This week we are summarizing our top 10 most commonly used interventions, supports, and strategies for high school students. When implementing MTSS district-wide, secondary students can sometimes fall through the cracks. However, supporting these students to ensure they develop the skills and competencies to graduate and be successful beyond high school is essential. If you are looking to support your secondary level students in 2021, here are some strategies and programs you can check out:
The most commonly used high school strategy in 2020 was pre-teaching new and important concepts. Pre-teaching is when key components or skills are taught prior to a lesson or unit. This is especially helpful when working with students who are struggling academically. The required skills for a given lesson can be previewed with certain students one-on-one, or in small groups, before introducing it to the entire class. Teaching these skills before the lesson will improve students’ chances of success and reduce the amount of time teachers spend reteaching concepts. In other words, it is a proactive teaching strategy, rather than a reactive one.
To implement this strategy effectively first identify the specific skills or concepts that need to be taught or reviewed prior to teaching the lesson. Sometimes this can include reviewing skills or concepts that have been taught previously. In some cases the entire class may benefit from pre-teaching, while in others it only needs to be done with certain students who need additional support. This does require some planning and foresight on behalf of the teacher, but when used appropriately it will ultimately provide students with the foundational knowledge needed to understand the lesson.
Another popular high school strategy is the Self-Monitoring Approach to Reading and Thinking, also known as SMART. When using this strategy, students are prompted to monitor their own understanding of a reading passage. This process helps students focus on reading comprehension and identify areas within a text that they might be struggling to understand. It also promotes students’ metacognitive skills, since they are essentially becoming more aware of their own thought processes and what they do and do not understand.
Teachers should first survey the reading assignment and identify several points in the section where students can stop to check for understanding. It’s best to stop no more than every two pages to review and check for comprehension. As the students read the segment of the text they put a checkmark in the margin where they understood and a question mark where they did not. At the end of the section they explain in their own words what they read. They then return to the question marks to reread the section to see if it now makes sense. If it still does not make sense they determine what the problem is (e.g., unknown word or concept, difficult sentence or confusing language) and try a repair strategy (e.g., use a glossary, a picture, context clues, ask a teacher).
Mindfulness is a type of reflective meditation that can help students who are struggling with behavioral and executive functioning issues. This evidence-based strategy can be used with high school students in a variety of settings as well as when preparing for an assessment. Specifically, mindfulness can provide students with the skills to reduce stress and anxiety, maintain focus and concentration, decrease impulsivity, and promote higher order thinking.
Teachers should provide students with opportunities to practice mindfulness on a regular basis, so they are familiar and comfortable with the practice before using it prior to test taking. There are many different mindfulness techniques, but commonly they include a quiet period of time where students are invited to close their eyes and focus on their breath for a few minutes. In addition to the meditative practice, teachers should use the time before a test to review the material and provide positive support and encouragement. The mindfulness component should then be used to help students refocus and relax before the test is administered. It is critical that participation is voluntary and teachers have some knowledge and preferably training with the practice and it’s implementation before using it with students. There are many resources available for teachers to help them develop their own mindfulness practices and suggestions for implementing the practice with students.
|Learn about our library of evidence-based interventions: Thousands of Evidence-Based Interventions and Accommodations for Reading, Writing, Math, Behavior, SEL & More. Learn more.|
4) Book Clubs & Literature Circles
This strategy is a great way to increase high school students’ engagement in reading and literature. The goal for students participating in book clubs and literature circles is to provide them with the opportunity to exchange ideas, deepen their understanding of text, and develop social skills with classmates. At the high school level students need to know how to articulate their knowledge and discuss themes and questions that emerge from their readings. During these discussions, students also need to be able to reconcile their own perspectives alongside differing perspectives of their classmates, which reinforces social awareness and communication skills— both critical social-emotional competencies.
Creating book clubs around interests, rather than reading levels, will ensure that struggling students have the opportunity to engage with ideas at a higher level than they might be able to read independently. Small groups of students can read the same book, or different books at their individual levels that share a common topic or theme. Students exchange ideas, deepen their understanding, and hone social skills. Book clubs can be a part of a reading workshop time and are generally student-run, especially in the older grades. Teachers can scaffold students by helping them plan and facilitate meetings and then gradually fade back support until students can hold meaningful discussions independently.
Question Generation is an evidence-based strategy that assists students with their comprehension of texts. When using this approach, students learn to formulate and respond to questions about situations, facts, and ideas while engaged in understanding a reading passage or story. The process of coming up with questions and finding the answers to them is also an effective way to prepare students for exams and tests. This strategy may be tailored to fit various types of information, and different skill-levels. Students may use this strategy with the help of a facilitator or they may generate questions on their own.
When working with high school students individually or in small groups, the teacher should begin by modeling the process of reading the text and then asking sample questions out loud. Questions to start off with can include: “What is the main idea of this reading?”, “What does the author think is more important?”, “Who are the main characters?”, and “What might happen next?”. Students should work towards developing these types of questions on their own and finding the answers on their own. They can then be prompted to generate questions that might appear on a test. When working with small groups, students can try to answer questions that their peers have developed as a method of test preparation. This strategy can also be used across topic areas to help students identify and learn key pieces of information.
This commonly used peer teaching strategy helps students learn from and with each other as they better understand and consolidate material or concepts by teaching the new information to someone else. This process helps students become aware of their own knowledge as well as consolidate and learn new material. In addition, having to articulate or explain an idea or concept to someone else forces the “teacher” to have a greater understanding of the concept and think through the steps required for the other person to learn it. This practice also promotes students’ social and communication skills as well as their empathy and perspective-taking as they have to be aware of their peers' level of knowledge and understanding.
Teachers should group or pair up students who are struggling with similar concepts or skills. First explain to the students that they are going to take turns teaching to each other. Provide the students with a topic, concept, or skill and any material that would be helpful for teaching it; for example, a worksheet, manipulatives, or graphic organizers. Students should be given some time to prepare their mini lessons and teachers can help scaffold this process by providing some teaching examples. The first “teacher” partner should then provide the lesson to their “student” partner. Even if they understand the content, the “students” should ask questions and engage in the lesson. Sample questions can be provided by the teacher at first. The students should then switch roles so the second partner can teach their lesson. If students appear to be struggling, additional support and guidance may be needed from the classroom teacher. In addition, students can start off teaching very basic or simple lessons and then process to more in-depth ones.
STARI is a Tier 2 intervention for high school students who read two or more years below grade level. The program focuses on reading fluency, decoding, stamina, and basic comprehension, as well as deeper comprehension skills, such as perspective-taking and critical thinking. The program aims to actively engage students by using relevant texts and incorporating peer discussions and dialogues into lessons. The program's content is aligned to the Common Core and other 21st century standards and all of the materials and resources are available for free.
STARI embeds research-based practices into its curriculum, such as reciprocal teaching and guided reading. Each unit introduces students to both fiction and non-fiction texts and then implements a series of teaching strategies, such as partner work, guided reading, discussion and debate, building classroom culture, reciprocal reading, word study, and fluency practices. STARI is also an evidence-based program; experimental research has shown the STARI program to significantly improve decoding and comprehension skills among struggling readers.
REWARDS is another specialized program for adolescent students who struggle reading long multisyllabic words and comprehending content area text. This short-term intervention focuses on decoding complex words, identifying and understanding prefixes and suffixes, increasing word and passage reading fluency, building academic vocabulary, and deepening comprehension and reading confidence at the secondary level. REWARDS can be used with all struggling readers, including ELLs and students with learning disabilities.
The program also has a strong research base; several high quality research studies have shown that the program can increase student fluency, vocabulary knowledge, and comprehension skills. Importantly, students who received the program also showed improvements in their content-area classes. The program includes 20 lessons, which are 50-60 minutes each. Explicit and systematic support for teachers is also provided. While this program requires a paid subscription, it might be worth the investment for high schools with many struggling readers.
These cognitive and metacognitive strategies are often used among high school students who are struggling with math word problems. When students get used to implementing these types of approaches they will eventually be able to solve complex problems independently. The method helps students break down the specific steps involved in solving a problem and then employ cognitive or metacognitive skills to analyze the problem, select an appropriate strategy to solve the problem, and then self-monitor their own problem-solving process. The goal is for students to become more aware of the problem-solving process and the purpose of each step involved.
Cognitive strategies include having students read through the problem carefully, restating the problem in their own words, creating visual representations of the problem, and then deciding on a plan to solve the problem. Essentially, the student is breaking down the problem to ensure they understand what is required to solve it. Metacognitive strategies go a bit deeper by having students identify the purpose of each step involved and how each step will bring them closer to solving the problem. Students should also check each of their steps to make sure they were completed successfully. Although it may take students some time to work through problems initially, once they get used to the cognitive and metacognitive processes they will be able to solve problems more efficiently and with greater accuracy.
Accelerated Reader (AR) is a computer program that helps teachers manage and monitor students' independent reading practice. It can be used with students in grades 9 and 10 and aims to encourage reluctant readers. This online tool is especially useful when working with high school students remotely. It provides students with a sense of agency, since they select their own books, while also giving teachers immediate feedback on how the student is progressing through the book and their level of understanding. It can also help teachers identify students who may need additional reading support.
Students begin by selecting a book at their own level and they work through it at their own pace. When finished, the student takes a short quiz on a computer. Passing the quiz indicates that the student understood what was read. Additional feedback is provided for both students and teachers based on the quiz results. If the student does not do well on the quiz, the teacher can intervene by guiding the student towards a more appropriate book or checking in with the student before they take the quiz to ask probing questions and see if they understood the content. Students can also be paired up with peers and they can discuss the content together to help with their comprehension.
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Branching Minds makes MTSS easy, efficient, and effective by bringing together all of the components of MTSS so teachers can collaboratively problem-solve and support all students’ holistic needs. Our system-level solution helps schools improve students’ outcomes across academics, behavior, and SEL equitably
Essie Sutton is an Applied Developmental Psychologist and the Director of Learning Science at Branching Minds. Her work brings together the fields of Child Development and Education Psychology to improve learning and development for all students. Dr. Sutton is responsible for studying the impacts of the Branching Minds on students’ academic, behavioral, and social-emotional outcomes. She also leverages MTSS research and best practices to develop and improve the Branching Minds platform.