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Tier 2 Interventions: Take RTI Education to the Next Level

Judy Stoehr

Now that you've got differentiated instruction down pat and your RTI essentials in place, it's time to get to the heart of this instructional trend: reaching those students who are still struggling.


Your school met the state deadline for implementing Response to Intervention. As a classroom teacher, you are using a variety of differentiated instructional and assessment strategies. Universal screening and progress monitoring tools are in place. You are using the resulting data to guide your instruction and to determine which students need Tier 2 interventions. You know that in order to be effective, those interventions must not be “more of the same,” since the strategies you used in your Tier 1 classroom did not work for these students. Your challenge is to meet the needs of each Tier 2 student while maintaining the instructional integrity of your general education classroom.


If the above scenario sounds familiar, your school is probably in the second phase of RTI implementation. (See below for a suggested time line for RTI implementation.) You and your colleagues have progressed beyond the “basics” and are no doubt looking for ways to take the design and implementation of Tier 2 interventions to the next level.


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To do this, consider the following two questions:

*How can I design effective Tier 2 interventions?
*How can I differentiate targeted interventions to meet the needs of each of my Tier 2 students?


How can I design effective Tier 2 interventions?

Tier 2 evidence-based interventions use systematic, explicit methods to change student performance and/or behavior. In systematic methods, skills and concepts begin with the most simple, moving to the most complex. Student objectives are clear, concise, and driven by ongoing assessment results.


Additionally, students are provided with appropriate practice opportunities which directly reflect systematic instruction. Explicit methods typically include teacher modeling, student guided practice, and student independent practice, sometimes referred to as “I do, We do, You do.”


Tier 2 Intervention Design Example:

I do
1.Teacher models and explains


We do
2.Students practice (with teacher’s guidance) what the teacher modeled
3.Teacher provides prompts/feedback
4.Students apply skill as teacher scaffolds instruction


You do
5.Students practice independently (either in-class or as homework)
6.Teacher provides feedback


As you design interventions that are systematic and explicit, make sure you spend plenty of time on the “We do” stage. That is your best opportunity to catch mistakes and clarify misconceptions.


How can I differentiate targeted interventions to meet the needs of each of my Tier 2 students?

To design effective differentiated interventions, you must understand your students’ learning modalities and multiple intelligences. As you no doubt remember from your college classes, the modalities are how we take information into the brain.


Are your students visual, auditory, or tactile/kinesthetic? Many Tier 2 learners are primarily visual and tactile/kinesthetic. They need concrete examples such as pictures and graphic organizers, as well as hands-on experiences.


Students who are poor readers typically exhibit strengths in the visual/spatial intelligence. They “think in pictures” rather than in words. Because these students are often able to put details into their pictures that others may not discern, encourage them to sketch what they are reading or hearing. Next, guide them as they first explain and then write about their pictures.


Tier 2 Intervention Example: Sketch a Story (Introduction to Study of Pollution)


Direct the students to each get a sheet of plain copy paper and sketch the following story as you tell it:


1.A factory is next to a lake.
2.Chemicals are coming from the factory into the lake.
3.A small fish in the lake takes in some of the chemicals.
4.A large fish eats the small fish.
5.A fisherman catches the large fish.
6.The fisherman sells the fish to a local restaurant.
7.A lady orders and eats the fish.
8.The lady gets sick after eating the fish.


Have the students retell the story to a partner, using their own pictures as their “maps.” Discuss the meaning of the story. If time, have the students write a summary of the story.


Stoehr, J. “The Clean-Up Kids.” Alfred Music Co., Reprinted by Permission.


Suggested Timeline for RTI Implementation

  Phase 1               

  • Establish a Professional Learning Community
  • Differentiate instruction in Tier 1
  • Conduct professional development on RTI
  • Begin an Action Plan
  • Set up RTI teams
  • Select an RTI model
  • Choose or design universal screening and begin using

  Phase 2

  • Hold discussions on decision rules, fidelity of implementation, and documentation procedures
  • In Tier 1, regularly use data from assessments to make instructional decisions
  • Make decisions about when and how Tiers 2 & 3 interventions will be conducted
  • Choose or design progress monitoring and begin using
  • Begin differentiating interventions in Tiers 2 and 3
  • Finish Action Plan

  Phase 3

  • In all tiers, use data to make most instruction and intervention decisions
  • Differentiate instruction and interventions consistently
  • Evaluate practicality and usefulness of  universal screening and progress monitoring


Stoehr, J., Banks, M., & Allen, L. PLCs, DI, & RTI: A Tapestry for School Change. p. 85, copyright 2011 by Corwin Press, Reprinted by Permission of Corwin Press.


Share your RTI Tier 2 intervention strategies in the comments section!

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