EdCuration Blog: Learning in Action

Seamlessly Incorporate SEL into each Tier of Your MTSS

Feb 24, 2023 12:44:31 PM / by Jessica Ozuna, M.Ed.

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For nearly a decade, schools and districts have utilized multi-tiered systems of support (known as MTSS) to aid student success. MTSS is an overarching framework that serves to identify students’ academic and social emotional needs, and the resources and interventions that will help them succeed. While utilization of MTSS has been in law since 2015, these interventions have proven even more necessary in recent years. 


Since the pandemic, the need to support Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has grown. Studies indicate that in some districts, as many as half of the students who responded to a survey admitted to having felt feelings of anxiety.  Many of these students have even experienced consideration of suicide, as this School Mental Health report determined from Detroit Public Schools. 


Though no fault of the district or teachers, students deserve support in these areas for general well-being, alongside the support for mastering the necessary standards for educational success. Programs such as GiveThx combine the structure of MTSS with positive SEL practices. This research-validated program uses the science of gratitude to strengthen student comfort and social emotional skills.   


How GiveThx works at all MTSS levels


Tier 1 - Universal Instruction 

Tier 1 support pertains to the entire student population. Although a teacher will refine this with their own practice based on the knowledge of their own students, this is a well-rounded practice that is good for all students. GiveThx provides a curriculum that encourages all students to practice gratitude using thank you notes. Teachers are provided with guided reflections and lessons which are built to integrate seamlessly into daily activities and routines. 


What does this look like? All students log into the platform to see the names of classmates. They can send “thx” to classmates for doing something for a variety of reasons, and the note is tagged with specific skills. This builds an inventory of strengths to encourage and increase confidence. Additionally, this creates an atmosphere of warmth among staff members as well, who are often more likely to appreciate colleagues through the GiveThx program. 


Tier 2 - Group Interventions 

Students who struggle with engagement or connection will benefit from additional support in a small group setting. This can be time consuming for teachers to determine areas of need for each student, create complementary small groups and find activities to do for each one.  GiveThx makes this simpler for teachers by providing them with ways to identify students and intervene to prevent further isolation or disengagement. 


What does it look like?  Student groups are recommended by the program’s heat map that assesses and analyzes the student activities and comments.  These groups are provided with positive engagement in a safe, encouraging environment. Growth is tracked through the program and activities are provided. The teacher gains back planning time and energy that can be directed toward working with grouped students on targeted areas of need. 


Tier 3 - Individualized Intervention 

Just like in other subject areas such as Math and Reading, some students will benefit the most from one on one intervention sessions. In many classrooms, the identification of Tier 3 support is identified as students with extreme behavioral tendencies. While Tier 2 students may fit that description, it’s quite possible that they may not and that only the “squeaky wheel” will be supported.  GiveThx ensures that students in need will be identified and supported, regardless of what may be visible in the classroom.  


What does it look like? Tier 3 sessions, which may be led by a teacher, administrator or counselor will create a network of support for the student which is based on their own individual needs and strengths. The session leader is provided with materials to guide them to positive outcomes, once again allowing them to utilize their energy on students rather than planning.  


Schools and districts are already using the MTSS systems and working to support all student SEL needs.  The GiveThx platform is a fun and engaging way to do this while building a grateful, inclusive culture.  By acknowledging and appreciating one another, students develop a deeper sense of community and increase empathy and understanding of others.  Learn more here or by visiting Givethx.org


Topics: SEL, Student Voice, special education, Classroom Management, Differentiated, Mental Health

Jessica Ozuna, M.Ed.

Written by Jessica Ozuna, M.Ed.

Jessica is a professional educator and experienced presenter, professional developer and curriculum writer. She has over 17 years experience teaching and leading with a focus in Career & Technical Education.

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