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What are school interventions?

In educational settings, interventions are often used to describe a focused teaching session, which is a deviation away from existing teaching practice. Interventions in our schools can be one-to-one, or delivered as a group. The aims of the programme will have been carefully created by a specialist practitioner, teacher or teaching assistant based on a key area of need. Interventions are delivered alongside Quality First Teaching.  Here at St Luke’s school quality first teaching includes, but is not restricted to, visual strategies, multi-sensory teaching, over-learning and repetition, Makaton, visual coding, increased processing time, social stories, comic strip conversations, small class sizes and increased adult to student support in class.

Many issues children face in their learning are inter-connected. It might be that a child is displaying concerning behaviour, and is falling behind academically, so each intervention needs to address each individual’s specific areas of need.

As a result, some interventions are targeted, and are put in place to address a certain weakness. These interventions are likely to be more formally monitored in order to track the child’s progress, whereas other interventions are more flexible, and adjust according to the changing needs of the student.

Some students may need further support to enable them to develop their language and social skills, ability to self-regulate or develop self-confidence and self-esteem.  These may be delivered in-house or through the support of external professions through what we call 'Waves of Intervention'.  


Intended Outcomes of Interventions in our school


  • Improving motivation
  • Improving listening and attention skills
  • Improving independent skills
  • Improving  progress in learning
  • Improving confidence and self-esteem
  • Enabling the young person to meet individual targets
  • Enabling access to the curriculum
  • Reducing incidents of negative behaviour
  • Improving interactions/relationships with peers
  • Improving communication skills
  • Enabling successful management of transitions
  • Reducing exclusions



  • Improving overall provision for the student
  • Improving resources to support learning
  • Staff’s professional development in relation to additional needs
  • Developing teaching strategies
  • Improving consistency in relation to systems and routines for the student
  • Increasing staff capacity to plan/differentiate learning for the student
  • Enabling staff to apply strategies and resources across the school
  • Building School Capacity


9 ¾  – The name we give to St Luke's Intervention Team

In the Harry Potter books, Platform 9 3/4 is a place where transitions to magical opportunities begins...

Through the promotion and use of individualised enablement strategies the Intervention Team support the whole child in striving for excellence and securing positive relationships within our school community. This in turn support them in working towards a safe, independent life.

Our Services are:

  • Sensory and OT intervention
  • Student Wellbeing
  • Speech Language and Communication
  • Behaviour support and regulation

Through these services, we can offer the following interventions:

The Intervention Department is also responsible for the following:

  • Co-ordination of NHS Integrated Therapy Services’ visits to the school  (Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy, Educational Mental Health Practitioner, Music Therapy, Play Therapy)
  • Co-ordination of other services’ visits to the school (e.g. Down Syndrome Advisory Service, Visual Impairment Advisory Service and Hearing Impairment Advisory Service)

Assess, Plan, Do, Review | Leicestershire County Council Professional  Services Portal


Intervention Procedures

Staff Internal Referral Form: BTF Intervention Referral Form (IRL)


Following identification of students for intervention, our guidelines are:

  • Intervention identification can be through teacher observations, student progress meetings, the wider staff team and external professionals.
  • Intervention Identification can be by through Section B of their EHCP under Cognition and Learning, Social and Interaction, Social and Emotional Mental Health, and Sensory and/or Physical, provision outlined in Section F of the EHCP.  Parents can also make a referral.
  • The Leader of Interventions in consultation with The Mental health Lead, Safeguarding Lead, and other professionals will decide on what intervention will be put in place, what the intended outcome will be. 
  • The interventions team will determine who best to facilitate that intervention.
  • The class and intervention teams will determine the goals, and how impact will be monitored. (Wave 3 therapy services, will be responsible for this process for their own caseload).
  • Parents will be informed of the intervention and encouraged to be involved about progress
  • During the intervention, the facilitator will monitor the student’s progress and will meet with the Leader of Interventions on a weekly bias
  • At the end of the intervention, outcomes will be reviewed with next steps/advice recorded.

At the end of each half-term, the interventions will be reviewed and any necessary modifications and tweaks will be made. At the end of each term all interventions will be evaluated and discussed in student progress meetings with the class teacher, head of department, deputy head of school and/or other senior leader.  Some interventions have their own assessment criteria


What we do very well at St Luke's

  • improving behaviours for learning
  • measuring and Monitoring of impact in classroom
  • regulation
  • consistency and expectations of smaller/continued interventions in the classroom
  • continue monitoring and follow ups


Where we struggle:

  • resources – including the buying in of evidence based interventions
  • staffing changes and loss of staffing
  • equipment – specific equipment used by some members of the team is very expensive.
  • time to share or monitor/moderate interventions in class
  • time to produce resources
  • pupil absence e.g. covid
  • time to meet with the external professionals


Planned Developments:

  • Monitoring and measuring impact of other work by the intervention team: Adhoc support for sensory regulation, observations, team-teaching and up-skilling the wider staff team, resources.
  • Information grid for each intervention with duration, aim and description
  • Plan of staff development following analysis of skills set, analysis of pupil need
  • Whole school training on sensory regulation
  • Whole school training re interventions: purpose and impact on learning.


Intervention Models in School

Our intervention curricula use a wave model.  The waves of intervention cater for a range of escalating need. After the referral process, the students will access the appropriate intervention if needed. Wave 1 is the intervention over and above the strategies identified in EHCPs and Student Profiles and delivered by class teams, Wave 2 is intervention delivered by the intervention team and external professionals deliver Wave 3. These waves of provision enable our learners to access the curriculum effectively in order to make maximum progress.


Waves of Intervention

Wave 3 Interventions

The Wave 3 Interventions

  •  Occupational Therapy - for named individuals, hours are given on their EHCP
  •  Physiotherapy – for named individuals, hours are given on their EHCP
  •  SaLT – 2 days a week Targeted support for named individuals
  •  Sensory Integration Occupational Therapy
  •  Play Therapy
  •  Music Therapy
  •  Mental Health Support Team.


Speech and Language Therapy (Wave 3)

Developing functional understanding of language is integral for the learners, many of whom have a diagnosed communication need. The Speech and Language Therapist is able to offer support with strategies and upskill in communication strategies bespoke to the needs of the children in school. Most of Speech and language Therapy is integrated, the therapists work alongside teachers and learning support focusing on whole class, group and individual intervention. The therapist also conducts more formal and full language assessments, making recommendations and setting specific targets for individuals.


Occupational Therapy (Wave 3)

The NHS Occupational Therapist works with an integrated approach to therapy advising on interventions for named individuals that can be embedded within the environment and curriculum (e.g. using specific seating to help ‘ground’ a child, suggesting specific fine motor skills activities).

The Sensory Integration Occupational Therapist conducts more formal assessments of sensory and fine and gross motor skill need as required from this bespoke programmes can be developed to meet the physical and sensory needs of the students. The SIOT also advises on individual, group and whole class interventions that can be embedded within the environment and curriculum.


Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (Wave 3)

The Educational Mental Health Practitioner works predominantly in preventing mild mental health concerns from escalating further.  The EMHP can provide the following:

  • Individual work with parents of children/individual children who are struggling with some low-level anxiety.
  • Individual work with parents of children/individual children who are displaying some low-level challenging behaviour.
  • Workshops on, for example, transitions between classes or to secondary school.
  • Group work on regulating emotions and strategies to manage overwhelming feelings. 
  • Supporting the whole school on all aspects of the mental wellbeing of children and school staff. 


Play Therapy (Wave 3)

Play therapy is a form of therapy used primarily for children. That’s because children may not be able to process their own emotions or articulate problems to parents or other adults. Within this context, play is not used as diagnostic tool but as a medium to address emotional issues which may be confusing and distressing. It is not a recreational activity or lesson, though the sessions can be enjoyable.

The play therapist works with individual students enabling them to express themselves f artistically to help to resolve issues as well as develop and manage behaviours and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness.


Music Therapy (Wave 3)

 Click for Music Therapy Information Flyer

Music therapy opens up possibilities and wonderful opportunities for children and young people to engage, express and communicate. This can be done through words if they are able to, but also through vocalisations, body language and facial expressions.

The music therapist offers individual and group sessions the individual sessions, the role of the music therapist is to respond, mainly through improvisations, to the children and the sounds. The sessions can be fast, energetic or relaxing and soothing and maybe even a mixture of all of these.

Wave 2 Interventions

Communication and Interaction Support (Wave 2)

Most of our students have identified speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) on their EHCP.  SLCN skills are essential to everything children do throughout the day, so it’s vital they are able to comfortably communicate with other students, teachers and members of the local community.

Our specialist TA for speech language and communication works with students individually and in groups and offers barrier games, attention autism, and PECS/AAC work as well as more generalised Speech, language and communication groups. She is also able to assist in embedding speech, language and communication in the classroom and other areas around the school


Sensory and OT Support (Wave 2)

The impact of sensory processing, co-ordination, sensorimotor difficulties or impairment of the senses not only hinders learning and cognition but can have a pervasive and serious effect on the emotional well-being of children and young people, and further impacts life chances in adulthood. It is also important to be aware that physical and sensory difficulties are unlikely to resolve without additional support. Any programmes prescribed by the OT and SIOT that cannot be embedded or integrated into classroom learning (Wave 1 intervention)  are delivered by TA (OT and Physio).  

Our Specialist TA for OT and Physio can also support the development of sensory diets for the classroom.

9¾ also offers Rebound Therapy delivered by a qualified rebound therapist. It is used to facilitate movement, promote balance, promote an increase or decrease in muscle tone, promote relaxation, promote sensory integration, improve fitness and exercise tolerance, and to improve communication skills.

We can also deliver Sensory Play (a programme that targets children’s auditory, visual, touch and proprioceptive senses).


Wellbeing Support (Wave 2)

Students may demonstrate difficulties with emotional regulation and/or social interaction and/or experience mental health problems. Students and students who have difficulties with their emotional and social development may have immature social skills and find it difficult to make and sustain healthy relationships. The Wellbeing Support address different aspects of wellbeing such as: anger management, self-regulation, boosting self-esteem, confidence building, resilience and coping with anxiety. They also facilitate Friendship groups that teach the social skills needed to make and sustain peer relationships; to provide children with opportunities for learning about issues relevant to peer friendships, such as conflict resolution and bullying; and to teach children the social skills necessary for friendship formation and maintenance.


9¾ Intervention Team also delivers Speed Up (a kinaesthetic handwriting programme) and Ready Set Remember (a programme that teaches active strategies that work within the auditory memory capacity for a particular student).

Wave 1 Interventions

 Quality First Teaching in our special school setting

Additional, in-class support for pupils, managed by the class teacher and TAs, following procedures and guidance for SALT, OT, SIOT, ASD, Behaviour Plans and Literacy directives.

Physical and Sensory Interventions

Sensory Interventions

Sensory interventions are offered to students who struggle to regulate their sensory systems independently in the classroom. Dependent on need, the student may be offered 1 or 2 sessions to guide a classroom based sensory diet, or may have daily/weekly sessions to enable them to regulate outside the classroom. Often those children who struggle to regulate using what is available in the classroom are offered more frequent sessions in the sensory room. These sessions also support emotional regulation through sensory input and by giving space and time to process and talk about their emotions.


  • Provide the space and opportunity to explore sensory needs
  • Establish positive and helpful sensory strategies that can be used across the school: in the sensory room, classroom, corridors and on the playground
  • Support classroom staff to understand and meet sensory needs in the classroom


Identification could be through the following:

  • EHCP – Section F
  • Teacher observations, and wider staff team
  • Pupil progress meetings
  • External professionals
  • Intervention team meetings


  • 1:1 sensory regulation time
  • AdHoc intervention when needed and sensory room available


  • Upskilling of classroom staff
  • Classroom observations
  • Advice around sensory needs/diet in classroom


Suitable for:

What is the Strategy?

How strong is the evidence?

Delivered by?

Sensory Integration Therapy

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Helps students with sensory processing issues/sensory integration disorder by exposing them to sensory stimulation in a structured, repetitive way. The theory behind it is that over time, the brain will adapt and allow kids to process and react to sensations more efficiently.

Good evidence for significant positive changes in social responsiveness, sensory processing, functional motor skills, and social-emotional factors. and a significant decrease in autistic mannerisms occurred in the SI group.

Sensory Integration Occupational Therapist (Wave 3)

Smart Moves

Used to support children with motor co-ordination difficulties, improve children's motor skills and build confidence in motor skills

Good evidence that this can improve motor skill.

9¾ team (Wave 2) (When indicated as provision on EHCP)

Sensory Regulation

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Student led sensory based activities that enable to meet their sensory needs in order to regulate

Good evidence  that sensory-based movement activities has the potential to influence academic outcomes

9 ¾ (Wave 2)

Sensory Play

A form of Sensory integration that targets children’s auditory, visual, tactile and proprioceptive senses. It is progressive, with each week building on the last to increase children’s sensory activities over time. The group also aims to target not only sensory sensitivity and avoidance but also joint attention and turn taking

Promising evidence for children with developmental and joint attention delays

9¾ team (Wave 2)

Occupational /Physical Therapy

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Specialist Occupational/Physio Therapist give students  a programme of therapy to complete

Good evidence that this can improve motor skill.

Class team (Wave 1)

9¾ team (Wave 2) (when the therapy cannot be delivered in class)

Physio/OT (Wave 3)

Rebound Therapy

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Therapeutic exercise to facilitate movement, promote balance, promote an increase or decrease in muscle tone, promote relaxation, promote sensory integration, improve fitness and exercise tolerance, and to improve communication skills.

Moderate evidence that this improves balance, muscle tone and sensory integration

9¾ team (Wave 2)

Music Therapy

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 Using Music to develop fine motor skills

Good evidence

Music Therapist (Wave 3)


Communication and Interaction Interventions

Speech, Language and Communication Skills

Speech and language interventions are focused sessions that are additional to the quality first teaching in Classrooms. Interventions are targeted and put in place to address each students identified specific need. Some interventions are formally monitored in order to track progress, whereas other interventions are more flexible and adjust according to the changing needs of the students. Interventions may be 1:1 or delivered as a group.


Speech and language Interventions are designed to promote independence and social and emotional communication skills in order to improve relationships at school, home and in the community.


  • EHCP – Section F
  • Teacher observations, and wider staff team,
  • Pupil progress meetings,
  • External professionals
  •  Intervention team meeting


  • Small group and individual work which includes:
  • Lego therapy for social interaction skills
  • Talkabout Social Language Series
  • Barrier intervention games to improve listening, comprehension and expressive language skills
  • Executive functioning group activities to target higher order reasoning and thinking skills
  • Supporting Classroom Staff to meet the needs of students as identified on EHCPs and in the classroom
  • Sharing information to upskill staff on strategies to promote communication and listening and understanding.
  • Advice is also given on visuals to support communication, independence and organisational skills through the use of schedules, task organisation and work systems.


Suitable for:

What is the Strategy?

How strong is the evidence?

Delivered by?

Lego Therapy

Peer-mediated social skills training: Naturalistic group based activity, which incorporates teaching and demonstration of appropriate social communication skills.

Moderate evidence that this can increase social communication

Speech and language Therapy (Wave 3)

93/4 team (Wave 2)

Social and Conversation Skills

Teaching focused social skills training: Adult-led groups with direct teaching based on social skills.

Moderate evidence this strategy can increase and improve socialization and communication skills

93/4 team (Wave 2)

Social Scripts, Social Stories and Comic Strip Conversations

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Visual Strategies: Social Scripts includes prompts to use specific language during social interaction. Social Stories describe social situations to help individuals respond appropriately or prepare for new experiences. Comic Strip Conversations are simple visual representations of conversation. They can show the things that are actually said in a conversation, how people might be feeling and what people's intentions might be.

Moderate evidence that Social Scripts improve social communication skills.

Promising evidence on the use of Social Stories and Comic Strip Conversations


Class team (Wave 1) (93/4 team can support in development of Scripts, Stories and Conversations)

Music Therapy

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 Using Music to develop communication skills, including turn taking

Good evidence

Music Therapist (Wave 3) (Juniors only)


Teaching-focused Social Skills Training: Talkabout is a series of social communication programmes. It is a practical resource which is aimed at improving Social Communication Skills such as; Listening, Conversational Skills, Body Language, Awareness and Assertiveness.

Moderate evidence this strategy can increase socialisation and communication skills

93/4 team (Wave 2)

Cognition and Learning Interventions


Suitable for:

What is the Strategy?

How strong is the evidence?

Delivered by?

Thinking Skills

Ready Set Remember

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'Ready Set Remember' provides strategies and activities to encourage student’s confidence and improve the ability to efficiently and effectively remember auditory information. Each active strategy works within the auditory memory capacity for each student.

Moderate evidence that this strategy can reduce the risk of problems in following directions, attention skills and to acquire literacy.  

93/4 team (Wave 2)

Physical activity

Students  take part in a programme including moderate aerobic exercise.

Good evidence that physical exercise improves concentration and attention.


Quality first teaching


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Children complete a series of mindfulness exercises

Moderate evidence that this can be useful

Class team (Wave 1)

93/4 team (Wave 2)


Alternative seating

 Individuals who have trouble sitting still are given exercise balls, posture packs, wobble cushions, and fiddles


Promising evidence that this can be effective in improving attention.

Class team (Wave 1)



Write From the Start

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An approach that guides students through the various stages of perceptual and fine-motor development to lay the foundations for flowing, accurate handwriting

Good evidence this programme is effective in the development of the various stages of perceptual and fine-motor development to lay the foundations for flowing, accurate handwriting.

Class Team (Wave 1)

Speed Up

A multisensory intervention programme that comprises an eclectic mix of kinaesthetic, pyscho-motor and perceptual-motor activities. The activities and exercises in the programme promote non-visual sensory awareness of writing rhythms and patterns. This may also be supported with ‘Write From The Start’

Good evidence that this programme can provide demonstrable improvements in handwriting

93/4 team (Wave 2)

Teaching children to focus on morphemes within words

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Reading instruction that focuses around the units of meaning that make up words and how this determines spelling (e.g. why missed and mist are spelt differently)

Good evidence that it is effective in improving spelling and comprehension skills.

Quality First Teaching

Multi-component small group literacy teaching

A structured, sequential programme that includes elements of phonics, sight word learning, book reading and writing.

Good evidence that it is effective in improving word reading skills.

Quality First Teaching

Explicit teaching of reading comprehension

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Teaching a range of techniques to enable students and students to understand the meaning of what is written, including inferring meaning from context, identifying key points and monitoring their own understanding.

Good evidence that this improves comprehension of connected text. 

Quality First Teaching

Teaching handwriting explicitly

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Students are explicitly taught how to correctly form individual letters and how to join them.

Good evidence that this improves the legibility and fluency of writing, and the length of pieces of writing.

Quality First Teaching

Teaching grammar explicitly

Students and students are taught ways of combining sentences.

Moderate evidence that this improves the complexity of written composition.

Quality First Teaching

Teaching sentence construction

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Students and students create written sentences in response to picture prompts, with modelling and feedback.

Promising evidence that written language improved.

Quality First Teaching

Integrated visual coding

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The system includes use of colours (parts of speech), arrows (tense and aspect) and shapes (syntactic and argument structure) to show students how words are put together in sentences, to develop understanding of spoken and written grammar and to develop their ability to use grammar successfully to express themselves.

Good evidence that this improves word knowledge and sentence structure


Quality First Teaching



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Numeracy concepts and skills are taught with the aid of computer games.

Moderate evidence that this can help children at risk of numeracy difficulties.

Quality First Teaching


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Numicon uses patterns to represent each numeral; these patterns are structured so that number relationships can be seen in a way not provided by written numerals

Good evidence that this strategy can improve maths skills and visual memory skills

Quality First Teaching

Multisensory Maths instruction

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 A structured approach and rich in sensory experiences, using touch, movement, and specific language to help students become math-minded.

Good evidence that this strategy can improve maths skills and visual memory skills

Quality First Teaching

Social, Emotional and Mental Health Interventions

Pastoral and Wellbeing Interventions

Research shows that such interventions  have also been shown to improve academic achievement, children have less anxiety or worries, and are in the right zone ready for learning. These interventions may be delivered individually, or in groups, we also offer individual behaviour support.


The purpose of pastoral and wellbeing interventions is to develop students’ mindfulness, resilience and emotional regulation. These interventions also help with confidence, self-esteem, reduce anxiety or depressive symptoms, and prevent violent and aggressive behaviour.


Identification could be through the following:

  • EHCP – Section F
  • Teacher observations, and wider staff team
  • Pupil progress meetings
  • External professionals
  • Intervention team meetings
  • Interventions
  • Mindfulness
  • Emotional skills development
  • Conflict resolution
  • Anti-bullying
  • Anti-discrimination
  • Other
  • Upskilling of classroom staff
  • Classroom observations
  • Implementing strategies in the classroom setting.
  • Personalising resources for children


Suitable for:

What is the Strategy?

How strong is the evidence?

Delivered by?


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A series of meditative exercises focused on training individuals to focus on their mental states, and to accept them without judgement.

Good evidence that mindfulness training can reduce stress and anxiety in children and adolescents.

Class team (Wave 1)

9¾ team (Wave 2)

Social Stories

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Provides students with social information about situations they may find difficult to help them respond more appropriately or prepare them for new experiences.

Promising evidence for a decrease in targeted behaviours; most effective when paired with a reward system.

Class team (Wave 1) (93/4 team can support in development of Stories)

Resilience and Wellbeing

A strengths-based and solution-focused based approach that builds students’ resilience

Good evidence that this helps people develop positively towards their chosen goals


9¾ team (Wave 2)


Teaching-focused Social Skills Training: Talkabout is a series of social communication programmes. It is a practical resource that is aimed at improving Self Esteem,  Self-Awareness and Assertiveness.

Moderate evidence this strategy can improve Self-esteem, awareness and relationship skills

9¾ team (Wave 2)

Targeted Support

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Interventions designed to support students who have been identified as being at risk of developing SEMH issues such as anxiety or depression.

Good evidence that interventions targeted at students who have been identified as being at risk of anxiety or depression may be more effective than universal interventions.

9¾ team (Wave 2)

Play Therapy

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Therapy that sees the relationship between therapist and child as the primary healing factor.

Good evidence in terms of externalising behaviours and academic outcomes

Play Therapist (Wave 3)

Music Therapy

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 Using Music to develop confidence, increased self esteem and promoting positive well-being

Good evidence in terms of externalising behaviours and academic outcomes

Music Therapist (Wave 3)

Cognitive Behavioural Anger Management

Teaches students to understand and manage anger more effectively.

Promising evidence of improvement for emotion outbursts, conduct, hyperactive/inattentive behaviour and prosocial behaviour.

9¾ team (Wave 2)

Sensory Regulation

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A daily routine/plan with a menu of individualized, supportive sensory strategies (e.g., rocking chair, quiet space, aromatherapy, weighted blanket), identified physical activities (e.g., yoga) and materials (e.g., sensory kits containing music, stress balls, items for distraction). These are used throughout the day as needed to help manage sensory modulation problems and related emotions and behaviours, such as anxiety or self-injury, to help change sensory processing patterns, minimize crisis escalation, or promote calming for overall health and wellness

Promising evidence of improvement for emotion outbursts, conduct, hyperactive/inattentive behaviour and prosocial behaviour.

Class team (Wave 1)

9¾ team (Wave 2) (when the therapy cannot be delivered in class)

Zones of Regulation


a systematic, cognitive behavioural approach used to teach self-regulation by categorizing all the different ways we feel and states of alertness we experience into four concrete coloured zones. 

Good evidence that students to become aware of and independent in controlling their emotions and impulses, manage their sensory needs, and improve their ability to problem solve conflicts.  

Class team (Wave 1)

9¾ team (Wave 2) (when the individuals may need further input)


Research by the Education Endowment Foundation has found that metacognition is key to effective pupil learning: it can add up to seven months of additional learning, and improve the outcomes of disadvantaged learners. Not only that, but it is a way for teachers to gauge how well their students understand their own learning processes and regulate their learning, so that they can support them accordingly. This is a key challenge in the field, particularly when remote learning is taking place.

In this article, we will outline what metacognition refers to, why it is important in education, and which strategies you could use to teach it in your classroom.


What is Metacognition in Education?

The term metacognition refers to an individual’s ability to plan, monitor, evaluate, and make changes to their own learning behaviours in order to confront challenges more effectively. You might have heard it defined as ‘thinking about thinking’, but the elements of active monitoring and modifying of thought processes make it much more than this. It is also a form of self-regulation, involving self-awareness, critical analysis skills, and the ability to problem-solve.

For students, having metacognitive skills means that they are able to recognise their own cognitive abilities, direct their own learning, evaluate their performance, understand what caused their successes or failures, and learn new strategies. It can also help them learn how to revise. This is because it optimises their basic cognitive processes, including memory, attention, activation of prior knowledge, and being able to solve or complete a task. It makes them learn more efficiently and more effectively, and so they are able to make more progress.

For example, a student with metacognitive skills might:

  • Recognise that they have trouble applying formulas in maths.
  • Think about the maths problems they have solved before, and the strategies they used.
  • Apply these strategies, assessing whether they are working or not.
  • Try a different strategy if the one they are using is not effective.
  • Reflect on how they performed in this task, and use this to inform their future work.

Metacognitive skills are useful across all subjects, because they enhance the way you learn, as opposed to what you learn. They are also teachable; as a result, teachers of all subjects should help their students to develop them. In the sections below, we will give you some ideas as to how you can do this.

Why is Metacognition Beneficial in Student Learning?

The potential benefits of metacognition in learning are as follows:

  • Higher achievement levels for the students. Metacognitive practices can also compensate for any cognitive limitations that a student might have, according to research such as this.
  • Increased ability to learn independently. Being able to monitor their own progress lets them take control of their own learning, inside and outside the classroom.
  • Improved resilience. Identifying their successes and failures, and which strategies work best for them – or which have failed – increases students’ perseverance in getting better at their work.
  • It aids disadvantaged students. According to this report, and research by the EEF, teaching in a way that supports metacognition is beneficial for students who are at a disadvantage to their peers. This is becoming increasingly important, as the performance gap has widened once again due to COVID-19.
  • Cost-effectiveness. This method of teaching does not require specialist equipment, nor any other large purchases – it only requires teachers to be trained in the method effectively.
  • Transferable knowledge. Metacognition helps students to transmit their knowledge and understanding across tasks and contexts, including reading comprehension, writing, mathematics, memorising, reasoning, and problem-solving.
  • Effective for all ages of students. Research has looked at both primary and secondary students – and even those who have not yet started school – and found benefits in all cases.
  • Emotional and social growth. Gaining awareness of their own mental states allows students to think about how to be happy, respected, and confident in themselves. They are also better able to understand other people’s perspectives.


How Do I Teach Metacognition?

Although metacognition is about students taking control of their own learning, a teacher is still required to help them develop skills and strategies in order to do so. The EEF recommends that you teach metacognition alongside subject content, rather than having specific ‘learning to learn’ or ‘thinking skills’ sessions. These sessions are ineffective, because students find it hard to relate generic tips to subject-specific learning.

There are several other things to consider before taking metacognitive strategies and activities into the classroom. These are:

Facilitate Metacognitive Learning Through Lesson Structure and Environment

Your whole lesson needs to be structured in a way that allows students to practise metacognitive strategies. Broadly, you need to split lessons into four stages: You, Plan, Do, and Review.

The ‘You’ stage involves giving students a lesson starter where they need to consider their prior knowledge on a topic, and any strategies they have previously used to learn about this topic.

The ‘Plan’ stage consists of setting pupils a task (a learning goal). The learning goal needs to be clear and explicit. Students will have to plan their approach to it, the strategies they will use, how long it will take them – so they can allocate the right amount of effort – and what could potentially go wrong. Predicting how well they will perform a task can also aid metacognition.

In the ‘Do’ stage, the pupils will carry out the task, monitoring their progress as they go. To help them do so, you could stop halfway through, giving them sentence scaffolds to reflect on (such as ‘I am doing the task successfully because…’, ‘this strategy is working because…’, ‘I am confused by…’, ‘I might have to change my strategy because…’, and ‘my next steps are…’). It is particularly important to highlight anything they are confused by, because this shows students that confusion is an integral part of learning. Recognising what we don’t understand also leads to better metacognition.

Finally, in the ‘Review’ stage (usually at the end of the lesson), you should allow your students time to review what they have learnt – how successful was their strategy in helping them achieve their learning goal? What did and didn’t go well? What could they do differently next time, and what other types of problem could they use this strategy for?


Provide Appropriately Challenging Tasks

In order for students to develop new metacognitive strategies, learn from their mistakes, and reflect deeply on what they have learnt, the tasks they are given need to be difficult (but within reach). If pupils are given something challenging to do, they are more likely to remember information from this task in the future than if they are given something too easy. However, the work should not be too challenging for their capabilities: this leads to cognitive overload, where their thinking fails because they are trying to hold too much information in working memory. You need to assess the metacognitive abilities of your students, and provide work accordingly.

A popular framework for defining the levels of metacognitive learners comes from David Perkins (1992). There are four levels of learner:

  1. Tacit learners, who are unaware of their metacognitive knowledge. They do not think about any particular strategies for learning, and merely accept if they know something or not.
  2. Aware learners, who know about some of the kinds of thinking that they do, such as generating ideas, finding evidence, etc. However, thinking is not necessarily deliberate or planned.
  3. Strategic learners, who organise their thinking by using problem-solving, grouping and classifying, evidence-seeking, decision-making, etc. They know and apply the strategies that help them learn.
  4. Reflective learners, who are not only strategic about their thinking, but also reflect upon their learning while it is happening. They consider the success or failure of any strategies they are using, and revise them as appropriate.

Once you know what level students are on, you can plan your support accordingly. For example, with tacit learners, you will need to focus on all aspects of metacognition, guiding them through the process of learning. With higher-level learners, you can withdraw some support.


Give Them Learning Strategies to Use

Before students can use and assess different learning strategies, they need to know some of these strategies. You will need to explicitly teach them how to learn, as well as giving them opportunities to monitor and review their knowledge. One way to do this is by modelling your own metacognitive approaches: show the students how you would approach a task, illustrating your thought process as you do so.

For example, if you are asking students to write a paragraph of an essay, you should write your own example on the board, explaining the decisions you are making (such as how you choose the right subject terminology), and how you correct and improve your work to create a second draft. For instance, ‘I’m not sure if I’ve got this term right, but I remember seeing it in the textbook, so I’ll check there’, ‘now that I’ve written a bit more, I’ve realised that this sentence could be cut, because it’s repetitive’, or ‘I have done a similar piece of work before, so I’m going to look at my feedback on that and use it to write this one’.

You should also model resilient behaviours as you do so, such as ‘this is really hard, and I’m not sure if I’m doing it right, but I know it will be useful practice for my exam, so I’m going to keep going’. Illustrate where students can look for help, such as the marking criteria.

This is extremely useful for students, because it shows them how to succeed behind the scenes – the struggles that everyone goes through in order to become good at a type of work. It makes it clear that we aren’t just born with the ability to do things; our brains grow and develop as we practise (a growth mindset).

Metacognitive Strategies & Activities for the Classroom

We have compiled a list of 12 tips, strategies and activities involving metacognition that you could use alongside modelling and ‘You, Plan, Do, Review’. These are:

1. Learning/Thinking Journals

Journals help students to develop their self-awareness, improve their ability to plan and monitor progress, and promote skills in self-reflection. Try asking your students to keep personal learning journals, and assign them weekly questions for them to reflect on, such as:

  • What was easiest for me to learn this week, and why?
  • What was most challenging for me to learn, and why?
  • Which study strategies worked well?
  • Which study strategies didn’t work well, and what could I do differently next time?
  • Did my study habits work well for me? What effect did they have on my learning?
  • Which study habit could I improve upon next week?
  • What are my targets for next week?

They could also record ideas they have during a lesson and questions they want to ask, as well as reflecting upon how the ideas they have learnt connect to other topics.

The journal doesn’t necessarily need to be a notebook – your students could use any format that works well for them, including a mind map, blog, list, mobile phone app, or something else.

2. KWL Charts

A KWL chart is a way of tracking the ‘You, Plan, Do, Review’ process. The idea is to create a chart for your students to use, with space for them to answer the following questions:

  • What do I know?
  • What do I want to know?
  • What did I learn?

These questions (knowwant, and learn) make up the letters in KWL. At the beginning of the lesson, students can answer the first question – what they already know that might help them in this lesson. This will activate their prior knowledge, and highlight any misunderstandings.

The second question provides you with ideas for future learning activities. Students could structure their answers in the form of ‘how…?’, ‘when…?’, or ‘why…?’ questions.

The monitoring stage is not included in the KWL chart, but you could ask your pupils to ask themselves their own questions, such as ‘how am I doing?’ and ‘is this strategy working?’.

At the end of the lesson, students can answer ‘what did I learn?’, as well as filling in anything else they want to know that remains unanswered. It is good to reflect on their own cognitive growth, such as ‘before this lesson, I thought that ___. Now I know that ___.’

3. Essays

Research such as this has shown that essays require higher-level metacognitive skills – multiple-choice questions, in contrast, use lower-level skills. As a result, asking your students to write essays, especially when preparing for exams, could help them to prepare and learn as much as possible.

4. Rules About Asking for Help

Instead of getting students to put their hands up as soon as they need help, set some rules that make them more involved in the thinking process. For example, you could ask them to go to a fellow student – or group of students – to discuss it first, and only to ask you if they can’t find the answer together. You could also try getting students to think about exactly what they need to know, or which part of their work they need to improve, before coming to you. This helps them to practise self-directed learning.


5. Mnemonics

Teach your pupils techniques such as mnemonics to help them remember difficult information. This ensures that they are less likely to experience cognitive overload, allowing them to move on to higher-level thinking.

You could use expression or word mnemonics, such as ROY G BIV to remember the colours of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). The same thing could be remembered in a mnemonic sentence, such as ‘Richard of York gave battle in vain’.

6. Exam Wrappers

These are worksheets containing reflective questions that help students to think about their performance in a test or exam. You could give them to your pupils both before and after they receive their results and feedback.

The worksheets given out before they receive feedback should ask them to think about how they prepared for the exam – for example, which study strategies they used. Those given out after the feedback should make the student reflect on the mistakes they made, and how they could prepare differently to ensure greater success in the future, making them strategic learners.

7. Metacognitive Talk

Metacognitive talk involves talking through what you are thinking while you carry out a task. This can help students to focus and better understand their thought processes. You could try implementing this by first modelling how to do it – work through a task in front of the class, talking out loud as you do so – and then letting the class have a go.

The questions your students should ask and answer out loud are:

  • What do I know about this topic?
  • Have I done a task like this before?
  • What strategies worked last time?
  • What do I need to do first?
  • How am I doing?
  • What should I do next?
  • Should I try a different strategy?
  • Who can I ask for help?
  • How well did I do at this task?
  • What could I do differently next time?

8. Reciprocal Teaching

This strategy allows students to take on the role of teacher and attempt to teach learning strategies to other students. For example, if they were teaching reading comprehension, they might show their fellow students how to question what they’ve read, clarify things they don’t understand, summarise the text, and make informed predictions about what they have read. This can help metacognition by deepening their knowledge and understanding of each learning strategy.


9. Traffic Lights

Traffic lights can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom; in this instance, students could use them to signify what they found confusing or challenging in a lesson (red), what made them think differently about something (amber), and what they understood well (green). They could fill in a traffic light worksheet answering these questions at the end of each lesson. This method makes them reflect upon their learning, developing their metacognitive abilities. Smiling, frowning, or neutral faces could be used in the same way – this might be a good strategy for encouraging metacognition in the primary classroom.

10. Feedback

Being given feedback makes students think about what they have done and how they could improve it – as a result, it is a key way to develop metacognition. However, you should ensure that the feedback you are giving is effective; our article ‘Effective Communication in the Classroom: Skills for Teachers’ discusses how to do this. 

11. Reflexive Thinking

Talking about and becoming aware of biases – for example, societal biases – is a metacognitive process called reflexivity. Having classroom discussions about these topics encourages students to consider what they’re unconsciously thinking. Try talking about moral dilemmas, racism, wealth, poverty, and justice. 

12. Goals

Encourage your students to set their own goals. This is one of the best ways for them to monitor their learning progress, and review whether they need to make any changes. Make sure that their goals are challenging but realistic, and that they are focused on developing learning and building skills.