When I was a first-year teacher, the veteran teachers would always tell me, “How you begin your school year is how you’ll end the school year.” Twenty years later this statement is still true. Not just for classroom management, but for all thing’s education.
Getting struggling students on grade level is not a quick or easy process. The necessary planning for designing and implementing math intervention can oftentimes be a messy process. If you’re implementing your math intervention without planning and flying by the seat of your pants, at the end of the school year your students’ progress will reflect stagnant or no growth due to poor planning.
A.L.I.G.N. is an easy five step process that you can use each time to help you successfully prepare and implement your math intervention.
Analyze Student Work
After teaching any math skill or concept, the most important part of planning and implementing math intervention is analyzing the students’ work. Analyzing your students’ work helps you to do two things: reflect and plan.
Reflection should be a regular part of your planning routine. Without reflection you won’t be able to effectively plan for your math intervention. In the book, Teach, Reflect, Learn the authors state that reflective practitioners have awareness of their instructional realities that are intentional in their actions, accurately assess their impact, adjust their impact on-the-fly, and engage in ongoing reflection. They ask themselves these questions:
- How aware am I of my students, the content, and pedagogy?
- How intentionally do I plan and deliver all aspects of my teaching?
- How do I know whether my actions affect student learning?
- How effectively do I respond to the results of ongoing assessments?
- How often do I reflect about my teaching and student learning?
To accurately assess your impact, you must analyze your students’ work and take ownership for the outcome. Taking ownership doesn’t mean that you have to take responsibility for all of your students’ academic outcomes. It simply means to commit to growth and the overall impact that your instruction has on your students’ learning.
At the end of a unit or lesson, you should analyze your students’ summative or formative assessments and ask yourself, “Were the instructional strategies you chose to teach this skill or concept effective?” This will help you to determine whether or not it was pedagogy or a true math deficit.
List Missing Skills
Generally, when I look at my students’ work after I’ve taught a concept, I think about all of the prerequisite skills that the student will need to master the on-grade level concept. These skills are what I use to create my list of missing skills.
Since I’ve been in my math intervention role, unfortunately I’ve come to the realization that a lot of math teachers don’t know what prerequisite skills the students need for the on-grade level student expectation. If you’re one of these teachers an easy way to get started with identifying the missing skills is to analyze the high achieving student work. You can use their work as a guide to help you create a list of skills that the other students are missing.
Identify Students and the Vertical Alignment Strand
Students in Title I schools come to us with many deficits. Trying to figure out what’s a math real deficit or a result of attendance issues, excessive school mobility, or if a student can do but won’t do, can make planning for your math intervention a complete and total nightmare.
I’ve found that when I’m trying to identify students for my small group math intervention and there are a lot of students who need intervention, I add more Tier 1 instructional support for those students who may be behind due to attendance or excessive mobility during the lesson. In addition to these Tier 1 supports, during my small group time these students work independently on their deficit areas but are not a part of my small group intervention.
Students who are identified as having a true math deficit are invited to be a part of my small group instruction. Once these students are identified then you can identify the vertical alignment strand for the on-grade level skill that will be used during your small group instruction.
Gather Materials and Resources
Once you have identified the students and the vertical alignment strand that you’ll use during your small group instruction for your math intervention, you’re going to need to gather your materials and resources. These materials and resources should ONLY be used for your small group instruction.
Your materials can include but are not limited to:
- Instructional strategies
- Dry erase board and markers
- Lesson plan templates
- Progress monitoring tools
- Books and workbooks
- Test prep material
- Math manipulatives
- SEL strategies
- Small group classroom management strategies
Choosing the right materials and resources is very important because your students’ growth and success depends on it! So, before you choose your resources and materials make sure that they meet the instructional needs of the students in your small group.
Notify and Group Students
The last step in the A.L.I.G.N preparation process is to notify and group your students. Notifying students that they need small group instruction at the elementary level is most certainly different than notifying students at the secondary level.
The notification process for small group instruction is more delicate and personal for students in grades fifth grade and above. This is my second year at my high school as the Math Interventionist. When most of my students realize they have a second math class, they immediately get defensive. Of course, when this happens I see it as an opportunity to gain their trust by explaining to them the benefits of being in my class and following up with math instruction that help them win in their Algebra I classes.
Grouping students can be a challenge in some classrooms with several behavior concerns. The goal for your math intervention is to quickly close gaps. This can’t be done if you’re stopping every five seconds to address off task behavior. If behavior is a concern, before you begin your interventions focus on ensuring you have implemented routines and procedures for your classroom. This will in turn make it seamless for the students to follow your routines and procedures for your small group instruction.
Notifying and grouping your students can seem routine but as with the other parts of the planning process for math intervention how you notify and group your students depends on the grade level you teach and your campus.
I’ve used the A.L.I.G.N planning process to prepare for my math interventions for the past eight years. It has helped me to plan, teach, and successfully implement my math intervention lessons with ease. Each year, I begin my year with successful planning and implementation of Response to Intervention so that I can end my year the same way that it began… with SUCCESS!