It was November, and our first intervention cycle was ending. Teachers had just finished giving their second reading benchmark assessment, and a meeting to go over the data with each grade level was set for later in the week. After the meeting, our intervention groups would change based on students who were ready to exit intervention or those who needed to come into intervention. But first, before any of that could happen, we had to address the discrepancies between the data we had as interventionists and the data the classroom teachers had for the students we see.
It can often feel like the work in a reading intervention setting is being done in isolation. Teachers described the way an intervention student engaged with reading in the classroom differently from how we saw them in intervention. Because the goal is for students to transfer the work they do as readers during intervention into the classroom and, really, all parts of their reading life, hearing that teachers saw and felt a disconnect was concerning.
Most often, the discrepancy was that the students were showing that they could read more challenging texts in intervention than with the classroom teacher during guided reading. In a third-grade class, for example, two readers were reading independently during intervention at levels K and L, and the teacher’s reading benchmark placed them at an H and I, respectively. The assessments we used assessed the same skills: retelling, literal and inferential questions, and accuracy and fluency when reading aloud. This discrepancy wasn’t a level or two; the difference was almost an entire grade level.
It could be that the difference between a classroom setting and the small-group or even one-on-one intervention setting contributes to the discrepancies we’ve seen. We acknowledge that students who are overwhelmed in the classroom might not perform to their potential in the way they do with more individualized attention during intervention. When a student shows what they’re able to do, though, we think it’s important that all instruction challenge them to their maximum potential.
When the classroom teacher’s truth is different from the student’s truth, explicit and careful steps need to be taken to invite the classroom teacher to see the student’s truth. After the discrepancies that arose after the first intervention cycle, we found success in sharing reading assessments taken between the benchmarks with classroom teachers, pushing into the classroom, and having direct conversations about the discrepancies.
Sharing Reading Assessments
We began to share reading assessments done during intervention so that teachers could be sure that the students’ guided reading and independent reading levels matched the progress we saw the students making during intervention. On the assessments, we included notes about behaviors we observed as the students read (e.g., whether they self-corrected, read silently, pointed to words as they read, approached tricky words strategically). We also wrote down everything the student said during the retell and when answering the questions, so that teachers were able to read and see exactly what the students did during the assessment. We also included some possible goals that we were focusing on for the students, based on the reading assessment data, so that those could be goals for the students in the classroom, too.
Even with this regular sharing of assessments, there were still times that a teacher didn’t see a student in the same way we did. To address this directly, we began doing some assessments side by side with teachers who were seeing a discrepancy. As interventionists, we made ourselves available to teachers while they were completing reading assessments. Some teachers asked to watch as we did the assessment with the students; others asked us to observe as they completed the assessment. Always, there was time afterward to talk through what we noticed. We’d discuss reading behaviors observed, analyze the miscues, set goals for our instruction for these individual students, and decide together if this was the highest independent level for the student or we should continue with additional assessments. The result of this work was that we were on the same page when the next reading assessment benchmark approached.
Pushing into the Classroom
Seeing students only in the intervention setting doesn’t give a complete picture of them as readers. The books are chosen for them for the most part, for example, so getting to know the students as readers—as in, their reading identities—is less organic. Once every few weeks, we began using an intervention day to push into students’ classrooms and support the work going on during their guided reading or reading workshop block. During that time, we’d ask students to show us the books in their book baggies, and help them reflect on things the books they chose told us about who they were as readers. We’d make notes on the types of books they seemed to love, and support them in checking to be sure that all the books in their baggies were just right for them, save for a few “look books” that might be outside of what was just right to them but were high interest.
We carried this chart into the students’ classrooms to help us take notes on the types of books in their book baggies.
Some teachers would ask if other students could join in the work, providing a chance for a small group to work alongside the intervention student.
Going into the classroom also gave us a chance to make the connection between reading in the classroom and reading in intervention explicit. Some students needed to be told directly that the reading work they did with us outside of their classroom should also be done in their classroom.
Address Discrepancies Directly
Since that first intervention cycle, as we’ve made an effort to share reading assessments more regularly, completed assessments side by side with the classroom teacher, and pushed into the classroom to do some small groups and conferences with intervention students, there have been fewer surprises at the time of the reading benchmarks. When there are differences between interventionist and classroom teacher assessments, we’ve found the most success in discussing them openly and directly with the teacher, which helps extinguish some of the awkwardness around it.
When having a conversation with individual teachers about discrepancies, we’ll try to phrase our questions in a way that gives the teacher the benefit of the doubt. Saying something like, “I see you have Giselle at a level K right now, but she was reading with me at a level M two weeks ago. How did it go when you tried her at a level M?” gives the teacher the chance to speak to what he sees in the classroom, and removes any accusational tone.
When discrepancies come up during grade-level meetings about the reading benchmark assessments, we’ll remind everyone that we all have the same goal to help the students grow as readers, and then look for ways that we could compromise: Can we try the higher level for a few weeks and see how the student does? Can we do one more week of guided reading at the higher level, and then give him independent books to see how it goes? Would a variety of levels in the student’s baggie make the classroom teacher more comfortable? These compromises are all ones we can live with, because they give the student a chance to try texts in the classroom that we’ve seen him succeed with in intervention, which ideally then also gives the classroom teacher a chance to see he’s successful.
The work of connecting what’s happening in intervention with what’s happening in the classroom is important and worthwhile work. It’s this work of lessening the gap between intervention and the classroom that will help to ensure that our readers are growing as quickly as they can.