The MTSS Series: Part 3

Guest post by Bonnie Nieves, in collaboration with Class Composer

Now that you have become more familiar with MTSS in my prior blogs, hopefully, you have a better understanding of the tiered supports and are ready for some next steps. Let’s take a look at some instructional methods that can be used in the classroom to foster the development of essential SEL skills and help educators to best provide for each student’s needs.

When we have a variety of methods that we can share with colleagues, it helps us to better provide for students and also to build our library of resources to become more comfortable with MTSS.

This is the time to revisit the inventory taken at the beginning of the adoption process and consider building a resource library. You may find that current instructional methods require only slight modifications to be considered Tier 1 and Tier 2 practices. We have many options and sometimes by taking the time to share ideas, whether through grade-level planning or PLC time, we can build our resources together in less time.

Below are some instructional methods suggested by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning It is likely that many teachers already use similar strategies; making these a comfortable entry point where people can gain traction and buy into your MTSS roll-out.

  • Co-construct classroom community agreements for behavior, and how to treat one another.
  • Design learning activities that empower students to explore issues that are important to them and co-create solutions to improve the classroom, school, or community.
  • Make connections between SEL and academic instruction; initiate reflection and discussion.
  • Guide students through the process of setting goals, encourage and commend academic risk-taking, and incremental progress. Frame productive struggle as part of the learning process; coach students on how to correct mistakes and recover from setbacks.
  • Balance class time with periods of direct instruction, student cooperative work, and time to work/reflect alone.
  • Elicit student thinking by asking open-ended questions and encouraging students to elaborate on their responses.
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on cooperative group work and what made that work successful and/or challenging and plan for improvement.
  • Affirm students’ diverse identities and cultures through activities and interactions.
  • Provide space for students to share and learn about each other’s lives and backgrounds.

Tracking student progress and implementing strategies

These strategies can be easily included in meaningful ways with minimal disruption to existing classroom routines or additional prep time. Consider asking faculty to share examples of what these look like in their classrooms. our MTSS resource library now contains relevant, peer-reviewed practices! Leverage the tools available to share ideas and monitor the progress of your students with Class Composer.

Integrating activities that focus on academic content AND behavioral/social-emotional instruction at the same time elevates the importance of non-academic performance. Viewing traditional academic instruction through behavioral and social-emotional lenses helps to incorporate them into current routines. Check-in / check-out, think-pair-share, reflection prompts, and goal-setting are examples of tier-1 instructional methods for academics. To add a behavioral/SEL component, consider prompts that elicit student dispositions such as resilience, independence, creativity, and self-motivation.

Sharing information through Class Composer

Class Composer enables all teachers to access the information they need about each individual student when they need it. It makes it easy to track and record student growth toward individualized goals. With Class Composer, it facilitates how you manage all the assessment data collected in a streamlined way! Depending on the strategies that you use, there are many ways to gather data on student growth and help students to build skills in a variety of ways.

Some successful examples from my classroom are visible thinking and retrieval practice activities listed here.

What Works Clearinghouse has a wide variety of evidence-based programs and strategies to explore. The resources can be sorted by grade level and content area.

According to, the most effective behavioral and SEL instruction is SAFE (sequenced, active, focused, and explicit). Their guide will help when you are ready to select an SEL program that will work for your school community. Aside from adopting a full SEL program, purposefully choosing activities from research-based organizations such as,,, and can be a way to build behavioral and SEL routines that provide common, informal assessment data.

Next, align instructional tools with CASEL competencies and use proficiency scales to document student progress and to monitor the need for movement between tiers. Balance formal and informal assessments with observed behaviors to identify patterns. Faulty and staff who interact with students on a daily basis are indispensable in the monitoring of behavior trends and changes.

Hidden curriculum, how educators model and respond to behavior, accounts for as much as 90% of students’ learning experience according to Frontiers In Education April 2022. The way that adults interact with one another and with students makes impressions and has a long-lasting impact on relationships and learning outcomes.

(I wrote about a similar idea in this blog).

Lesson examples

Curriculum for Teaching Emotional Self-Regulation

Additional Resources

Click to access Classroom_Activities_Handout.pdf

Click to access COOR-79l-2016-03-CWT-lesson-plans.pdf

When it comes to the tools we use, having a streamlined and unified space where we can access the information we need to best provide for students is essential. Take some time to explore Class Composer today using their sandbox. You will experience a simpler, more streamlined experience when in the easily accessible, data-driven platform that promotes student academic achievement and the development of essential SEL skills.

Head to Class Composer to learn more!

Bonnie Nieves is the author of “Be Awesome on Purpose” and has over a decade of experience as a high school science teacher. She has a Master’s Degree in Curriculum, Instruction, and Educational Leadership. Her passion for creating immersive and authentic experiences that fuel curiosity and creating student-centered, culturally responsive learning spaces that promote equity and inclusion has led her to establish Educate On Purpose Coaching.

In addition to being an award-winning educator, Bonnie works to ensure equitable and engaging education for all through her work as a copy editor at EdReports and Classroom Materials and Media reviewer for The American Biology Teacher journal. She serves on the MassCUE board of directors and enjoys connecting with educators through social media, professional organizations, conferences, Twitter chats, and edcamps. Bonnie is a member of the National Association of Biology Teachers, the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science, and the National Science Teaching Association. She encourages you to connect with her on Twitter @biologygoddess, Instagram @beawesomeonpurpose, Clubhouse @biologygoddess, and LinkedIn.

Please visit for information about her current projects.

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