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Accommodate various learning styles and present information for auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners."

Effective RTI Strategies for Teachers

Tier One Strategies

Although there are many different response to intervention (RTI) teaching strategies that can be used in tier one, some of the most effective RTI strategies use instruction that is structured, planned and research-based. Most teaching strategies are specific to the subject being taught, especially in the cases of mathematics and language arts; however, there are strategies that can be effective in all subjects and at all grade levels.

Many of these strategies can be combined to present an effective lesson. For instance, the following active learning example uses many strategies to teach help students understand common nouns:

  • State the objective: “Our goal today is to discover what a common noun is.”
  • Give direct instruction: “A common noun is the name of a person, place, thing or idea.”
  • Use hands-on, non-linguistic representations to help students associate words with their meanings: “Everyone, draw a common noun. You have three minutes.” Set a timer to keep the activity moving.
  • Use grouping: “Show your neighbor your common noun. Can they guess what you have drawn?”
  • Use feedback, reinforcement and recognition: “Who thinks that their neighbor drew a really great common noun? Jerry, what did Susie draw? Now, look around the classroom. Raise your hand if you can name a common noun that you see.”
  • Use similarities and differences: “We need an example of a word that is not a noun. Raise your hand if you know one.” Show pictoral examples of both. Discuss what common nouns are, what they are not and how they are used.
  • Use advanced organizers such as graphic organizers: “Let’s use this chart to separate this list of words into common nouns and words that are not nouns.”
  • Provide feedback: Record each student’s grasp of the concept as you circulate around the room. Afterward, let students check their work in the group, and then give the correct answers as final feedback so that students can self-correct.
  • Use summary and note taking: “In your journal, define a common noun in your own words and write a sentence using the common noun that you or your neighbor drew.”
  • Restate the objective and reinforce the lesson: “Today we have discovered that a common noun is the name of a person, place, thing or idea. Who would like to read the sentence from their journal?”

As a teacher, you can keep the class moving by choosing strategies that engage students, giving appropriate wait time and creating structured groups; you can also use timers or other devices to keep the lesson flowing and students on task. In addition, you can plan lessons that accommodate various learning styles and present information for auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners to increase retention and understanding. In addition, by using frequent group work, you can provide a social aspect to learning, which helps to fully engage students. It is also important to teach proper study, memory and test taking skills in tier one, and to model effective problem-solving, positive self-talk and good organization skills.

Tier Two Strategies

In tier two of the RTI framework, students who didn’t respond favorably to tier one strategies are given small group instruction in addition to the core curriculum. This involves more intentional teaching strategies that pinpoint exactly what students need to learn and that specifically teach them accordingly.

Teaching strategies are more specific to each subject in tier two. Most include some form of direct instruction, which breaks information into shorter segments or steps and targets learning to simplify instruction. Students are also provided with more opportunities to practice what they have learned.

The pace of the direct instruction in tier two is slower and time is spent showing students a knowledge or skill, as well as practicing it, to build a firm foundation. In addition, teaching, re-teaching, practice and frequent progress monitoring for each specific skill takes place over a much longer period of time than is feasible in a regular classroom.

To avoid confusion, the topic or skill that is being taught should not be combined with other topics or skills. For example, if you’re teaching addition of fractions, the lesson will not extend it to multiplication of fractions. The new skill isn’t taught until the old skill is mastered.

Although there is some variation in frequency, in many RTI models this more targeted instruction is delivered to small groups of students two or three times a week in 30-minute sessions. Depending on school policy, the group may be given instruction by the general classroom teacher or they may move to a separate classroom and another teacher. Some intervention programs, like Reading First (which is used for students in kindergarten through third grade who are struggling), may be available through the school, district or state. These programs often contain more specific teaching strategies to follow when teaching the groups.

Tier Three Strategies

Students who do not respond to instruction in tier two of the RTI framework are moved to tier three. Here the instruction is very individualized according to learning styles, and may be specific for each student. Students are taught in very small groups or one on one, where they can talk through their thought processes when they learn, solve problems or read for comprehension. Troubleshooting to determine what a student needs to be successful is a priority.

In many RTI models, the time allotted for needed interventions is almost doubled from tier two to tier three; the length of time over which students are given the intervention is also extended. Most often, students receiving tier three interventions are taught by a teacher who is trained in using the specialized techniques needed to help students with cognitive learning difficulties.

In tier three, the teacher uses strategies that are designed to affect the way in which each student processes information. For example, the teacher may model how to think through a problem and ask students to think aloud as they work through the problem as well. Instruction is geared toward students who have difficulty or a learning disability in a core subject area; the teacher provides more explicit and systematic instruction, helps students work on memory skills, teaches them to ask and answer questions about what they are learning and provides them with many opportunities to give feedback.

If the student is successful after this intensive intervention, they return to tier two. If they are not successful, they may be screened for special education if they have not been screened already.


Sally Kirkpatrick

About Author: Sally Kirkpatrick

Sally Kirkpatrick has 23 years of experience teaching special education children in the regular education setting. Kirkpatrick wrote district-wide curriculum for 20 years and has always been a forerunner in RTI interventions for her subject. She has served as the Special Education coordinator for her school and as the coordinator of a school-wide afterschool program that tutored struggling students. In addition to a MS in Educational Administration, Kirkpatrick also has a BS in Elementary Education and a double minor in Biology and Chemistry. She has attended many special education meetings as a professional, a parent and in an administrator’s capacity. Helping students with special needs be successful has always been an area of personal and professional interest and study. Follow her on Google+.