’s behaviors, the teacher may pull the student aside for a
private problem-solving conversation or implement appropriate disciplinary consequences.
Jim Wright, Presenter
•Validate the Student’s Emotion by Acknowledging It (Lanceley, 1999). When the teacher observes that a
student seems angry or upset, the instructor labels the emotion that seems to be driving that student’s
behavior. 'Emotion labeling' can be a helpful tactic in deescalating classroom confrontations because it
prompts the student to acknowledge his or her current feeling-state directly rather than continuing to
communicate it indirectly through acting-out behavior. A teacher, for example, who observes a student
slamming her books down on her desk and muttering to herself after returning from gym class might say to
the student, "You seem angry. Could you tell me what is wrong?" Once a powerful emotion such as anger
is labeled, the teacher and student can then talk about it, figure out what may have triggered it, and jointly
find solutions that will mitigate it. Emotion labeling should generally be done in a tentative manner ("John,
you sound nervous…", "Alice, you appear frustrated…"), since one can never know with complete certainty
what feelings another person is experiencing.
•Boynton, M. & Boynton, C. (2005). The educator’s guide to preventing and solving discipline problems.
Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
•Braithwaite, R. (2001). Managing aggression. New York: Routledge.
•Dunlap, G., & Kern, L. (1996). Modifying instructional activities to promote desirable behavior: A
conceptual and practical framework. School Psychology Quarterly, 11, 297-312.
•Lanceley, F.J. (1999). On-scene guide for crisis negotiators. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
•Long, N.J., Morse, W.C., Newman, R.G. (1980). Conflict in the classroom. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth
Publishing Company.
•Mayer, G.R. & Ybarra, W. J. (2004). Teaching alternative behaviors schoolwide: A resource guide to
prevent discipline problems. Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles County Office of Education. Retrieved March
19, 2006, from
•Mayer, G.R. (2000). Classroom management: A California resource guide. Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles
County Office of Education. Retrieved September 29, 2003, from
•Sprick, R. S., Borgmeier, C., & Nolet, V. (2002). Prevention and management of behavior problems in
secondary schools. In M. A. Shinn, H. M. Walker & G. Stoner (Eds.), Interventions for academic and
behavior problems II: Preventive and remedial approaches (pp.373-401). Bethesda, MD: National
Association of School Psychologists.
•Thompson, G.J., & Jenkins, J.B. (1993). Verbal judo: The gentle art of persuasion. New York: William
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•Walker, H. M., Colvin, G., Ramsey, E. (1995). Antisocial behavior in school: Strategies and best practices.
Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing.
•Walker, H.M. (1997). The acting-out child: Coping with classroom disruption. Longmont, CO: SoprisWest.
Walker, H.M., & Walker, J.E. (1991). Coping with noncompliance in the classroom: A positive approach for
teachers. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed, Inc. Jim Wright, Presenter
School-Wide Strategies for Managing...HYPERACTIVITY
Hyperactive students tend to have a very high energy level, act impulsively and can be behaviorally
distracting. They may fidget, play with objects, tap pencils so loudly against their desk that kids from across
the room look over at them, or blurt out answers to teacher questions before the instructor is even finished
asking them. When working with students who are hyperactive or impulsive, teachers should keep in mind
that these students are very often completely unaware that others view their behavior as distracting or
annoying. Teachers working with such children can greatly increase their own effectiveness by clearly
communicating behavioral expectations to students, by encouraging and rewarding students who behave
appropriately, and by being consistent and fair when responding to problem student behaviors. Here are
teacher ideas for managing impulsive or hyperactive students who display problem motor or verbal
•Adopt a 'Silent Signal' (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). You can redirect overactive students in a
low-key manner by using a silent signal. Meet privately with the student and identify for the student those
motor or verbal behaviors that appear to be most distracting. With the student's help, select a silent signal
that you can use to alert the student that his or her behavior has crossed the threshold and now is
distracting others. Role-play several scenarios with the student in which you use the silent signal and the
student then controls the problem behavior. When you are able to successfully use the 'silent signal' during
instruction, be sure to praise the student privately for responding appropriately and promptly to your signal.
•Allow Discretionary Motor Breaks (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). When given brief 'movement'
breaks, highly active students often show improvements in their behaviors. Permit the student to leave his
or her seat and quietly walk around the classroom whenever the student feels particularly fidgety. Or, if you
judge that motor breaks within the classroom would be too distracting, consider giving the student a
discretionary pass that allows him or her to leave the classroom briefly to get a drink of water or walk up
and down the hall.
•Encourage Acceptable Outlets for Motor Behavior (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). If the student
distracts other students by playing with objects, substitute an alternative motor behavior that will not distract
others. Give the student a soft 'stress ball' and encourage the student to squeeze it whenever he or she
feels the need for motor movement. Or if the setting is appropriate, allow the student to chew gum as a
replacement motor behavior.
•Have the Student Monitor Motor Behaviors and Call-Outs (DuPaul & Stoner, 2002). Students can often
change problem behaviors when they pay attention to those behaviors. Have the student monitor his or her
motor behaviors or call-outs. First, choose a class period or part of the day when you want the student to
monitor distracting behaviors. Next, meet privately with the student to discuss which of that student's
behaviors are distracting. Then, together with the student, design a simple distractible behavior-rating form
with no more than 3 items (For a student who calls out frequently, for example, a useful rating item might
be "How well did I observe the rule today of raising my hand and being called on before giving an answer?
Poor – Fair – Good".) Have the student rate his or her behaviors at the end of each class period. Make an
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effort to praise the student (a) for being accurate in rating behaviors, and (b) for any improvements that you
see in the student's behaviors over time.
•Ignore Low-Level Motor Behaviors (Sprick, Borgmeier & Nolet, 2002; U.S. Department of Education,
2004). Selective ignoring can be an effective teacher response to minor fidgeting or other motor behaviors.
If the student's 'fidgety' behaviors are relatively minor and do not seriously derail classroom instruction, the
teacher should simply not pay attention to them.
•Remove Unnecessary Items From the Student's Work Area (U.S. Department of Education, 2004).
Students who tend to distract themselves and others by playing with objects behave better when their work
area is uncluttered. Take away (or direct the student to put away) any items that the student does not need
for the work assignment but might be tempted to play with (e.g., extra pens, paper clips).
•Schedule Group 'Stretch Breaks' (Brock, 1998). You can increase the focus of your entire class and
appropriately channel the motor behaviors of fidgety students by scheduling brief 'stretch breaks.' At their
simplest, stretch breaks consist of having students stand next to their desks, stretch their arms, take a deep
breath, and exhale slowly before resuming their seats. Or you can be creative, having students take part in
different movements during each break (e.g., "OK class. It's time for a stretch break. Stand by your desk,
arms over your head. Then take 3 steps back and 3 steps forward…"). NOTE: When using stretch breaks,
be sure that you select movements that all of your students are physically able to accomplish without
•Seat the Student Next to Distraction-Resistant Peers (Kerr & Nelson, 1998). One useful strategy for
managing low-level motor behaviors is to seat the student next to peers who can generally ignore those
behaviors. Rearrange seating in the classroom so that the student is sitting near peers who are good
behavior models and are not readily distracted by that student's minor fidgety movements or playing with
•Select a 'Supportive Peer' (DuPaul & Stoner, 2002). Handpick a classmate who has a good relationship
with the student but is not easily drawn off-task and appoint that student as a 'helper peer'. Meet privately
with the student and the helper peer. Tell the peer that whenever he or she notices that the student's verbal
or motor behavior has risen to the level of distracting others, the peer should give the student a brief, quiet,
non-judgmental signal (e.g., a light tap on the shoulder) to control the behavior. Role-play several scenarios
so that the peer knows when he or she can ignore the student's low-level motor behaviors and when the
peer should use a signal to alert the student to more distracting behaviors.
•Structure Instructional Activities to Allow Interaction and Movement (DuPaul & Stoner, 2002; Sprick,
Borgmeier & Nolet, 2002; U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Students with high energy levels may be
more likely to engage in distracting behavior when they are forced to sit through long periods of lecture or
independent seatwork. Instead, offer students frequent opportunities for more movement by designing
instruction to actively engage them as learners (e.g., cooperative learning). An additional advantage of less
formal, more spontaneous learning activities is that when the overactive child does happen to display motor
behaviors in this relaxed setting, those behaviors are less likely to distract peers.
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•Use 'Response Cost' (DuPaul & Stoner, 2002; Martens & Meller, 1990). A strategy to reduce distracting
verbal or motor behaviors is to use 'response cost': first awarding points or tokens and then deducting
those points or tokens whenever the behavior distracts other students. Here is a simple version that you
can use in your classroom: Award the student a certain number of 'behavior points' (e.g., 5) at the start of
each class period and write a series of tally marks on the blackboard that corresponds to this number.
Privately inform the student that each time that he or she engages in verbal or motor behaviors that
obviously distract other students (e.g., cause them to comment on the behavior), you will silently go to the
board and erase one point from the student's total. At the end of each class period, the student is allowed
to keep any 'behavior points' that remain. Let the student know that he or she can collect points across
multiple days and eventually redeem a certain number of collected 'behavior points' for prizes or privileges
(e.g., extra free time).
•Use Brief Reminders About Appropriate Behavior and Conduct (DuPaul & Stoner, 2002; Sprick, Borgmeier
& Nolet, 2002). Provide students with brief reminders of expected behaviors at the 'point of performance',
when they will most benefit from it. Consider using structured prompts such as the following for students
who tend to blurt out answers: "When I ask this question, I will give the class 10 seconds to think of your
best answer. Then I will call on one student." Or you can remind students who have difficulty moving
through hallways as part of a group, "Remember to keep hands to self and to walk quietly on the right as
we walk to art class."
Brock, S.E.(1998, February). Helping the student with ADHD in the classroom Strategies for teachers.
Communiqué, 26 (5), 18-20.
•DuPaul & Stoner, 2002 DuPaul, G.J., & Stoner, G. (2002). Interventions for attention problems. In M.
Shinn, H.M. Walker, & G. Stoner (Eds.) Interventions for academic and behavioral problems II: Preventive
and remedial approaches (pp. 913-938). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
•DuPaul, G.J., & Stoner, G. (2002). Interventions for attention problems. In M. Shinn, H.M. Walker, & G.
Stoner (Eds.) Interventions for academic and behavioral problems II: Preventive and remedial approaches
(pp. 913-938). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
•Kerr, M. M., & Nelson, C. M. (1998). Strategies for managing behavior problems in the classroom. Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
•Martens, B.K., & Meller, P.J. (1990). The application of behavioral principles to educational settings. In
T.B. Gutkin & C.R.Reynolds (Eds.), The handbook of school psychology (2nd ed.) (pp. 612-634). New
York: John Wiley & Sons.
•Sprick, R. S., Borgmeier, C., & Nolet, V. (2002). Prevention and management of behavior problems in
secondary schools. In M. R. Shinn, H. M. Walker, & G. Stoner (Eds.). Interventions for academic and
behavior problems II: Preventive and remedial approaches (pp. 373-401). Bethesda, MD: National
Association of School Psychologists.
Jim Wright, Presenter
•U.S. Department of Education (2004). Teaching children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder:
Instructional strategies and practices. Retrieved August 20, 2005, from
Jim Wright, Presenter
School-Wide Strategies for Managing...OFF-TASK / INATTENTION
Students who have chronic difficulties paying attention in class face the risk of poor grades and even
school failure. Inattention may be a symptom of an underlying condition such as Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder. However, teachers should not overlook other possible explanations for student offtask behavior. It may be, for example, that a student who does not seem to be paying attention is actually
mismatched to instruction (the work is too hard or too easy) or preoccupied by anxious thoughts. Or the
student may be off-task because the teacher's lesson was poorly planned or presented in a disorganized
manner. It is also important to remember that even children with ADHD are influenced by factors in their
classroom setting and that these students' level of attention is at least partly determined by the learning
environment. Teachers who focus on making their instruction orderly, predictable, and highly motivating
find that they can generally hold the attention of most of their students most of the time. Here are some
ideas to consider to boost rates of student attending and on-task behavior:
•Capture Students' Attention Before Giving Directions (Ford, Olmi, Edwards, & Tingstrom, 2001; Martens &
Kelly, 1993). Gain the student's attention before giving directions and use other strategies to ensure the
student's full understanding of them. When giving directions to an individual student, call the student by
name and establish eye contact before providing the directions. When giving directions to the whole class,
use group alerting cues such as 'Eyes and ears on me!' to gain the class's attention. Wait until all students
are looking at you and ready to listen before giving directions. When you have finished giving directions to
the entire class, privately approach any students who appear to need assistance. Quietly restate the
directions to them and have them repeat the directions back to you as a check for understanding.
•Class Participation: Keep Students Guessing (Heward, 1994). Students attend better during large-group
presentations if they cannot predict when they will be required to actively participate. Randomly call on
students, occasionally selecting the same student twice in a row or within a short time span. Or pose a
question to the class, give students 'wait time' to formulate an answer, and then randomly call on a student.
•Employ Proximity Control (Ford, Olmi, Edwards, & Tingstrom, 2001; Gettinger & Seibert, 2002; U.S.
Department of Education, 2004). Students typically increase their attention to task and show improved
compliance when the teacher is in close physical proximity. During whole-group activities, circulate around
the room to keep students focused. To hold an individual student's attention, stand or sit near the student
before giving directions or engaging in discussion.
•Give Clear Directions (Gettinger & Seibert, 2002; Gettinger, 1988). Students will better understand
directions when those directions are delivered in a clear manner, expressed in language the student
understands, given at a pace that does not overwhelm the student, and posted for later review. When
giving multi-step directions orally, write those directions on the board or give to students as a handout to
consult as needed. State multi-step directions one direction at a time and confirm that the student is able to
comply with each step before giving the next direction.
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•Give Opportunities for Choice (Martens & Kelly, 1993; Powell & Nelson, 1997). Allowing students to
exercise some degree of choice in their instructional activities can boost attention span and increase
academic engagement. Make a list of 'choice' options that you are comfortable offering students during
typical learning activities. During independent seatwork, for example, you might routinely let students
choose where they sit, allow them to work alone or in small groups, or give them 2 or 3 different choices of
assignment selected to be roughly equivalent in difficulty and learning objectives.
•Instruct at a Brisk Pace (Carnine, 1976; Gettinger & Seibert, 2002). When students are appropriately
matched to instruction, they are likely to show improved on-task behavior when they are taught at a brisk
pace rather than a slow one. To achieve a brisk pace of instruction, make sure that you are fully prepared
prior to the lesson and that you minimize the time spent on housekeeping items such as collecting
homework or on transitions from one learning activity to another.
•Make the Activity Stimulating (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Students require less conscious effort
to remain on-task when they are engaged in high-interest activities. Make instruction more interesting by
choosing a specific lesson topic that you know will appeal to students (e.g., sports, fashion). Or help
students to see a valuable 'real-word' pay-off for learning the material being taught. Another tactic is to
make your method of instruction more stimulating. Students who don't learn well in traditional lecture format
may show higher rates of engagement when interacting with peers (cooperative learning) or when allowed
the autonomy and self-pacing of computer-delivered instruction.
•Pay Attention to the On-Task Student (DuPaul & Ervin, 1996; Martens & Meller, 1990). Teachers who
selectively give students praise and attention only when those students are on-task are likely to find that
these students show improved attention in class as a result. When you have a student who is often off-task,
make an effort to identify those infrequent times when the student is appropriately focused on the lesson
and immediately give the student positive attention. Examples of teacher attention that students will
probably find positive include verbal praise and encouragement, approaching the student to check on how
he or she is doing on the assignment, and friendly eye contact.
•Provide a Quiet Work Area (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Distractible students benefit from a
quiet place in the classroom where they can go when they have more difficult assignments to complete. A
desk or study carrel in the corner of the room can serve as an appropriate workspace. When introducing
these workspaces to students, stress that the quiet locations are intended to help students to concentrate.
Never use areas designated for quiet work as punitive 'time-out' spaces, as students will then tend to avoid
•Provide Attention Breaks (DuPaul & Ervin, 1996; Martens & Meller, 1990). If students find it challenging to
stay focused on independent work for long periods, allow them brief 'attention breaks'. Contract with
students to give them short breaks to engage in a preferred activity each time that they have finished a
certain amount of work. For example, a student may be allowed to look at a favorite comic book for 2
minutes each time that he has completed five problems on a math worksheet and checked his answers.
Attention breaks can refresh the student –and also make the learning task more reinforcing.
Jim Wright, Presenter
•Reduce Length of Assignments (DuPaul & Ervin, 1996; U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Students'
attention may drift when completing overly long assignments. For new material, trim assignments to the
minimum length that you judge will ensure student understanding. When having students practice skills or
review previously taught material, break that review into a series of short assignments rather than one long
assignment to help to sustain interest and engagement.
•Schedule Challenging Tasks for Peak Attention Times (Brock, 1998). Many students with limited attention
can focus better in the morning, when they are fresh. Schedule those subjects or tasks that the student
finds most difficult early in the day. Save easier subjects or tasks for later in the day, when the student's
attention may start to wane.
•Select Activities That Require Active Student Responding (Gettinger & Seibert, 2002; Heward, 1994).
When students are actively engaged in an activity, they are more likely to be on-task. Avoid long stretches
of instructional time in which students sit passively listening to a speaker. Instead, program your
instructional activities so that students must frequently 'show what they know' through some kind of active
[visible] response. For example, you might first demonstrate a learning strategy to students and then divide
the class into pairs and have students demonstrate the strategy to each other while you observe and
•Transition Quickly (Gettinger & Seibert, 2002; Gettinger, 1988). When students transition quickly between
educational activities and avoid instructional 'dead time', their attention is less likely to wander. Train
students to transition appropriately by demonstrating how they should prepare for common academic
activities, such as group lecture and independent seatwork. Have them practice these transitions, praising
the group for timely and correct performance. Provide additional 'coaching' to individual students as
needed. During daily instruction, verbally alert students several minutes before a transition to another
activity is to occur.
•Use Advance Organizers (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). One strategy to improve on-task behavior
is to give students a quick overview of the activities planned for the instructional period or day. This
'advance organizer' provides students with a mental schedule of the learning activities, how those activities
interrelate, important materials needed for specific activities, and the amount of time set aside for each
activity. All students benefit when the teacher uses advance organizers. However inattentive students
especially benefit from this overview of learning activities, as the advance organizer can prompt, mentally
prepare, and focus these students on learning right when they most need it.
•Use Preferential Seating (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). Seating the student near the teacher is
one tried-and-true method to increase on-task behavior. Preferential seating simply means that you seat
the student in a location where he or she is most likely to stay focused on what you are teaching.
Remember that all teachers have an 'action zone', a part of the room where they tend to focus most of their
instruction. Once you have analyzed your 'action zone' as a teacher, place the student's seat somewhere
within that zone. Of course, the ideal seating location for any particular student will vary, depending on the
unique qualities of the target student and of your classroom. When selecting preferential seating, consider
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whether the student might be self-conscious about sitting right next to the teacher. Also, try to select a seat
location that avoids other distractions. For example, you may want to avoid seating the student by a
window or next to a talkative classmate.
•Brock, S.E.(1998, February). Helping the student with ADHD in the classroom Strategies for teachers.
Communiqué, 26 (5), 18-20.
•Carnine, D.W. (1976). Effects of two teacher presentation rates on off-task behavior, answering correctly,
and participation. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 9, 199-206.
•DuPaul, G.J., & Ervin, R.A. (1996). Functional assessment of behaviors related to attentiondeficit/hyperactivity disorder: Linking assessment to intervention design. Behavior Therapy, 27, 601-622.
•Ford, A. D., Olmi, D. J., Edwards, R. P., & Tingstrom, D. H. (2001). The sequential introduction of
compliance training components with elementary-aged children in general education classroom settings.
School Psychology Quarterly, 16, 142-157.
•Gettinger, M. (1988). Methods of proactive classroom management. School Psychology Review, 17, 227242.
•Gettinger, M., & Seibert, J.K. (2002). Best practices in increasing academic learning time. In A. Thomas
(Ed.), Best practices in school psychology IV: Volume I (4th ed., pp. 773-787). Bethesda, MD: National
Association of School Psychologists.
•Heward, W.L. (1994). Three 'low-tech' strategies for increasing the frequency of active student response
during group instruction. In R.Gardner III, D.M.Sainato, J.O.Cooper, T.E.Heron, W.L.Heward, J.Eshleman,
& T.A.Grossi (Eds.), Behavior analysis in education: Focus on measurably superior instruction (pp. 283320). Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.
•Martens, B.K. & Kelly, S.Q. (1993). A behavioral analysis of effective teaching. School Psychology
Quarterly, 8, 10-26.
•Martens, B.K., & Meller, P.J. (1990). The application of behavioral principles to educational settings. In
T.B. Gutkin & C.R.Reynolds (Eds.), The handbook of school psychology (2nd ed.) (pp. 612-634). New
York: John Wiley & Sons.
•Powell, S., & Nelson, B. (1997). Effects of choosing academic assignments on a student with attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 30, 181-183.
•U.S. Department of Education (2004). Teaching children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder:
Instructional strategies and practices. Retrieved August 20, 2005, from
Jim Wright, Presenter
Choice: Allowing the Student to Select Task Sequence
Description: The student is assigned several tasks to complete during a work period and given the
opportunity to select the assignment that he or she will do first.
Purpose: Allowing the student choice in the sequence of academic tasks can increase rates of compliance
and active academic engagement. The power of allowing the student to select the sequence of academic
tasks appears to be in the exercise of choice, which for ‘biologic reasons’ may serve as a fundamental
source of reinforcement (Kern & Clemens, 2007; p. 72).
Materials: Student work assignments
Preparation: The instructor selects 2 to 3 separate academic tasks that the student is to complete during
an independent work period and prepares all necessary work materials.
Intervention Steps: The use of choice for student assignments can be prepared and implemented
through these steps:
1. Meet individually with the student just before the independent work period. Present and explain to the
student each of the 2 or 3 assignments selected for the work period. Ask if the student has questions
about any of the assignments.
2. Direct the student to select the assignment he or she would like to do first. [Optional] Write the number
‘1’ at the top of the assignment chosen by the student.
3. Tell the student to begin working on the assignments. NOTE: The student is allowed to switch between
assignments during the work period.
4. If the student stops working or gets off-task during the work period, prompt the student to return to the
task and provide encouragement until the student resumes working.
Adjusting/Troubleshooting: Here are recommendations for using student selection of task sequence as
an intervention strategy and addressing issues that might arise:
Provide the student with support during independent work. The student who has chosen the sequence of
tasks to work on is more likely to remain engaged in those tasks if there are adequate classroom supports
in place for independent work. Prior to beginning independent work, for example, the student should fully
understand the assigned tasks and possess all necessary skills to complete them, have all work materials
required, and know how to request assistance from the instructor or peers when needed.
Consider grouping assignments to ensure a similar level of reinforcement. Research into student choice of
task sequence has often either limited assignments in the choice pool to those that the student had
previously failed to perform (e.g., Kern, Mantagna, Vorndran, Bailin, & Hilt, 2001) or developed assignment
choices that are similar in format and content (e.g., Ramsey, Jolivette, Patterson,, & Kennedy, 2010). It is
unclear whether allowing a student to select task sequence would be as effective if that student were to find
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one of the assignments much more reinforcing than the other(s). If possible, then, the instructor will
probably want to select assignments that are of roughly similar apparent reinforcing value-whether
negative, positive, or neutral.
Kern, L., & Clemens, N. H. (2007). Antecedent strategies to promote appropriate classroom behavior.
Psychology in the Schools, 44, 65-75.
Kern, L., Mantagna, M.E., Vorndran, C.M., Bailin, D., & Hilt, A. (2001). Choice of task sequence to increase
engagement and reduce problem behaviors. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 3, 3-10.
Ramsey, M. L., Jolivette, K., Patterson, D. P., & Kennedy, C. (2010). Using choice to increase time on-task,
task-completion, and accuracy for students with emotional/behavior disorders in a residential facility.
Education and Treatment of Children, 33(1), 1-21.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Effective Teacher Commands: Establishing Classroom
As classroom managers, teachers regularly use commands to direct students to start and stop
activities. Instructors find commands to be a crucial tool for classroom management, serving as
instructional signals that help students to conform to the teacher’s expectations for appropriate
behaviors. Teachers frequently dilute the
Effective Teacher Commands…
power of their classroom commands, however,
 Are brief
 Are delivered one at a time Use
specific language so that the student
 presenting commands as questions or
clearly understands the request
polite requests. Commands have less
 Avoid an authoritarian, “Do it my way
impact when stated as questions or
or else!” tone of voice
requests, because the student may
believe that he or she has the option to
 Avoid strong negative emotion or
decline. The teacher who attempts, for
example, to quiet a talkative student by  Are stated as directives rather than
saying, “Tanya, could you mind
as questions
keeping your voice down so that other
 Avoid long explanations or
students can study?” should not be
justifications (and present any
surprised if the student replies, “No,
explanation before the command
thank you. I would prefer to talk!”
rather than after it).
 Allow the student a short but
 stating commands in vague terms. A
reasonable amount of time to comply
student may ignore a command such
without additional teacher comments
as “Get your work done!” because it
or directives
does not state specifically what
behaviors the teacher expects of the student.
following up commands with excessive justifications or explanations. Because teachers
want to be viewed as fair, they may offer long, drawn-out explanations for why they are
requiring the class or an individual student to undertake or to stop a behavior.
Unfortunately, students can quickly lose the thread the explanation and even forget the
command that preceded it! Using Effective Commands Teachers can reduce problems
with student compliance and make their commands more forceful by following researchbased guidelines (Walker & Walker, 1992):
Using Effective Commands Teachers can reduce problems with student compliance and make
their commands more forceful by following research-based guidelines (Walker & Walker, 1992):
Effective teacher commands:
are brief. Students can process only so much information. Students tend to comply best with
brief commands because they are easy to understand and hard to misinterpret.
Jim Wright, Presenter
are delivered one task or objective at a time. When a command contains multi-step directions,
students can mishear, misinterpret, or forget key steps. A student who appears to be
noncompliant may simply be confused about which step in a multi-step directive to do first!
are delivered in a matter-of-fact, businesslike tone. Students may feel coerced when given a
command in an authoritarian, sarcastic, or angry tone of voice. For that reason alone, they
may resist the teacher’s directive. Teachers will often see greater student compliance simply
by giving commands in a neutral or positive manner.
are stated as directives rather than questions. Perhaps to be polite, teachers may phrase
commands as questions (e.g., “Could we all take out our math books now?”). A danger in
using ‘question-commands’ is that the student may believe that he or she has the option to
decline! Teachers should state commands as directives, saving questions for those situations
in which the student exercises true choice.
avoid long explanations or justifications. When teachers deliver commands and then tack
lengthy explanations onto them, they diminish the force of the directive. If the instructor
believes that students should know why they are being told to do something, the teacher
should deliver a brief explanation prior to the command.
give the student a reasonable amount of time to comply. Once the teacher has given a
command, he or she should give the student a reasonable timespan (e.g., 5-15 seconds) to
comply. During that waiting period, the instructor should resist the temptation to nag the
student, elaborate on the request, or other wise distract the student.
References: Walker, H.M. & Walker, J.E. (1991). Coping with noncompliance in the classroom: A
positive approach for teachers. Austin, TX:: Pro-Ed, Inc.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Good Behavior Game: A Tier 1 (Classroom) Whole-Group
Method for Enhancing Student Attending & Work Completion
The Good Behavior Game is an approach to the management of classrooms behaviors that
rewards children for displaying appropriate on-task behaviors during instructional times.
The class is divided into two teams and a point is given to a team for any inappropriate behavior
displayed by one of its members. The team with the fewest number of points at the Game's
conclusion each day wins a group reward. If both teams keep their points below a preset level,
then both teams share in the reward.
The program was first tested in 1969; several research articles have confirmed that the Game is an
effective means of increasing the rate of on-task behaviors while reducing disruptions in the
classroom (Barrish, Saunders, & Wolf, 1969; Harris & Sherman, 1973; Medland & Stachnik, 1972).
The process of introducing the Good Behavior Game into a classroom is a relatively simple
procedure. There are five steps involved in putting the Game into practice.
Steps in Implementing This Intervention:
1. Decide when to schedule the Game. The teacher first decides during what period(s) of the
school day the Game will be played. As a rule of thumb, instructors should pick those
times when the entire class is expected to show appropriate academic behaviors. Blocks
of time devoted to reading, math, content instruction, and independent seatwork would be
most appropriate for putting the Game into effect.
2. Clearly define the negative behaviors that will be scored during the Game. Teachers who
have used the Good behavior Game typically define three types of negative behavior that
will be scored whenever they appear during the Game. Those behaviors are:
 leaving one's seat,
 talking out, and
 engaging in disruptive behavior.
Out-of-seat behavior is defined as any incident in which a student leaves his or her seat
without first getting permission from the teacher. Related behaviors, such as "scootching"
one's seat toward another desk are usually scored as out-of-seat. Instructors often build in
certain exceptions to this rule. For example, in some classrooms, children can take a pass
to the bathroom, approach the teacher's desk for additional help, or move from one work
site to another in the room without permission as long as these movements are conducted
quietly and are a part of the accepted classroom routine. Children who leave their seats
intending to complete an allowed activity but find that they cannot (e.g., walking toward the
teacher's desk and then noticing that another student is already there) are not scored as
being out of their seat if they quickly and quietly return to their desk.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Talking-out behavior is defined as any incident of talking out loud without the permission of
the instructor. Permission is gained by raising one's hand and first being recognized by the
teacher before speaking. Any type of unauthorized vocalization within the hearing of the
instructor is scored as talking out, including shouts, nonsense noises (e.g., growling,
howling, whistling), whispers, and talking while one's hand is raised.
Disruptive behavior consists of any movement or act that is judged by the teacher to be
disruptive of classroom instruction. For example, knocking on a table, looking around the
room, tearing up paper, passing notes, or playing with toys at one's desk would all be
scored as disruptive behaviors. A good rule of thumb would be to regard as disruptive
behavior any action that does not fall under another category but is perceived by the
teacher as annoying or distracting.
3. Decide upon suitable daily and (perhaps) weekly rewards for teams winning the Game.
Teachers will need to choose rewards that they feel will effectively motivate students to
take part in the Game. Most often, instructors use free time as a daily reward, since
children often find it motivating. To cite a single example, one teacher's reward system
included giving her daily 4th-grade Game winners the privilege of wearing a "victory tag,"
putting a star next to their names on a "Winner's Chart," lining up first for lunch, and getting
30 minutes of time at the end of the day to work on fun, educationally related topics. When
choosing rewards, instructors are advised to consider using reinforcers that fit naturally
into the context and mission of a classroom. For example, allowing winners to play quietly
together at the end of the school day may help to promote social skills, but dispensing
material rewards (e.g., comic books) to winners would probably be less likely to contribute
directly to educational and social goals. Of course, if both teams win on a given day or a
given week, the members of those teams all receive the same rewards.
4. Introduce the Game to the class. Once behaviors have been selected and clearly defined
by the teacher, the next step is to introduce the Game to the class. Ideally, time should be
set aside for an initial group discussion. The teacher mentions that the class will be playing
a game and presents a schedule clearly setting forth the instructional times during which
the game will be in effect. The teacher next divides the classroom into two teams. For ease
of recording, it is usually recommended that the instructor divide the class down the center
of the room into roughly equal halves. Some teachers have used three teams successfully
as well. To build a sense of team spirit, students may be encouraged to name their groups.
The children are informed that certain types of behavior (i.e., leaving one's seat or talking
without permission, and engaging in disruptive behaviors) will earn points for the team to
which they belong. Students are also told that both teams can win if they earn no more
than a certain number of points (e.g., 4 points maximum per day). If both teams happen to
exceed 4 points, then the team with the lowest total at the end of the day is the winner. In
case of a tie, both teams earn the reward. The instructor is the final judge of whether a
behavior is to be scored. (As an option, students can also be told that the team with the
fewest number of points at the end of the week will win an additional reward.)It is a good
idea when introducing the Game to students to clearly review examples of acceptable and
unacceptable behaviors. After all, it is important that all children know the rules before the
Game begins. To more effectively illustrate those rules, children may be recruited to
demonstrate acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, or the teacher may describe a
Jim Wright, Presenter
number of behaviors and ask the class to decide with a show of hands whether such
behaviors are to be scored or not.
5. Put the Game into effect. The instructor is now ready to start the Game. During those
times that the game is in effect in the classroom, the teacher continues to carry out his or
her usual instructional practices. The only alteration in the routine is that the instructor is
also noting and publicly recording any negative points incurred by either team. Instructors
might want to post scores on the blackboard or on a large piece of paper visible to
everyone in the room. If working with children in a small group, the instructor can record
negative behaviors on a small note pad and later transfer them to the blackboard.
Teachers can also choose to publicly announce when another point has been earned as a
reminder to the class about acceptable behavior. It is helpful to keep a weekly tally of
points for each team, especially if teams are competing for weekly as well as daily
rewards. Care should be taken to be as consistent as possible in scoring negative
behaviors. Winning teams should be praised as well as rewarded for their efforts, with that
praise tied when possible to specifically observed behaviors. Instructors may want to alter
the Game somewhat as necessary (e.g., changing rewards or more carefully defining
acceptable and unacceptable behaviors with students). Obviously, any alteration of the
Game, no matter how small, should be shared with the classroom before being put into
Troubleshooting: How to Deal With Common Problems in Using the 'Good Behavior Game'
Q: What should I do if a small number of students try to sabotage the game for other children by
deliberately acting out and earning penalty points for their team?
If a small number of students are earning a large number of points during the Game, consider
forming them into a separate team. While not the norm, occasionally a single student or small
group of children may be tempted to undermine the Game by deliberately incurring a large number
of penalty points for their teams. (Such children may find the resulting negative social attention of
other members of their team to be its own reward!) A simple remedy for this problem is to modify
the Game by making those disruptive students into a separate team. The Game will continue
unchanged, except that your room will now have three teams rather than two competing for
Q: I have used the Good Behavior Game for a while and have found it to be effective. But lately it
doesn't seem to have the same impact on my students. What do you recommend?
If the Good Behavior Game appears to be losing effectiveness over time, be sure that you are
consistently noting and assigning team points for inappropriate behaviors and that you are avoiding
verbal arguments with students. It is very important that points be assigned consistently when you
witness inappropriate behavior; otherwise, the Game may not bring about the expected behavioral
improvement among your students. Teachers using the Game sometimes find it helpful to have
another adult familiar with the Good Behavior Game observe them and offer feedback about their
consistency in assigning points and success in avoiding negative verbal exchanges with students.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Barrish, H.H., Saunders, M, & Wold, M.M. (1969). Good behavior game: Effects of individual
contingencies for group consequences on disruptive behavior in a classroom. Journal of Applied
Behavior Analysis, 2, 119-124.
Harris, V.W. & Sherman, J.A. (1973). Use and analysis of the "Good Behavior Game" to reduce
disruptive classroom behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 6, 405-417.
Medland, M. B. & Stachnik, T.J. (1972). Good-behavior Game: A replication and systematic
analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 5, 45-51.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Creating Reward Menus That Motivate: Tips for Teachers
Rewards are often central to effective school interventions. As possible incentives that students
can earn for appropriate school performance or conduct, these reinforcers (or ‘rewards’) often
serve as the motivational ‘engine’ that drives successful interventions.
Choosing rewards to use as incentives for a student intervention may seem simple and
straightforward. A reinforcer, however, probably will not be successful unless it passes three
important tests:
Acceptability Test. Does the teacher approve of using the reinforcer with this child? Are
parent(s) likely to approve the use of the reinforcer with their child?
Availability Test. Is the reinforcer typically available in a school setting? If not, can it be
obtained with little inconvenience and at a cost affordable to staff or parents?
Motivation Test. Does the child find the reinforcer to be motivating?
Reward systems are usually most powerful when a student can select from a range of reward
choices (‘reward menu’). Offering students a menu of possible rewards is effective because it both
gives students a meaningful choice of reinforcers and reduces the likelihood that the child will
eventually tire of any specific reward.
However, some children (e.g., those with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) may lose interest
in specific reward choices more quickly than do their typical peers. Teachers will want to regularly
update and refresh reward menus for such children to ensure these reinforcers retain their power
to positively shape those students’ behaviors.
Creating a ‘Reward Deck.’ A Reward Deck is an idea that can help teachers to quickly select and
regularly update student reward menus. This strategy involves 5 steps:
1. The teacher reviews a list of reward choices typically available in school settings.
(Instructors can use the comprehensive sampling of possible school rewards that appears
in the next section: Jackpot! Ideas for Classroom Rewards.). From this larger list, the
teacher selects only those rewards that she or he approves of using, believes would be
acceptable to other members of the school community (e.g., administration, parents), and
finds feasible and affordable.
2. The teacher writes out acceptable reward choices on index cards-- to create a master
‘Reward Deck’
3. Whenever the teacher wants to create a reward menu for a particular student, he or she
first ‘screens’ reward choices that appear in the master Reward Deck and temporarily
removes any that seem inappropriate for that specific case. (For example, the teacher may
Jim Wright, Presenter
screen out the reward ‘pizza party’ because it is too expensive to offer to a student who
has only minor difficulties with homework completion.)
4. The teacher then sits with the child and presents each of the reward choices remaining in
the Reward Deck. For each reward option, the child indicates whether he or she (a) likes
the reward a lot, (b) likes the reward a little, or (c) doesn’t care for the reward. The teacher
sorts the reward options into three piles that match these rating categories. The teacher
can then assemble that child’s Reward Menu using the student’s top choices (“like a lot”).
If the instructor needs additional choices to fill out the rest of the menu, he or she can pull
items from the student’s “like a little” category as well.
5. (Optional but recommended) Periodically, the instructor can meet with the student and
repeat the above procedure to ‘refresh’ the Reward Menu quickly and easily.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Behavior Contracts
The behavior contract is a simple positive-reinforcement intervention that is widely used by
teachers to change student behavior. The behavior contract spells out in detail the expectations of
student and teacher (and sometimes parents) in carrying out the intervention plan, making it a
useful planning document. Also, because the student usually has input into the conditions that are
established within the contract for earning rewards, the student is more likely to be motivated to
abide by the terms of the behavior contract than if those terms had been imposed by someone
Steps in Implementing This Intervention
The teacher decides which specific behaviors to select for the behavior contract. When possible,
teachers should define behavior targets for the contract in the form of positive, pro-academic or
pro-social behaviors. For example, an instructor may be concerned that a student frequently calls
out answers during lecture periods without first getting permission from the teacher to speak. For
the contract, the teacher's concern that the student talks out may be restated positively as "The
student will participate in class lecture and discussion, raising his hand and being recognized by
the teacher before offering an answer or comment." In many instances, the student can take part in
selecting positive goals to increase the child's involvement in, and motivation toward, the
behavioral contract.
The teacher meets with the student to draw up a behavior contract. (If appropriate, other school
staff members and perhaps the student's parent(s) are invited to participate as well.) The teacher
next meets with the student to draw up a behavior contract. The contract should include:
a listing of student behaviors that are to be reduced or increased. As stated above, the
student's behavioral goals should usually be stated in positive, goal-oriented terms. Also,
behavioral definitions should be described in sufficient detail to prevent disagreement about
student compliance. The teacher should also select target behaviors that are easy to observe
and verify. For instance completion of class assignments is a behavioral goal that can be
readily evaluated. If the teacher selects the goal that a child "will not steal pens from other
students", though, this goal will be very difficult to observe and confirm.
a statement or section that explains the minimum conditions under which the student will earn
a point, sticker, or other token for showing appropriate behaviors. For example, a contract may
state that "Johnny will add a point to his Good Behavior Chart each time he arrives at school
on time and hands in his completed homework assignment to the teacher."
the conditions under which the student will be able to redeem collected stickers, points, or
other tokens to redeem for specific rewards. A contract may state, for instance, that "When
Johnny has earned 5 points on his Good Behavior Chart, he may select a friend, choose a
game from the play-materials shelf, and spend 10 minutes during free time at the end of the
day playing the game."
Jim Wright, Presenter
bonus and penalty clauses (optional). Although not required, bonus and penalty clauses can
provide extra incentives for the student to follow the contract. A bonus clause usually offers the
student some type of additional 'pay-off' for consistently reaching behavioral targets. A penalty
clause may prescribe a penalty for serious problem behaviors; e.g., the student disrupts the
class or endanger the safety of self or of others.
areas for signature. The behavior contract should include spaces for both teacher and student
signatures, as a sign that both parties agree to adhere to their responsibilities in the contract.
Additionally, the instructor may want to include signature blocks for other staff members (e.g.,
a school administrator) and/or the student's parent(s).
Hints for Using Behavior Contracts
Behavior contracts can be useful when the student has behavioral problems in school locations
other than the classroom (e.g., art room, cafeteria). Once a behavior contract has proven effective
in the classroom, the instructor can meet with the student to extend the terms of the contract
across multiple settings. Adults in these other school locations would then be responsible for rating
the student's behaviors during the time that the student is with them.
For example, a goal may be stated in the contract that a student "will participate in class activities,
raising his hand, and being recognized by the classroom or specials teacher before offering an
answer or comment." Art, gym, or library instructors would then rate the student's behaviors in
these out-of-class settings and share these ratings with the classroom teacher.
Troubleshooting: How to Deal With Common Problems in Using Behavior Contracts
Q: What do I do if I find that the behavior contract fails to work?
There may be several possible explanations why a behavior contract is ineffective:
Students may not be invested in abiding by the terms of the contract because they did not have a
significant role in its creation. If this is the case, students should be consulted and their input
should be incorporated into a revised contract.
The rewards that can be earned through the contract may not sufficiently motivate students to
cause them to change their behavior. The teacher should review the list of rewards with students,
note those rewards that students indicate they would find most appealing, and revise the reward
list to include choices selected by the students.
Points and rewards may not be awarded frequently enough to motivate the student. Each person
reacts in his or her own way to reward systems such as behavior contracts; some must have
rewards delivered at a frequent rate in order for those rewards to have power sufficient to shape
these students' behavior. The instructor can try altering the contract to increase the rate at which
Jim Wright, Presenter
points and rewards are given to see if these changes increase student motivation to follow the
behavior contract. (NOTE: Once the behavior contract proves effective, the teacher can gradually
cut back the rate of rewards to a level that is more easily managed.)
Q: How do I respond if the student starts to argue with me about the terms of the contract?
It is not unusual--especially when a behavior contract is first introduced--for the teacher and
student to have honest disagreements about the interpretation of its terms. If this occurs, the
teacher will probably want to have a conference with the student to clarify the contract's language
and meaning. Occasionally, though, students may continue to argue with the instructor about
alleged unfairness in how the teacher enforces the contract--even after the teacher has attempted
to clarify the contract's terms. If the student becomes overly antagonistic, the teacher may simply
decide to suspend the contract because it is not improving the student's behavior. Or the instructor
may instead add a behavioral goal or penalty clause to the contract that the student will not argue
with the teacher about the terms or enforcement of the contract.
Hints for Using Behavior Contracts
Jim Wright, Presenter
Effective Dates: From 10/20/99 to 12/20/99
Mrs. Jones, the teacher, will give Ricky a sticker to put on his 'Classroom Hero' chart each time he does
one of the following:
turns in completed homework assignment on time
turns in morning seatwork assignments on time and completed
works quietly through the morning seatwork period (from 9:30 to 10:00 a.m.) without needing to
be approached or redirected by the teacher for being off-task or distracting others
When Ricky has collected 12 stickers from Mrs. Jones, he may choose one of the following rewards:
10 minutes of free time at the end of the day in the classroom
10 minutes of extra playground time (with Mr. Jenkins' class)
choice of a prize from the 'Surprise Prize Box'
Bonus: If Ricky has a perfect week (5 days, Monday through Friday) by earning all 3 possible
stickers each day, he will be able to draw one additional prize from the 'Surprise Prize Box'.
Penalty: If Ricky has to be approached by the teacher more than 5 times during a morning period
because he is showing distracting behavior, he will lose a chance to earn a 'Classroom Hero'
sticker the following day.
The student, Ricky, helped to create this agreement. He understands and agrees to the terms of this
behavior contract.
Student Signature: ___________________________________
The teacher, Mrs. Jones, agrees to carry out her part of this agreement. Ricky will receive stickers when
be fulfills his daily behavioral goals of completing homework and classwork, and will also be allowed to
collect his reward when he has earned enough stickers for it. The teacher will also be sure that Ricky
gets his bonus prize if he earns it..
Teacher Signature: ___________________________________
The parent(s) of Ricky agree to check over his homework assignments each evening to make sure that
he completes them. They will also ask Ricky daily about his work completion and behavior at school. The
parent(s) will provide Ricky with daily encouragement to achieve his behavior contract goals. In addition,
the parent(s) will sign Ricky's 'Classroom Hero' chart each time that he brings it home with 12 stickers on
Parent Signature: ___________________________________
Jim Wright, Presenter
Response Effort
The amount of effort that a person must put forth to successfully complete a specific behavior has
a direct impact on the frequency that the person will engage in that behavior. As the 'response
effort' required to carry out a behavior increases, a person is generally less likely to show that
behavior; conversely, as the response effort decreases, a person will be more likely to engage in
that behavior. To use one example, a student will probably read more frequently if a book is stored
in his or her school desk than if the child must walk to a different floor of the school building and get
access to a locked cabinet whenever the student wants to read a book.
As a behavior-management tool, response effort seems like simple common sense: We engage
less in behaviors that we find hard to accomplish. Teachers often forget, however, that response
effort can be a useful part of a larger intervention plan. To put it simply, teachers can boost the
chances that a student will take part in desired behaviors (e.g., completing homework or interacting
appropriately with peers) by making these behaviors easy and convenient to take part in. However,
if teachers want to reduce the frequency of a behavior (e.g., a child's running from the classroom),
they can accomplish this by making the behavior more difficult to achieve (e.g., seating the child at
the rear of the room, far from the classroom door).
Steps in Implementing This Intervention
The teacher selects either an undesirable behavior to decrease or a desirable behavior to increase.
By varying response effort required to complete a behavior, the teacher can influence the
frequency of a child's targeted behavior, making it likely to appear more often or less often. First,
however, the teacher must select a behavioral target to increase or decrease.
(Optional) If necessary, the teacher breaks the behavioral target into more manageable sub-steps.
Some school behavioral goals are global and consist of many sub-steps. For instance, a goal that
"the student will complete all school assignments during seatwork time" could be further subdivided into: (1) The student will organized her work materials prior to starting seatwork, (2) If she
encounters a work item that she does not understand, the student will use independent problemsolving skills prior to approaching the teacher for help; and several other key sub-steps. Breaking
larger behavior goals into smaller steps will make it easier for the teacher to decide how to
manipulate the response effort required to carry out each sub-step.
The teacher chooses ways to alter the response effort required to complete each selected behavior
or behavior sub-step. This final step is best demonstrated through examples:
Increasing response effort to reduce the rate of an undesirable behavior. Putting a physical
barrier between a student and an activity, imposing a wait-time before a student can take part in an
activity are examples of an increase in response effort.
Example: A teacher finds that one of her students sits down at a computer in her room whenever
he can find an opportunity to use a spelling-word program that presents lessons in a game-like
format. While the teacher is happy to see that the student enjoys using the academic software, she
finds that his frequent use of the computer interferes with his completion of other important school
Jim Wright, Presenter
work. She has already broken down the student's behavior, "using the computer", into two substeps, "sitting down at the computer" and "starting the spelling software program". While observing
the student, though, the teacher notes that the computer is left on in the classroom during the
entire school day, making it very convenient for the student to use it at inappropriate times. The
teacher decides to increase the response effort needed to use the computer by leaving it turned off
when not in use. The student must now switch on the computer and wait for it to boot up before he
can use it, a procedure that takes about 2 minutes. Several days later, the teacher notes that the
student's rate of unauthorized computer use has dropped significantly because the 'effort'
(increased wait-time) to use the computer has increased.
Reducing response effort to increase the rate of a desirable behavior. Putting instructional
supplies within convenient reach and having an older peer help a child to organize study materials
are examples of a decrease in response effort.
Example: The instructor wants to encourage children in his classroom to read more. After
analyzing the current opportunities that children have for getting and reading books in school, the
instructor realizes both that students do not have comfortable places to read in the classroom and
that, with the current schedule they can get the the school library only once per week. The teacher
creates a reading corner in his room, with an old but serviceable couch, reading lamps, and a shelf
with paperback titles popular with his class. The teacher also arranges with the school's library
media specialist to allow his students to drop by daily to check out books. By creating both a more
comfortable reading location and easier access to books, the teacher is able to lower the threshold
of effort needed to read. As a result, his students read more in the classroom.
Troubleshooting: How to Deal With Common Problems in Using Response Effort
Q: I like the concept of response effort as a behavior management approach, but I am not sure just
how it would fit into my classroom routine. Is response effort only used alone or can it be combined
with other intervention ideas?
Creative teachers will probably find many uses for response effort, both alone and in combination
with other interventions. Here is one idea: A teacher might identify an activity that she wants to
reduce (e.g., student playing with small toys stored in his desk). If the teacher already has a
token/reward system in place for this student, she may forbid the student from playing with toys
during the school day but allow the student to redeem a certain number of points or tokens to buy
opportunities to play with his toys during free periods. By redefining the undesirable activity to the
status of a reward that must be purchased, the teacher has increased the response effort needed
for the student to access the activity. It is likely that the student's frequency of playing with toys will
drop as a result.
Jim Wright, Presenter
‘How RTI Works’ Series © 2010 Jim Wright
www.interventioncentral.org 1
‘Defensive Behavior Management’: Advance Planning, Connecting With
the Student, and Defusing Crisis Situations
Description: ‘Defensive behavior management’ (Fields, 2004) is a teacher-friendly six-step approach to avert
student-teacher power struggles that emphasizes providing proactive instructional support to the student, elimination
of behavioral triggers in the classroom setting, relationship-building, strategic application of defusing techniques
when needed, and use of a ‘reconnection’ conference after behavioral incidents to promote student reflection and
positive behavior change.
Purpose: When students show non-compliant, defiant, and disruptive behaviors in the classroom, the situation can
quickly spin out of control. In attempting to maintain authority, the teacher may instead fall into a power struggle with
the student, often culminating in the student being removed from the classroom. The numerous negative
consequences of chronic student misbehavior include classwide lost instructional time, the acting-out student’s
frequent exclusion from instruction, and significant teacher stress (Fields, 2004). Defensive management can prevent
these negative outcomes.
Materials: No specialized materials are needed.
Preparation: Preparation steps are included in the intervention itself (see below).
Intervention Steps: Defensive behavior management is implemented through these steps:
1. Understanding the Problem and Using Proactive Strategies to Prevent It. The teacher collects information-through direct observation and perhaps other means--about specific instances of student problem behavior and
the instructional components and other factors surrounding them. The teacher analyzes this information to
discover specific ‘trigger’ events that seem to set off the problem behavior(s). Examples of potential triggers
include lack of skills; failure to understand directions; fatigue because of work volume; reluctance to demonstrate
limited academic skills in the presence of peers or adults; etc.).
As the teacher identifies elements in the classroom environment that appear to trigger student non-compliance
or defiance, the instructor adjusts instruction to provide appropriate student support to prevent behavioral
episodes (e.g., providing the student with additional instruction in a skill; repeating directions and writing them on
the board; ‘chunking’ larger work assignments into smaller segments; restructuring academic tasks to reduce the
likelihood of student embarrassment in front of peers).
2. Promoting Positive Teacher-Student Interactions. Early in each class session, the teacher makes a point to
engage in at least one positive verbal interaction with the student. Throughout the class period, the teacher
continues to interact in positive ways with the student (e.g., brief conversation, smile, thumbs up, praise
comment after a student remark in large-group discussion, etc.). In each interaction, the teacher adopts a
genuinely accepting, polite, respectful tone.
3. Scanning for Warning Indicators. During the class session, the teacher monitors the target student’s behavior
for any behavioral indicators suggesting that the student is becoming frustrated or angry. Examples of behaviors
that precede non-compliance or open defiance may include stopping work; muttering or complaining; becoming
Jim Wright, Presenter
‘How RTI Works’ Series © 2010 Jim Wright
www.interventioncentral.org 2
argumentative; interrupting others; leaving his or her seat; throwing objects, etc.).
4. Exercising Emotional Restraint. Whenever the student begins to display problematic behaviors, the teacher
makes an active effort to remain calm. To actively monitor his or her emotional state, the teacher tracks
physiological cues such as increased muscle tension and heart rate, as well as fear, annoyance, anger, or other
negative emotions. The teacher also adopts calming or relaxation strategies that work for him or her in the face
of provocative student behavior--such as taking a deep breath or counting to 10 before responding.
5. Using Defusing Tactics. If the student begins to escalate to non-compliant, defiant, or confrontational behavior
(e.g., arguing, threatening, other intentional verbal interruptions), the teacher draws from a range of possible
deescalating strategies to defuse the situation. Such strategies can include private conversation with the student
while maintaining a calm voice, open-ended questions, paraphrasing the student’s concerns, acknowledging the
student’s emotions, etc.
6. Reconnecting with the Student. Soon after any in-class incident of student non-compliance, defiance, or
confrontation, the teacher makes a point to meet with the student individually to discuss the behavioral incident,
identify the triggers in the classroom environment that may have led to the problem, and brainstorm with the
student to create a written plan to prevent the reoccurrence of such an incident. Throughout this conference, the
teacher maintains a supportive, positive, polite, and respectful tone.
Adjusting/Troubleshooting: Here are recommendations for using defensive management as an intervention
strategy and addressing issues that might arise:
Consider adopting defensive behavior management across classrooms. Particularly in middle and high schools,
students who are chronically non-compliant or defiant often display those maladaptive behaviors across instructional
settings. If all teachers who work with a challenging student use the defensive management approach, there is a
greater likelihood that the student will find classrooms more predictable and supportive—and that teachers will
experience greater success with that student.
Do not use defensive management to respond to physically aggressive behaviors or other serious safety concerns.
While the defensive-management process can work quite effectively to prevent or minimize verbal outbursts and noncompliance, the teacher should not attempt on his or her own to manage serious physical aggression using this
classroom-based approach. Instead, teachers should respond to any episodes of student physical aggression by
immediately notifying building administration.
Fields, B. (2004). Breaking the cycle of office referrals and suspensions: Defensive management. Educational
Psychology in Practice, 20, 103-115.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Intervention Integrity: Methods to Track the Quality with Which
Interventions Are Carried Out
As schools implement academic and behavioral interventions, they strive to implement those interventions with
consistency and quality in classrooms that are fluid and fast-evolving instructional environments. On the one hand,
teachers must be prepared to improvise moment by moment to meet classroom needs that suddenly arise: for
example, reordering their lesson plans on the fly to maintain student engagement, spending unanticipated extra time
answering student questions, or responding to sudden behavior problems. On the other hand, it is a basic
expectation that specific RTI interventions will be carefully planned and carried out as designed.
So how can a school ensure that interventions are implemented with consistency even in the midst of busy and
rapidly shifting instructional settings? The answer is for the school to find efficient ways to track ‘intervention
integrity’. After all, if the school lacks basic information about whether an intervention was done right, it cannot have
confidence in the outcome of that intervention. And uncertainty about the quality with which the intervention was
conducted will prevent the school from distinguishing truly ‘non-responding’ students from cases in which the
intervention did not work simply because it was done incorrectly or inconsistently.
There are three general sources of data that can provide direct or indirect information about intervention integrity: (1)
work products and records generated during the intervention, (2) teacher self-reports and self-ratings, and (3) direct
structured observation of the intervention as it is being carried out. Each of these approaches has potential strengths
and drawbacks.
 Work products and records generated during the intervention. Often student work samples and other records
generated naturally as part of the intervention can be collected to give some indication of intervention integrity
(Gansle & Noell, 2007). If student work samples are generated during an intervention, for example, the teacher
can collect these work samples and write onto them the date, start time, and end time of the intervention
session. Additionally, the teacher can keep a simple intervention contact log to document basic information for
each intervention session, including the names of students attending the session (if a group intervention); date;
and start time and end time of the intervention session.
An advantage of using work products and other records generated as a natural part of the intervention is that
they are easy to collect. However, such work products and records typically yield only limited information on
intervention integrity such as whether interventions occurred with the expected frequency or whether each
intervention session met for the appropriate length of time. (The Intervention Contact Log is an example of a
documentation tool that would track frequency, length of session, and group size for group interventions—
although the form can also be adapted as well for individual students.)
 Teacher self-reports and self-ratings. As another source of data, the teacher or other educators responsible for
the intervention can periodically complete formal or informal self-ratings to provide information about whether the
intervention is being carried out with integrity. Teacher self-ratings can be done a variety of ways. For example,
the instructor may be asked at the end of each intervention session to complete a brief rating scale (e.g., 0 =
intervention did not occur; 4 = intervention was carried out completely and correctly). Or the teacher may
periodically (e.g., weekly) be emailed an intervention integrity self-rating to complete.
One advantage of teacher self-ratings is that they are easy to complete, a definite advantage in classrooms
Jim Wright, Presenter
where time is a very limited resources. A second advantage of self-ratings, as with any form of self-monitoring of
behaviors is that they may prompt teachers to higher levels of intervention compliance (e.g., Kazdin, 1989). A
limitation of teacher self-reports and self-ratings, though, is that they tend to be biased in a positive direction
(Gansle & Noell, 2007), possibly resulting in an overly optimistic estimate of intervention integrity. (The attached
Intervention Contact Log includes a teacher self-rating component to be completed after each intervention
 Direct observation of the intervention steps. The most direct way to measure the integrity of any intervention is
through observation. First, the intervention is divided into a series of discrete steps to create an observation
checklist. An observer would then visit the classroom with checklist in hand to watch the intervention being
implemented and to note whether each step of the intervention is completed correctly (Roach & Elliott, 2008).
The direct observation of intervention integrity yields a single figure: ‘percentage of intervention steps correctly
completed’. To compute this figure, the observer (1) adds up the number of intervention steps correctly carried
out during the observation, (2) divides that sum by the total number of steps in the intervention, and (3) multiplies
the quotient by 100 to calculate the percentage of steps in the intervention that were done in an acceptable
manner. For example, a teacher conducts a 5-step reading fluency intervention with a student. The observer
notes that 4 of the 5 steps were done correctly and that one was omitted. The observer divides the number of
correctly completed steps (4) by the total number of possible steps (5) to get a quotient of .80. The observer then
multiples the quotient by 100 (.80 X 100), resulting in an intervention integrity figure of 80 percent.
The advantage of directly observing the steps of an intervention is that it gives objective, first-hand information
about the degree to which that intervention was carried out with integrity. However, this approach does have
several drawbacks. The first possible hurdle is one of trust: Teachers and other intervention staff may believe
that the observer who documents the quality of interventions will use the information to evaluate global job
performance rather than simply to give feedback about the quality of a single intervention (Wright, 2007).
A second drawback of direct observations tied to an intervention checklist is that this assessment approach
typically assigns equal weight to all intervention steps—when in actual fact some steps may be relatively
unimportant while others may be critical to the success of the intervention (Gansle & Noell, 2007). Schools can
construct interventions more precisely at the design stage to improve the ability of intervention-integrity
checklists to distinguish the relative importance of various intervention elements. When first developing a stepby-step intervention script, schools should review the research base to determine which of the steps comprising
a particular intervention are essential and which could be considered optional or open to interpretation by the
interventionist. The teacher would then clearly understand which intervention steps are ‘negotiable’ or ‘nonnegotiable’ (Hawkins, Morrison, Musti-Rao, & Hawkins, 2008). Of course, the intervention integrity checklist
would also distinguish between the critical and non-critical intervention elements.(The attached Intervention
Script Builder is a form that guides schools to break an intervention down into its constituent steps and to identify
specific steps as ‘negotiable’ or ‘non-negotiable’ The form also has an ‘Intervention Check’ column that an
independent observer can use to observe an intervention and verify that each step is correctly carried out.)
As schools develop procedures to measure the quality with which interventions are implemented, the majority will
probably come to rely on an efficient mix of different data sources to verify intervention integrity-- including products
generated during interventions, teacher self-ratings, and direct observations. (Schools can use the attached form Jim Wright, Presenter
Selecting Methods to Track Intervention Integrity to brainstorm various ways to collect intervention integrity data on a
particular student.)
Let’s consider an intervention integrity example: The integrity of a small-group time-drill math computation
intervention (Rhymer et al., 2002) could be measured concurrently in several ways. The teacher might maintain an
intervention contact log (record generated during the intervention) that documents group size as well as the
frequency and length of intervention sessions. As a part of each contact log entry, the teacher may be asked to rate
the degree to which she was able to implement the intervention that day (teacher self-rating). The teacher could also
collect examples of student worksheets (work products): saving at least one computation-drill worksheet per student
from each intervention session and recording on each worksheet the date, start time, and end time for the
computation time drill. These work products would supply at least indirect evidence that the intervention was being
administered according to research recommendations (Rhymer et al., 2002) for math time drills. And finally, an
observer might drop into the class at least once per week (direct observation) to observe the math time drill
intervention using a step-by-step integrity checklist customized for that intervention. Collectively, these various direct
and indirect measures would assure the school that the intervention plan is being implemented with sufficient integrity
to inspire confidence in the outcome.
Gansle, K. A., & Noell, G. H. (2007). The fundamental role of intervention implementation in assessing response to
intervention. In S. R. Jimerson, M. K. Burns, & A. M. VanDerHeyden (Eds.), Response to intervention: The science
and practice of assessment and intervention (pp. 244-251). New York: Springer Publishing.
Hawkins, R. O., Morrison, J. Q., Musti-Rao, S., & Hawkins, J. A. (2008). Treatment integrity for academic
interventions in real- world settings. School Psychology Forum, 2(3), 1-15.
Kazdin, A. E. (1989). Behavior modification in applied settings (4th ed.). Pacific Gove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Rhymer, K. N., Skinner, C. H., Jackson, S., McNeill, S., Smith, T., & Jackson, B. (2002). The 1-minute explicit timing
intervention: The influence of mathematics problem difficulty. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 29(4), 305-311.
Roach, A. T., & Elliott, S. N. (2008). Best practices in facilitating and evaluating intervention integrity. In A. Thomas &
J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology V (pp.195-208).
Wright, J. (2007). The RTI toolkit: A practical guide for schools. Port Chester, NY: National Professional Resources,
Jim Wright, Presenter
Intervention Script Builder
Student Name: __________________________ Grade: _________
Teacher/Team: ____________________________________________ Intervention Start Date: _____/_____/____
Description of the Target Academic or Behavior Concern: ______________________________________________
This step took
Y__ N__
This step took
Y__ N__
Intervention Preparation Steps: Describe any preparation (creation or
purchase of materials, staff training, etc.) required for this intervention.
Negotiable? (Hawkins
et al., 2008) 1.
 Negotiable Step
 Non-Negotiable
 Negotiable Step
 Non-Negotiable
 Negotiable Step
 Non-Negotiable
This step took
Y__ N__
Intervention Steps: Describe the steps of the intervention. Include enough detail so that
the procedures are clear to all who must implement them.
Negotiable? (Hawkins
et al., 2008)
 Negotiable Step
 Non-Negotiable
 Negotiable Step
 Non-Negotiable
 Negotiable Step
 Non-Negotiable
 Negotiable Step
 Non-Negotiable
 Negotiable Step
 Non-Negotiable
This step took
Y__ N__
This step took
Y__ N__
This step took
Y__ N__
This step took
Y__ N__
This step took
Y__ N__
Research Citation(s) / References: List the published source(s) that make this a ‘scientifically based’ intervention.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Intervention Quality Check: How will data be collected to verify that this intervention is put into practice as it was
designed? (Select at least one option.)
Classroom Observation: Number of observations planned? ______________
Person responsible for observations?: _______________________________
Teacher Intervention Rating Log: How frequently will the teacher rate intervention follow-through?
Daily___ Weekly ___
Teacher Verbal Report: Who will check in with the teacher for a verbal report of how the
intervention is progressing? ________________________________________________
Approximately when during the intervention period will this verbal ‘check in’ occur? _________
Intervention Checklist: Select either the classroom teacher/team or an outside observer to use the completed
Intervention Script Builder as a checklist to rate the quality of the intervention. Check the appropriate set of
directions below:
___Teacher Directions: Make copies of this intervention script. Once per week, review the steps in the
intervention script and note (Y/N) whether each step was typically followed. Then write any additional notes
about the intervention in the blank below
___ Independent Observer Directions: Make copies of this intervention script. At several points during the
intervention, make an appointment to observe the intervention in action. While observing the intervention, go
through the steps in the intervention script and note (Y/N) whether each step was typically followed. Then write
any additional notes about the intervention in the space below
Intervention Observation Notes: _______________________________________________________________
Hawkins, R. O., Morrison, J. Q., Musti-Rao, S., & Hawkins, J. A. (2008). Treatment integrity for academic interventions in
real- world settings. School Psychology Forum, 2(3), 1-15.
Jim Wright, Presenter
Intervention Contact Log
Staff Member(s) Implementing Intervention: ___________________________________________________________
Classroom/Location: ______________________ Intervention Description: _________________________________
Students in Group: (Note: Supplemental intervention groups generally should be capped at 6-7 students.)
D. ____________________________
G. ____________________________
H. ____________________________
C. ____________________________
Date: _________ Time Start: ___ : ____
Time End: ___ : ____
Students Absent _________________________________
To what degree were you able to carry out the intervention as designed? Comments: ______________________________________
Not at all
Date: _________ Time Start: ___ : ____
Time End: ___ : ____
Students Absent: ________________________________
To what degree were you able to carry out the intervention as designed? Comments: ______________________________________
Not at all
Date: _________ Time Start: ___ : ____
Time End: ___ : ____
Students Absent: ________________________________
To what degree were you able to carry out the intervention as designed? Comments: ______________________________________
Not at all
Date: _________ Time Start: ___ : ____
Time End: ___ : ____
Students Absent: ________________________________
To what degree were you able to carry out the intervention as designed? Comments: ______________________________________
Not at all
Date: _________ Time Start: ___ : ____
Time End: ___ : ____
Students Absent: ________________________________
To what degree were you able to carry out the intervention as designed? Comments: ______________________________________
Not at all
Date: _________ Time Start: ___ : ____
Time End: ___ : ____
Students Absent: ________________________________
To what degree were you able to carry out the intervention as designed? Comments: ______________________________________
Not at all
Date: _________ Time Start: ___ : ____
Time End: ___ : ____
Students Absent: ________________________________
To what degree were you able to carry out the intervention as designed? Comments: ______________________________________
Not at all
Jim Wright, Presenter
Selecting Methods to Track Intervention Integrity
Student Name: ___________________________________________________ Date: ____________________
Directions: Schools can use three general sources of data to obtain direct or indirect information about intervention
integrity: (1) work products and records generated during the intervention, (2) teacher self-reports and self-ratings, and (3)
direct classroom observation of the intervention as it is being carried out. Use this form to select an efficient combination of
methods to measure the overall integrity with which an intervention is being implemented.
Work products and records generated during the intervention. Student work samples and other records such as
intervention contact logs generated naturally as part of the intervention can be collected to give some indication of
intervention integrity (Gansle & Noell, 2007). What work products or other intervention records can be collected to help to
track the integrity of the intervention?
Type of Work Product/ Other Intervention Documentation Person(s) Responsible
Frequency of Data Collection
Teacher self-reports and self-ratings. The teacher or other educators responsible for the intervention can periodically
complete formal or informal self-ratings to provide information whether the intervention is being carried out with integrity
(Gansle & Noell, 2007).. Teacher self-ratings can be done a variety of ways. At the end of each intervention session, for
example, the instructor may complete a brief rating scale (e.g., 0 = intervention did not occur; 4 = intervention was carried
out completely and correctly). Or the teacher may periodically be emailed a short, open-ended intervention integrity
questionnaire. What method(s) of teacher self-reports/self-ratings will be used to track the integrity of this intervention?
Type of Teacher Self-Report or Self-Rating
Person(s) Responsible
Frequency of Data Collection
Direct observation of the intervention steps. The intervention is divided into a series of discrete steps to create an
observation checklist. An observer then visits the classroom with checklist in hand to watch the intervention being
implemented and to note whether each step of the intervention is completed correctly (Roach & Elliott, 2008). The direct
observation of intervention integrity yields a single figure: ‘percentage of intervention steps correctly completed’. To
compute this figure, the observer (1) adds up the number of intervention steps correctly carried out during the observation,
(2) divides that sum by the total number of steps in the intervention, and (3) multiplies the quotient by 100 to calculate the
percentage of steps in the intervention that were done in an acceptable manner.
Who will be responsible for creating an interventionintegrity checklist containing the essential steps of the
Who will use the interventionintegrity checklist to conduct
observations of the intervention?
How often or on what dates will
classroom observations of the
intervention be conducted?
Gansle, K. A., & Noell, G. H. (2007). The fundamental role of
Roach, A. T., & Elliott, S. N. (2008). Best practices in facilitating
and evaluating intervention integrity. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes
intervention implementation in assessing response to
(Eds.), Best practices in school psychology V (pp.195-208).
intervention. In S. R. Jimerson, M. K. Burns, & A. M.
VanDerHeyden (Eds.), Response to intervention: The science
and practice of assessment and intervention (pp. 244-251). New
York: Springer Publishing.
Jim Wright, Presenter
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