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7 Most Common Questions Answered: How to Build a Successful Literacy Intervention Program


At the heart of constructing a successful literacy intervention program lies a thorough understanding of the unique difficulties encountered by secondary students. Recognizing the gaps in reading proficiency and grade-level expectations catalyzes educators to address the multifaceted challenges of struggling adolescent readers. This recognition allows for the design of interventions that are effectively tailored to meet individual student needs.

ThinkCERCA supports educators in bridging the literacy gap for secondary students. In our most recent webinar, Dr. Katie McKnight, professor, author, and founder of Engaging Learners, along with Dr. Jenny French, an experienced literacy coach and developer of ThinkCERCA’s Foundational Reading & Linguistics program, shared their invaluable insights on the seven key ingredients for building a successful literacy intervention program. 

During the webinar, we heard from dozens of educators seeking expert advice on supporting their secondary students needing foundational literacy instruction. We have carefully compiled the insightful answers provided by Dr. McKnight and Dr. French to address the seven most frequently asked questions regarding the development of a successful literacy intervention program:  


Q: Where is a reliable, non-biased place to find reviews and recommendations for curriculums for intervention programs at the secondary level? 

A: Edreports is a non-profit, third-party curriculum reviewer. As a curriculum school leader, this was the most credible and reliable source for analyzing effective resources. The second best place is your local network. Find others in your role in neighboring districts through regional meetings or social media. 


Q: What are some systems that can be implemented to support meaningful and effective collaboration between the educators that serve a student (for example, classroom teacher and interventionist)?

A: While time constraints and parallel schedules may be a challenge, good practices include having all teachers that serve the same group of students participate in regular PLCs or check-ins. Also, it's helpful for each role to have clearly defined responsibilities including parent communication and record keeping.


Q: How do we build a literacy program with the intentional inclusion of diverse multi-language learners (diverse language 1, diverse English proficiency, diverse educational experiences, etc.)? 

A: Begin with a needs assessment to identify the individual needs of studnets. Try to provide materials in various languages spoken by the learners and consider bilingual resources. Encourage the use of students' home languages in the learning process. Finally, equip teachers with strategies for differentiated instruction and inclusive teaching practices. 


Q: What are the best and quickest assessments for large groups of students at the high school level?

A: DIBELS MAZE for assessing Language Comprehension and DIBELS ORF and NWF for assessing Word Recognition.


Q: How do you teach fluency throughout 6-8th grade? What are the best materials to do that work? Also, what high-leverage reading/writing strategies are the most effective across disciplines?

A: Tim Rasinski's website and material is excellent for literacy. See Dr. McKnight's webinar "Do This, Not That" (grades 6-12) to start, strategies that promote active reading (Sticky Notes, Stop and Write) and summarization (GIST) are good starting strategies. 


Q: What is the easiest first step to help middle and high school teachers shift from traditional whole-class teaching (we just keep moving forward regardless of the data) to intervening with small groups?

A: The Centers and Stations model is the best place to start! Dr. McKnight has two excellent books on using small group instruction at the MS and HS Level. 

Also, there is an asynchronous course on Teachable available. 


Q: Are there any good resrouces geared toward middle school students that will be helpful when I give interventions? I only have 30 minutes per session and I need quick, high-interest resources to use that are little to no prep. 

A: ThinkCERCA Reading Foundations & Linguistics! Check it out here or schedule a demo! Little to no teacher prep, and specifically created for adolescents!



Watch the full webinar where Dr. McKnight and Dr. French break down their key steps to building a secondary literacy intervention program here.  And for more information about literacy interventions and foundational reading strategies, watch any of our on-demand webinar recordings in our library here

Be sure to check out the other blogs in our Agency for All, a thought leadership community focused on literacy as a means to empowerment and self-advocacy. 


Dr. Jenny French
Dr. Jenny French

Foundational Reading Director at ThinkCERCA, experienced literacy coach, former assistant superintendent, teacher, and author of, Help! My Students Write Like They Text.