Lesson Study helps align reading interventions with general instruction

Student sitting on a pile of booksOriginating in Japan, Lesson Study (LS) is a professional development process that encourages teachers to learn from each other as they collaborate to develop an engaging unit or lesson. Recently, a group of elementary school teachers used Lesson Study with a new goal: To improve alignment among Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions and general instruction in a response-to-intervention (RTI) framework.

When teachers at Desert Sun Elementary School heard that a nearby school was working with Lesson Study, they realized the structure of Lesson Study was perfect for helping them better align supplemental instruction with general instruction. LS involves collective lesson planning meetings, peer observation, and aligning classroom instruction, methods, curricula and goals with standards.

“For students at risk of academic failure, the disconnect across tiers may result in heightened confusion, fragmented knowledge and lost practice opportunities,” according to a recent study in Teaching Exceptional Children.

After analyzing school data (assessments, IEP goals etc) and reflecting on their observations of student learning, the team of teachers decided to focus on morphological instruction, specifically, on the teaching of prefixes in the “not” family. The team modified the standard process to focus specifically on alignment among general instruction and Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions. If you are interested in using LS for this purpose here are some recommendations:

1. Set the groundwork. Regular meetings and consistent team membership are key to productivity and effectiveness, according to the study in Teaching Exceptional Children. The Lesson Study team at the elementary school met several times per month for one to two hours for collective lesson planning meetings, peer observations, and aligning classroom instruction language, methods, curricula, and goals. Also important is to choose a group facilitator and establish ground rules for constructive group interaction.

2. Analyze data and study the curriculum. While analyzing data, teachers at this school discovered students had significant gaps in their morphological knowledge (e.g., knowledge of word parts and their meaning). During the discovery process, special education and general education teachers might discuss students’ error patterns, reflect on students’ response to instruction or critique the alignment strategies across tiers. Teachers need to come to the Lesson Study session prepared with student data, IEP goals, curriculum and pacing guides.

3. Create aligned goals. Teachers decided to focus their aligned lessons on increasing students’ knowledge of prefixes in the “not” family. In core instruction, the teachers decided to teach the prefixes, dis-, un-, in-, im-, il-, ir-, non-. In order not to overwhelm students during Tier 2 instruction, the team decided to teach the prefixes dis-, un-, and in-. In Tier 3, the team decided to focus only on the most common prefix, dis-.

4. Design aligned lessons. Lessons were developed first for Tier 1 and then for Tiers 2 and 3 to reinforce the Tier 1 instruction. Teachers considered how the prefix content would be initially presented and what they might say and do differently within the tiers to foster student understanding, according to the study in Teaching Exceptional Children. Teachers also planned for what opportunities they would create for students to practice across the tiers. For example, within core instruction, students might work with a partner to identify prefixes from the “not” family in a passage and infer the words’ meanings. Within tiers 2 and 3, students could engage in a word-building task with fewer prefixes for a sentence-completion task.

5. Teach aligned lessons and analyze execution with peers. Teachers observed their colleagues teaching the lessons, watching for opportunities to increase alignment. They also listened for consistency in strategy instruction. While observing the lessons, they collected data on students’ social and academic interactions. The use of an observation protocol is helpful in supporting Lesson Study teams to engage in more constructive and focused discourse, the study says. As the team worked through several Lesson Study cycles together, they found planning lessons collaboratively easier than they initially thought. Lesson content was stronger and differentiation was more effective and appropriately aligned among tiers, according to the article.

“Using Lesson Study to Align Elementary Literacy Instruction Within the RTI Framework.” By Amber E. Benedict et al., Teaching Exceptional Children, 2013, Volume 45, pp 22-30.

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