Fall 2022 Teacher Talk

Kelly Harmon & Associates Educational Consulting

Dear Friends,

Happy Fall!

It's hard to believe it's already the end of September! Hopefully, you are finding that this year feels more like pre-pandemic years. The first six weeks have been a lot easier than last year, but many teachers are finding that some of our children are still recuperating from the crazy past two years. I'm also seeing lots of brand new teachers coming into the profession. I put together this newsletter to help with some of the areas teachers are asking for ideas, strategies, and activities. Please share with your new colleagues and encourage them to sign up for this free resource. We have all past newsletters archived on the website https://www.kellyharmon.net/.

This edition is focused on ideas for MTSS/RTI, as well as how to help students build conceptual understanding through children's literature. I also included some favorite teacher resources. I hope you will find at least a couple of ideas you can use immediately with your students.

Happy teaching,


Every Book is a Math Book

What are you doing on November 16th at 7PM EST? Reading is Fundamental (RIF) has asked me to do an hour seminar called "Every Book is a Math Book." I will be sharing ways to use children's literature in the math classroom. We will explore how children's literature provides a context for building conceptual understanding, procedural knowledge, and problem solving. Mark your calendars and I'll send out the link as soon as I get it.

What do you need?

Coming out of the pandemic, we may have some new needs related to professional development. I'd really like to hear your opinion about the most needed and practical professional learning you would like in order to earn continuing education clock hours.

Oh, and did I mention each person who responds to the survey is entered in a drawing next Saturday, October 1st, for my favorite picture books? Please fill out the linked survey and your name is in the drawing! I'll be drawing for 5 winners!! Please share with your colleagues. Thank you!

RTI/MTSS: Do We Need a Specific Program for Tier 2 and Tier 3 Intervention?

Recently, I received an email asking me about what to use for Tier 2 interventions. The teacher said " I know tier 3 is a strategic intervention and must be a research based program. Does tier 2 have to be a research based program as well or can it just be research based strategies?"

This is a common area of confusion. Companies who sell programs want us to believe that their program is exactly what we need. But is a program going to be the most critical factor in closing learning gaps? The simple answer is no. Research from many researchers, including Dr. Robert Marzano and Dr. John Hattie, show that teacher expertise is the biggest causal factor impacting student learning and growth. Programs can absolutely contribute, but the best way to intervene is to use student data to provide intentional, focused, high impact instruction and learning. Teachers need to be able to make on-the-spot decisions and take action quickly as they work with students. A scripted program often doesn't allow for this.

Tier 3 is the intensive tier for students who are missing critical foundation skills. We do not have to use a specific “program,” but if you purchase a program to use, there does have to be research showing that it is effective for the specific issue being addressed. You can check the What Works Clearinghouse on the US Dept. of Ed website to see the research and what areas are specifically addressed in the curriculum.

When I say it doesn’t have be a specific program I mean that the teacher can be the “program.” If the teacher is a specialist (highly trained and highly effective) in the area of need for the students, the teacher uses student data and puts together a plan of instruction and formative assessments. The What Works Clearinghouse has a series of practice guides that can guide the plan development using the research-based recommendations for instruction. https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/PracticeGuides

Tier 2 functions the same way. The goal of Tier 2 is to provide extended time for students to master the grade level standards. This is necessary when students have unfinished learning or lack the background knowledge or skills necessary to master the grade level standard. Tier 2 is also necessary when students need additional processing and practice time to master grade level conceptual and procedural knowledge expectations.

Again, the best approach is for the classroom teacher to work with the interventionist and/or instruction coach to design an intervention plan. Using student data related to the very important grade level standards, we want to consider strategies and programs that have a high likelihood of accelerating student learning. A program might be the best plan of action or you might use a combination of strategies + program to address the areas of growth. An example would be providing the student an additional 20-30 minutes of small group instruction and coaching and then having the student get onto a computer program that will provide additional practice, data, and feedback.

The key to all tiers of instruction is being intentional and focused on moving students forward in their learning journey. We need data, high-impact strategies, proven programs, and intentional monitoring so we can collect evidence of learning and make appropriate instructional decisions. Please join me on December 1st and 2nd as I share solutions and strategies for strengthening your RTI process.

Happy Teaching,


Patterns of Power

Grammar is best taught as an embedded component of writing instruction, rather than a separate, isolated subject. Over the past few years, Randi Anderson has been guided by Jeff Anderson's (no relation) Patterns of Power book to create rigorous lessons for her 4th graders to learn conventions of language related to revising and editing. Each day, her students process the function of each grammar convention and discuss the convention as it relates to author's craft.

In each book, Jeff and his colleagues have outlined a focused study of grammar and mechanics that is so easily implemented into just 10-15 minutes per day. What we love most about the lessons is that the students are doing most of the thinking. Through noticing, comparing, imitating, revising, editing, and celebrating, conventions of language are learned in ways that align to brain research about how real learning happens. This is one of the best teacher resources published in the last 5 years.

Favorite Teacher Resources

Teachers often share great internet resources with me so that I can share them with you. Here is a list shared by my daughter-in-law, Shelby Reinhart, 2nd grade teacher. Thanks Shelby!!

I love this "noise meter" during stations/small group (you can change the images and it will "shhhh" when room gets above a certain volume)


I use Greg Tang math a lot too, especially on the iPad for math stations. The games are great but also the "break apart" solving game to practice the "make 10" add/subtract strategy


I also love the Flocabulary songs and videos, especially the water cycle and figurative language ones. We have a subscription, but there are lots of videos you can watch for free.


Also I learned that if you are using a youtube video for anything, if you copy the url and paste in a new window putting a "-" dash between the t and the u, it plays with no ads.

for example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMGdV8TIcT8

becomes https://www.yout-ube.com/watch?v=oMGdV8TIcT8

Building Background Knowledge using Topic Text Sets

Activating background knowledge is a critical beginning for all new learning. But what happens when background knowledge is limited? Many children have an unearned disadvantage due to lack of experiences, limited opportunities, and not having the vocabulary related to the topic of the text or study.

So what can we do? The answer is simple. Let's make sure students are learning world knowledge daily through read alouds, videos, and by building text sets that students can explore during independent study and practice time. This doesn't need to be a formal activity with assignments (and grading). Just let curiosity lead your students to explore the topic.

I use EPIC to create a text set related to a topic. For example, this summer I experienced a turtle release in Port Aransas, Texas. After listening to the speakers and watching the event, I wanted to learn more about sea turtles, so I created a text set to share. Here is the link to my Epic collection of Sea Turtles. You will see that the collection includes books and videos. Some of the texts are recorded.

You can also find articles and videos on Wonderopolis, Newsela, and Tweentribune.

World knowledge, a.k.a. schema, can support a struggling student when the learning is challenging. It's vital that we strive to provide all students with the advantage of having a lot of knowledge about a lot of things!

If you are interested in exploring more about how to build and help students use background knowledge, email me at kelly@kellyharmon.net.

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Upcoming Seminars, Institutes, and Conferences

Catching Up Students Who've Fallen Behind in Reading or Writing (Grades 3-5)

Practical Ideas and Strategies

In this NEW strategy-packed seminar by Kelly Harmon, an international educational consultant with extensive experience working with Grades 3-5 students, you will discover how to empower learning for your students who have fallen behind. In Kelly's seminar, you will discover the most effective, cutting-edge instructional strategies to catch up third, fourth and fifth graders. You will learn dozens of ideas for accelerating the learning of your struggling students. Join Kelly to explore the newest ways to monitor and adjust instruction based on student results. You will leave this outstanding seminar with renewed enthusiasm for teaching and learning as well as a wealth of ideas for innovating the learning opportunities for your Grades 3-5 students.

This fast-paced day, packed with the best research-based and classroom tested strategies, will provide you with the tools you need to catch up your students who have fallen behind! You will walk away not only with an extensive digital resource handbook packed with dozens of practical, easy to implement strategies but access to Kelly's online resources designed specifically for Grades 3-5 students who need to catch up. The day will focus on the practical strategies needed to catch students up and will include strategies that work whether you are teaching in-person or online.

No matter your experience level with struggling learners, you will leave this seminar with a wealth of practical, use-tomorrow ideas.

ONLINE Sessions:

December 7, 2022

December 13, 2022

January 17, 2022

Strengthening Your Title I Program (K-6) Two Day Institute

Learn how to better lead your school or district Title I team in this strategy packed, two-day institute led by nationally acclaimed presenter, Kelly Harmon. You will discover how to work with teachers to identify and implement the most effective, cutting edge, research based instructional strategies to increase school and district-wide student achievement. You will learn how to develop teacher expertise in working with struggling students along with ways to continually monitor and adjust instruction based on student results.

This is a unique opportunity to evaluate your own Title I program in light of current research that identifies the most effective instructional practices, and gain an in depth look at the key components of highly successful Title I programs and how these can be applied to your own Title I school or district model. Take an intensive look at what works for struggling learners and how you can adapt it to meet the needs in your school or district. You will walk away with dozens of practical strategies and an extensive digital resource handbook to help you lead and teach your teachers.

Join Kelly and your colleagues for two, fast paced days packed with the best research?based strategies to increase reading and math achievement for your at risk students.

January 10-11, 2023

January 19-20, 2023

Strengthen Your RTI Program! Powerful Strategies to Increase the Success of Your Current Response to Intervention Program

Learn how to better lead your school or district RTI program whether online or in-person in this strategy-packed, two-day institute led by nationally acclaimed presenter and RTI facilitator, Kelly Harmon. Specifically designed for school teams who are using the RTI model and are looking for ways to strengthen it, this two-day institute will help you look at new and different ways to refine and build your RTI model to better focus on planning learning goals that meet the needs of your students.

Discover strategies to increase all students' success at the Tier 1 level and interventions that work for those students who need further, small group instruction at Tiers 2 and 3. This is a unique opportunity to take a closer look at your RTI program, identify the most effective, research‑based, instructional practices and learn how to implement them in your own school or district.

You and your team will walk away with dozens of research-based strategies and an extensive digital resource handbook to help you refine and strengthen your RTI program.

December 1-2, 2022

Guided Math Conference: Using GUIDED MATH to Catch Up Students Who Have Fallen Behind and Accelerate the Progress of All

Choose from 21 Strategy-Packed Sessions presented by Kelly Harmon, Dr. Barbara Blanke, and Ryan Doetch

Sessions include:

  • Using Guided Math To Catch up Students Who Have Fallen Behind and Accelerate the Progress of All!
  • Unlock the Power of Guided Math Groups! What All the Books Did Not Tell You!
  • Building Confident, Enthusiastic Problem Solvers in Guided Math! (Grades 3-6)
  • Setting Guided Math Goals and Tracking Student Progress
  • Developing Computational Fluency Through Number Talks and Number Strings
  • Organizing the Math Block to Incorporate Guided Math Instruction
  • Not-to-Miss Math Learning Center Activities
  • AND Many more!

You will receive extensive resources to help you get ready for a super successful school year!

December 5-6, 2022

STRENGTHENING YOUR GUIDED MATH PROGRAM: Practical GUIDED MATH Strategies to Increase All Your Students' Math Achievement (Grades K-6)

Practical Ideas and Strategies

Learn how to better lead your school, grade level or district math team in this strategy-packed two-day institute led by popular national presenter, Kelly Harmon. You will discover how to work with teachers to identify and implement the most effective cutting-edge, Guided Math instructional strategies to greatly increase student math achievement in grades K-6 whether teaching in-person or online. Kelly will share strategies for organizing the math block from beginning to end, as well as ideas for planning and implementing more intentional small Guided Math groups that meet the needs of all your students – from those who excel in math to those who struggle with concepts and basic skills. You will leave equipped to assist your teachers in using the top, research-based instructional strategies that will help your students learn and retain key math skills and concepts, as well as how to transfer these skills to math problem solving, all in a Guided Math format.

This is a unique opportunity to evaluate your own Guided Math program in light of current research that identifies the most effective math instructional practices and gain an in-depth look at how these practices can be applied to your classrooms, school or district. You will walk away with dozens of practical strategies and an extensive digital resource handbook to help you lead and teach your teachers.

Bring your math team to join Kelly for two, fast-paced days packed with the best strategies to increase the math achievement for all your students.

April 11-12, 2022