#TMC16 "Just Enough" Approach to Intervention {Michelle Naidu}

A "just enough" approach to intervention for students with gaps in their mathematical understandings
Michelle Naidu
Morning Session 9:30-11:30

Day 1
What we know about differentiation:

What we wonder:

We're operating under the definition that differentiation is not changing any outcomes or standards but bringing students to grade level expectations. How do we build readiness before new grade level instruction?

*Snowball strategy to safely share writing and knowledge where the room corrects misunderstanding;  at least three times for struggling students.


The Planning Process
Determine outcomes and plan backwards <--> Plan better together <--> Discuss and reflect on changes for improvement

Instructional Pillars
Mastery Learning <--> Learner Readiness <--> Formative Assessment 
<--><-->Day 1 

Curriculum sort: literally print out standards from each grade level. Resort into piles of "things you
would like to teach together" which then become units. There is something powerful about figuring
out your own patterns in teaching rather than relying on a linear pre-determined list. Do your expectations match what the documents and standards actually say?

If we're going to teach to mastery, we have to have a fine-tuned focus of exactly what students are expected to know. Enrichment is great but can't go into a students's grade.

Throw out the "nice to knows" and fine tune to the "need to knows".

Back pedal to decide the pre-skills. What specific pre-skills do students need for new instruction? Narrow it down to the size and type of numbers...when can you stop caring?

Example: For a 6th grade fractions unit, students learn the area model. So they need to know how to find the area of rectangles but not triangles or circles. They need to know how to multiply and divide
two digit numbers but not three.

Map new instruction in one color and pre-skills into a different color. Then chunk pre-skills into
different colors.

Day 2

Everything about this is professional judgment and that's where the power of collaboration shines. This is where vertical alignment becomes important- to find and fill in holes and eliminate disconnects between teachers and grades.

-map grade level
-map pre-skills
-cluster pre-skills

How much can/will you intervene? What is enough for them to understand the new instruction? What do you really care about?

Website Resource achievethecore.org coherency map

Pick a few problems and work them to list the skills needed in each step. Also make note of vocabulary words.

In the past pre-assessments normally look like grade level instruction being given to students and teachers being 'surprised' when they didn't know what they hadn't learned.

Suggested Structure:
-one skill per question
-short (one page)
-as little language as possible

No longer than one page front and back with plenty of white writing space.

We want to quickly know the exact problem.

It's low stakes for students because there is no penalty and quick turnaround.

Grade interventions with stickers to show patterns.

When units build on skills that you've taught earlier in the year, use your own information to decide
what/if to pre-assess.

If you're not going to do anything with it, then don't pre-assess.

Learning Opportunities if they don't know

Learning Opportunities if they do know
-NOT previewing new material
-meaningful interaction with current topic

All students should experience enrichment at some point, some students will need enriched enrichment.

Different units have different levels of pre-skills.

Cut out beginning of school review to insert review right before the skill that requires it.

Your intervention is proportionate to what you need students to know.

Each color is a different station. A station is a tri-fold board with the five categories. Students only go to the station(s) they need and then hang out in enrichment until the whole class is ready. Each station has an exit quiz before moving on.

Day 3

Interventions should be prepared for 1-3 units and no less.

Intervention Boards have same pockets where only contents and titles change.

Set up two classroom sets of boards on each side of the room to minimize traffic.

Mark exit quizzes in front of students to promote discussion.

Color code quizzes to each station.

Make two versions of exit quizzes for students who fail the first one. It was so rare to need a third quiz that you can cycle back to the first one.

Go slow to go fast. Building students up with success on pre-skills makes new instruction go faster and better.

Deep professional learning comes from arguing over what standards mean and what matters.

Designate quiz days so that other days can be spent working one-on-one with students. Have a quiz table where students have to wait for an open spot so that you can grade in real time.

This process can't fix students' learning disabilities but it can support. It is not a cure all but more students will be successful and more students will reach grade level.

Student attendance improves because students feel successful.

There is nothing superhuman about this work. It just takes time.

How will I start?


A great strategy for PD {and for students} is to first have people list barriers to the work or topic you present with empty circles in front of them. Throughout the session/lesson, have students color in the circles when they feel like it is no longer a barrier or when they feel like that barrier has been addressed.

It was really powerful to discuss when and why we could fill in these circles and literally watch the barriers fall.

Thank you Michelle for being a calm, steady, reassuring voice through our panic and fear that turned into confident plans.


  1. What is the "snowball strategy"?

  2. First, have students write the answer to a poignant content-related question on a piece of paper. Students then crumple their paper into a “snowball.”

    Then, students throw their “snowballs” across the room and retrieve one that is not their own. Students then open the “snowball” and respond in some way to the content of the “snowball.”

    Finally, you can ask the next question, and allow the students to write the next answer on the paper they have and repeat the process. Modify the process to meet your classroom needs.

    The Snowball Fight activity enforces writing, responding to text, critical thinking, justifying, and collaboration.

    The anonymity of the activity encourages students to respond even if they are unsure of the “right” answer.

    1. Oh, cool. I generally discourage throwing things in the classroom, but it might be worth it for this.

    2. If you let them throw their trash from their seat into the trash can, they will love you forever. Just make them pick it up when they miss :)