Planning for Instruction

Using Formative Assessments to Design Tier 1 and Tier 2 Intervention Groups

  • by Ashley Taplin
  • Nov. 11, 2020, 11:30 a.m.

By Ashley Taplin


As I think about interventions, I am reminded of a quote by Mike Mattos in which he says, “the best intervention is prevention.” When interventions are embedded within daily formative assessments, students can see that learning is an ongoing process. Below are some strategies that can be used virtually or in-person, and give both students and teachers clear next steps for learning.


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Using Success Criteria to Prevent and Plan for Interventions.

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Nov. 11, 2020, 11:07 a.m.

Impactful instruction is very intentional. From planning the learning targets to planning how students will practice and demonstrate learning, we work to provide clarity for our students. Success criteria brings everything into focus for the learner.


Dr. John Hattie defines success criteria as:

Success criteria are the standards by which the project or performance will be judged at the end to decide whether or not it has been successful. They are often brief, co-constructed with students, aim to remind students those aspects on which they need to focus, and can relate to the surface (content, ideas) and deep (relations, transfer) successes from the lesson(s). 


The effect size of using success criteria is a .88-over 2 years of growth in one year!

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Micro and Macro Interventions

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Nov. 11, 2020, 11:05 a.m.

During Tier 2, the goal is to provide teaching and time for students to master grade level standards. Many times, students are missing necessary prerequisite knowledge and skills. We gather assessment data, plan how we will assess growth and mastery, and then provide multiple learning opportunities for students who need time to master the critical grade level learning goals. We follow up with a post assessment to determine the learning and effectiveness of the intervention.

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Breakout Room Team Roles

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Aug. 17, 2020, 10:14 a.m.

Team roles are a really important component of well-functioning learning community. My friend, Ashley Taplin, created these team roles for zoom meetings, specifically to use during breakout rooms.

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Tools for Starting Distance Learning Off Strong

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Aug. 3, 2020, 1:01 p.m.

With many school systems starting off the fall semester with virtual learning, we wanted to provide you with ideas for making virtual learning smooth and interactive!

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Bitmoji Classroom

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • July 13, 2020, 12:41 p.m.

Have you been bitten by the Bitmoji craze? Thanks to the Facebook group Bitmoji Craze for Educators, I've been creating virtual classroom spaces and lessons using Google Slides and the Bitmoji app for the last few weeks. Teachers in this group generously share creations. You can make a copy and save to your Google Drive. I created a Bitmoji folder and have made a folder for my Bitmoji images. I think students and teachers alike will find Bitmoji classrooms novel and interesting.

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How Do We Blend Offline with Online?

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • July 13, 2020, 9:55 a.m.

I have always been a big proponent of giving students experiences! Research says we remember what we experience (Dale, 1969). How do we get students to have experiences when our instruction is virtual? I loved this idea from Caitlin Tucker, offline instruction can incorporate interests, choice, and experiences. I've also been blogging for several months about enrichment experiences for students grades K-12. Give students a choice of experiences to choose from for the week. The experiences are tied to the content area of study. Students choose an experience and then read, talk, and write about their learning through that experience.




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March Madness in the Classroom

  • by Randi Anderson
  • March 9, 2020, 10:05 a.m.

Written by Randi Anderson

I've always been a sucker for a good theme. Every March, there is always buzz around the men's NCAA basketball tournament. Educators can tap into that buzz and use it in the classroom to get students motivated.

Ideas for Using March Madness in Your Classroom:


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Lesson Planning

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Jan. 22, 2020, 12:27 p.m.
Anyone else in the midst of writing lesson plans? Here are a few things that run through my mind as I plan:

    1. How will students' thinking change over the course of the lesson? Is this initial learning or are we going deeper on a topic or skill they already know something about?
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When One Teaches, Two Learn

  • Nov. 22, 2019, 7:35 a.m.

My 5 year old recently came home from school raving about his new favorite center, the "School" center. I asked him what exactly that entailed and he told me it's where he becomes the teacher and teaches other students a concept they have been learning about. He then tells me that he taught a lesson on alliteration and that he got to use a "real" teacher pointer! 



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Laying a Foundation for Growth

  • by Ashley Taplin
  • Sept. 9, 2019, 10:50 a.m.

This month, as we dive into the consistency of school days, I have been thinking about ways we can develop and foster a growth mindset for students in math to gain confidence in their knowledge. I have been working with another department in our district to bring more SEL practices to the curriculum. We have been talking about how the foundation of this mindset is helping students become self-aware in their learning in order to take on challenges and new situations. Below are some strategies and ideas I have been reflecting upon to cultivate this.

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Two Truths & a Lie

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Sept. 9, 2019, 10:47 a.m.

A fact is anything that can be proven or disproven. It's the readers' responsibility to distinguish fact and fiction.

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The Power of Student Teams

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Sept. 6, 2019, noon

I'm so excited to share a new book just out on using student teaming to increase the learning. In the book The Power of Student Teams, by Michael Toth and David Sousa, you will explore collaborative learning and crosswalk this strategy with SEL learning, 21st Century Skills, Habits of Mind, and more.


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Intentional Pair Shares

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • March 13, 2019, 2:05 p.m.

How can we get all our students to share their thinking? When setting up for pair shares, students should always know ahead of time who their share partner will be. They should have a title or designation to help them know who will talk and who will listen. Each time students are going to pair share, direct specific students to start the conversation. For example, say "Partner A: explain why you think the character..." Give students a short amount of time to explain and then say something like "Partner B: Do you agree or disagree with A? Is there evidence in the text to support your thinking?"

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Information Circles

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • March 13, 2019, 1:59 p.m.

Students need to constantly build schema, or background knowledge, that will help them connect to new topics and ideas about the world. Reading nonfiction is one of the best ways to help students do this. It is important to note however, that informational texts can often be one of the most difficult genres for students to comprehend. Because of this young readers need to spend a lot of time processing informational texts. One way to immerse students in nonfiction texts is to invite them to participate in information circles.

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New Year, New Goals!

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Jan. 11, 2019, 2 p.m.

What is Your Goal?

In 2019, I'm all about being intentional in my instruction. Since we never have enough time, my goal is to only spend time on what is most likely going to move readers, writers, and mathematicians forward. I am going to audit every minute of class time to make sure we don't spend time on things that aren't likely to make much difference. Unfortunately, basals and textbooks are full of this kind of fluff.

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Word Clouds

  • Dec. 10, 2018, 8:54 a.m.

A word cloud is an image composed of words or phrases. Individually or as a team, students create an image in which the size of each word or phrase indicates its importance to the overall meaning of the topic or text. Word clouds can be created for concepts, characters, events, and themes across content areas.


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What is Literary Nonfiction Exactly?

  • Nov. 6, 2018, 10:03 a.m.

Literary nonfiction, also known as narrative nonfiction, is one of the best genres for getting students to engage in large quantities of reading. But what exactly is literary nonfiction? We hear the word nonfiction and instantly think informational, which is only partly true. The word literary means "narrative" and nonfiction means "accurate". So literary nonfiction is essentially a true story. And who doesn't like a really good true story?

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What Are You Wondering?

  • Nov. 6, 2018, 9:59 a.m.

Wonderopolis.org is a phenomenal website for students to use to build schema and vocabulary about a wide range of topics. Be sure to sign up for the daily email to get the daily wondering. Just 5 minutes of "wondering" will provide your students with new knowledge and get them interested in new topics for study. Be sure to check out Wonder Ground to get lesson plans and ideas for fostering curiosity.

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Micro-Interventions: Are We Taking Action Quickly?

  • Oct. 8, 2018, 8:56 a.m.

Using the success criteria, teachers can closely monitor learning and provide timely feedback about each students' progress or lack there of. The goal is to watch for students to demonstrate the success criteria. If they aren't able to demonstrate the daily learning target, then we must think about what is keeping them from doing so and take action quickly. Is there a gap or misconception that needs to be addressed in order to move students forward?

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Learning Targets & Success Criteria

  • Sept. 27, 2018, 9:35 a.m.


There are two questions that kick off most professional learning community (PLC) meetings.

  1. What do we expect students to learn? What are the focus standards? What are the daily learning targets?
  2. How will we know if they have learned? What are the success criteria for demonstrating the learning?


While learning targets of some type are found on the boards in most classrooms these days, success criteria is often not seen. The learning target alone will not be enough for many students to hit the target. Without knowing what hitting the target looks and sounds like, many students will fall short of the goal.


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Making Math TIme Work!

  • Sept. 13, 2018, 10:23 a.m.

A balanced math program includes time to develop and practice conceptual and procedural knowledge to proficient levels. Fitting it all in is a challenge, especially when you have a limited amount of time.

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Scaffolding Up!

  • May 4, 2018, 2:54 p.m.

Tier one classroom instruction is always about learning grade level standards. But what about the kids that aren't quite there yet? How do we scaffold them up to achieve those standards? Here are a few ways to make accommodations that get kids where they need to be.


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Productive Struggle

  • May 4, 2018, 2:48 p.m.

Did you know that the first antibiotic, Penicillin, was discovered from a productive struggle that Dr. Alexander Fleming was in? Yes, a productive struggle is what lead to the discovery of the life saving drug in 1928! Dr. Fleming discovered mold growing in petri dishes after returning from summer vacation and said that the mold had contaminated his study. He later discovered that the mold actually stopped bacteria from growing.

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End-of-Year Reading & Writing Activities

  • May 4, 2018, 2:46 p.m.

The end of the year is upon us. Just in case you are running out of steam, here are some ideas for May/June to keep students engaged in reading and writing.

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Anchor Charts 101

  • Oct. 8, 2017, 4:08 p.m.

Anchor charts have become a buzz word in the education world over the past five years. The intended reason for an anchor chart is to "anchor" the critical content needed to be learned. Here are some essential components of the buzz-worthy anchor charts.

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Recommended Reads-Using Literature to Engage Problem Solving

  • Sept. 14, 2017, 4:02 p.m.

Children’s books can be effective vehicles for motivating children to think and reason mathematically. (Burns, 2004) A children’s book is a great way to launch or assess mathematical learning.

For every math unit, select 2-4 children’s books that contain situations related to the concepts and that allow students to use new skills and strategies. Be sure to choose wisely!

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Using Literature for Problem Solving- Steps to Experiencing the Literature

  • Sept. 14, 2017, 4:01 p.m.

Reading aloud helps students expand their vocabulary and connect mathematical thinking to real life situations. Stories help students organize, store, and retrieve conceptual information related to the skills, strategies, and processes needed to think mathematically.

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How to use Literature to Engage Students in Problem Solving

  • Sept. 13, 2017, 4:01 p.m.

Children’s books provide a perfect starting point for engaging students in authentic problem solving. Students need time to hypothesize and experiment with strategies in real world situations. Stories provide a context that helps students construct conceptual understanding of math ideas.

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Building Meaning....Literally

  • Sept. 9, 2017, 3:58 p.m.

Have you ever struggled to find the right words or explanation of something? Most of us have been there once or twice. Students struggle with this, too. So, why not build something to represent your thinking? Constructing a model of what you are picturing or thinking can help to solidify conceptual understanding. Using legos, building blocks, or play doh, students build to represent an idea or understanding of a concept. This can be a less intimidating option for students to show their understanding or thinking about ideas or topics.

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Paving a Curriculum Road Map

  • Aug. 2, 2017, 3:56 p.m.

"People with goals succeed because they know where they are going." - Earl Nightingale

Do you have a map in your room? Is it a curriculum map? Can your students and class visitors see it? Knowing where you are going is the most important first step in planning a journey.

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Start the Year Off With Your Walk Up Song!

  • July 31, 2017, 3:55 p.m.

Ever been to baseball game and heard the different songs that play when each new baseball player takes the plate? The songs represent the player's feelings, goals, and personality. I had the privilege of hearing Stephanie Harvey at ILA this year. In her talk about striving readers, she suggested finding out each students' "walk up" song.

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Preparing for Next Year During the Summer

  • June 3, 2017, 3:51 p.m.

Summer is a great time to throw out the old. My rule is, if you haven't used it in a year, throw it out! Education is constantly changing and that means that you are constantly collecting new teaching tools.

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