Having Strong Tier 1 Interventions

Kelly Brouse
Kelly Brouse
Elementary school principal; M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction
Teacher helping a young student with reading and writing.

Each student comes into our classroom with their own unique abilities and needs, so it is safe to say no one curriculum will be enough to reach the needs of all of your students. Each teacher must bring their own talents and bag of tricks to their classroom to differentiate the curriculum for the range of needs in front of them. These targeted adjustments to a curriculum are what we call Tier One interventions.

What is Tiered Intervention?

You may be familiar with the broader concept of tiered intervention known nationally as “RTI” (Response to Intervention). Some states have specific names for it like “SRBI” (Scientific Research-Based Intervention), but by and large this tiered system is designed to implement interventions that increase with intensity as the need presents itself for students.

So, if a child is below grade level in reading, they will begin Tier 2 intervention to see a reading teacher in a smaller group in addition to regular classroom instruction 3-4 times a week. If progress is not adequately noted with that intervention over time, the intervention team may recommend intensifying it to Tier 3, where the intervention becomes either more individualized or more frequent.

Interventions of this capacity can be implemented for any academic area or for behavioral concerns, inclusive of both outward and inward behaviors. Any time an intervention in Tier 2 or Tier 3 is implemented, school staff must also be documenting that Tier 1 interventions are also occurring in the classroom to support these targeted goals.

What is Tier One Intervention, and who qualifies?

Tier 1 interventions are the strategies and supports that a classroom teacher provides to a child for a targeted goal in either academics or behavior that go beyond a typical instructional strategy used to implement curriculum. The intervention should be delivered in addition to curriculum instruction, so for example if the child is working on reading fluently, they should participate in the classroom ELA instruction and then engage in an additional intervention to increase their fluency, like timing cold and hot reads of a grade level text. The key elements to a tier one intervention is that it should be in addition to the typical grade level curriculum and designed to directly address a targeted need evidenced by student performance data.

Over the course of a school year, all students could potentially qualify for tier one intervention! Since it is classroom-based, there are myriad reasons students could require tier one interventions, for both remediation and acceleration. Students may require a behavior chart in the class that helps them stay accountable to a goal like “initiating work”, or math word problem attack skills like identifying keywords or making a diagram for word problems.

How Do I Implement Tier One Intervention in my Classroom?

For academic interventions, committing to a small-group instructional model like the Daily 5, CAFE model, or some form of literacy/math stations will afford you the opportunity to see students in small groups based on their targeted needs and provide them with individualized instruction to address the skills you are targeting with a specific intervention.

Start establishing these routines in the first six weeks of school so students develop familiarity with the expectations of small-group rotations and can work independently when you are not with them. This also creates an opportunity to provide intervention-related practice during their independent work time by giving them practice word work if you are targeting spelling or additional math practice on fluency skills.

Some schools and districts have committed to tier one intervention implementation by making it a dedicated element in the building schedule, with a title like “WIN (What I Need) time”. This approach showcases the expectation that all students can receive some form of tier one intervention, whether it is remediated instruction or an opportunity to stretch and increase the rigor.

Behavioral tier one interventions looks slightly different and happen with consistency over the course of a school day, rather than a targeted 20 minute instructional block. For example, if a student’s behavioral goal is work completion, they may have an accountability chart that tracks how many assignments they complete at the end of each academic block. If the student is struggling with entering social play at recess, they may have a tier one intervention where the classroom teacher meets with the child before recess to review the choice activities and practice one or two ways to start a game with a friend. After recess, the child can report to the teacher what they did and data can be collected over time on if the child is developing the skill.

Visual cues on desks like a picture of a student raising their hand or giving the quiet sign, preferential seating, sticky note reminders, and reward charts are all various behavioral interventions that a classroom teacher can implement to target a specific behavioral skill.

What If My Interventions Aren’t Working?

Every school should have some form of a student support team that monitors student progress with tier two and tier three interventions. This group may be comprised of a reading specialist, administrator, curriculum specialist, and social worker/psychologist. Any time you have concerns that a child is not accessing your instruction or classroom environment expectations with success, this group can meet to support tracking and adjustment of both tier one interventions, as well as more intense supports like tier two or tier three interventions.

Any time there is a tier two or three intervention in place, there should also always be documentation of a tier one intervention aligned with those goals, so classroom teachers play a large role in the intervention process even though they are not the ones delivering reading or math intervention.

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