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Helping students develop self-skills, such as self-monitoring, self-control, self-discipline, self-advocacy, self-starting, self-regulation, self-talk (metacognition), and self-critique, is critically important. Our goal when teaching students to make meaning of what they read is not to comprehend for students. We as educators model comprehension, we guide students through the practice of comprehension, we assess comprehension, we provide feedback on students’ proficiencies in comprehension, and we differentiate our supports for all students so that they successfully and independently make meaning of what they read. Our goal is that students display self-comprehension skills.

Similarly, behavioral RTI is not advocating that we behave for students. Our goal in nurturing behavioral skills in the ways is to empower students to do these things for themselves. It’s a gradual release of responsibility model, and we have not sufficiently applied these pedagogical approaches to behavioral skills in the same way that we have done with academic skills.

My principal colleague Ryan Jackson notes that discipline rates are lower at his school, and student achievement and attendance improved, the benefits of modeling and teaching self-skills are more relational. He says:

Targeted goal-setting, where students and educators work hand-in-hand to both establish goals and commitments while also reflecting upon progress towards those goals through journaling, increases student confidence and their connection to school. Communication builds trust while garnering respect, both of which are imperative to improving and sustaining behavioral skills.

The strategy of metacognitive modeling, or thinking aloud, works particularly well when modeling and teaching self-skills. Teachers can vulnerably and humbly articulate their own though processes when thinking about a problem and they can regularly acknowledge errors. In my experiences, students not only want to be known by their teachers, they want to know their teachers. Thinking aloud not only models and teaches self skills, it helps establish positive relationships. Relationships are a key to nurturing behavioral skills.

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