Friday, May 20, 2016

A New RTI Model for Schoolwide Reform: The RTI Diamond Approach

It is that time of the year when administrators and teachers start making plans for the next year, reflecting on what worked, what did not work, and what can be improved. As we plan for next school year, I am very excited about implementing a new RTI approach called the RTI Diamond Approach. 
As it is widely known,  in the three-tier RTI approach (RTI pyramid), the teacher collects frequent qualitative and quantitative assessment data through different assessment methods such as anecdotal notes, benchmark assessments, and other assessment tools throughout the year. These assessments provide teachers with opportunities to frequently assess students’ growth or lack of growth. This information allows teachers to group students according to their level of performance. The majority of students’ needs are addressed in tier 1 which includes all or most of the students. Tier 2 provides students with selected instruction and intervention. Tier 3 provides students, who require more intervention and support than that provided at tier 2, with supplemental intervention and targeted instruction. In this three-tiered model, students that do not demonstrate growth receive more intensive support. If students in tier 2 demonstrate growth, RTI support is discontinued. This RTI model focuses on getting underperforming students as closer as possible to grade level expectations. When all this fails, students who are not making progress may be considered for special education.

In the new RTI Model for Schoolwide reform, also known as the RTI Diamond Approach, determining special education services for students is only a small part of the whole RTI approach. This diamond approach focuses on strengths rather than on weaknesses, and its main goal is to address the needs of ALL students. In this approach, all students receive "intervention." Teachers provide frequent progress monitoring of students’ growth, targeted instruction of essential skills, and all students have an opportunity to reach full growth potential. This approach helps underperforming students to make progress and meet expectations, and it provides students that are at grade level or above grade level with challenging content.

How are we going to build the RTI Diamond into the schedule?
The RTI Diamond approach will be built into the master schedule every day in an ELA intervention block. At a specific and different time for each grade level (K-5), curriculum instruction will stop and ALL students will receive targeted instruction of specific and essential skills to challenge every student at their own level. All building intervention teachers (BSI teachers), and literacy teachers (Reading specialist, Speech Language Therapists, ELL intervention teachers, Gifted and Talented teachers) will move into a grade level at the same time and work with classroom teachers as one team (the more teachers, the fewer students in each group.) Based upon individual students’ needs, skills, and levels, students will be divided in homogenous groups for 6-8 week cycles. At the end of each cycle students will be assessed for progress and regrouped based on the skills of focus for the next cycle. The goal is to create homogenous groupings to maximize direct instruction.
Finally, as we prepare to implement this RTI diamond approach in my school, I realize how important it will be to provide teachers with Common Planning Times each week to discuss and plan instruction, to choose the best assessment tools for student placement and monitoring, and to organize and plan instruction that will be provided during each cycle.

Albers, C & Martinez, R (2015) Promoting Academic Success with English Language Learners. Best Practices for RTI.

Bavis & Bavis (n.d.) “Using a Diamond RTI Model to Maximize Learning Growth for All Students” Retrieved on 5/20/16 from:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Differentiated Instruction + Student Centered Learning = Math Success

A couple of years ago, some colleagues and I started using math centers in our classrooms. We learned from other teachers that were doing math centers in their classrooms and other resources. At the bottom of this entry I included the references.
We were already doing centers during Language Arts, but now we had decided to start centers during math time because we realized that our students were at different levels and we felt that we weren’t reaching all of them.
Since our math lessons were whole group, we realized that we didn’t have time to work with individual students and in small groups, and we, as teachers, were becoming frustrated.
Math Centers helped us and our students tremendously. We started using time more efficiently, we were able to immediately assess and assist student learning, and we were able to review and differentiate content as per students’ needs.
Our students were able to learn at their ability level, experience success and enjoy Math, increase their self-esteem, gain new understanding, learn from their peers, participate in activities of appropriate lengths, and work collaboratively.
Math Centers were the answer to our problems! Below I will briefly explain how math centers work.

Math Workshop Model:
Before we begin Math Workshop rotations everyday, students take turns solving daily routines, which consist of four problems on the board. This provides daily practice of concepts in the current unit and helps students review skills learned in units we have already completed.

Math Routines are in clear plastic communicators so activities can easily be replaced weekly or per unit.

For each unit in math, we divided the class into three groups (red, green, blue or A, B, C) that rotated through three stations:
1–Work With Teacher
2–Independent Practice  & Math boxes
3–Math Games/ Esuite

Students do the same centers in the same order everyday so the rotation chart doesn't change.

Work with Teacher:

Independent Practice

Games/ Technology

80 Minute Math Schedule
•10 minutes: Daily Routines/Math Message
•66 minutes: Three Center Rotations (20 minutes per center + rotation time)
•4 minutes: Closure/Exit Slip/Math Minute


•Developmental Grouping to Differentiate Instruction
• Math Workshop in the upper elementary classroom
•EveryDay Math For Educators

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Effective Teacher

There are many attributes and skills that are necessary to be an outstanding teacher. However, I selected the following attributes that in my opinion are among the most important ones:

1) High expectations: An outstanding teacher knows and strongly believes that all her students can learn and will learn. If her students are not learning, an outstanding teacher is going to question her practice and reflect on her teaching. She will examine the curricula, her own teaching, the teaching programs, and see what needs to be modified and adjusted. An outstanding teacher does not give up and find alternate and innovative ways to help her students reach their full potentials.

2) Caring: An outstanding teacher takes the time to establish a culture of care, respect, and appreciation for each other. She creates a learning environment where students feel comfortable and secure to actively participate, express their opinions, and enjoy learning. An outstanding teacher knows her students’ well. She is aware of their talents, interests, backgrounds, and families. She designs lessons that are culturally relevant and which build upon the strengths her students come with.

3) Starts with the objective in mind: An outstanding teacher knows what she wants her students to learn. She begins the teaching and learning process with an end in mind and all instructional strategies are carefully and skillfully selected to help her students reach the lesson’s objective. An outstanding teacher is clear about what her students need to learn. She is familiar with the CCSS and the school and district expectations. She designs student centered lessons which promote active student involvement and interaction among each other. Teaching becomes a purposeful exercise that is goal oriented, relevant to student lives, and differentiated to meet students’ needs.

4) Life-long learner: An outstanding teacher never stops learning about teaching strategies and techniques. She never stops researching, asking questions, talking with colleagues and asking for help if needed. An outstanding teacher is proactive, energetic, and has a contagious passion for learning. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Literacy Centers

Literacy Centers are effective instructional practices that include meaningful and productive activities for students to do while you as a teacher work with your guided reading groups. At the beginning of the year I have a few activities that I use in my non-negotiable centers: Library, Independent Reading, Technology (Computers and Listening) and Word Study. During the school year, I constantly change the activities in these centers as I see fit. These are the templates I use. Center Directions
Center Cards

I encourage my students to take responsibility for their assignments and to demonstrate progress by using this center assignment page. I check their completed work every Friday and they receive prizes for completing their work. If their work is incomplete they have to complete it during the weekend and their parents have to sign the assignment page. I also complete their Parent Report on Friday and their parents have to sign the page. All these expectations are set at the beginning of the year. I have the same system for my math workshop block and centers. I will talk about math at another time.