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Tiered Instruction and Intervention - Tier 1

Are there any recommended strategies for teachers to use with struggling elementary students prior to referring them to the RtI team?

Response from Stephanie Al Otaiba, Ph.D.

If I were in your shoes, I would first reflect on how the struggling students’ reading skills differed from those of their classmates. I would also begin to collect data about patterns of strength and weakness in the students’ reading skills. I would try to provide extra small group instruction (with a homogenous grouping) targeting the weaker skills at my teacher table. So for example, I might provide extra instruction with more modeling and more use of pictures in teaching blending and segmenting than I might typically use with my more highly skilled children. I might create some fluency games to practice sight words, if that is a problem, or I might incorporate more practice reading in decodables that are simpler and at the level of this lower group along with some direct instruction in decoding and spelling patterns (e.g., CVC, CVCe). If some students were weak in vocabulary and in listening comprehension, then I might provide more time reading aloud to them in a small group while other students might be involved with a computer activity. Keep track of how the struggling students improve (or not) on what you are trying. As both a teacher and, more recently, as a researcher, I’ve used progress monitoring tools like AIMSweb letter sound fluency and DIBELS measures, but I have also at times created simple word lists and master sheets to see who is and isn’t learning from my instruction.


Some great activities for individualizing instruction for struggling readers may be downloaded at The Florida Center for Reading Research. These also include instructional routines to support teachers as they try these activities.

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