November Teacher Talk

Kelly Harmon & Associates Educational Consulting

Dear Educator Friends,

I have great news! We have survived one quarter of the 2020-2021 school year! I really should say we have THRIVED! Although most of us feel like brand new teachers this year, we've all experienced many opportunities to learn new ways to reach and teach our learners. More importantly, we've been there for our students and their families during this incredibly stressful time in our history.

In this month's newsletter, we want to share ways you can impact student learning by using micro and macro interventions to close learning gaps. You will find blogs and resources for using success criteria, formative assessments, math running records, using Padlet for small group discussions, and micro-interventions for students who are struggling with disorganization.

We hope you will find our blogs and resources helpful and timely. Please share if you see something that will help your colleagues and students.

Stay well friends and happy teaching!

Kelly, Ashley, Ann-Elise, and Cindy

Micro and Macro Interventions

A micro-intervention happens during core (Tier 1) instruction. It is a quick teacher move that anticipates and addresses students' misconceptions and misunderstandings related to the daily learning target. This quick action closes the daily learning gap and prevents bigger gaps from forming.

A macro-intervention is designed to close gaps that result from lack of learning over a previous period of time, such as from a prior unit or year. These interventions consist of small group and one-to-one instruction, coaching, and assessment.

During Tier 2, the goal is to provide teaching and time for students to master grade level standards. Many times, students are missing necessary prerequisite knowledge and skills. We gather assessment data, plan how we will assess growth and mastery, and then provide multiple learning opportunities for students who need time to master the critical grade level learning goals. We follow up with a post assessment to determine the learning and effectiveness of the intervention.

Tier 3 is different from Tier 2 in that the goal is to close critical foundational gaps. In Tier 3, student data has shown that the learner is missing foundations such as decoding, vocabulary knowledge, place value, or number sense. These students are usually 2 or more years behind in foundational learning goals. They need to work with specialists who can pinpoint the areas of challenge and use evidence-based strategies to accelerate and monitor learning.

Monitoring for learning is essential for both types of interventions and students should be part of the monitoring team. Students are asked to reflect on the daily learning and describe what they have learned and what they still need to learn. When we hear their thinking, we have compelling evidence of learning and data for moving forward.

For the last 20 years, I have worked with many schools to set up multi-tiered systems of support to close student gaps. Please email me if you'd like to schedule time to discuss your school's intervention protocols. Join me next week for the Struggling Readers Conference and in December for two days of STRENGTHENING YOUR TITLE I PROGRAM: Powerful Intervention Strategies to Accelerate Achievement for Struggling Students (Grades K-6)

Using Success Criteria to Prevent and Plan for Interventions.

By Kelly Harmon

Impactful instruction is very intentional. From planning the learning targets to planning how students will practice and demonstrate learning, we work to provide clarity for our students. Success criteria brings everything into focus for the learner.

Dr. John Hattie defines success criteria as:

Success criteria are the standards by which the project or performance will be judged at the end to decide whether or not it has been successful. They are often brief, co-constructed with students, aim to remind students those aspects on which they need to focus, and can relate to the surface (content, ideas) and deep (relations, transfer) successes from the lesson(s).

The effect size of using success criteria is a .88-over 2 years of growth in one year!

Here are 3 ways success criteria helps learners grow:

Success Criteria Is a Roadmap for Students

Success criteria gives learners a guide to thinking through the daily learning.

When students are given the steps in a procedure or a description of how to think about a concept, they can use them to guide and evaluate their work as they do it. They also have explicit information about what it means to learn the daily learning target. As you look at the following pictures, ask yourself how student learning is impacted when success criteria is present.

Success Criteria Drives the Teaching

When planning lessons, the teaching points come from the success criteria. This helps us to provide clear demonstrations and explanations.

Success Criteria Tells Us Where to Intervene

Using the success criteria can help us determine misunderstandings and misconceptions. We can pinpoint the area that needs further instruction or coaching. When the success criteria is missing or verbal, we often end up wondering where our teaching went wrong or what the student misunderstood. More importantly, students can self-assess and determine where they need guidance or practice.
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Partnering with Students to Monitor Learning

How are your students self-assessing their learning progress? Even very young learners can talk about what they have learned and what they still need to learn. When learners partner with teachers to monitor progress, growth happens!

At the beginning of a unit or grading period, give your students a list of the critical learning targets. Have students rate their current understanding and skills. They can use the targets to set personal learning goals. As they progress through the learning, have them revisit the list to keep track of the progress they are making.

Second grade teacher, Mrs. Chavez at Douglas Elementary in Tyler, Texas has her second graders keep a learning targets folder and asks them to track progress. This helps students make decisions about what they need to do in order to master the learning goals.

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Daily Self-Assessments

Mrs. Lengua, 3rd grade teacher at Douglas Elementary asks her students to reflect on the learning at the end of each lesson. She provides sentence stems as a guide to reflective thinking.
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5-3-1 Rating System

I like to use a rating system with students. I explain that a rating of 5 means you are an expert and you could teach someone else. A rating of a 3 means you are an apprentice. You need more coaching and/or practice to clear up misconceptions or misunderstandings. A rating of 1 means you are a novice. You are just beginning to learn the learning target. There may be vocabulary in the learning target that you don't recognize or understand. At the 1 or 3 level, you can set personal learning goals. This might sound like "I'm a novice and I need to know what character motivations are and how you would describe them."

As we move through a unit of study, we revisit the learning targets and determine if progress is being made. I ask students to make a plan for achieving a 5 rating. What do you need to do? What do you need the teacher to do?

The goal is owning the learning. As teachers, we can't be the sole owner of the assessments. When learners self-evaluate, they grow and develop the executive skills of planning and organizing for success. Click here for an example of a student rating sheet.

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Impacting Student Learning Using Learning Targets, Success Criteria, and the Formative Learning Cycle

December 5, 2020

9 AM to 12 PM Central Time Zone

It has never been more important to strive for teacher clarity than when we are navigating the demands of teaching during a pandemic. Clarity requires us to have clear daily learning targets, daily formative assessments, and student-friendly success criteria to ensure students learn deeply and prevent learning gaps. In this session, we explore the impact on learning of using a formative learning cycle for each lesson. We will examine how to create learning targets that are aligned to daily formative assessments. We will look at specific success criteria that students and teachers can use to guide and evaluate student learning. Time will be allotted for coaching and practice writing learning targets, aligned formative activities and assignments, and success criteria. For more information, click here.

Using Formative Assessments to Design Tier 1 and Tier 2 Intervention Groups

By Ashley Taplin

As I think about interventions, I am reminded of a quote by Mike Mattos in which he says, “the best intervention is prevention.” When interventions are embedded within daily formative assessments, students can see that learning is an ongoing process. Below are some strategies that can be used virtually or in-person, and give both students and teachers clear next steps for learning.

Designing Intervention Groups with Exit Slips: One strategy that was shared in Corwin’s Distance Learning Playbook is specifically designing student groupings based off of exit slip responses. To do this, the teacher shared that at the end of a lesson he asks his students to choose one of the of 4 options below.

  1. I’m just learning (I need more help)
  2. I’m almost there (I need more practice)
  3. I own it! (I can work independently)
  4. I’m a pro! (I can teach others)

Then, at the start of the next class, he creates virtual breakout rooms with 2’s and 3’s mixed together and 4’s sprinkled throughout. He gives those rooms parallel problems for students to work on together and meets in a separate breakout room with 1’s. It is there that that he is able to reteach, uncover unknowns, and clear up misconceptions. I love this intervention model that provides a safe space for learning and focuses on a growth mindset and collaboration. Furthermore, when he brings students back, he asks the question “what are you learning about yourself as a learning,” which allows students to become more self-aware, a pillar of SEL. (Fisher, Frey, Hattie-The Distance Learning Playbook; CASEL).

3-2-1 Strategy: Using a 3-2-1 structure (3 things you learned, 2 things you found interesting, and 1 question you still have) is another way to check for understanding and provide direction for interventions. As a scaffold, teachers could reference the success criteria for the lesson to help students identify specific learning and lingering questions. I created this GoogleSlides template to use with students virtually that allows the teacher to include their own learning targets and success criteria on the first slide and gives students the ability to type in their responses on the second. Click here to make a copy to your Drive.

Check out Ashley's upcoming BER seminar Increase Student Perseverance to Improve MATH Learning!

Growing in Math Fact Fluency-Planning and Delivering Interventions that Work

By Ann Elise Record

In my consulting work, I’m frequently asked about how interventionists can structure their limited time with students to be the most impactful. There are two areas of content that I think are often not given enough instructional time that can be incredibly powerful and positively affect students’ achievement as well as their disposition: fluency and word problem structures. It’s all about finding out the students’ strengths and then building on them. In this post, I’ll be focusing on fluency and next month I’ll delve into word problem types.

Beginning to Learn Math Facts

Traditionally, students’ math fact journeys have begun with our students in the counting phase of reasoning. So, when asked to add two amounts, they will use objects or fingers to show both of the amounts and then begin counting them all beginning at 1. Then, students develop the understanding of groups. They begin to “count on” starting with the amount of the larger group and counting up to the other addend. A big step at this stage is recognizing the efficiency of counting on from the larger addend. At this point, many students are then asked to memorize the math facts using games and activities with all their facts. Unfortunately for many, they aren’t able to memorize the facts, so they continue counting on and thus are only in a counting phase of reasoning. This is actually extended to their work typically when working with multi-digit computation if they are using algorithms.

What is Fluency?

When teachers are expected to report out to parents on the progress of their children on mastering their math facts, often the students are given timed tests, because fluency has been narrowly defined as speed and accuracy. There are many issues with this, not the least of which is that it has repeatedly been shown to be the start of math anxiety. There are many long lasting effects on self-efficacy throughout students’ lives. Fluency is so much more than speed and accuracy. It includes flexibility and efficiency as well. The more we provide opportunities for students to flexibly work with numbers and use derived facts to help them solve the ones they don’t know, the more their number sense will develop and their speed and accuracy will naturally improve as well. Additionally, they will be moving from using counting strategies into additive reasoning.

Using Math Running Records to Determine Starting Points and Growth

But where do we start with our students who have been identified as being “behind”? My favorite assessment tool for knowing exactly where a student needs to begin working is a Math Running Record created by Dr. Nicki Newton. After 10 years of pouring over the math fact research, as well as her own action research, the Dr. Nicki has developed a math interview that provides us data on all 4 aspects of fact fluency: accuracy, flexibility, efficiency, and relative speed (although the students have no idea we are keeping track of the time it takes to say an answer). With an interview protocol for each operation, the Math Running Record allows us to zoom in on exactly which set of facts are causing super slowdown, inaccuracies, or inefficient strategies and then to determine where the students are on the levels of strategies such as counting, mentally using counting strategies, using derived facts, or having mastery with understanding.

Benefits of a Math Running Record

Armed with the information gained during the interview, we can then provide targeted explorations and activities that will meet the students where they are and help move them forward. The huge bonus to this is that not only will students be mastering their math facts, but they will be developing a foundation of strategic thought that can then be applied to the content expectations of their grade level. If you want to learn more, the free Math Running Record recording sheets can be downloaded at I also facilitate the Facebook group called Math Running Records with hours of content and support available to you. Here’s a video of me administering an addition interview one with an adorable first grader.

Now What?

During your intervention time, you will want to explore these strategies in concrete, pictorial, and abstract ways. Dr. Nicki Newton, Dr. Alison Mello, and I have written a book called Fluency Doesn’t Just Happen with Addition and Subtraction (we are currently writing the companion Multiplication and Division one) that provides you tons of ideas.

I have created a fluency padlet full of explanatory videos, resources, and links to lots of free websites with fabulous activities and games. You can access it at Just this week, the KY Center for Mathematics released a companion website to Jennifer Bay-Williams and Gina Kling’s Math Fact Fluency book. There are games to print as well as Jamboard versions! You can find that site here:

I provide virtual trainings on Math Running Records as well as Fluency Games and Activities. If you would like to know more, feel free to email me at

Ann Elise is the co-author of Fluency Doesn't Just Happen with Addition and Subtraction. If you would like to learn more about fluency or problem solving and how we can implement them within the structure of Guided Math, please join Ann Elise in December for her all day seminar for the Bureau of Education and Research.

Using Padlet to Create Discussion Groups

One of the biggest challenges for teaching during a pandemic is facilitating small group discussions. Students may not want to engage virtually for many reasons, including being embarrassed about their home situations or they don't like how they look online. Regardless of the reason, we need to hear from students in order to know how to guide and facilitate their learning.

The tech tool Padlet might be a great fit for silent discussions. Padlet is an online bulletin board that can be used in many different ways. It is free to sign up; however, you can only make three Padlets before you need to upgrade to a monthly or yearly subscription. Teachers can get a 30-day free trial before upgrading to the monthly or annual plan.I definitely think it's worth the monthly subscription. I use it to streamline communications with learners.

Because it is two-way communication platform, you can post and students can respond in real time. It can be used synchronously or asynchronously.

When you create a Padlet, you share the link with your students in the meeting chat, Google Classroom, SeeSaw, or any LMS platform.

Here are some examples of how I've used Padlet.

Small Reading Groups

Set up 3 Padlets by learning targets that need to be practiced.

Here is a Padlet for practicing asking questions about how characters respond to events and challenges in a story. Click here to view the Padlet.

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I've also created a Padlet with videos that early literacy learners can view to practice letters, sounds, and phonics skills.
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Micro-Interventions for Students Who Are Chronically Disorganized

by Cindy Jones

My grandson, Charlie is thirteen and in 8th grade. He is a good student and generally likes school, but he has been diagnosed with ADHD and has problems with paying attention and organizational skills. The Covid 19 pandemic has made the problem much worse. Today, many students have increased frustration due to changes in school structure and instruction.

My daughter really wanted to help Charlie, but had no idea where to start. After some research, she discovered the book, That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week, by Ana Homayoun. The author is a specialist who works with teenage boys who struggle with organizational and time management issues.

The book includes descriptions of the types of disorganized learners, how to organize student planners and notebooks, how to check the notebooks, and many other tips for interventions.

Here are some strategies that the book recommends to support your students with organizational issues:

Have students set academic and personal goals.

Teach students how to set goals. Review these goals with them on a regular basis. Organization might be a great first goal! No one feels successful when they can’t find things and the environment is messy.

Post a schedule for the routine of the day or the period.

Post this in large letters on the board or on the students’ desks. This will help students with structure.

Have students clean out their desks, notebook, and backpacks once a week.

The students are to throw away all trash in their desks and backpacks. They should then open their binders and put all papers neatly in the appropriate binder.

Show student what it looks like to be organized.

Create anchor charts that show diagrams of pictures illustrating how the desk and binders should look.

Label and color-code books, binders, and folders.

Have a specific color for each subject. The textbook can be covered in that color, as well as the matching subject binder or folder.

Have daily checklists and planners.

Put checklists on the disorganized student’s desk or locker. This will help the student to visualize what he needs to do an will remind him what to take home.

Planners are an important tool, as well. At the end of the day, or period, teach students what and where to write the assignments. Also, give them, or remind them of, important dates and deadlines.

Use memory aids.

Teach students memory tricks and acronyms. Also, give them sticky notes and rubber bands for flashcards.

Create a Buddy System.

Pair up students with another student who is organized and responsible.

It will be relatively simple to ascertain if these strategies are successful. Student notebooks will be organized and complete.

Work areas will be neater and students should appear less frustrated and able to more easily grasp new information. Grades should also improve.

Remember, without the organizational tools to thrive, our disorganized students may give up in frustration and never reach their full potential. They need our intervention.

Be sure to register for the online seminar Practical Strategies for Improving the Behavior of Attention-Seeking, Manipulative and Challenging Students presented by Cindy Jones.

Upcoming Seminars and Recorded Sessions

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

December 14-15, 2020

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.

Recorded Professional Development Sessions


In this session you will learn about helping K-5 readers understand how words work in order to become a fluent, skilled reader. You will deepen your expertise in word-learning lesson protocols and engaging activities that will get your students reading and spelling words in isolation and in connected texts. We will examine research practices for guided and independent practice, including games and use of decodable texts. Click here for more information.