Interventions AKA Helping Students

At our INSET day on Friday, Andy Tharby and I spoke about interventions.  We wanted to clarify what we understood by the term intervention.  The most important point we wanted to stress was that interventions are not an add on – it’s what we do to support students who are getting really stuck with their learning i.e. it’s about great teaching.  We could have just as easily called the presentation:

Responsive teaching


Knowing your students


Noticing Students


Helping Students

So it’s about noticing when students are stuck and making some adjustments to our  teaching, to address this….and unstick them.

iv1This diagram sums it up.  We have adapted the idea of ‘waves of intervention’ to help teachers scaffold and plan their support for students.  When thought of in this way, the majority of intervention will take place through high quality, responsive teaching that makes up our day to day practice.  Following this, you might get a few students who are still struggling and so need a bit more support, from you or maybe a teaching assistant.  Beyond that, for a small number of students who might need further support, that might come outside of the lesson, via one to one/ small group work.


The idea of responsive teaching requires us to think about our approach to feedback.  The common approach to this is us as teachers giving feedback to students about how to improve their work, preferably in the form of questions, and then expecting them to respond.  However, when thinking about ‘wave 1’ intervention, we need to consider feedback as a two way process:


So as teachers, we are noticing how the students are responding during the lesson, with a particular focus on who is getting stuck.  Teacher intuition is key here.  We want the work that we set students to be hard and make them struggle a bit, because we know that’s when students are learning – when they’re in the struggle zone:


What we need to be noticing then is when students are beyond this – when the work is causing them to get stuck, and they are edging into the panic zone.  This is the point where they will switch off and learning will be limited – so that’s when we need to intervene.  We need to use this feedback to make adjustments to our teaching.  What do these adjustments look like?


Anticipate the interventions

  • Consider the misconceptions that students usually have when covering a topic. Teach with these in mind so your next class can avoid them.
  • Tell stories of previous students/classes and the mistakes they have made.
  • Plan in the questions that will test for common misconceptions.

Put in place extra ‘scaffolds’ as students are working

  • Re-explain in smaller steps or a different way
  • ‘Explain why’ and ‘now try’
  • Show them a good quality example
  • Ask your TA to work with struggling individuals
  • Give students an extra resource – e.g. with sentence starters or smaller ‘chunks’
  • ‘Dot marking’ – be visible so that students expect to be challenged on their mistakes.

Reshape the lesson

  • Explain a common difficulty/misconception to the whole-class again.
  • Re-model an area students are struggling with.
  • Photograph a piece of work and discuss why it is excellent or edit it together as a class.
  • Ask students to discuss how/ why they are struggling and then work out some ‘stuck strategies’

Place your lesson in the context of the previous lesson

  • Sample books quickly to ‘test the temperature’ – ‘the quick flick’.
  • Circle-back where necessary.
  • Re-teach a topic in a different way.
  • Ask students to edit/redraft a piece of work.
  • Keep a clear destination in mind, but be prepared to take multiple routes and to vary the pace as you go.
  • Make sure that SOW have built in room and flexibility.


  • Move a student to the front. Aim to keep up a regular dialogue with them about their work. More regular feedback than for other students.
  • More regular marking of work for an individual/group for a defined period of time linked to specific targets. Show me your book at the end of the lesson.
  • Design a bespoke strategy for an individual with your teaching assistant. Monitor and adapt as necessary.
  • Give specific homework so that they can practise areas of weakness.
  • Targeted questioning – make sure underachieving students are questioned regularly in whole-class questioning.
  • Plan in regular DIRT, feedback and redrafting lessons. Use this time to work with individuals/small groups more closely.
  • Plan quick discussions with students/groups into your lessons – usually best when others are working quietly.
  • Arrange a short session with a student at break or after school to talk through a specific issue. Often appreciated by students and can take the pressure off whole-class teaching.

What we’ve tried to put together here is a collection of strategies that can become embedded into our practice, and so allow us to ‘intervene’ as a part of our normal day to day teaching.  Tracking Point data throughout the year will allow teachers and subject leaders to check, through an ongoing dialogue and discussion about intervention logs, that we are focusing on the right students and that what we are doing is making a difference.  If it isn’t, we may need to re-think our approach – this is the essence of responsive teaching.

So intervention is about:

  • Knowing your students
  • Noticing who is getting ‘stuck’ with the learning
  • Adjusting our teaching to help them get ‘unstuck’
This entry was posted in CPD Events, General Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Interventions AKA Helping Students

  1. Rob Brown says:

    Reblogged this on Mr Brown says and commented:
    This is a great post. I think I fall into the trap of imagining intervention to just be those students who have extra classes with ‘Ms/Mr such and such’ on Wednesday afternoons. Need to start applying some of these strategies more often, particularly the stuff about regular feedback.

  2. workedgechaos says:

    Reblogged this on Teaching at the edge of chaos and commented:
    Proper intervention advice.

  3. workedgechaos says:

    I love this. Common sense approach.

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