FLT is the name of a flexible block program at a high school in New Hampshire that allows students to have time in the school day for intervention and enrichment. This time gives students a voice and boosts academic achievement and overall social-emotional health. But you likely already know about the benefits, and if you’re reading this article, you also probably have an enrichment and intervention period in your school. But how can you make these periods successful? What are some ideas to manage them, and to provide unique learning experiences for students? We want to talk a little about the process of making these programs effective, as well as some ideas for enrichment activities, and some intervention ideas that help a student reach proficiency, but not dread intervention either.
If your school has an enrichment/intervention period and you’re happy with the process and are just here for ideas, skip to them here!
To make a success of your intervention and enrichment periods, staff should have a solid plan. So first, think about your students. Get together in your PLC or teams and brainstorm. Maybe start with available data — what is it that students need at your school? What are they interested in? If you don’t have a way to capture that data yet, you can always try surveying students. Next comes the how part. How will you do this? Will enrichment work be graded? Will students get credit for enrichment or intervention? What outcomes do you expect for students? Specifically for intervention, are there a couple of specific subject matter areas that the student population really struggles with? Should intervention be focused on those? How will outcomes be measured? Those are some questions to get you started!
Then the brainstorming process might trickle down to what. What are you going to offer to students? Some schools, after having identified what students need and want, have staff come up with proposals. What activities could you, as a teacher, and others in your school, offer students that connect to a subject matter, or that is just plain interesting to students? Likely the ideas will come flowing in. We have some too, but we’ll get to that later.
Once ideas are sketched out into proposals, have a system for deciding how to approve or rule out some ideas. Again, is it what students want and need, is it feasible — meaning can the budget support it, is it location appropriate (you’re probably not going to offer a surfing class if you live in Arizona). These are just some things to think about. Once you have a set, approved list of offerings, it’s off to the next step…
Set up your offerings, and let students know about it. Build enthusiasm. If your enrichment and intervention offerings really reflect what students want and need, they’ll probably already be on your side. Giving them choices will help too. As far as interventions go, make sure students don’t feel like it’s a punishment. Interventions are in place for extra help, giving them a chance to catch up and become proficient. But it shouldn’t just be more of the same work they were given in class.
3.) Follow through.
Do the things! This is a short one. Do what you set out to do.
4.) Assess…and then start all over again!
Now it’s time to evaluate your intervention and enrichment periods. In many schools this may look like meeting in teams, your PLC or otherwise, to discuss the effectiveness of these periods — what worked, and what didn’t. Did students enjoy and benefit from this time? These periods do require some extra planning and work, so were teachers able to follow through and provide interventions and meaningful activities? What does the data show? Are the goals and outcomes set by your teams being met, or in progress of being met?
Besides seeing improvements in academic achievement, which is often the goal, what was the overall impact?
So let’s get into the ideas!
Think back to the question in the planning stage, what do students want and need? This will help you come up with enrichment ideas. Here are some we have seen schools use effectively.
To let them explore their own interests think about using enrichment time for a genius hour/passion project. You could dedicate on enrichment period a week to a genius hour approach, where they get to work on something they’re interested in. At the end of the year, have them present their project, but not just in class. It could be a expo. Consider having students share their ideas with the world. Depending on the project, is it something they can publish, maybe share online? For example is it a documentary? Can they post it on youtube or vimeo? Did they create a graphic novel? A song or even an album? There are plenty of online platforms for sharing and publishing this type of work. Did they work to solve a local problem, and is that something that the community can be made aware of, through the local paper perhaps?
Class extension time, while perhaps better suited to intervention (we’ll talk more about that in the Intervention section), can work for enrichment too. Instead of being an extension in the sense that it gives kids more time to learn and work to reach proficiency, it could be an extension of the subject. For example, one social studies teacher used the school’s flex period to make an extension of his class and talk about a current event, opening it up for an engaging class discussion. There may not typically be time for this sort of activity in class, but an enrichment period provides the flexibility for this, and can certainly enrich a student’s overall understanding of a topic.
Another idea is teaching a course in something both students and teachers are passionate about. What skills can teachers offer that students are interested in? The teachers you work with probably enjoy doing more than teaching, even if teaching is their life passion. Is there someone who’s a musician? Could they teach the instrument they play to interested students? How about a cooking class, maybe teaching how to make the food of a specific culture? How about skateboarding? Sculpting? Video editing? Robotics? The opportunities come back to student interest and what a teacher is willing to share.
Learning from local experts. Some schools have used this time to bring in members of the community to talk about their area of expertise. Students who are interested in listening to them, perhaps engaging in a discussion or activity with them, choose to sign up and attend. This gets students who are interested in a specific career path see how someone else in the community has made a success of what they want to do. Or, it can expose students to a local opportunity they may not have known about otherwise.
Core-subject based enrichment is another option. If you want enrichment activities to be connected to your core subject matter, you could have a brainstorming session with your teams to come up with ideas. Of course, ideas is why you’re reading this, so we’ve done some of the work for you. Start with your subject matter courses. From there, think of how you could expand on each one. Depending on the decisions your school has made and the projected outcome you want for students, these activities could become learning opportunities that count as credit or are even graded in some way — many schools do this differently, and ultimately it’s about what your school or district decides.
Intervention doesn’t have to be scary, and it shouldn’t feel like a punishment for students. Instead, this is time for them to get the help they need in their subject matter courses. In fact, many of the ideas discussed for subject matter based enrichment could actually be used for intervention. If a student is struggling in a core subject, help them to learn and demonstrate their learning in new ways. While intervention is definitely more about what a student needs, it should be about what they want as well. Your students don’t want to fall behind, so they will appreciate having time to catch up.
But intervention doesn’t just have to be about academics. There is the behavioral and social-emotional piece as well. Having a time period for this within the school day can be powerful. So, consider that the first intervention idea. Use intervention as a time that students can do de-stress activities, or meet with school counselors. Some schools have student groups that meet regularly with one or more staff members for group support. Or a student may need one-on-one support from a guidance counselor or school psychologist. Helping students manage stress and…will help them in all aspects of their schooling.
We talked about class extensions for enrichment, but of course, they can be useful for intervention, especially in a school that lets students work at their own pace. If some students simply need a little more time to work on what they’ve learned in class, have time set aside to extend the class period will help them accomplish their goals. This way they could also be in class with the teacher who teaches the subject they are struggling in — a perfect chance to get support.
One-on-one support is challenging and even frustrating to facilitate during the school day, but sometimes that’s exactly what students need. Use your intervention period, if possible, to make time for the one-on-one support some students may need. This could look a few different ways depending on student needs. For some, they may be struggling in a subject matter and need focused support in that area. For others, they may simply need a trusted adult to talk to. Some students may depend on school counselors for this, but not all. And there have been many benefits of students having an adult in the school that they can connect with. So every now and then, maybe there are a few students who may just need to talk. Their ‘intervention’ is
What about small group instruction. This is perfect for schools that may use a tiered model, as in RTI and MTSS. Students learn at differing paces, but often there are small groupings of kids that are at about the same level. You can use intervention time to provide small group instruction to these kids, targeting specifically what it is they are struggling with.
And many students would appreciate time for test prep. Students taking their SATS or AP tests can be pretty stressed. If they want to perform well, they know they have to study, and that can be daunting. Why not use your intervention period to help them prepare? Have a study group for AP Calculus, provide challenging assignments. Go over test questions for the SAT as a group. More than just helping them gear up and prepare their brains, this will give them a sense of support and help them to see that they’re not alone, likely helping them feel less afraid.
Both intervention and enrichment are important when it comes to providing students with exactly what they need. All students need both of these components to be truly successful. We hope some of these ideas will be helpful! We also know there are other ideas out there, and we love sharing new ways schools are finding to support their students. Feel free to share your ideas with us! Tweet us @enrichstudents, or send us a message on Facebook or Instagram with your thoughts.