Today I wanted to quickly go over the 3 tiers of instruction for literacy. These tiers are common across many grade levels in schools. They are great to understand exactly how instruction can be differentiated to meet the need of all literacy learners. While these 3 tiers are widely known and practiced in schools, the actual content, lessons, and teaching strategies inside each tier can vary greatly. There are a lot of factors for these variances, including, student needs, schedules, and types of curriculum that might be available for teachers in schools. Let's dive into these 3 layers.
Tier 1 is known as the start of literacy instruction. It is the time when educators teach the entire class a lesson. It is almost always based on a specific grade level standard that needs to be covered and is appropriate for the average reader at that grade level. So tier 1 instruction is the overarching blanket of instruction that every reader at that grade level should receive. Often time for the majority of students, this is the most instruction that they need before going off to practice the skill on their own. However, some students are reading below grade level, or beyond their grade level, and these students require additional support. This is when tier 2 instruction comes into play.
Students reading 1 or 2-grade levels below their matching grade level need additional support on top of their tier 1 instruction, this is known as tier 2 instruction. In a tier 2 level of instruction, students meet in groups of 3, 4 at the most, to receive additional support on top of their whole group tier 1 instruction. This instruction will target a specific skill that students have demonstrated a lack of understanding in. Typically a research and evidence-based intervention program is used to provide instruction. Usually this happens about 3 to 4 times a week here. Again, this can vary based on schedules and student needs. Tier 2 interventions last approximately 20 minutes. They can be led by the classroom teacher, a specialized teacher, or maybe even a trained aid, tutor, or school volunteer. To be effective the intervention program must be implemented with fidelity. Often times the teacher collects data in the form of running records and comprehension checks. On average, in a tier 2 intervention, the teacher conducts a running record on each student either weekly or bi-weekly to track reading progress. This also allows you to monitor whether the student is making gains with this intervention.
When a student does not show enough progress through data collection in a tier 2 intervention, he/she may require a more intense form of instruction. This is known as a tier 3 intervention. In tier 3 interventions the instruction is often more intense, it lasts longer, and it is more individualized. It will happen on a one-on-one basis. More data will be collected in a tier 3 intervention as well. This is often for students who are 2 or more years below their grade level. Running records are typically taken weekly and more data for progress monitoring is collected. The type of instruction in tier 3 is often the same research or evidence-based curriculum being used in tier 2 but at a more intense one-on-one support level. If a student still is showing no signs of progress after going through all tiers of instruction, it may be time to explore more alternative options for instruction, such as testing for special education services.
I hope this explanation of the 3 tiers of reading instruction helps you understand the layers of support for literacy learners. If you teach literacy and would like to try a free week of a research and evidence-based Reading Intervention Program for all grade levels that has everything you need to plan, instruct, and progress monitor at each of the tiers of instruction, click HERE!
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