TIER 1 INSTRUCTION

In the Longmeadow Public Schools, Tier I instruction is characterized by a balanced approach. Balanced instruction is not a specific program or set of resources but rather a repertoire of effective pedagogical practices that include a balance of the following:

  • Explicit teaching of skills and strategies used by proficient readers, writers, and problem-solvers
  • Literature-rich classrooms where readers choose, read, and respond to authentic literature and informational text
  • Whole class, small-group, and 1:1 instruction for all students
  • Teacher-selected and student-selected texts, topics, problems, learning goals, and learning tools

In the elementary grades, Tier I approaches are highly structured while at the middle school level, instructional approaches are more dynamic. For example, the following components characterize balanced instruction in grades K-5:

WHAT DOES TIER 1 INSTRUCTION LOOK LIKE ?

Readers' Workshop

(45 minutes daily)

Mini lesson (explicit instruction and whole-class guided practice)

Independent reading (during which the teacher facilitates guided reading, strategy groups, book clubs, small-group intervention, and conferring)

Read Aloud

(15 minutes daily)

Teacher read-aloud using high-quality literature

Pausing at deliberate points in the text for student response

Guided discussion of text

Writers' Workshop

(45 minutes daily)

Mini lesson (explicit instruction and whole-class guided practice)

Independent writing (during which the teacher facilitates guided writing, strategy groups, small-group intervention, and conferring)

Math Workshop

(45 minutes daily)

Mini lesson (explicit instruction and whole-class guided practice)

Independent problem solving (during which the teacher provides guided math, small-group intervention, and conferring)


Phonics/Word Study

(25 minutes daily)

Mini lesson (explicit instruction and whole-class guided practice)

Independent practice (during which the teacher provides small-group or 1:1 instruction or intervention)

At the middle school level, Tier I balanced instruction is dynamic and more fluid than the elementary model. The following diagram illustrates instruction along the continuum of gradual release of responsibility in middle school instruction for ELA, math, science, social studies, and foreign language:

GROWING INDEPENDENT READERS IN OUR SCHOOLS THROUGH TIER I INSTRUCTION

The Common Core Standards require regular practice with complex text, balanced engagement with both informational and literary texts, and reading comprehension substantiated by textual evidence. Proficiency in these intricate processes require explicit instruction and a significant volume of authentic reading practice. Some of this authentic practice will happen with a high level of explicit teacher guidance through mini-lessons, guided reading, strategy groups, and conferring.

Simultaneously, educators must gradually release responsibility to students as they practice critical skills and strategies on their own during "independent reading." Independent reading follows the whole-class mini-lesson each day during Readers' Workshop. During the mini-lesson, the teacher explicitly models a skill or strategy he or she will ask the children to practice during independent reading that day. During the mini-lesson, the teacher will provide time for guided practice of the particular skill or strategy. For example, the teacher may say, "Turn and talk to your partner about one thick question and one thin question you have about the story." As the children practice the skill, the teacher will circulate to ensure the children understand. A mini-lesson will end with a phrase similar to, "Today during independent reading, I want you to try...as you read independently."

Ensuring a Significant Volume of Guided Practice and Independent Reading

The amount of time spent reading in the classroom correlates directly with reading achievement and the development of reading skills. In order to impact reading achievement, students must engage in 90 minutes of reading each day (Allington, 2006). While some of this reading comes from interaction with text in the content areas, the majority will take place during Readers' Workshop in grades K-5 and English/Language Arts in grades 6-8. To the right are guidelines to help us understand the minimal requirements for independent reading in class by grade level.

This independent reading time is crucial for two reasons. First, while students are reading independently, teachers are meeting with small groups for guided reading, strategy groups, and literature circles or conferring with individual students. These small-group and 1:1 teaching opportunities allow the teacher to personalize learning for every student and gradually release responsibility for learning by bridging whole-class instruction and independent practice with highly structured pedagogy and intervention. Secondly, the extended time for independent practice ensures that strategies and skills become automatic over time.


  • Kindergarten: 5-15 minutes daily
  • Grade One: 20-30 minutes daily
  • Grades Two - Five: 30-45 minutes daily
  • Grades Six - Eight: 15-20 minutes daily or 1 hour and 15 minutes weekly

Building a Classroom Library to Support Independent Reading

Students need a high volume of accessible text to sustain independent reading on a daily basis. The classroom library entices students to browse books by interest, genre, topic, series, author, and other categories. Only a very small percentage of the classroom library should be leveled, if at all, and leveling is only appropriate in the primary grades. The school bookroom, rather than the classroom library, provides leveled text selections for guided reading purposes. Independent reading should reflect student choice and students must learn to select "just-right" texts on their own with explicit instruction from the teacher. LPS literacy coaches can assist teachers in planning these explicit mini-lessons to successfully launch independent reading and just-right text selection. Contact your literacy coach to schedule an appointment.

Helping Students Select Just-Right Texts with Anchor Charts Around the Classroom

The "five finger rule" is a simple strategy to help students self-select just-right texts. Modify this strategy for primary students who may be reading at levels where there is limited print on each page.

ENSURING TIME FOR TIER I BALANCED LITERACY INSTRUCTION

In a balanced literacy model, it is essential to schedule ample time for whole-class, small-group, and individual instruction and intervention. This time includes Readers' Workshop, Writers' Workshop, Phonics/Word Study, and Interactive Read Aloud.

Daily schedules must be posted on classroom bulletin boards or walls explicitly identifying time for each of these components. Posting this schedule will accomplish the following goals:

    • Ensure that students internalize the shared language of literacy that will be used from grade to grade
    • Ensure heavy emphasis on teaching and learning structures that promote a "research, decide, teach" model
    • Ensure learning objectives are transparent to students, service providers, and principals

The following samples to the right should be used to guide planning for classroom schedules.

Readers' Workshop 45 Minutes - 1 Hour

  • Focus Lesson - Teacher demonstration / Guided practice
  • Independent Reading with 1:1 Conference and Small Group Lessons (Literacy Centers in Kindergarten). Group Share

Phonics/Word Study 15 - 30 Minutes

Writers' Workshop 45 Minutes - 1 Hour

  • Focus Lesson - Teacher Demonstration / Guided Practice
  • Independent Writing with 1:1 Conferences and Small Group Lessons. Group Share.

Interactive Read Aloud 15 - 30 Minutes

HOW WILL WE DEVELOP K-5 TIER II BALANCED LITERACY INSTRUCTION IN THE COMING YEARS?

As our Tier I balanced literacy initiative continues to unfold, we can look ahead to a common district vision of what our classrooms will look like by June of 2017, five years after the launch of our balanced literacy initiative.

The district will implement a five-year professional learning plan to support K-5 educators in developing and strengthening balanced literacy in our classrooms. In partnership with Teaching and Learning Alliance (TLA), the district will support professional learning for educators with district-wide workshops, professional texts, literacy coaching in our classrooms, and "Lab Classrooms," where Longmeadow educators voluntarily receive additional coaching and support from TLA as they open their classrooms to their colleagues for peer observation and collaboration.

  • All classrooms will have a daily Readers' Workshop block that begins with a mini lesson where explicit skill and strategy instruction take place.
  • All classrooms will have a daily Writers' Workshop block that begins with a mini lesson where explicit skill and strategy instruction take place.
  • All classrooms will have a daily Readers' Workshop block that includes 30 minutes of independent reading (15-30 minutes in K-1) and a daily Writers' Workshop block that includes 30 minutes of independent writing (15-30 minutes in K-1).
  • All classrooms will have a daily Readers' Workshop block that includes small-group instruction and conferring during independent reading and a daily Writers' Workshop block that includes small-group instruction and conferring during independent writing.
  • All K-2 classrooms will have a daily 15-30 minute Phonics block during which explicit instruction is provided through mini lessons, small-group instruction, and independent practice. All 3-5 classrooms will have a daily 15-30 minute Word Study block during which students construct word knowledge based on phonics, spelling patterns, word recognition, and vocabulary.

OUR PROFESSIONAL LEARNING PLAN WILL HIGHLIGHT THE FOLLOWING EACH YEAR

Year I: 2012-2013

Exploring Guided Reading: Understanding the Needs of Our Readers





Year II: 2013-2014

Gradually Releasing Responsibility to Students: Mini Lessons to Guided Reading or Writing to Independent Reading or Writing in RW, WW, and Phonics/Word Study

Year III: 2014-2015

Diversifying Explicit Instruction for Students: Expanding Small-Group Options and 1:1 Instructional Techniques for Tier II Instruction.

Year IV: 2015-2016

Gradually Releasing Responsibility to Students: Refining Mini Lessons, Guided Reading or Writing, and Independent Reading or Writing

Year V: 2016-2017

Diversifying Explicit Instruction for Students: Refining Small-Group Options and 1:1 Instructional Techniques for Tier II Instruction.

OPEN RESPONSE WRITING

Supporting Open Response and Short Answer Writing in Our Classrooms

Students may struggle to successfully tackle open response writing for a variety of reasons, including the following:

    • Students do not understand test question vocabulary, referred to as general academic vocabulary in the common core standards, including words like explain, describe, label, etc.
    • Students do not understand the expectations of each kind of test question.
    • Students do not support their responses with sufficient details.
    • Students do not use content vocabulary in their responses.
    • Students lack the stamina to successfully answer all kinds of questions.

We can help address these obstacles by providing regular, explicit modeling, instruction, and intervention for open response writing in our classrooms. Use the following released MCAS item resources, along with any other open response tools appropriate to your grade level, to assess open response writing once per week throughout the school year. These resources will be continually updated to include additional MCAS years as well as other resources used by our educators to support open response writing.

Our Teaching Methods for Open Response are Critical to Student Success

Students learn best with explicit modeling and guided practice. This is especially true for struggling learners. It is unlikely to see growth by "telling" students how to construct a more effective open response. Educators need to provide explicit modeling to "show" rather than "tell" how proficient open responses are crafted. This will likely require multiple "mini lessons" or whole-class instruction. A mini lesson series on open response might resemble the following:

Writers tackle the passage first before responding to text.

  • Gather the whole class for a mini lesson on the rug.
  • Project a sample reading passage and open response question using the Elmo or SmartBoard.
  • Model your thinking aloud as you highlight key details in the text that relate to the question. This might sound like, "Watch me as I think aloud and highlight key details in the text. Hmm...this sentence seems important because it contains the words...and I know that...I will highlight this phrase so I remember to include it in my response." Repeat a few times.
  • Next, ask the students to "turn and talk" about another area of the passage they think you should highlight. Provide a few minutes for the turn and talk and then invite suggestions from the pairs.
  • Next, instruct your students to practice the skill independently "Now, you will practice the same strategy independently as you go to read the same text at your seat and highlight the important key details in the text. Remember, good writers highlight five key details related to the question before responding to text."
  • The students work independently on replicating the strategy (e.g., highlighting five key details) not in pairs or small groups as this can mask difficulties for individuals.
  • As student work independently, confer with individual students to check for understanding and provide intervention when necessary.
  • Wrap up by having students share the important details they found in the text with the whole class.

Good writers collect their key details as they write their open responses.

  • Connect the learning to the previous mini lesson: "Yesterday we explored how good writers highlight five key details before responding to text. Today, we will explore how writers respond to a question about the text using their five key details."
  • Project the same open response question on the Elmo or SmartBoard again and model your thinking aloud as you read the question. Example: "Watch me as I read the question carefully. I'll read the question closely two or three times: Based on the poem, explain how both the dog and the squirrel show confidence. Support your answer with important details from the poem." Model your thinking about the text aloud as you reread.
  • Next, project the reading passage from the previous mini lesson that still shows highlighted details.
  • On the board, model the writing of a response using the highlighted details. Your original writing will take the students through each step of your thought process. Be sure to think aloud as you "collect" your highlighted details and incorporate them into your response. This is critical so students are taught to construct the response, not passively view a pre-written response or exemplar. You do not need to construct the entire response as students will begin to understand your strategy as you go.
  • Once you have modeled some of the response construction, project a student exemplar that correlates to the prompt (e.g., from the DESE site). Ask the students to turn and talk about whether or not the exemplar includes five key details. Show another exemplar that exceeds or fails to meet standards. Ask the students to turn and talk again about the quality of the response.
  • Next, release the students to independent writing by saying something like "Now, as you practice constructing your own response to this question independently, I want you to remember that good writers read and reread the question and collect their five details from the passage."
  • As the students work independently, confer with individuals to check for understanding and provide intervention where necessary.

Ongoing lessons might focus next on ensuring topic and summary sentences or other critical components of open response. Once mini lessons like these have been implemented, the teacher may not need to replicate them for the whole class unless data shows that numerous students are not adequately applying the strategies. If this occurs, the mini lessons should be repeated with new passages and questions.

The mini lessons must be repeated for students who do not apply the strategies adequately. This intervention, or reteaching, should occur in small-group lessons or 1:1 conferring. Weekly scoring of new questions (using the modified DESE rubric) will tell the teacher which students should be in the small groups or conferring sessions for these lessons.

These are just sample lessons and many other focal points, strategies, and skills could apply (e.g., evidence sandwich). However, the common critical element is the pedagogy flow: model, co-construct exemplars, practice independently, intervene in small groups or 1:1, repeat. "Telling," "discussing," "working in pairs," and showing exemplars after the fact will not help student who struggle with open response.

LITERACY SCOPE AND SEQUENCE KINDERGARTEN - GRADE 5

Readers' Workshop

Reader's Workshop is organized into units of study throughout the year. Year-long trajectories map the units of study for each grade level. Units of study are comprised of daily mini lessons that typically emphasize "in-the-head" strategies used by proficient readers. A series of essential lessons are necessary to develop these reading strategies. Mini lessons are complemented by a high volume of independent reading during which educators gradually release responsibility to students through small-group instruction and 1:1 conferring.

Readers' Workshop Calendars and Maps

Mini Lesson

15 minutes. Whole Group. Explicit modeling. Guided practice. Anchor charts

Independent Reading

30-40 minutes. Independent Reading with "just-right" texts. Small group instruction 1:1 conferring.

Group Share

5 minutes. Summarize learning. Share Strategies

Writers' Workshop

Writer's Workshop is organized into units of study throughout the year. Year-long trajectories map the unit of study for each grade level. Units of study in Writers’ Workshop are crafted around particular genres, themes, or writing strategies. Each unit of study engages student writers in all phases of a writer’s craft including immersion, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Mini lessons within a unit of study are complemented by a high volume of independent writing during which educators gradually release responsibility to students via small-group instruction and 1:1 conferring.

Writers' Workshop Calendars and Maps

Mini Lesson

15 minutes. Whole Group. Explicit modeling. Guided practice. Anchor charts

Independent Reading

30-40 minutes. Independent writing, self-selected topics, prompts. Small group instruction 1:1 conferring

Group Share

5 minutes. Summarize learning. Share Strategies