Response to Intervention (RtI) has been introduced to school systems in order to provide increasing level of supports to students. Interventions used to help students positively respond to instruction and to continue developing their social functioning are categorized into tiers.


The majority of students, lets say approximately 85%, will respond to curriculum being presented and to the classroom expectations that are taught, modeled, and practiced. This occurs within tier one of the RtI model. Tier two interventions are used for approximately 10% of the population. These students continue to struggle academically and/or behaviorally even after tier one interventions are in place.   The estimated 5% that remains, will require a higher level of service found within tier three. Tier three may indicate a referral for special education services, a 504 plan, a formal behavior plan, or other special considerations.


Although the services within each tier may vary from district to district, the RtI philosophy remains. Within each tier, student growth is measured in response to interventions implemented. Data collection and team meetings occur frequently in order to monitor the effectiveness of current interventions.

Tier One Behavior Interventions for Classrooms

Primary teaching and behavior intervention occurs within the classroom and by the teacher with tier one. School wide expectations are combined with classroom expectation and students respond by following rules and direction with very little trouble. Given tier one interventions and data collection, it can be determined how students are responding to the following interventions:

  • You must genuinely like your students. They are very good at knowing which adults truly like them and which are putting on a show. Look for the positives in each student. Listen to them, smile, use humor, have fun, show empathy, use exciting props, spend 1:1 time with each student, and create interesting activities.
  • Make sure your students always know what is expected.
  • Involve your entire class when creating rules and consequences. When students suggest a rule have them share why the rule is important and who should follow the rule. Also ask how often the rule should be followed. (The answers to both of these questions should be “by everyone (including you)” and “all the time” respectfully) Also work with them to identify positive and negative consequences that will be tied to each expectation. Stick to no more than 5 rules for your class. If you have any more than 5, it will be difficult for your students to be successful. Post the agreed upon rules and enjoy praising your many rule followers.  As an added bonus you could create a classroom constitution that contains the rules where each student signs their name. This signature makes it known to all that your students agree with the rules and will try their best to follow them daily.
  •  If you do not structure the classroom, your students will! It is helpful to have a daily routine including greeting your students each morning, a consistent schedule, and regular review and practice of expectations and procedures. Solidifying procedures will make student success more likely because they know what is expected.
  • Students benefit from a great deal of instruction and practice of classroom rules and procedures; especially those who are in elementary school.
  • Catch your students making good choices whenever possible. Positive incentives and recognition at these times will encourage positive behavior to occur more regularly. Remember that it is much more powerful to encourage positive behaviors than it is to try to extinguish negative choices with negative consequences.
  • Recognize students when they are not showing problems. This gives them attention for their behaviors during times when behavior problems are not evident. Since many students show undesirable behaviors for attention and power; it makes sense that if you meet these needs when positive choices are being made, the positives will increase. That means that your students win and so do you!
  • Mystery motivators are fun and VERY helpful in encouraging your entire class to behave well. Select several desirable incentives and place each one (or the names of the incentives as written on a piece of paper) into envelops.  Mystery motivators can be given after earning a certain amount of points, check marks, stickers, etc.  Each time misbehavior occurs one envelope is eliminated.  Students get to choose one of the remaining envelopes at the end of the day as their reward for positive behavior choices. Mystery motivators can also be used during transitions when the teacher secretively selects a student(s) and then tells the whole class who was being watched. That student will earn an envelope if they made positive choices. As an alternative to a class wide system, mystery motivators can be used with individuals as a tier 2 intervention if you decide.
  • Do you want your students to be enthusiastic about following your every direction? If you answered, “Yes!” then this tier 1 intervention is for you!  At the beginning of each day write a predetermined number on a piece of paper and set it aside until the end of the day. This number is a secret goal of how many times you want your student to follow your directions by giving a positive response such as “No problem”, “Absolutely”, “Sure thing”, I’ll be glad to”..  Each time that happens, a check mark is recorded. If your class meets or exceeds the predetermined number in check marks by the end of the day they are rewarded.  Tip: This works especially well with teams of students.
  • To gain and keep students’ intrigued in learning, be enthusiastic about the learning target, move around when teaching, vary your voice tone and speed, encourage imagination and mental pictures, ask interesting questions, and be dramatic.
  • A peaceful classroom can be achieved by a simple visual paper chain. Encourage your class to catch others in acts of peace.  Each time one is reported, a link naming the act is added to the paper chain.  Put the starting link at a high spot in the room and add paper links as they are earned. When it touches the floor the class has earned a celebration. Alternatives to this include filling a marble jar or showing  perfect behavior for a set number of days.
  • Students’ beliefs are largely influenced by what they experience vs. what they are told.  This means that when our words match our actions consistently, students learn to take our words seriously and to recognize the rules behind them.  When there is no match, our words will be ignored.
  • It will do you well to remember that when implementing a new behavior program, students will test the limits especially during the first 4-8 weeks. This is due to students testing to see if things are really different. Stick to it, and use positive and negative consequences consistently. Change will happen.
  • Allow for a clean slate to allow students to show that they can try again tomorrow to make behavior improvements. People are continuously changing and growing. There is always hope for students to improve their behavior if you give them a chance.

Tier Two Behavior Interventions for Students

Tier two behavior interventions begin in response to students struggling despite tier one strategies being used with fidelity.  For approximately 10% of your student population, tier two interventions will bring about positive change. In order to identify students who need a higher level of intervention it is recommended to: refer the students to the RtI team and collect data on the interventions used thus far. This process and the tier two interventions should involve support staff in addition to the classroom teacher.  A team approach to delivering interventions is most effective in bringing about change in tier two.

  • Encourage students to complete classroom tasks that you know they will be successful with. Improvements in classroom behaviors happen when at-risk students are given chances to success in all areas. You can help make that happen!
  • Individual behavior contracts can be useful in promoting positive behavior change in students. There are endless options available. Point sheets, stickers, checklists, tokens, and notebooks that document behavior choices, are just a few examples. Whichever you choose, it is critical that you 1) include the student in forming the plan and 2) make sure that it centers on their interests. These two things will empower the student to do their very best with their personal plan.
  • If your students are chronically tardy to your class, try enticing them with a desirable incentive such as a homework pass, or extra free time at the end of the day. Create popsicle sticks with each student’s name on them.  Each student who is on-time gets to put their stick in the on-time can.  One minute per popsicle stick placed in the can can be used for free time for all those who were on-time. Or you can draw one and give a reward to that person.
  • Choose one student per day who is given a shower of compliments – one from each classmate. These should be written down, and given to the chosen student by verbal means and also tangibly by them receiving the written note containing the compliment.  After each compliment, the student should shaking hands and say thank you.
  • Take pictures of your students making positive choices and hang the pictures up in your room and around the hallway near your room.
  • Humor goes a long way with students. Depending on the age of your students, try to dusting them with a feather duster to “dust off the grumps” or have them stand in front of a fan to “fan off their frown”. For most students, this will result in smiles and redirection from their poor attitude. Use this a tool to help your student focus as well. “Dust the cobwebs” away to clear their brain for learning or “fan the flames” to energize them for the next topic.
  • Attention seeking students typically engage in disruptive behaviors in order to meet their need for attention from peers and adults. Because these students commonly feel the need to be noticed, try some activities that will help them feel confident and cared about in your classroom. Meeting these needs should decrease their need for acting out behaviors.

°   Set a time for at least 3 out of 5 days a week where you spend time with just that student and stick to it.

°   Always acknowledge the student’s successes and improvements.

°   Provide the child with responsibilities that will result in success.

°   Give the student an agreed amount of tokens.  Each time the child engages in an attention seeking behavior, one token is handed in. Each remaining token can be turned in for 1:1 time with you during lunch.

  • For those of you who are struggling with students who lie, give some of these helpful tools a try:

°   Use role play activities to teach and practice truth telling. Be sure to include the detrimental effects of lying.

°   Always give a consequence for lying and praise truth telling. Your students should understand that lying is never acceptable.

°   Amend your classroom rules and expectations to include “No Lying”. As you did when you formed the rules with your class, ask them why they think that the expectation is important and what consequences should be in place for those that lie.

°   Those students who are accomplished liars, will need your patience and consistency to do their very best. A personal behavior plan for these individuals may be warranted.

  •  If you are continuing to struggle with students who do not stop their misbehavior, it may be that your requests to don’t really require stopping. For example, some of us make a request but end it with the word “ok?” “You need to stop talking now, ok?”  That “ok?” at the end is what gets us into trouble. It implies that we are asking the student if it is ok that they stop talking. Next time ditch the “ok?” and give a firm limit.  Firm limits are needed to relay the proper message of stopping misbehavior and teaches students how to meet classroom expectations.

°   Directly focus upon the behavior of the student, not on the student themselves.

°   Tell the student specifically what you want them to do. Use eye contact when you do this.

°   Keep your voice volume at a normal level.

°   Tell the student what the consequences will be for noncompliance at the same time your request is given.

°   Always give praises for compliance and always follow through on the stated consequence for noncompliance.

  • Buddy up with a fellow college for times when a student or you need a break. Bouncing this student to a colleague’s classroom can do wonders for redirecting the student along with giving each of you a break.
  • Consult with the school counselor or social worker.
  • Allow for a clean slate to empower students to show that they can try again to make behavior improvements. People are continuously changing and growing. There is always hope for students to improve their behavior.

Tier Three Behavior Interventions for Students

Students who are not finding success at tier two, will likely respond to tier three interventions. Given that these students must be receiving tier two interventions at this point, they should already be on the RtI team’s meeting schedule for monitoring purposes. Attend this follow-up meeting to report the data that you have collected and work with the team to decide which tier three interventions may be most beneficial for your students.

  • Based on data from your tier 1 and tier 2 interventions, work with parents and the student’s school team to complete a functional behavior assessment and a formal behavior intervention plan.
  • Frequently review and adjust the positive and negative consequences given to problematic behaviors. Keep in mind that the student must have a reason to change their behavior. If the consequences that are occurring in response to misbehavior are reinforcing in even a small way, the student will likely continue making those poor choices.
  • Consult with the school counselor or school social worker about individual counseling for the student.
  • Set up 1:1 time on a daily basis between you and the student to enhance social skills and a positive relationship.
  • Work with support staff to create a daily behavior plan where the student can visually assess their progress throughout the day. Daily behavior plans must also be used for data gathering purposes to determine its effectiveness.
  • When creating a personal behavior plan, involve the student in the ideas and incentives that are connected to the plan. Their involvement will equal motivation to succeed.
  • Communicate with all staff members who interact with the child so that they receive a copy of the plan and can uphold consistent consequences. When everyone is saying and doing the same things to extinguish a behavior, the likelihood of it becoming effective is high.
  • Work to ensure that the student’s basic needs for sleep, food, water, and shelter are being met.
  • Trial out placement options within the school such as time-out areas or time spent in a different classroom for various portions of the day.
  • Allow for a clean slate to empower students to show that they can try again to make behavior improvements. People are continuously changing and growing. There is always hope for students to improve their behavior.

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