When Curiosity Drives Intervention

I remember a few years back going to PD on RTI (Response to Invention). I thought what a wonderful idea, identify areas of need and then build programming and staffing that will best address those needs. In action it never really worked like the book or speaker said it would. The problem, I find, is that people hear things differently. When an intervention model calls for extra assistance (tier 2) and we simply remove a student from class and put them with a minimally trained EA to “read” using some sort of photocopied low, interest books followed by some cut-out word sorts are we really doing best for those struggling students? Is that activity going to bridge the ever growing gap? No.

This is why as a grade 3 teacher that identified areas of weakness in some student those same students came to me in grade 6 with little to no change. We were intervening but we were intervening in a way that made the student an item acted on and not a child we were working for. Something had to change. What was it that was not working? We had all these leveled texts, all these engaging activities that were meant to address deficits, we had time reading, isn’t that the answer? Then I started keeping my intervention students I started watching them more and letting those who did not need my assistance as much explore the texts they wanted, they read for interest and understanding. I wondered to myself why I am not giving my striving readers the same treatment.

So I started a different journey. Instead of supplying the text and some activities I asked them what they wanted to read about. The first response, “Is there AtoZ readers at my level for that?” I had never really put much thought into the fact that students in intervention not only know they are in intervention but also know that their peers have a choice where they have very little. That realization caused me to break from the “readers” format. I looked for articles or short stories that were on the students topic, that they were curious about, that they were interested in. Reading became more than a task that had to be completed with skills in isolation. Away when the word searches or poorly constructed prepackaged tasks and we started talking, they circled what they were unsure of as they read and starred what they thought was neat so we could look into it further. The curiosity on the topic drove the conversations and those conversations were a more powerful and meaningful intervention than any photocopied text with convoluted multiple choice questions ever could.

Eventually, the reading improved but the bigger impact was a student who only knew themselves as a struggling reading that got pulled out from choice reading to do the intervention to an empowered reader that read their first novel.

I look at curiosity as the best form of intervention. Curiosity and wonder drive students to search and to learn. I think of myself, do I get excited about a book I am told I have to read? Or about a book that I want to read because I am curious about it? Our students are the same.

I want to be clear I am not advocating throwing out the intervention that is done well, that is student focused and driven by current practices including student choice, teacher or specialist in the classroom guiding the process. But I would suggest that as we plan that intervention that we ask our students what they wonder about and let that curiosity drive our planning. Engagement in learning can only increase growth and I think that is the ultimate goal of intervention, the growth of the learner.


4 thoughts on “When Curiosity Drives Intervention

  1. Your students are lucky to have you, and I could not agree more w/ your comments about intervention. Often a well-intentioned program results in poor results. This happens, as you note, from labels attached to students, from poor implementation of the program, and from ignoring the student’s natural curiosity. I think it’s Donalyn Miller who says, “Let my students read.”

    Welcome to your first #SOLC. I look forward to reading more of your posts.


  2. Ugh! Word Press lost my original comment, so I’ll just say this: I love this post and agree w/ all you’ve said. Students will read when we give them the diet of reading that piques their curiosity. And I can not stand the leveling of books. It’s so antithetical to how I read and how I grew up reading. Can we please level leveling?

    Welcome to your first #SOLC. I look forward to reading more of your posts.


  3. Thank you for this thought-provoking post! I also think that it is important that we aren’t just focusing on students’ deficits. We can use their strengths to help them grow in their areas of need. Providing for choice also allows our students to be more active in their learning. Often our struggling readers learn to become passive because what they have tried has not been successful.


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