Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Some More Technology in Literacy: Finding My Way Under New Mexico's Response To Intervention Model

I've been talking about technology in literacy a little bit lately, so I figured I'd stay on that topic today. My school district, like all school districts in the state of New Mexico, is implementing a "Response to Intervention" model (from here on referred to as RTI). The RTI model does have some MAJOR issues, including the fact that schools are basically left to their own devices to implement it, that it takes instructional time from the day, and that in many cases (whether the state department wants it or not) all students are given the interventions.

If you're not familiar, and I don't want to get too deeply into this, RTI is a mainly literacy intervention where kids are given extra small group tutoring sessions in heterogeneously grouped settings. I can't honestly say that I agree with the model and in the two years we have implemented it I haven't seen it do any good. But that's not the point here.

My grade level implemented RTI by taking one classroom teacher a quarter, as well as support staff, and splitting up the students in need of intervention (we defined them as "below benchmark"), while the other teachers took the kids not needing it and did science. When it was my turn, I had an intensive group of four students.

Rather than beat them over the heads with worksheets and mundane tasks, I pulled out some technology and had them interact with each other and texts in a new way. This was easy because there was four of them and I had eight computers in the classroom. One of the biggest things they did during their 9-weeks with me was they would read Diary of a Wimply Kid on Funbrain.com. This was basically the same book that I had six copies of on my bookshelf, but they came to me every day begging for more.

We were on computers four days a week during my RTI cycle (the entire 9-weeks). When these four students went to take the MAPS Test, an online assessment, they grew more than any other RTI intensive students that year. Of course, I knew why. They were excited about their reading, they were seeking out more, and they stayed positive. They were in an environment that allowed them to experiment with the text, to interact with it, and to get out of the mundane routine of worksheets and textbooks.

I guess my point(s) here are:

1. Sometimes school districts or state education departments implement programs that are not in the best interest of learning.

2. Sometimes teachers have to make the best of a bad situation (that is more than sometimes in some cases).

3. Think outside the box, even if it's just baby steps. I know that computers in the classroom aren't a "WOW" thing anymore, but they are still out of the routine.

4. Follow what works. Just because it worked for me doesn't mean it will for you. I'm just sharing in the hopes that maybe it will work for somebody else.