Build a Math Intervention Schedule that Plans for Practice!

When you build your math intervention schedule, it’s important not only to plan for the content that you hope to deliver but also to plan for practice so that your students can build independence in their math intervention skills as well!

Try these two strategies to build time for practice into your schedule!

Planning for Practice in your Math Intervention Schedule Blog Post Header

It can be beyond frustrating to sit at the small group table watching as your students demonstrate that they are starting to really understand a concept only to watch them flounder on an assessment or activity on the same exact topic the next day.

Expectations might be at the root of this phenomenon! If we provide constant support in a small group setting we are setting the expectation that our students will be successful with the support of a small group. When you notice a student who is struggling on a skill that you thought they understood, ask yourself, have I ever expected my student to demonstrate this skill independently before? If not, it’s time to build in opportunities for independent practice within your math intervention schedule.

Build Practice Blocks Into Each Lesson

The first place you will have an opportunity to plan for practice within your math intervention schedule is within the lesson block itself. Consider this lesson format:

  1. Fluency Warm-Up Activity (2-3 minutes)
  2. Small-Group Lesson (10 minutes)
  3. Independent Practice Activity (10 minutes)
  4. Lesson Debrief (2-3 minutes)
  5. Ticket Out The Door (2-3 minutes)

In this sample lesson schedule, you notice that your students are spending just as much time practicing independently as they are being guided in the small-group lesson.

Will there be times when you might want to spend a longer period of time on the small group lesson so that your students can have a deep discussion? Absolutely.

Will there be times when you small group lesson might be shorter so that your students can spend more time in independent practice exploring and practicing with manipulatives? Absolutely.

Regardless of the actual number of minutes, this lesson format is important because it lays the expectation that students be able to explore and demonstrate math understanding independently.

Build Practice *Weeks* Into Your Math Intervention Schedule

The speed and pacing of your math intervention units may impact the success your students experience. If each week you are introducing a new math skill or topic a student who falls behind may have difficulty keeping up with their peers and may fall further and further behind— this same scenario in a tier 1 setting is likely the reason why your student needs math intervention in the first place!

Instead of creating a math intervention schedule that perpetuates this snowball effect, instead, build a schedule that plans for practice! Take this example:

Notice that the last week in September and 1st week in October are devoted to the same topic. For me, this is a 5 lesson unit but I allow for two full weeks to work through those lessons. If you are meeting with an intervention group 3x/week you will need two full weeks to work through five lessons. Additionally, notice that in week 2 of October there is no new content being introduced. Instead, there is time for any assessments I want to conduct as well as a full three days for math centers. Why? Independent practice!

What type of centers might you want to include in an independent practice week?

  1. Centers that reinforce skills that you have already taught- build up your students’ capacity to work independently within those topics.
  2. Foundational skills for future instruction! If, for example, in week 4 of November I am going to be heading into a unit on understanding teen numbers, I might introduce math centers in the previous week that require my students to build numbers to 10 on a ten frame. Their comfort with that tool and a boosted sense of numbers to 10 on the ten frame will improve their success in the upcoming unit!

Roadblocks to Independent Practice

I don’t have time. Here’s the thing, you don’t have time to ignore independent practice! I remember sitting in a meeting looking at my students’ performance on a word problem task a few years back. I was frustrated because my students had not performed well on comparison word problems when we had spent a TON of time working on exactly this word problem type. The problem was that *we* had spend a ton of time working on comparison word problems. My students were really good at comparison word problems *with* a teacher. But because I didn’t expect and plan for independence, independence didn’t happen. So, truly, the time spent was time wasted because my students’ independent math skills were no better off than when we started. If your students aren’t independent, your intervention isn’t over yet.

Don’t speed ahead to the next topic because your curriculum says you have to. You will have wasted your time and effort on the previous topic because your students aren’t quite there yet. At the end of the year your students will have a collection of topics that they understand part-way.

I would rather my students truly understand and have confidence around 10 math skills than exposure to 20 that they don’t understand and can’t apply. Working time for practice into your math intervention schedule is a non-negotiable.

My students have a hard time working independently. Your students independent work needs to be work that they can be successful on independently. This can feel like a catch 22. If your students are able to work independently then why would they need the extra practice?

The “sweet spot” of independent work includes an activity your students can be successful on independently that helps them to develop their fluency, deepen their understanding or notice and become comfortable with patterns.

If your students are having a difficult time getting started, the work itself might be too difficult for your students to complete independently. To combat this problem you might:

  • Create independent work that mirrors the activities completed in your small group lesson.
  • Include a manipulative or visual model that makes the work more accessible.
  • Review the activity ahead of time so that your students understand the task ahead- their work in independent practice will then improve their fluency with that skill.
  • Consider whether there is a foundational skill your students might be lacking– in this case you might switch the focus of the independent practice.
  • Read more HERE about how to choose an appropriate independent task for your students.

My students are so wiggly during independent work time! Maybe your students are at the end of their math block- you’ve already worked as a class for 45 minutes and the last 15 minutes will be spent with an intervention group. Or maybe your students were just down the hall for reading intervention for the last half hour. If your students seem to be crawling out of their skin by the time you’re ready for independent practice, consider the environment! To combat this problem you might:

  • Add in a brain break before independent practice. I love counting videos by Jack Harttman on Youtube!
  • Tweak your independent practice so it involves movement! Instead of sitting down to complete task cards, hang the task cards around your space and call it a scavenger hunt!
  • Ditch the table. There’s something novel about being able to work on the windowsill, by the drinking fountain or on the rug. With expectations for what productive work looks like in place, allow your students to move to their own space so that they can spread out and get in a bit of movement as they work.
  • In any case, be mindful of the fact that your students are still young humans! Their bodies are wired for movement so any opportunity to allow for appropriate movement will be a step in the right direction.
If you’re ready to plan with practice in mind grab this free Math Intervention Planning guide. You’ll learn how to plan your year, month and week at a glance in a way that meets your students where they are while keeping an eye on where they need to be!

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