Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thinking About Classroom Intervention

I've been thinking a lot recently about intervention--classroom intervention specifically. My friend Miss M. asked me to define what I meant when I said "classroom intervention" and it got me thinking about what it really is.

Usually when we think of intervention, we think about specific programs or series of lessons or pull out groups or things like Reading Recovery. But what I was talking about was not those what was it? All those things are critically important to our kids who are struggling, but the majority of their day is not spent in one-on-one interventions or groups; it is spent with us, in the classroom.

Take a look at this:

Consider our struggling learners--much of what we do in the classroom (those orange stars in the diagram) is not only likely to be outside what they can do on their own, but may be on the far edge of what they can do with help or is outside their learning zone completely.  Yikes!

So consider this. When I looked up intervention or intervene, the following things popped up:
  • to mediate
  • to come between to alter results or the course of events
  • to be situated between
  • deliberate action taken to improve a situation
In the classroom, it's our job to mediate--to be situated between the tasks and teaching and the kids. To find ways to take deliberate actions across the day to create bridges between our struggling kids and what happens in the classroom. Some of it's easier--guided reading groups, conferring one-on-one--those contexts make it easy to intervene in the classroom. But what about during whole group times? As kids enter the classroom each day? During work times when you're not conferring with these kids?

It's not easy, and I wish I had answers for how to make this happen every day for every kid. I don't. But what I do have is a commitment to try. I find ways to sneak in bits and pieces. 

Like with my morning message--it's just inside the doorway, and as kids enter, they read it alone or in pairs or small groups. And I am right there in the doorway, sneaking moments to support my struggling readers as they read that message--while also greeting others and giving out morning hugs. When we meet as a whole group to read the message a little bit later, my struggling kids come to that task already having successfully read the message. Often I have taken those tiny doorway moments to point out something in the message that we'll be coming back to in the large group meeting--kind of like pre-teaching.

It's not perfect. It's not easy. But it is critical. We have to think about how we can mediate any classroom experiences that are outside the zones of our struggling learners. So what I told Miss M. is that I think classroom intervention is bigger than small groups or one-on-one conferring. It's something we ought to be considering across the whole day, in moments large and small.


  1. Wow, wow, wow. Will you write more? You have me hooked and my brain is swirling with ideas of more "doorway moments" across the day.

    Your diagram helps make your point more concrete in my mind & I appreciate the snippets of the definition of "intervene."

    Mostly, though, I appreciate your knack for explaining theory, telling a story, and making them both come together giving me a deeper understanding than when I started.

    Thanks so much for sharing,

  2. Thank you for your insightful thought. I am going to share this with my teachers during collaboration. My fellow literacy coach and I were just talking about the subject of supporting struggling readers and writers, struggling period. Your thoughts will be a great spring board for discussion on what are we doing to help support those kids on a moment to moment basis. Super! MHG:)

  3. Wow. Didn't know my question would cause such deliberation. My school psych is always asking me what "interventions" I have put into place for specific kids who are struggling. I agree with you- it's not meant to be just a "pull out" program. We need (and can) intervene throughout the day. Whether its tapping A. on the shoulder a couple of minutes before its time to clean up-- because he struggles with transitions. Or talking with C. for a couple of minutes in the morning to listen to his stories and encourage to use one of them for Writing Workshop because he struggles with ideas. Or, "pre-teaching" a whole group lesson with the morning message. I think we intervene a lot more than we think we do. I also think the better we know our kids- what they struggle with, how they succeed, how they veiw themselves as learners- the better we naturally intervene for them throughout the day.

    Thanks for bringing my own question back around to me. Like you, I will be looking for more ways to intervene across the day!

    - Miss M.