A few months ago, Branching Minds did a deep dive into our 5 Most Common MTSS Reading Programs Used in 2020. Many of these programs have associated writing supports embedded into their platforms, but these primarily target reading intervention.
When creating a comprehensive MTSS support or intervention plan, it’s important to note that literacy interventions need to incorporate both reading and writing. Reading skills help develop a student’s ability to comprehend ideas communicated by another writer, while the act of writing allows a student to develop and communicate his/her own thoughts. While these are two very different skills they each impact the growth of the other, and intervention plans will need to account for both reading and writing support.
Below, we outline 6 Research-Based Writing Interventions for RTI/MTSS. We include various supports, ranging from free strategies to paid programs to address each school and student’s wide variety of needs. These RTI/MTSS Writing Interventions are available in the Branching Minds Library, the most robust library of evidence-based learning supports and interventions across academics, behavior, and SEL.
Writing conferences are a free, research-based writing activity for grades 3-8, and appropriate for all tier levels in MTSS. They’re conducted in a whole-class setting and allow students to share and reflect on their own writing throughout the revision process. Writing conferences also allow for immediate feedback from teachers and peers, clarification on questions, promotion of positive attitudes regarding writing and topics, as well as the incorporation of social benefits such as peer-sharing and collaboration. Research shows that when paired with peer-editing, writing conferences can significantly improve comprehension and application of revision and editing during the writing process.
When planning a writing conference, it’s essential to outline a clear goal for the students to achieve during the process. Teachers model the process before beginning, create a structure to focus on discussion and revision, and demonstrate solutions to problems encountered during the process. Students may be paired up or placed into groups for role-reversal in peer-editing, allowing for additional social support throughout the intervention.
The use of graphic organizers is a free, research-based writing strategy that can be used for grades K-12 and is appropriate for all tier levels. Although there are a variety of organizers available, the root of this strategy remains the same.
Organizers help students break down complex texts into manageable chunks and construct meaning from what they have read. When incorporated at the beginning of the writing process, organizers help students compile their thoughts before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard in this modern age).
Graphic organizers are beneficial for students who struggle with reading comprehension and memory. Research has shown that graphic organizers effectively improve narrative and expository writing skills, particularly in students with learning disabilities. Teachers can model how to fill out a graphic organizer while reading complex texts and scaffold as needed as students complete the organizer independently or in small groups.
The Branching Minds library has a wide selection of free graphic organizers available for teachers, all grade levels, and writing selections.
➡️ Related resource: Audit Intervention Programs in MTSS/RTI
Mnemonic devices are a free, research-based writing strategy appropriate for K-8, with some adaptability available for higher grade levels. While suitable for all tier levels, mnemonic devices are especially useful for higher-tier students who struggle with memory recall.
As a writing tool, mnemonic devices can be used to intervene in grammar and spelling for struggling writers. The common phrase “i after e, except after c” is an example of how spelling mnemonics can help students remember complex spelling structures (though, as we all know, these rules are not always true). Expression mnemonic devices are effective for students who struggle in writing homophones or conjunctions, utilizing popular expressions such as FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So) to aid in memory recall while writing.
Research has demonstrated a link between mnemonic devices and increased student accuracy in word recall, spelling, and grammar conventions. Mnemonic devices can be utilized throughout the writing process, but before applying this strategy, teachers should note particular areas of difficulty in writing, such as spelling, information recall, or grammar rules.
Step-Up to Writing is a paid writing program offering a robust curriculum for students K-12. An offshoot of Voyager Sopris Learning, this program is similar to Voyager’s many other learning programs. The program includes professional development, flexible implementation, curriculum compatibility, and subject-area writing support.
The program establishes a common writing approach across four grade bands: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. The online content supports narrative, informative, and argumentative writing and provides additional support for English language learners. The program’s structure allows for small-group instruction and whole-group instruction, allowing the flexibility of incorporating the program in entire units or in smaller chunks to complement classroom instruction.
Preliminary research has shown Step-Up to be successful in helping students gain mastery in summarization, expository writing, syntax, essay organization, and grammar conventions. This places Step-Up solidly in the “Research-Based” category of ESSA’s levels of evidence.
➡️ Related resource: A Quick Review of MTSS Supports, Interventions, and Accommodations
NoRedInk is a paid writing program appropriate for grades 5-12. One of the newest members of writing interventions, NoRedInk, offers a comprehensive online platform for adaptive writing lessons based on student interests and skills. Reading material is determined by an initial diagnostic assessment that categorizes student interests in different genres to generate texts of high interest to the individual reader.
This program offers various options for integration into the classroom, including daily writing activities, full curriculum units, targeted grammar exercises, and test prep. Teachers can select activities from the assignment library based on the needs of each student, with support available for English Language Learners.
NoRedInk is fully integrated with Clever, Canvas, and Google Classroom, enabling teachers to seamlessly integrate rosters and gradebooks into the program to allow for easy grading and task assigning. School-based case studies have shown NoRedInk to effectively raise MAP, STAAR, and SAT scores. This places NoRedInk into the “Research-based” category of ESSA’s levels of evidence—an impressive feat for one of the internet’s newer writing programs.
ThinkCERCA is a paid, research-based close reading and writing platform for grades 3-12, and appropriate for all tier levels in MTSS. Thinkcerca’s units include resources to support routines covering background knowledge and conceptual understanding to improve comprehension, close reading practices such as highlighting and annotating text, and pre-writing routines, including summarizing, planning with graphic organizers, peer editing, and revision. Additional direct instruction and skills lessons allow teachers to target personalized skill development.
Thinkcerca’s implementation resources support literacy routines that allow teachers to work with small groups and individual students. ThinkCERCA meets ESSA’s levels of evidence, showing that students see 2+ years of reading growth and 20% gains in writing when they use it with fidelity.
Many factors should be considered when building a writing intervention plan. Students struggle with writing for a variety of reasons. An effective and efficient MTSS support plan should include targeted instruction, high-interest material, and a comprehensive scope on the whole student—not just the intervention area.
This is particularly true in regards to English Language Learners (ELL). When planning writing interventions for ELL students, it’s important to consider each student’s comfort with language acquisition, and priority should be given to developing reading levels. Research supports more minor writing activities for entering ELL students—daily news reports, dialogue journals, and short, persuasive essays. Many of the strategies and programs outlined above provide additional support for ELL students and could be beneficially added to intervention plans in MTSS.
➡️ On-Demand Webinar: Supporting English Learners Within MTSS
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➡️ Top 10 Math and Reading Interventions Used in 2021
The most comprehensive and instructive library of evidence-based learning supports of any MTSS platform
Branching Minds has the most comprehensive and instructive library of evidence-based learning supports of any MTSS platform. Our supports include hundreds of paid evidence-based intervention programs, as well as nearly a thousand free evidence-based strategies, activities, and resources. For each of these supports, BRM helps educators understand what the support is, why and for whom it should be used, how it should be delivered, and connects them to the supporting research and additional material.
Our learning science team has curated these resources from the most trusted and respected hubs of evidence-based supports, including the Florida Center for Reading Research, What Works Clearinghouse, Evidence for ESSA, Intervention Central, the IRIS Center from Vanderbilt University, Harmony SEL; and, each one has been reviewed and categorized based on the ESSA tiers of evidence guidelines.
"Branching Minds is a comprehensive MTSS intervention platform. It offers the scaffolding, thought partnership, tools, and resources we need to support all educators in CPS in meeting students' individual needs.”
- Sherly Chavarria, Chief of Teaching and Learning, Chicago Public Schools (IL)
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Mollie Breese is the former Content Manager at Branching Minds. She helped streamline the support library, so schools can identify and access the interventions they need to support student success. She researched the newest strategies, activities, and programs to add to the robust library, providing a wealth of resources for partner schools. Prior to joining Branching Minds, Mollie worked in the classroom as an English teacher, Reading teacher, and ESL instructor. Mollie earned her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Missouri, and her M.A. in English Literature from the University of Glasgow.