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When was the United States founded? What elements are combined to make Nitrous Oxide? What is the slope of 6x + 7? Which word is spelled correctly in this sentence? These questions may seem awfully familiar as these are the type of base level questions we experienced in our formative years in education. Some may conclude that this type questioning made it possible for us to be successful in life, so why not today’s learners? I can only come to one conclusion. Change!
In today’ education, change, may be a dirty word. It may have something to do with the fact that in education, the more things change, well, the more they change! In some sects of the nation, we have Race to the Top. Less than four years ago, the reform was No Child Left Behind. I could go on for pages with the history of educational reform. The bottom line is, there is one thing for certain when it comes to education- CHANGE will occur!
Change – v. to become transformed.
So is change necessarily a bad thing? Should this word be taboo in education?
One of the most noticeable changes in education, although it has been researched and implemented for many years, is gathering data. Educational research has proven for years that one size really does not fit all! Students, who are given varied opportunities to prove their abilities or capabilities, tend to succeed because the learning is tailored to their individual needs or interests. I don’t know about you, but I know I perform much better at the shopping mall scoring a good deal versus scoring in a good game of football.
As we move closer to Standards-Based Literacy Classrooms, our intention is to move towards a deeper understanding of our students and their standards. One definite way to accomplish this is through data collection. This gives us opportunities to know whether or not what we are doing is really working.
We are assessing students so frequently, we as teachers even feel overwhelmed! Below you will find several options to assist in the process. Remember, this is not an exhaustive list but, instead serves a place to begin.
Formal & Informal Observations
Listening to student conversations
- This may give you insight on the teaching strategies your students understand and separate the uncertainties they are experiencing. When students are working with partners or small groups, listen in on their discussions to gauge their thinking. Also, this may provide an opportunity for you to find your teacher assistants.
- As you listen to their conversations, document what you hear and see. Documentation will become your very biggest asset in a performance-based environment. Think about your doctor’s visits, they have documentation from your initial visit. If you have recurring problems in a specific area, they realize the prognosis is not appropriate and they determine another direction to proceed with your care. This is essential to the success of our students. The standards are written so students are able to revisit them when necessary.
- Sit back and watch your students interact with text, manipulatives or even their classmates. Again, documenting will assist you with recommendations for placement or promotion, action strategies, and SST procedures.
- Discuss your student’s strengths and weaknesses with them. Let them know if they are meeting expectations. If they are not, let them know the steps they can use to get back on track. Allow them an opportunity to discuss what their perceptions are of their own learning.
- Use this time to allow your students to set goals. In the beginning, this may be time-consuming and most of them may begin with setting goals for reading, for instance. This is justifiable as long as they are reading for a purpose. So, you now have students reading for a purpose and they are beginning to develop a love for reading.
- Asking students questions about their lives as readers is a great way to create reader’s profiles, especially at the beginning of the school year. We prepare by thinking about what we want to know about our students. We also think about the messages our questions will send to students. The questions we ask must show them that we are interested in their lives as readers. We also want students to learn something about themselves and to begin to think about the questions we pose. (Franki Sibberson & Karen Szymusiak, Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop)
Status of the class checks
- Use this opportunity to quickly check at the beginning of your Literacy Block what each child plans to do during their work-time. This provides an opportunity for students to show their efficacy.
- Your student reading logs can help you determine whether or not students are finishing books or abandoning too many books.
- There are several things you may notice from your students’ reading logs.
- Are they spending too much time on a single book or are they bouncing around to different books?
- Are they thoughtful about their book choice?
- Do they set goals and meet them?
- How do they see themselves as readers?
Reading reflection notebooks
- This is where students are able to record their thinking. This takes the student’s thinking level deeper because being able to write about your thinking (which is under comprehend on Bloom’s taxonomy) versus orally telling (which is under knowledge on Bloom’s taxonomy) a story allows the child to comprehend at a much deeper level.
**Remember: Document, Document, Document! Use your anecdotal notes to assist and assess every child!**
We need to think of ourselves as the physicians of our profession. Our prescriptions are given out through our daily lessons we just need to collect the data to ensure we have the correct anecdote for our students’ symptoms. Each day we “practice” education, as doctors “practice” medicine. Now what ways do you gather data in your classroom?