It’s no secret that a large percentage of America’s children are struggling with reading. Early warning signs appear in Kindergarten as children fail to learn basic skills, such as letter sounds. Often, struggling Kindergarteners are promoted with hopes that they will mature over the summer and catch up in first grade. But when basic skills are missing, learning problems will only deepen with each passing year unless someone intervenes. And when students struggle with reading, it makes learning anything else a serious challenge. It is far better to effectively address learning issues as soon as they appear. RTI came about in order to address this very problem.
"The RTI process is a multi-step approach to providing services and interventions at increasing levels of intensity. The progress students make at each stage of intervention is closely monitored and results are used to make decisions about the need for further research-based instruction/intervention in general education.”
RTI Step 1:
“A Universal Screening is provided for all students that measures students’ skills relative their grade level. These assessments will identify those students who are lagging behind.”
RTI Step 2:
“All students receive appropriate instruction.”
"The goal of RTI Step 2 is to ensure that all students in the regular classroom are being taught using methods and materials that are consistent with how most children learn."
We’ve identified the students and have pledged to provide them with appropriate methods and materials.
But RTI is a measuring and sorting device. RTI does not actually provide the methods and materials that will accomplish their stated goals.
RTI hints at changing what education looks and feels like for struggling learners, but it is up to teachers, principals, and school districts to come up with those appropriate resources and methods that match how children learn.
Child1st researched how children learn best, has painstakingly designed, and then published materials that do meet the needs of learners, and has accomplished this in a way that makes it easy for teachers to pick up and use for the whole class, a small group, or with an individual student.
All Child1st resources are skill-based, topic based, and supplementary, which means you can use them along with any curriculum. They are designed to be picked up and used right out of the box. The products themselves appeal to learners just by virtue of their design. Just follow the directions included and the materials themselves will “speak” to the children in their own learning language.
What to use?
SnapWords® Classroom Kit
Child1st has several great kits that teach reading based on skill level, but let’s focus on just one for now. SnapWords® Classroom Kit is a very powerful “meat and potatoes” collection that will equip a teacher with the resources needed to bring RTI-identified students up to speed in reading.
Included in the Kit:
- 342 SnapWords® right-brained, high-frequency sight words including all Dolch words. Each word is embedded in an image that delivers the complete word into long term memory. The reverse of the card shows the same word in plain font so the child can quickly transition to reading the plain words. There is also a body motion that mimics the meaning of the word, and a sentence for correct usage and comprehension. Wow! Words-embedded-in-images combined with matching-body-motion is a powerful duo of strategies that empower most children who struggle with learning.
- 3 copies of Sight Words in Sentences so your students can practice reading the words in context on their own level. It is one thing to learn to recognize words in a list, and quite another to successfully read those words in the context of sentences. It is the difference between calling out words and actually reading for meaning.
- Beyond Sight Words Activities - a download of 1279 printable pages of hands-on, ready-to-use activities that correlate with each of the 25 levels of SnapWords® (perfect for differentiation of instruction within one classroom). Activities include:
- Word recognition
- Phonemic awareness
- Critical thinking
- Sound spelling
Once you have identified the skill level of each of your groups, you just print the activities you want them to do. They are designed for whole class, small group, individual instruction, and some may be used for homework if desired.
Use SnapWords® Classroom Kit, or The SnapWords® Complete Classroom Kit
- Whole classroom instruction
- Display 1 Level of SnapWords® in pocket chart
- Introduce the words following How to Teach SnapWords® or SnapWords® Mini-Lessons.
- Leave those words on display as you continue on to small group instruction.
- Small group instruction by skill level
- Children are grouped according to skill level
- SnapWords® on their level are taught using SnapWords® Mini-Lessons.
- Independent Work
- SnapWords® Student Kits – use a SnapWords® Student Kit (306 Student Kit if you have the SnapWords® Classroom Kit or 607 Student Kit if you have the SnapWords® Complete Classroom Kit)
- Children work with a partner to review and practice what you taught the whole group.
- Materials are available in bins on their level.
- Partners move through levels as they successfully learn each one.
- Individual Support
If there are any students who are struggling to keep up, provide a level of words on a book ring to keep at their desk for reference. Most of the time, this is not necessary. Alternately, a volunteer could work one on one with the child to provide additional support.
I still remember where I was standing when the question popped into my head and demanded an answer. “Why do smart kids fail?” It was 1992 and I owned a small preschool. I knew my kids very well and while they were all different from each other, I believed all of them were bright. So why were some of them not learning?
This one question drove everything I did for the next 26 years
My process took basically this form:
- I made the leap in my own mind that if the kids were smart, it followed that they COULD learn.
- I believed that the brain is designed to learn. That is what it does.
- Next, I assumed that if the conditions were right, the brain WOULD learn.
- What followed was the conviction that if kids were failing, I needed to change what I was doing.
- Changing what I was doing required knowing what to change TO, so I decided to study my kids like crazy.
- My goal was to learn from each of my kids the approaches that sparked their learning. It was easy to see what didn’t work. And it was thrilling to see the excitement and engagement when something DID work!
- Next, my goals refined themselves. I tried various design elements gauging their effectiveness with ALL students across the board. If I tried something and even one child stared blankly back, I went back to the drawing board.
By this time, it was 2000, grad school was behind me, and I was charged with designing a Title 1 program for a school – K through middle school. I met with small groups of children from K-7 every week, all below grade level in reading. This experience was incredible. It was an amazing proving ground for the work and research in which I had engaged to that point.
During my stint as Title 1 director, I was unable to find resources that matched the design I knew my kids needed, so I designed my own as I taught 60-70 kids every week. The work was intense and was an incredible learning experience for me. I was still working on the question about why good brains fail to learn and what could be done about it.
Some of the things I learned as I continued to design and refine reading materials
- I learned that if children miss basic skills in Kindergarten, they will not have them in middle school unless someone figures out what is missing and teaches them those missing skills purposefully.
- I learned to identify common stumbling stones. This knowledge was wonderful! There were specific skills that were commonly missed in all my students, no matter their age or grade level. This was very important information to have because then I could dive right in and make sure those skills were taught in a way the kids would learn and remember them.
- I learned to identify teaching/design elements that seemed to successfully provide a reliable vehicle for learning for my students.
Since that time as Title 1 Director and teacher, I have had the blessing of teaching in a regular classroom. I was able to test my theory that a teacher could successfully teach a whole class of very diverse students using a right-brained approach to teaching and learning which would keep the strugglers from being left behind. The answer is not to teach 22 different lessons. The magic lies in teaching the material once using right-brained elements. The kids who would have learned either way will be more engaged, while the ones who would have been left behind successfully learn with materials designed with them in mind.
In our classroom, the focus was not on sorting the kids by their ability or inability to learn, rather the focus was on ALL of us progressing, helping each other, cheering each other on. The focus was on paying attention to questions such as “What helped you remember that?” The focus was on learning one's own best learning strengths and using those in learning. As an example, some kids became aware that they focused most on the visual elements while other students realized the kinesthetic/tactile component was the critical piece for them.
Fast forward to today
Child1st Publications has done the research and the design work on behalf of kids, teachers, and parents. Our mission is to support all students by providing materials and methods designed to work with how most kids learn.