Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I'm All About That RTI, RTI

     A few weekends ago all of the teachers here in Eek traveled into Anchorage for the 2015 Alaska RTI Conference. Since we have an awesome principal, he allowed our entire teaching staff to attend. We left Thursday afternoon and got into Anchorage that night. We stayed all weekend and came home on Monday. It was a fantastic conference and we got to have a little fun in the city.

It was pretty late by the time we got checked into our hotels Thursday night, but we headed out for dinner at Humpy's.

I ordered Alaskan King Crab Legs and they were delicious! They were the biggest crab legs I've ever had, they put those tiny Snow Crabs on the East coast to shame. Humpy's was a great place to eat and they had a great atmosphere. If anyone ever goes to Anchorage, hit up Humpy's!

     Friday we were up early and headed to the pre-conference. The conference was held at the Dena'ina Center. It is a beautiful conference center and quite large considering it was able to hold over a thousand teachers from all over Alaska. The pre-conference consisted of two sessions a beginner RTI session and an advanced one. I went to the beginner session seeing as this was my introduction to RTI. In the beginner session they give you a run-down of what RTI is. So what is it you ask? RTI stands for Response to Intervention. It is a multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of students with learning and behavior needs. The RTI process begins with high-quality instruction and universal screening of all children in the general education classroom. (Yes I borrowed this definition from someone else, much more eloquent than anything I would have said.)

There are three tiers in the RTI model, simply labeled as Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3.

Tier 1: High-Quality Classroom Instruction, Screening, and Group Interventions
  • Tier 1 focuses on you basic instruction in the general education classroom. All students should be screened periodically, academically and behaviorally. This provides a baseline so you are able to identify students that need additional support. 
Tier 2: Targeting Interventions
  • This is where students that are not making adequate progress in the general education classroom are given intensive instruction that meets their needs and is based on their progress and performance.
Tier 3: Intensive Interventions and Comprehensive Evaluation
  • At this tier, students receive individualized and intensive interventions that are targeted to their deficits. If students still require additional support after the Tier 3 process, they can then be referred for a comprehensive evaluation for and considered for eligibility for special education.
     RTI can be broken down into two different models, RTI-SP (Standard Protocol) and RTI-PS (Problem-Solving). RTI-SP works better with Tier 2 when you can work with small groups of students and RTI-PS works better with Tier 3 when students need more individualized attention and intervention. The key with the separate models is to find a good balance between the two.

Sitting in the session.

     Response to Intervention is a really important aspect of teaching. It helps ensure that every student is learning to their full potential and makes sure students are progressing at the appropriate rate. I am glad I was able to learn more about this.

     While we were at the conference I was able to see some of the other new teachers that came in with me. Friday night some of us went out to catch up. We had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and later we headed over to Humpy's where a lot of other teachers from our district were hanging out. It's a pretty popular spot if you can't tell. On our walk from the Hard Rock to Humpy's we strolled through this park where they had all these ice sculptures. It was pretty neat!

This was a really cool dragon.

This one is a polar bear, it think it lost some weight though.

Nicely carved eagle.

I believe this is supposed to be a person playing some kind of instrument.

Me in the train! It was VERY cold to sit on.

The park was really pretty with all the ice sculptures, snow, and lights.

     Saturday was a great day at the conference. I was in a session with Anita Archer. (Click on the name and it will link you to her site.) One of the other teachers in Eek, Lynn, told me anything of Anita's would be great and she was not wrong. If you are a educator and do not know who Anita Archer is....shame on you. She was absolutely fantastic! Her session was called "Getting Them All Engaged: Inclusive Active Participation."


     We talked about why active participation is so important in the classroom. It promotes engagement, keeps the students awake, different students can supply different perspectives, helps improve classroom management, makes students accountable for their education, and if they are participating they are learning. We went over so much information I couldn't possibly tell you everything. We talked about many different ways you can encourage active participation in your classroom. One of the big ones was creating better questions to elicit better and more frequent responses from you students. Really trying to get greater participation from ALL of your learners. Archer showed us a some strategies she uses like SLANT and Private/Public Questions. SLANT is an acronym for Sit Up, Listen, Ask/Answer, Nod/Note, and Track. She teaches students this and when they start to drift off a little she will say "Lets SLANT" and it helps with their attentiveness. Private/Public Questions was another great strategy she uses. We all have those students that raise their hand during a lesson and you expect them to have this great question and they say, "Can I go to the bathroom?" The Private/Public method is so simple, she teaches students that if they have a private question (like going to the bathroom or something else that isn't related to the task at hand) they put their hand over their heart and she knows to make her way to them eventually and there is no disruption of the lesson. If the question is public (meaning something related to the lesson or task) the students raise their hand and she will call on them. GENIUS!!!! She also talked about many different ways students can respond and told us some different activities you can do with partners. She also told us about this really cool tool called Plickers. You can use it to collect real-time formative assessment data without the need for student devices. Definitely check it out, one of our teachers started using it and she really likes it. Plus, it's free!

Thank you Anita Archer for opening my eyes to all this awesomeness!

     Saturday night some of us Eekers decided to go to an Alaska Aces hockey game. It was a blast! Where has hockey been all my life? What an excellent sport to watch and anyone that knows me knows that I'm not much for watching sports. The Aces have a pretty fun fan base, they all have these cow bells they bring to games and ring. It was awesome, but the bells got to me after awhile. 

 Warming up and the zambonis!

Go Aces! They lost, but it was still fun.

     Sunday was the last day of the conference. I had an AM session and a PM session on Sunday, so my day was broken up a little. My AM session was called "Don't Just Flip Your Classroom, Transform It!" This was a top notch session with Catlin Tucker. (Click for her site.) What is a Flipped Classroom? This is where classroom instruction is flipped from being delivered from the teacher to being delivered online via video lectures and other forms of online media and collaboration. It is basically a blended classroom model. With how much students use technology these days, this really is a great idea.
     To design a flipped lesson you do the inquiry and exploration in the classroom, you transfer info (instructional delivery) and engage students online, then you extend and apply the knowledge back in the classroom. She gave us an example of a vocabulary lesson she might do. To start she would give the students a worksheet with the vocal words underlined and they have to think about what the meanings are using context clues, then they get online and write narratives using the words on a collaborative site. Students are able to read and comment on other students work. Back in the classroom they would do a synonym/antonym activity with the words and students could share more about their narratives. You could also do other student-centered and rich learning activities. One example Catlin gave was Word Sneak. She showed us a hilarious example that was a video with Jimmy Fallon (click the link for the video). Basically the students have the vocab words and they can add a few of there own (school appropriate of course) and they have to casually and seamlessly work the words into a conversation. Such a fun idea!
     Catlin talked about the different types of media we could flip; text, images, videos, etc. She also gave us so many different ideas for sites you can use. Google Apps, Socrative, Schoology, Collaborize, Smithsonian Teen Tribune, Newsela, Infographics, The National Gallery of Art, LIFE Magazines via Google Books,,, Flocabulary, TED Talks, Prezi (one of my favs), and so many more. I never realized how many great online resources were out there.
     Tips for Flipping: Keep it short, "Don't reinvent the wheel" (see whats already out there), Get students creatively applying the info, Have fun with assessments. Tucker found that she had more students doing there homework with the classroom model and had more conversation and student-led learning in the classroom. This is something I definitely want to try in the future. It is a great way to implement technology in the classroom and still support learning.

     My PM session was with Tricia McKale Skyles on "Responding to Misbehavior: Tier 1 Interventions for Tough Kids." Tricia's session was all about identifying those "tough kids" we have in our classes and different strategies we can use to work with these students. She said there is a big difference between a student that just gets on your nerves and one that is an actual tough kid. And lets admit it, we all have those students. 

How do we define a Tough Kid?
Behavior Excesses:
  1. Noncompliance
  2. Aggressive
  3. Argumentative
  4. Destroys Property
Behavior Deficits:
  1. Contingency governed- NOT Rule governed
  2. Poor Social Skills
  3. Academic deficits
     A lot of times when we have these students and they demonstrate the above behavior excesses, we usually make it worse when you try to argue, bribe, or just give into them after arguing. It is the WRONG thing to do, all you are doing is showing them they have won. It is basically a power struggle between you and this student. So what can you do to help with the Tough Kid?

Use the STOIC framework.
  • Structure the environment for success
  • Teach expectations
  • Observe (monitor, supervise)
  • Interact positively (build relationships and provide positive feedback)
  • Correct fluently (calmly, consistently, immediately, respectfully)
     One of the things Tricia suggested to do with Tough Kids is to give them a job, but use it as a reward not a punishment. Present it in a way that makes it their idea or choice in a sense. And when they are displaying inappropriate behavior you take the job away, but not forever. The key with Tough Kids is they always know redemption is available. The job is also like an intervention and eventually you would fade it out as necessary when the behavior is corrected. If it comes back start the job again. 
     We also talked about general misbehavior in the classroom. One very important thing is to develop and display classroom rules clearly.

   Rules for rules:
  • Stated positively
  • Specific and refer to observable behaviors
  • Teach rules using positive and negative examples
  • Must be applicable during the entire class period
  • Posted in a prominent, visible location
     Having positive reinforcements for good behavior. One idea she gave us was to have a class playlist (kids love to listen to music while they work). The twist is that you create the playlist with your music, then tell the students they will get tally marks for appropriate and on task behavior when they get 10 marks (or whatever the amount may be) they get to replace one of your songs with one that they choose (school appropriate of course). The reward is that they get to listen to the music they like and it is fairly inexpensive. She said to always keep incentives cheap and easy. We also discussed a variety of ways to deliver incentives; spinners, mystery motivators, lottery/raffle, etc. Positive reinforcements should eventually faded out and transitions to more natural or social reinforcements. It was a really great session and I plan to implement some of the ideas for positive reinforcement. I like the mystery motivator, has the kids in suspense.

Tricia McKale Skyles

     Sunday night we went and did some grocery shopping. As a teacher in the bush you learn that when you are in Anchorage, where the groceries are cheaper, you stock up! Not the most exciting thing in the world, but still part of the experience.
    I will say the mountains in Anchorage are beautiful. The conference center had these huge windows that looked out at the mountains. When we were driving I was able to snap some pictures.

The view from the conference center.

I love the mountains!

     Well, after our long (and fun) weekend in Anchorage it was time to head back to Eek. We flew out on Monday morning and got back to Eek that afternoon. It was pretty cold that weekend especially when we started heading back out to the bush, the wind just cuts right through you. It was a clear day though so I was able to get some ariel pictures of the mountains that we fly over from Anchorage to Bethel.

Good morning...

...and goodbye Anchorage.

So I'm pretty sure that is a glacier coming out from between those mountains.

Just can't get over how cool the mountains look.

Getting ready to take off from Bethel (thats Leona photo bombing in the background).

So did I mention that it was really cold? Anytime you fly out in the bush during the winter you want to make sure that you get bundled up REALLY well.

Our pilot thought I was taking a picture of him when I was taking the previous picture, so I had him pose again. Usually the pilot are pretty cool out here.

Frozen tundra...does it look cold?

Finally back home in Eek.

What a great trip and experience. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to see some more of Anchorage and attend the RTI conference. I learned so much great information that I can't wait to take back to my classroom. Thanks for reading!

"Learning is not a spectator sport." -Anita Archer

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