Creating a functioning schedule for schools that serves all staff and students is not an easy task. I can recall many summer days in my former district where counselors and administrators would sit in a computer lab with whiteboards everywhere, trying to find a solution that did more than just meet everyone's needs.
A solid schedule also needs to meet state and federal requirements for time on learning, give everyone an adequate lunch, as well as provide teachers with the planning time they need to be successful. An additional layer to this process is finding time to deliver Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) interventions and lessons.
It might seem like less of a challenge to assume that teachers can deliver these interventions in existing class time, in a “conference center” like situation, where the classroom teacher will have the majority of the class working on an independent work assignment, and will work in a small group with other students at a designated space in class. However, according to a study by Buffin, Matos, and Malone (2018), schools need to have a dedicated time to these interventions. They state that “we have never visited a school that has an effective system of interventions that does not have supplemental intervention time embedded in its weekly schedule.” This implies that a separate, designated time for interventions only is much more beneficial for student growth. Given the need for dedicated time to interventions, here are 3 things you could consider when grouping students for your RTI/MTSS groups:
1. Leverage staff with an “all hands on deck” approach
Oftentimes, there is an inclination to leave the Tier 2 and Tier 3 SEL interventions to the counseling staff only. While counselors are the obvious choice for their SEL expertise, it’s not always possible or reasonable to do this. In many schools, counselors have multiple job responsibilities, hundreds of students to check in with, and it’s just not possible for them to be the only staff to deliver, monitor, and report on Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions. By having all staff participate in the Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions, you allow for smaller, more targeted group interventions, as well as the opportunity for all staff to be involved in the process and offer their abilities. Having staff that normally wouldn’t be involved in such work, brings them closer to the mission and pulse of the school. It lets them stay connected to the students and the community in an authentic way that doesn’t happen if someone is not working with students. By having a program with built-in suggested interventions, like Satchel Pulse, there is no need to be worried about the quality of the SEL content and interventions that students are receiving. This might happen in a larger classroom or lecture hall space with different stations of work, or in small groups utilizing the space of all available offices, classrooms, and conference rooms in the school. Leveraging all staff allows for a deeper, more meaningful RTI/MTSS.
By having all staff participate in Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions, you allow for smaller, more targeted group interventions.
2. Group across grade levels by most needed SEL competency
Using grade-level groups is an obvious option, but what about introducing intervention groups that span 1-2 grade levels? If this option is possible with the bell and lunch schedule, it’s worth looking into. First, students who are in a higher grade may take on a natural “role model” stance, without realizing it. This will not only help the younger students with their interventions, it will also help the older students because they will be working hard, too. The range of grades might span 1-2 grade levels, based on what students you serve in your schools. Tier 2 and Tier 3 SEL interventions are often not designed to be specific to one grade level only, it’s reasonable to think that you might be able to group by one grade level up, or one grade level below. For example, an intervention group might be 9-10th grade, and another group may be 10th-11th grade. Grouping this way allows for more flexibility because you are not limiting the interventions to one grade level, with one set of teachers. Allowing students to combine with other grade levels allows for more targeted, meaningful interventions.
3. Group by more than one competency and sub-skill
To get greater flexibility, more time, and more meaning with your interventions, consider grouping students by more than one SEL need. If your program allows you to obtain data that will tell you what more than one of their SEL needs is, grouping that way is an option to look into. Within the 5 CASEL competencies, each contains sub-skills that are key to becoming proficient at the greater competency. For example, within the Social-Awareness competency, you may have students who need to strengthen both their empathy skills as well as their perspective-taking. It makes sense to group students who need to work on both sub-skills within the same competency together. This will allow for less “movement” and regrouping in the school, as well as give the students a chance to better understand the overall competency.
Allowing students to combine with other grade levels allows for more meaningful interventions.
Organizing any intervention groups is challenging and requires genuine thought and consideration. By being open to non-traditional groups such as those above, you open your school community up to meaningful and lasting SEL growth.
Buffum, A., Mattos, M. and Malone, J., 2018. Taking action. 1st ed. Solution Tree.