Math RTI and Intervention

Intervention has been quite the buzz word the last year or so, hasn’t it???  At least it has been in my neck of the woods.  Generally, teachers are very comfortable doing intervention in literacy, but what does good, research based intervention look like in math?  I’ll be blogging about ways I used intervention in my math instruction last year over the next few days.

The wonderful thing about teaching in a CGI classroom is I get to see the way kids think.  It’s a much more colorful and meaningful look at where my kids are.  CGI gives me more information.  Unlike the workbook pages of the past where a teacher could say, “These kids get it and these don’t,” CGI gives me an entire spectrum of thinking.  After each day of math, I can say, “These kids solved using relational thinking, these kids still had to count on to add, these kiddos had to draw a picture to solve the problem and these kids….still. don’t. get. it.”

So…if CGI is supposed to be God’s gift to math instruction, then why are they still struggling?

The answer is simple and complicated all at the same time.

The simple answer is: Some kids will always struggle.  No random classroom of kids will have everyone solving problems at the highest level.  It’s just the facts.  It doesn’t mean those kiddos aren’t smart.  It doesn’t even mean they aren’t good at math.  And it certainly doesn’t mean they CAN’T succeed.  It’s just a struggle for them.

The complicated answer is: It’s a struggle for a variety of reasons.  Maybe they are simply not developmentally ready for the high demands of a CGI classroom at the ripe age of 5, 6, or 7.  My brother was like that.  Struggled with math all through elementary school.  He hated it.  And now?  He’s a computer programmer who doubled up on calculus and trig in high school to catch up for college and can do more math as a successful adult than I could ever dream of doing.

Maybe our strugglers have “background” issues–home life is a wreck, they come to school hungry, they act out for attention because it’s the only time they get it, or they can’t pay attention to save their little life {ooooh, look! It’s a fly!…you know what I’m talking about!}  Regardless of their background issues, these little strugglers just need some one on one time.  Or some intense small grouping to give them the extra attention they are craving and the focus the need to succeed.

So if you are like me and constantly looking for some fresh ideas for math interventions and RTI, here’s a look at how I used small groups as intervention in my CGI classroom for my struggling learners.

Last year, In addition to CGI time (45-60 minutes 3-4 times a week), I also had a math skills block of 20-30 minutes each day.  (Read about last year’s schedule in detail HERE).  This year, I’m mulling over a change in my schedule.  This is what I’ve come up with (subject to change once I get my school’s master schedule) that I think will be a better balance…

Monday: Math Skill Game (RTI) & CGI
Tuesday: Fact Fluency (RTI) & CGI
Wednesday: Number Talk & CGI
Thursday: Number Talk & CGI
Friday: Counting Collections (RTI) & Math Wall

Based on this schedule, I can meet with intervention groups 3 times a week for 20-30 minutes a week.  It’s not everyday, but also keep in mind that with CGI I am able to work one-on-one with anywhere from 6-12 kids each day depending on how conferences go.

Today, let’s look at my first intervention strategy for my strugglers.

Launching the Math Problem

A true CGI classroom is the perfect place, in my opinion, for struggling learners.  First of all, after launching the problem, I have my firsties show me with their thumbs how well they are understanding the story problem…

{Download the poster for FREE HERE!!}

After I launch the CGI problem, my babies who don’t understand the problem type always choose to stay with me on the carpet by showing me thumbs down (and if they don’t choose to stay and should have, I choose for them! *wink*) so we can act out the story together.   They don’t leave to solve independently until we have solved one together.  There’s my first 5-10 minutes of intervention for RTI babies.

CGI Conferencing

During conferencing, I have a set group of kiddos I conference with first.  At the beginning of the year, after doing 3 or 4 CGI problems, I sort kids into 3 basic piles: low, medium, high based on my expectations.  Then I mix the kids into 3 groups of 8 kiddos each.  The groups have close to equal numbers of high, medium and low babies.  Then I record them on a notecard in a color coded system (see pic below) and that is my guide for conferences.

Generally, I rotate groups–first I meet with my pink, then orange, then green.  But in reality, I rotate it by problem type.  You can see on the picture above where I’ve written in the margins what color I conferenced with that day.  This is for my own sanity!!!  Since I mix up problem types and don’t do the same problem type for several days in a row (usually), then I record who I met with so that the next time we do that problem type, I know who I need to conference with.  I know that’s a lot to process, but, yes, that does mean that every now and then I conference with the same color two days in a row because we’re doing 2 different problem types, but generally it works.  You could do it however works best for you…the important thing is spreading your conference love around! 🙂

The reason I do a mixed ability of groups is for time management:  If I meet with all lows on one day, I would never get them all done because the conference is so much longer.  If I meet with all highs in one day, I’d be done in 5 seconds (well, not quite that, but you get the idea.)  So I mix it up and it seems to be the right amount of time for me to meet with 8-12 kiddos a day.  If I finish the 8 in my color group early, I just choose who I feel needs me the most that day by observation and do some additional conferencing.  8 kids scheduled to conference a day means I conference with 2-3 of my low babies…that’s another 5 minutes of 1-on-1 intervention time if you counting it up!

Now let’s look at my records sheet a little more closely again.  Notice that I do one page per problem type so I can be more specific with my strategies.  Also, just because a kid solves one problem type one way, doesn’t mean he will with another problem!  It’s just my personal preference to look at it like this!

Green Arrow>>>Date and number sets most kids are working with (Sometimes I lower numbers for my strugglers and I always have 2 sets of 4 extension number sets on the board for my early finishers.  The extension sets are color coded so that when they finish early, I can look at their work and tell them which color they need to work on based on their work…of course I can also give them their own set if I need to do that!

Blue Arrow>>>These are my strugglers.  Their names are recorded under the number sets.  I use this to pull intervention groups throughout the week during Fact Fluency time {which I’ll blog more about later}.  After our intervention, I highlight kids who I felt were “good to go” so I could keep track of who still needed more intervention for a certain problem type.

Orange Arrow>>>Notice that 2-3 names are circled on each row.  These are my sharers for the day.  This is just to help my feeble mind remember who shared so that I don’t have repeat sharers multiple days in a row! 🙂  Also, it helps me visualize during share time who my target kids are for questioning.  For example, Student “E” on my first row shared his counting strategy, so I knew by my chart that the students in my direct modeling box would be my focus kids for share time.

CGI Share Time

During share time, they get to learn from their peers.  They get to listen to successful strategies from peers over and over and over.  They get to watch friends act out problem solving.  And as long as I am asking my strugglers specific questions throughout share time and one-on-one conferencing, they stay focused and engaged…well, most of the time! #thestruggleisreal #justbeinghonest

If you’ve been tracking my time, that’s 10-15 minutes of small group or 1-on-1 RTI intervention with my lowest babies every single time I do CGI.  That adds up to 40 minutes to an hour a week.  Every little bit counts, right? What I love about using CGI and RTI together is that it’s meaningful for the kids.  It’s best practice, and RTI is just woven into it.  CGI just naturally lends itself to intervention.  I am the interventionist.  I’m meeting my kids where they are and “growing from there!”

Over the next few days, I’ll be blogging about more ways I do intervention groups during my math time every week.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear ways you use intervention during your CGI time!

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  1. Thank you so much for this!!! I used your math mysteries this past year, but I tried to meet a little with every child every day and it was very stressful! This makes a lot more sense! I can't wait to read your other posts!

    1. You're welcome. Meeting with every kid everyday?? Girl, you must have gone crazy!! 🙂 I did that a few times my first year before I gave up and worked out my system!

    2. One more question, I promise. Looking at this new schedule, it looks like you will be doing math mysteries four days a week? How long will you spend on fact fluency and math games? I only have a one hour block for math so it is hard for me to get everything in. Thank you so much for your help!