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A “Walk-to-Read” Reboot?

mixing students

“Push in” and “pull out” are both common intervention model approaches that allow a reading specialist to provide group instruction in or outside the classroom. Another option is an “in-class” model where students receive small group instruction from their own classroom teacher. All of these have limitations and do not necessarily allow for research-informed best practices for group instruction. Research shows that intentional student groupings and the use of high-quality materials are what is critical, not the location of instruction. What about a “walk-to-read” model reboot?

Now described as “walk-to-intervention”, students are combined from different classrooms to receive targeted skill instruction in homogenous groups by reading specialists, classroom teachers, and paraprofessionals to provide all students across the grade with the targeted instruction they need. The walk-to-intervention model can enable multiple research-based small group strategies. Here are four reasons why we think the reboot should get a green light!

Targeted Instruction

1. Homogenous groups allow for targeted instruction. A meta-analysis of small-group reading interventions (Hall & Burns, 2017) found that programs had a 20% higher effect size when they targeted a specific skill. Homogenous groups encourage targeted instruction because all students are struggling in the same skill area and need more practice in a small group. A major benefit of the walk-to-intervention model is that groups are formed across multiple classrooms allowing for the creation of more targeted skill groups than in an in-class model. 

2. Skill-based groups allow for explicit instruction and immediate feedback for all. Using a diagnostic assessment to determine the skills and subskills students need will help the teacher know what explicit instruction to provide (Hall, 2018).  Once students are receiving targeted small-group instruction, they can experience clear and meaningful feedback when any student makes an error, a small group intervention best practices (Department of Education, 2007).

“Diagnostic assessment is the gateway to being able to group by skill deficit, which is probably the most essential requirement for robust results.”

Susan Hall (2018), 10 Success Factors for Literacy Interventions: Getting Results with MTSS in Elementary School. Pg. 27.

Flexible and Dynamic

3. Combining classrooms provides additional resources and increases teacher flexibility. Within this model, every group has an instructor and extra staff can provide support to groups as needed. Curriculum resources can also be distributed to groups based on the skills being targeted, which means you can collaborate and share high-quality resources with the rest of your team. Collaboration between teachers, school staff, and parents fosters collective efficacy to better support student growth (Joseph, 2002). Depending on the grade level, you can also plan independent or child-led activities for skill practice in between check-ins and group lessons. 

“Too frequently the teachers’ paradigm is that they send students out of their class for intervention. Somebody else teaches “those kids.”

Susan Hall (2018), 10 Success Factors for Literacy Interventions: Getting Results with MTSS in Elementary School. Pg. 27.

4. Students can change groups as their needs change. Because all teachers are providing small-group instruction at the same time, group combinations can vary based on need. You and your team can regularly move students to different groups as their skills improve since all students are already transitioning (every three weeks). Another benefit to this approach is that struggling readers are less likely to feel singled out because all students are attending small groups. 

Flexible groupings are even more important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. You’re concerned about bringing students back up to grade level, but this can only happen if they have opportunities to complete grade-level work with support. Walk-to-intervention allows groupings to quickly adjust to student needs and, as a result, enable an accelerated rate of growth

Getting Started with Walk-to-intervention 

Now that you know the advantages of walk-to-intervention, share them with your team members and administration! Consider asking for professional development if you will be using a new program in your small groups. Be sure to invite paraprofessionals, aides, and reading specialists to attend training to increase buy-in and encourage collaboration. 

Another important consideration is how small group instruction will fit into your day. Researchers recommend at least 30 minutes of daily reading intervention in small, homogenous groups. Once you have screened and grouped students, remember to meet regularly with your grade-level team to analyze data and rearrange skill groups as needed.