Sharon V. Kramer

Sharon V. Kramer, PhD, an author and a consultant, is a former assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. She has taught in elementary and middle schools and was a principal, director of elementary education, and professor.

Finding Time for Interventions

How do I find the time to do interventions? When will I do this and also keep up with the pacing of the curriculum?

One thing all teachers can agree on is that time is a limited commodity, especially given the depth and breadth of the standards they teach. In fact, many educators say there is too much to teach, making it nearly impossible to find the time needed to intervene and extend the learning for students. This problem is compounded when teachers are expected to follow rigid pacing guides with prescribed activities and detailed lesson plans. Unfortunately, these documents rarely allow for the possibility that students may need preteaching of prerequisite skills before they can move on to the learning target in the pacing guide for that day. Teachers need to teach the students that they have in their class, not the ones that the pacing guide was written to address.

The reality is that the currency of education is time. So how does a teacher find the time to preteach prerequisite skills, teach the required curriculum, intervene, and extend for every student? Because interventions and extensions are part of the teaching and learning process and not separate from our work, how do teachers do it all?

One of the most effective ways to gain time in the curriculum is to administer short pre-assessments on the skills needed to master the new standards to determine what students already know and what may be a sticking point for them. This serves two purposes:

  1. It allows you to treat the curriculum unequally.
  2. It provides information necessary to differentiate for individual students and small groups.

Without the information obtained from a short pre-assessment, teachers typically approach each unit in the same manner, teaching all of the standards and targets as if the students have no prior knowledge. Instead when a pre-assessment is administered, it allows the teacher to make critical decisions about what to spend more or less time on in the unit. It also allows for preteaching to specific students before whole-group instruction so that all students are actually able to keep up during the whole-group lesson. These students often need vocabulary instruction and/or other prerequisite skills to learn the expected content.

A helpful resource to guide teams as they plan an upcoming unit is the Protocol for Team Analysis Prior to Teaching a Unit.  Teams use this protocol to review prior common assessments for the upcoming unit and identify prerequisite skills or vocabulary that may need pre teaching. This information is used to plan specific steps to address these skills and vocabulary.

In addition, assessment research is clear that the checks for understanding that teachers do during daily instruction are the most effective ways to respond to student learning. This in-the-moment data allows teachers to proactively meet the needs of learners before they start to struggle. Checking for understanding saves time by minimizing the need for remediation later.

A careful analysis of how teams use time is required to meet all of these demands. Consider these team questions:

  1. How do we spend the limited time we are given?
  2. Is this the right lesson for these students right now?
  3. Given the school-year time frame, is this learning experience worthy of the time it will cost?
  4. Is there another way to approach this learning that might work better for these learners or be more efficient in moving them along?

As teams discuss these questions and use the information from pre-assessments and checks for understanding, they are gaining the time needed to strategically target specific student needs before, during, and after instruction.



Hi Sharon,

I just enjoyed reading your insights about finding time for interventions, Derek Bok said: "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.", this quote applies to us as teachers and educators, we do not like to take a step backward and try to reach out to all students. At our school, we always struggle with students who come from other schools around to ours. Most of them are using different system, and this is very challenging when they don't have any idea about the things they were supposed to cover in the previous grades. Sometimes, it is very frustrating; but as you said, we have to find a time for them, otherwise we will not be able to succeed altogether. I do appreciate your insights, we need to find a precious time to use to reach out everyone in our classroom.

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Cali Jones

This is a wonderful suggestion for using assessment data to guide student learning and help implement differentiated instruction in the classroom. As a special education teacher, working in inclusion classrooms, administering pre-test really helps me see the basic skills my students missed out on previous years. I use this data to help implement grouping in the co-teaching classrooms. I really love how you said teachers should teach the students they have and not the ones curriculum maps plan for. I think this is so vital in a classroom and I agree completely. I think teachers need to focus less on using lesson plans they created years ago, and start creating plans based on each and every student and the learning that occurs each day. Thank you so much for your suggestions!

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Derek C

I have had a difficult time planning for differentiated groups in the past. The idea of using pre assessments to effectively teach my students what they don't already know will be a great way to keep students engaged in new learning and provide each student with appropriate information and scaffolds. The use of a short pre assessment will allow me to use my time effectively with each student, giving them what they need and not what everyone might need.

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Lisa Cady

What a great blog to read and consider! Pre-assessments are the subject of some discussions in my school, however, we currently do not use them very often. Several teachers have suggested using pre-assessments for students throughout the school year, but time and resources are definitely obstacles to overcome. Pre-assessments would provide valuable data for me to determine what skills and ideas are most important to introduce and teach fully to my students. By using pre-assessments, advanced students with prior knowledge could focus on higher level thinking skills and enhancing what they already know. On the other hand, students with more limited abilities would benefit from pre-teaching and intervention in order to master the skills necessary to move forward. I am definitely eager and excited to confer with other teachers during the coming school year to explore the idea of using pre-assessments.

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Megan Porter

Pre-assessments are looked at as too time consuming and useless in my building. That accusation is absolutely correct if the data of the pre-assessment is not used correctly. Pre-assessments give us a target of what our students do and do not know. If we use those data points wisely, we can achieve more in less time. Teaching only what is needed to be taught and either enriching or intervening with what students already know will improve student learning. Most students become bored when they feel like they already know the material. However, if we are able to deepen the knowledge of what students already know we will drive those students into think critically, problem-solve, and want to learn more. On the flip side, those students that still struggle with certain concepts can get the extra attention they need in specific areas. One critical problem that my team has with enriching and intervening is how do we do both at the same time? If there is only one teacher and thirty students, how do we reach them all?

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Erin Abrahamson

Hi Sharon,
I enjoyed reading this blog post because I often am searching for remediation time with my students who need it. Time is absolutely the currency in education! I love that analogy because there is never enough time to do everything that is best for our students.
I am interested in trying to incorporate more pre-assessments into my lessons. They are definitely underrated and can truly be used to prevent the need for remediation with many students. However, I have two concerns about the implementation. One is that we already have so many assessments that I feel like I am losing a lot of teaching time to over-assessing, and this would be another assessment to add to the list. The second concern would be finding the best form to implement a pre-assessment so that it is effective and efficient.
Being that I teach Kindergarten to 98% ESOL students, pre-assessments would give me a good insight as to my students' prior knowledge and allow me to plan much more purposefully, in turn, providing a richer education for my students. Thank you for sharing such a great idea; I hope to implement it in the upcoming school year!

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Tracie Combs

I agree. Time for intervention seems near impossible at times. There is SO much to teach, teach, teach. It is hard to pull back and intervene and extend. I love the idea and acknowledgment of the value of pre-assessments. I have been tinkering with the idea of reincorporating these into my math time (as it is something our team has decided against). I feel that it will allow me to get a greater sense of what skills I will need to spend the most quality time with. Thank you for this blog post and the great list of questions to use as a focus.

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Alyssa Thomas

This was a great blog to read! I often see the struggles of making time for intervention at the school district I work at. We actually have two interventionists who pull kids for ELA and math intervention. The only issue with this is that the students are then missing out on the learning that is occurring during the hour they are out of the classroom. This could potentially make children fall behind in another subject area.
I love the idea of doing a pre-assessment, but what happens if you take the time to do the pre-assessment and you have to start a lesson from the beginning because all of your students need to start with step 1? I think it would then be more difficult to catch up with your lessons instead of just beginning with the first step.
I agree that if students are not learning what they need to, then immediate intervention needs to take place. It would be so helpful if there were aides in the classroom to do extra practice with the children during various points during the day.

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Allison Duckett

While reading Dr. Kramer's blog, I took a moment to reflect on our school's intervention programs. I find time to be one of the biggest barriers to education. However, it is something one cannot control. The school I currently teach at is great at bringing in interventionist towards the end of the year to boost reading scores. I teach in preschool at the moment, and we are the last to receive these benefits sometimes. This year, there are too many children in grades K-2 that need interventions, that helping my students reach 50 letters and 20 letter sounds has been put on the back burner. I am one of nine 4K teachers at my school, and all of us have a good handful of children who need extra help. I found it comforting that other teachers have a hard time teaching students while also following the pacing guide. This can be a struggle. It is nice to know I am not alone!

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Lissette Rosales

I see it also as a problem in my school were the teachers have to keep on going with the curriculum and time for re-teaching becomes minimal and then the students that are already working below grade level, fall further behind. A lot of time is spent preparing and teaching the students for standardized testing. I also see the benefit in pre-assessments and re-teaching as well, but like another teacher mentioned, "can they fit in".

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Jenna Wahl

This year my class size is rather large and I have a big ELL group. I have struggled with finding the time for interventions with both my low students and my ELL students. I like the statement "teachers need to teach the students that they have in their class, not the ones that the pacing guide was written to address". The reading program our district uses moves quickly, but they do have some intervention strategies and lessons. The problem is there is no extra time to do these interventions. I like the idea of using a pre-assessment because it will help me plan my lesson differently for the better. It could give me the time to pre-teach to my students that need the extra help and vocabulary. The questions are great and I am going to take these to my next team meeting. Thanks!

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Emily A

I have also found it difficult to find time to plan for intervention within the classroom along with extending lessons. I like the idea of providing pre-assessments before planning an entire lesson. The use of pre-assessments would allow me to see where my students are before starting the unit and spend time instructing where my students need it most. Since there is a high population of ELL students in my classroom, it would be beneficial to front load students with vocabulary prior to learning content. Lately, I have been using post-assessments, mainly after math instruction. The results from post-assessments allowed me to plan math groups better for the next day of instruction. At my school, teachers receive a lot of support for reading instruction, but very little for math, focusing mostly on number sense, which many of my students are learning throughout Kindergarten. I would like to be better at strategically targeting student needs.

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Jillian Hyland

I agree that it is difficult to find time for interventions. This is something that I have trouble finding the time do effectively. It is in area in which I would like to do better. My school has a daily period of intervention, but with the pressures of the PARCC assessments, the intervention period often ends up as another whole class instructional period where students learn new material as opposed to a time to truly intervene as well as extend learning. You bring up a great point that pre-assessments can really save time by enabling the teacher to decide what areas need more instruction than others. My grade-level partner and I have moved away from giving pre-assessments because it just seemed like another thing that we did not have the class time to do. However, I do think it is important for us to implement these again. I also realize that a pre-assessment does not have to be something that takes up an entire class period, but it can be a short assessment.

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katrica boykins

I think the main thing for me is not what interventions, but when will I have time to do them. Just when I was getting my class in a good swing of completing the lessons and breaking into intervention groups, my school decides that we need to now prepare for the PARCC.

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nancy chen

I agree, there is little time to implement interventions, especially for just a few students. Today, at my K team meeting, we organized the five students from four of our classrooms, into what will be a daily intervention group. We will use a curriculum already tried by our LST, and organize these students each day for 30 minutes. We plan to rotate our EA's in order for all classes to assist with the teaching. I am so grateful for for colleagues willingness to work together and happy these students will get the needed help.

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Sam Lowe

I also agree with the importance of using our valuable time wisely. I think the team focus questions you have provided are instrumental in being a productive team.

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Sharlott Williams

I teach first grade and have struggled a lot with finding time for interventions. It was encouraging to find your suggestion of pre-assessing students. I sometimes felt that even taking time to pre-assess was wasted time since I wasn't sure what to do with all the students who already knew the material. Differentiation can be tough. However, I love the way you said the pretesting could actually gain time by giving the information necessary to plan how to spend time pre-teaching vocabulary and prerequisite skills. I plan to do this with my next math unit. I will also plan to use the "check for understanding" formative assessment idea when walking around the room checking in with students as they work. Thank you for your ideas!

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Olivia Smith

The previous year all teachers in my county were required to give pre and post benchmark assessments for math. The Language Arts benchmark has yet to be created, but I am sure it will be implemented in the future. Even though the pre-assment for math is not required this year, several teachers have given them to help guide instruction and I have thus far done the same. I made no commitment to do so, and am free to stop if I ever feel it does more harm than good, but I find it very beneficial. My continued focus is to assure that I am teaching based on academic needs and not based on what is needed to score highly on that benchmark. There are several topics that I feel are important to their academic growth, but are not on this benchmark test. I have found ways I can rationalize teaching these topics through the push for great "depth" associated with Common Core standards. Even though deciding what interventions are needed is not the difficulty for me, finding the time to implement them is still a struggle. I typically have students in centers while I do interventions, but I feel that my attention is just as much needed there as it is on interventions. I teach kindergarten. If anyone has suggestions as to keeping students highly involved while working on interventions with struggling students I would greatly appreciate it.

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Brittaney Hasslinger

I found this blog very interesting as I continue to focus on differentiation with the very diverse levels in my class these past couple of years. I often think about how I do not have time for interventions or that students are pulled in so many directions in the student day that I barely see them at all to even teach the curriculum. As I have been discussing with others and reflecting myself I see the importance of administering a short pre-assessment prior to starting a unit. This would definitely give me a clear idea of where my students are and where I need to begin. It is easy to begin each unit the same as the year prior, but that is not the most efficient way when time is limited and where students needs are so high. I really liked the resource Protocol for Team Analysis Prior to Teaching a Unit as I feel like it would guide planning better and focus discussions when meeting with my team. I feel sometimes our time together is not spent well and focused on meeting each child’s need. I also like the questions provided as a reminder of focusing on what needs to be accomplished and how is that going to be done with the time given. Using assessments throughout my lessons help guides me on where I will go in the next days lesson, but I am going to try to implement more pre-assessments which will truly benefit the students and differentiation will be able to be done in an efficient way.

Mike- I like how you suggested implementing this process slowly and not jumping into it all at one time. I know it can be overwhelming, but taking it one unit at a time and becoming comfortable with it will make it successful in the long run.

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bethany sundell

I enjoyed reading this post and how it confirms what my grade level team has been trying to do with our students. Last school year we began really focusing in on giving pre-assessments to our students so that we could narrow in on what we needed to focus in on most with our lessons. It seems there is usually a majority of students who all excel or struggle with the same concepts with a few on the opposite end. Evaluating our pre-assessments has given us the clear view to assist those students who need specific help. We are also constantly doing formative assessment, and taking the data to share with each other and to create strategies to further teach our essentials to our students.

Thank you for this great information.

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Casey Carr

I appreciate Dr. Kramer's ideas on the topic of making time for intervention. I see how pre-assessment would help determine what concepts should be covered longer than others. I have recently started completing more formative assessments daily than I had previously. I can tell that it has made a difference, not only in terms of intervention but also in having more independent time to focus on "self-evaluation" to help them identify what they do and do not understand.

I wish my school had the 40 minute intervention block that MEREDITH IACONESE, referenced in her blog. I teach special education-the definition of intervention- and I find it difficult to keep up with the demands of the curriculum and reteaching skills that my students are missing. The intervention block would be a great solution to this problem.

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Amber Bennett

In my school, we are struggling to make intervention work effectively. We are required to have four lesson plans. One for the week, one for guided reading lesson, one for standard test sessions that we have to prepare our students who are required to be prepared for in March and one for intervention session. With all the planning we have to do. We feel like that we are doing a lot of planning and not enough time to apply the lessons instead we are planning, planning, meeting, meeting. As far as the intervention time, I teach kindergarten and to me kindergarten in my school is intervention. Mostly all of our students come to us with deficits not knowing anything. It is difficult to manage everything. We could use some great suggestions on how to use our intervention time effectively.

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Taylor Siegel

One of the largest challenges teachers face each day is to find enough time in a day as well as in the school year. It can feel overwhelming to think of all of the standards we are expected to cover within a school year. In addition, I completely agree that there is very little time for prerequisite skills to be assessed. In Georgia, our common core standards are aligned to build upon one another each year. This sounds fantastic in concept in that the students will be learning more than ever. However, there is no longer a time for “review.” Students are expected to have mastered each standard at each level and arrive in fourth grade, where I teach, ready to take on new content that builds upon their previous knowledge. Unfortunately for struggling students, this means that they can easily fall farther behind each year because without the fundamental foundations, they are lost to the idea of new content. Therefore, I really appreciate the helpful point of view as to the imperative importance of pre-assessment. I can see how, with practice, this can be extremely useful in cutting out time wasted on content the students have already mastered, allowing for more time in the areas that need more attention. Also, I appreciate the idea from Mike Mattos to begin using this technique in one subject at a time. No need to overwhelm our already packed schedules by trying this in every subject at one time. Lastly, I appreciate the guiding questions to use with my team. They will be helpful in implementing more pre-assessments in hopes to improve in upcoming units of study. Thank you for sharing!

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Kathleen Brintlinger

I love the idea of using pre assessments to guide instruction. Ant the elementary level I think a KWL chart or something similar would be best. Also at this level, I feel the responsibility of intervention falls completely on my shoulders as a teacher. My grade level doesn't receive any reading help from tutors or specialists. Younger children tend to want to learn so when they are not understanding something I tend to interpret that they need it presented in a different way or again. The time for this intervention is so difficult! I really like the idea of "weeding out" what is not as important according to their prior knowledge to spend the time more wisely.

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Amanda Oliphant

I completely agree that time is so precious to us as teachers. I identify with the problem of weeding through what to present and what to gloss over because it is not critical. I like the questions that you listed for team planning. I think that would be helpful to use. I also see where Roberta is coming from in asking can you fit in this protocol in the planning time. It is that the problem is we do not have time to get things done and we are attempting to add more things in to fix the problem. In the end I think that if you incorporate the protocol it may seem like a lot of time added at first but once you get it in place, it will end up saving time and enhancing the students' learning. Thank you for the article and for the comments. I think this discussion is useful.

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Mike Mattos

I appreciate the thoughtful feedback to Dr. Kramer's excellent blog post. Let me share a few thoughts to this feedback...

T Price Sr: We find your concern common at many schools, especially at the secondary level. Help is available, but students don't take advantage of it. The solution is to make interventions directive. Students must be required to attend. How? The same way your school gets students to attend their regular classes. I would assume your school has a systematic way to monitor student attendance for each of the "regular" periods during the school day. Whatever this process is should be applied to your intervention time.

I will predict that some colleagues will express concerns about this approach, claiming that it is each student's responsibility to attend. To this concern, I offer two questions: First, why is requiring students to attend the course for initial teaching OK, but requiring students to attend extra-help in the same course enabling? Also, how does allowing irresponsibility students the opportunity practice irresponsible behaviors make them more responsible? If your school is really "gravely" concerned with student achievement, then allowing students to opt-out of learning would not be option.

Roberta: I suspect that some educators might read this blog and conclude that they don’t have the time needed to try these practices. In response to this concern, I offer this suggestion: Don’t begin by trying to implement this process on every unit and lesson. Instead, identify one or two critical learning targets that every student needs to master in your next unit of study. Then, apply this process. As teachers and students get efficient at these practices, you will find that you don’t have the time to not do these practices.

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At my school we have implemented a whole school, 40 minute intervention period each day. In 2014 we attended a PLC summit in Charlotte and visited PLC schools in Chicago and Silver Springs(thanks to Becky and Rick for their support). I had previously attended a Summit in Melbourne and had struggled with how to manage the concept of making time for intervention and no new learning. Sitting in the enormous conference centre in Charlotte it all came to me, I could suddenly see how we could make it happen in our school. We are fortunate to be quite a long way down the PLC journey in that our teachers all plan and work collaboratively and work in flexible learning spaces. We differentiate across levels for Reading, Writing and Mathematics and the students move groups and teachers as they acquire the skills being covered at that particular time. We are also fortunate that due to the number of classes (12) our Specialist teachers Art, physical Education, ICT and Science are only required to take 12 specialist lessons per week. This frees them up to teach a Reading, maths or writing group each day. In our Senior Learning House (yrs 4-6) where the classes at the moment are as large as 25, the six home groups become 8 for Reading and Maths. These teachers also participate in the intervention program from 10am to 10.40am. Each teacher take two rotations of 1-3 students each day and students stay in the program until they acquire the specific skills being targeted. If they are not showing improvement by the third session they are reallocated to another teacher who may be better skilled to teach that skill. The timetable works in such a way that the whole school will be doing reading at 10am on a Monday, so all students not in the intervention program for at that stage will work in their reading area, with their reading teacher supervising , however instead of taking a guided reading group the teacher may be working on spelling, maths or writing depending on the needs of the students allocated to him her. It all runs like clockwork and visitors to the school are amazed at the smooth transition between sessions and rotations. It does require a great deal of organisation. Students are recommended for intervention and one teacher in the team maintains the database and issues a note to the child and to the parent informing them of their involvement and the skill to be taught. It also asks parents to support the learning at home. We are a low socio-economic school, very diverse cultural backgrounds. The equivalent in the US would be 70% free lunch program.
What is exciting is the fact that the students are fighting to get into the program, verbalising their achievements and applying their new skills to their work. We commenced our intervention program in February 2014 and we a bit unsure about where to begin. We decided to focus on students in years 3 & 5 as they would be participating in National assessments (NAPLAN) in May. We targeted the area of spelling and grammar. National mean scores are always lower than State scores so we measure our success against the State. The results for both areas were much higher than we ever would have expected and our year 3 results were much higher than the State. By the end of term one we knew where we were going and were in a position to personalise our program to meet the needs of all students across all target areas. The success of this program to date has been the commitment of the whole school and the fact that our teachers really know their kids and are not frightened to say, 'I'm struggling to make improvements with this child, any ideas or would someone else like to take a turn.' Of course data drives everything and having the teachers have their personal workspace together promotes ongoing discussion.
We are so pleased we attended the Summit and hope to send a new team later this year.
I wish you all similar success with your program's

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T Price Sr

Right now I work in a school where there is grave concern over our test scores and how we can help our kids do better. Kids won't come to tutorials, they skip out on the intervention periods etc. I think the model is right, it's the implementation with fidelity that is lacking.

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Roberta Wallerstedt

I have to agree that when teachers use pre-assessments, they make better decisions about teaching to their student's needs. Teachers have improved in their use of formative assessments, re-teaching immediately, and clear feedback. The challenge is the teachers are still learning and aligning their teaching to the common core standards. This takes a lot of time while they plan. Can they add this protocol to their planning time? I know they will see the benefit of it. The question is can they fit it in?

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