Curriculum Guide for Academic Interventions
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Curriculum Guide for Academic Interventions

The purpose of this paper is to provide the audience with a written document containing practical teaching notes for use when teaching a lesson to students with emotional behavioral disorders (EBD). This how-to guide will provide steps for achieving specific learning objectives, principles governing behavior, descriptions of effective teaching strategies, interventions and accommodations for use by the special educator in the classroom.


The purpose of this paper is to provide the audience with a written document containing practical teaching notes for use when teaching a lesson to students with emotional behavioral disorders (EBD). This how-to guide will provide steps for achieving specific learning objectives, principles governing behavior, descriptions of effective teaching strategies, interventions and accommodations for use by the special educator in the classroom. The curriculum guide will use the REWARDS: Reading Excellence: Word Attack & Rate Development Strategies (Archer, Gleason and Vachon, 2006) as a sample curriculum. However, the principles and strategies described may be generalized to other curricula. Eight principles of effective instruction (Yell, Meadows, Drasgow, Shriner, 2009) will be discussed in relation to educational purpose, task analysis of teacher and student assessment procedures. Student motivation will also be addressed.

The REWARDS Program (Archer et al., 2006) is a specialized reading program in which a flexible strategy for decoding long words resulting in increased and silent reading fluency. The acronym REWARDS stands for: R-Reading, E-Excellence: W-Word, A-Attack and R-Rate, D-Development, S-Strategies. The goals of the program claim students will be able to decode multisyllabic words with up to 8 parts, increase accuracy of reading multisyllabic words within sentences, generalize reading multisyllabic words in textbooks for general education classes and expand present vocabulary. In addition, REWARDS aids the student in improving reading fluency, comprehension and confidence. The REWARDS program follows best practice protocol for teaching strategies (2006).

The content of REWARDS contains overt and covert strategies for instruction based on the fact that “eighty percent of the English language contains at least one prefix or suffix; and all decodable parts of a word contain vowels” (p.6). The overt strategy teaches the student to circle prefixes and suffixes, underline the vowels in the word, say parts of the word, say the whole word; and make it a real word. The covert strategy teaches the student to look for prefixes, suffixes and vowels, say parts of the word, the whole word, and finishing with making it a real word. Teaching pre-skills is an important component to the success of the REWARDS program and is therefore included in the first 15 lessons of the program.

Principles for Effective Instruction Using the REWARDS Program

Principle #1: Maximize Time Engaged in Academic Learning (Yell, et al. 2009).

Academic engaged time includes attending to the teacher, instructional materials, responding to and asking questions, and reading aloud (2009).  Lesson plans in the REWARDS program are designed to maximize student engagement, use time efficiently and when followed correctly, improve classroom management skills. In addition, students are effectively reinforced during the teaching process increasing the time of academic engagement (2009). Each activity in the REWARDS program contains instructional activity and procedures scripted to capitalize on instructional methods and student responses. Activities of lessons 1-15 include two lesson plans. The first provides a general description of the activity. The second includes the script for teachers use. Teachers should read the lessons, activity procedures and scripts prior to giving instruction.

Example: Lesson One            

The first lesson (as with most others in the program) contains ten activities utilizing individual and group and student partnering instruction and response opportunities. Archer, et al. (2006) instruct the teacher indicating the use of the overhead transparency #1 with a transparency pen and a piece of paper to cover the overhead transparency when appropriate and equipping the students with paper to use during spelling dictation write the words incredible, descriptive and unconventionality on the transparency.

1. Say, “In the next few weeks, we are going to learn a strategy for reading longer words. You will learn to figure out words such as (point to each word on the overhead) incredible, descriptive and unconventionality.

2. Ask: In which of your subjects, do you have to read longer words? (Call on several students).

3. Instruct the students to turn to the first page in the Student Book.

4. Say: Listen as I read the letter from the authors. (Read the letter from the Student Book.)

5. Say: Now we are going to learn the skills that you will need to read longer words, then we will practice reading longer words” (p. 25).

At this point, the teacher needs to check in with students reinforcing those paying attention and engaged in the process. Verbal praise or the use of token economy system may be effective to increase on task behaviors (Yell, et al. 2009). In classrooms specifically designed to instruct in behavior skills, a para-educator may serve as the observer collecting data on task behaviors and giving out reward tokens as students remain engaged in the lesson (2009).

Principle #2: Ensuring High Rates of Correct academic Responding (Yell, et al., 2009), “When the teachers increased the opportunities of students to actively respond to academic requests, the student had fewer disruptions, increased on-task behaviors and had more correct responses” (p.325). Many activities in the REWARDS program allow for maximizing student responses and participation. Activities A, B and C in lesson one involve active listening, speaking and incorporating those two strategies to learn how to read multisyllabic words.

Examples: Lesson One Activities A, B, and C.

Lesson A: Oral Activity-Blending Word Parts into Words

Activity Procedure- Students will learn to hear words pronounced part by part before blending word parts together to form the real word. Once students have blended the word parts have them say the whole word.

Ask the students to open the Student Book to Lesson 1.

1. Say, “Listen. I am going to say the parts of a word. You are going to say the whole word. Listen. (Say the word, pausing completely between the word parts). Tea spoon ful. What word?______ (Wait for response)

2. (Repeat with examples) as tro naut, mis in form, re con sid er, pro fess ion al, per son al i ty “ (p.26).

Activity B: Vowel Combinations-  ay (say),  ai (rain)

Activity Procedure: Students learn the sound to say when they see a combination of letters. Student will point to letters in their Student Books. Pronounce the sound as it is in the key word. Have the students practice saying the sounds aloud.

1. Say: “Find Activity B. We are going to learn some sounds. You may know some of them already.

2. Look at the box. Point to the letters a-y. The sound of these letters is usually /a/ (long a sound). What sound? ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­___________ (wait for response)

3. Point to letters a-i. The sound of these letters is usually /a/ (long a sound). What sound? ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­___________ (wait for response)

4. Go back to the beginning of the line. Say the sounds again. What sound?_____________Next sound?______________ (p.26)(wait for response).

Activity C: Vowel Conversions- a, i

Activity Procedure: Students will learn to switch between saying the sound and saying the name for a particular vowel letter. Student will learn to recognize a vowel letter in a work and first say that sound. If it doesn’t make a real word, they will say the name. Student will point to the letter while the teacher tells them the sound. Students will then repeat the sound. Next the students point to the same letter while the teacher tells them the name and students again repeat the name. Students practice saying the sound and the name of each letter.

1. Say, “Find Activity C. When you are reading words and see these letters. First try the sound. If it doesn’t make a real work, then try the name.

2. Point to the first letter. The sound is (long a). What sound?____________(wait for response). The name is a. What name?_________ (wait for response)

3. Point to the next letter. The sound is (short i). What sound?_____________ the name is i. What name?____________(Wait for response)

4. First letter again. What sound?_________ What name?________ (wait for response)

Next letter. What sound?_________ What name?”________ (p.27) (wait for response).

Embedded in these first three activities are opportunities for students to engage auditor ally, visually and tactilely. Teachers can use para-educators to monitor correct responses and on task behaviors by observing and walking around the classroom giving verbal or tokens for reinforcing appropriate student behaviors. Thus the amount of time on task is increased making way for getting major content from the curriculum.

Principle #3. Maximize the Amount of Content Covered (Yell, et al., 2009)

Students with EBD must work on specific behavior problems and social skill deficits while learning to function successfully in school or in the community. Curriculum for these students must be aligned with general education curriculum, and nearly all students with EBD take language arts, math and social studies in the general education classrooms (Heward, 2009). Continuing through the Curriculum Guide, the level of word skill attack will increase with the goal of teaching students to read more complex words faster and increasing comprehension skills using dynamic methods to ensure student attention. Students engaged in the process of learning are able to attend as more content is presented.  The REWARDS program offers a scope, the amount of content to be covered and sequence, the order of coverage (Yell et al. 2009) with a comprehensive instructional program. Activity D in the REWARDS program Teacher’s Guide (Archer, et al. 2006) increases student involvement and content.

Activity D- Reading Parts of Real Words

1.         tain                  mit                   stract               mid

2.         ta*                   id                     vict                  la*

3.         cay                   dain                 tri*                   tract

4.         hap                  trast                 mand               trict

Activity Procedure: Students learn to read parts of words that come from real words. They recognize that separated from real words they look like nonsense words. When a vowel in a word part could be pronounced with the sound or name, an asterisk under the vowel indicates that students should say the name. Ask students to say each word part to them-selves, then aloud. Remind them what to do when they see an asterisk (P. 28).


On word parts with an asterisk under the vowel, tell the students to say the name. Ask: “What name?”

1. Say,” find Activity D. We are going to read parts of real words. Most of these word parts are not real words by themselves, but practicing them will help you read long words later.

2. Line 1. Read the first word part to yourself. Put you thumb up when you can say the part.__What part?___ (wait for response)

2. Next word part. Thumbs-up when you are ready. ___What part?___ (wait for response)

3. Next word part. (pause.) What part? (wait for response)

4. Next word part. (pause.) What part? (wait for response)

5. Line 2. Look at the vowel with the asterisk. What name?___What part?____ (wait for response)

6. Next word part. (pause.) What part? (wait for response)

7. Next word part. (pause.) What part? (wait for response)

8. Next word part. Look at the vowel with the asterisk. What name?_____What part?_____

9. Line 3. First word part. What part?____

Repeat Next word part. (pause.) What part? (wait for response)

For the remainder of the word parts (p.28)

At this point in the lesson have students work with partners. Selecting partners must be skillfully accomplished. One student needs to be slightly more skillful while not being over proficient as to embarrass or inhibit his or her partner. The tasks requested of the students should match student’s abilities.

Principle # 4. Match Assignments to Student Ability (Yell et al.2009).

Research indicates when students are presented with work that is too difficult; the result is student off task and misbehaviors. Activities that are appropriate to student’s level and taught systematically with careful monitoring of progress proved to decrease disruptive behaviors in class (2009). As the REWARDS program is often used for remediation, the teacher would have completed an assessment of individual student abilities and repeat lessons for individuals whom may not have comprehended the information in the lessons. As student work on lessons E through J, the completion of written work in the Student Book provides the teacher with assessment data. Furthermore, Yell et al. pose that teaching content using demonstration of skills, explaining concepts, involving effective opportunities to practice, frequently checking in and reviewing progress are essential to teaching content unambiguously (2009). These criteria are built into the REWARDS Program.

Principle # 5 Teach Academic Content Explicitly (Yell, et al., 2009)

Activity E: Underlining Vowels in Words

1. pathway                  waist                pigtail 

2  mountain                 midday             rapid   

3. backspin                  haystack          milkman         

4. railway                    panic                strain

5. midway                   mailman           mainsail

Activity Procedure: Students learn that each part of a word has a vowel sound. They learn to use the vowel sounds to read the word parts and then blend the word parts together to say the whole work. Show the students how to find the vowels and say the sounds. Next, ask them to say the word parts. Then ask them to say the whole word.

Use the overhead for Activity E.

1. Say, “Find Activity E. Listen. Each part of a word has one vowel sound. What does each word part have?____ finding the vowels in a word helps us read the word.

2. Watch me find the vowels in these words. (Cover all the lines on the overhead transparency except Line 1. On the transparency, underline the letters representing vowel sounds in pathway. Point to the vowels.) What sound? ___What sound? ___ How many vowel sounds? ___ So, how many word parts? ___ (wait for and praise correct responses)

3. Watch again (repeat above directions using the words waist and pigtail).

4. Now you underline the vowels in the words in Line 1. (Pause). Now underline the words in the rest of the words. Look up when you are done (p.29).

At this point walk around the room using strategies to keep students on task such as touching the student on the shoulder, tapping the paper or correcting student errors early. This is also an opportunity to give token rewards and verbal praise for on-task behavior.

5. (Show the rest of the overhead transparency). Now check to see if you underlined all the vowels. Fix any mistakes (p.29). ____ (wait, walk around the room, check for mistakes, continue to give praise and reinforces)

6. (When students are done checking, assist them in reading each work beginning with the first word in Line 1. Touch the vowels in pathway.)What sound? ____What part?____ (Wait for responses)

(Then loop under each word part in path -way. What part? ___ What part? ___ run you finger under the whole word. What word?____(p.29)

Next the students will repeat step 6 with all remaining words working together in teams.

Wheeler and Richey (2010), report that team-based contingencies provide an alternative augmentation to the classroom and are consistent with the values of Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS). This strategy can encourage a positive peer culture within the classroom. Team-based contingencies require the teacher to divide the class into teams and each team will work at assigned academic tasks to gain desired rewards. The teacher must take care to construct the teams to ensure a balance of academic and social skills (2010). In addition, the teacher must use the direct instruction model as previously described to ensure students have an underpinning of knowledge for the assigned tasks and a precise understanding of what is expected.

Principle # 6- Use Direct instruction. (Yell et al. 2009).

The REWARDS program is researched-based and thus when used with effective teaching principles students will achieve greater skills than a program with lesser qualities. Using the REWARDS program the teacher is delivering the information using Direct Instruction (DI). According to Yell, et al. (2009) “DI is a research-based practice that is associated with strong achievement gains” (p.336). Four primary organization components are utilized in DI: (1) Instructional grouping. As previously indicated, the REWARDs program uses this strategy as student skill development increases. (2). Academic engaged time.  Sufficient time for instruction and maintaining active engagement between students, the teacher and the curriculum is imperative. The REWRDS program systematic approach allows for ample time for instruction, student response and monitoring of progress. (3) Scripted presentation. Again the REWARDS program incorporates the scripted presentation designed to give clears explanation, carefully selected, sequenced examples and carefully structured demonstrations (p.336).

(4) Continuous assessment. Monitoring student progress needs to be an ongoing process. DI programs such as REWARDS have a built in assessment monitoring component which provide teachers with feedback useful for making informed instructional decisions (2009).

The teacher will use the pre and post-test provided to keep record of student learning.

 A sample of a portion of the REWARDS program

Pre-Test/Posttest Teacher Recording Form (Sopris West Education Services, 2006)


Word Parts correct

(Cross out incorrect word parts)

Words correct (+)/

Words Incorrect(-)

1. container

1. con  tain  er                    3

2. advertise

2. ad   ver   tise                   3

3. promotion

3. pro   mo tion                  3

4. abnormal

4. ab    norm  al                  3

5. completeness

5 com  plete   ness              3

Total # of correct word parts­­­­­_____/15

Percentage correct_______%

Total correct words



       ( Adapted from p. 370)


Teaching students with EBD can be simultaneously challenging and rewarding. Best practice standards indicate teachers must use researched-based instructional materials and methods. The REWARD program together with methods to help student gain self-control and learn such as those prescribed in Positive Behavioral Supports system work for both teachers and students. This manual serves to give basic information for a teacher to instruct Lesson 1, activities a through E, tools for monitoring student progress using a combination of DI and frequent token rewards for student to ensure student success.

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