Sunday, November 24, 2013

Data Tracking Using "Dot Charts" and Consensograms

I find myself learning a lot this year about how data analysis and informed instruction looks at different grade levels. Especially formative assessment.  As someone who worked almost exclusively with small groups and test preparation groups for 5 years, I was seeing excel spreadsheets in my sleep.  All the number crunching and analyzing growth from one week to the next had my head spinning most of the time, as when you focus so much on numbers and not on students, the task of engaging students in activities that will actually grow them seems impossibly overwhelming.  What I have started to realize over the past 2-3 years is that your formative assessments (those quick checks you do all along the way) help students not only to communicate with you about how they are understanding a concept, but also to feel actively involved and empowered to change their achievement level. Take a look at the scientifically named  :)  "dot-chart" above.  

As the data dots show us, in the Fall of 2011, I had one student score "accelerated" on the Reading Ohio Achievement Test, and all the rest of my class scored "Limited".  Needless to say, I wanted to see a lot of growth before the next round of testing in May.  So, I devised a schedule for my class to take bi-weekly practice assessments beginning in January and track their progress after each test on this graph.  The dot color is meaningless, the number on each dot represented a student.  Each week in small groups the students would practice all the different aspects of test preparation and practice questions with a teacher.  We would mark up the practice questions with highlighters, rewrite our answers--you name it.  We would also look at our chart, and discuss which box the student was in that week, and how their goal should be to move up one box the next week.  

Here is why this was effective:  
1.  The students knew that although the data was "anonymous" it would still be posted for all to see.  
2.  It gave them a visual of where they were scoring with regard to where the other kids in the room were scoring.
3.  Moving up one box every two weeks was a goal that seemed tangible and realistic when it was presented in this way.
4.  Students felt and appreciated that they had active participation and control over where their dot would be placed the next time.  They knew it was directly related to their performance and hard work in between tests.  

As you can see, the dots started moving up week by week until we had about 8 students who were consistently passing the test.  Not a lot, but a vast improvement from just one!  The data on the chart from April was pretty consistent with the data I got back from the state after the state tests were scored, so I knew what I was doing was a reliable measure.  

Imagine if I had started this method in say, October, rather than waiting until January!  How powerful would the dots have been then in motivating even more students to set and surpass their goals?  

The other thing I wanted to mention was Consensograms.  These are a relatively new concept to me this year as I explore within the profession and get to know some of the lower grade levels.  I adore them!  Not only are they cute additions to your classroom that also serve a purpose, they are a way to engage those young kiddos and turn them into active participants in their learning as well!  And (as someone who loves technology I can't believe I am blogging this statement) what a great alternative to using those darn clickers that might take forever to set up and/or malfunction once the kids are signed in anyway?!  Phew, what a relief to just have a permanent display of your best practice on the board for the "I Can" statement or learning standard of the week!  Below are a couple of examples from my friends' rooms (since I am more transient as a sub this year ):  

1st and 2nd grade Consensogram 


3rd and 4th grade Consensogram

Thoughts?  :) 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five for Friday Linky Party :)

Grab button for One Extra DegreeOk, I have no idea if I am about to do this right, so I hope this works out.  My friend Amanda over at One Extra Degree (her button is at right) told me this past week about this linky party thing being a great way to get your ideas out there and get more blog traffic.  So..... here goes!



Reciprocal Teaching 
In Professional Development this week, I learned about the practice of "Reciprocal Teaching" and absolutely love how it will fit into Reading groups!  I don't believe that groups should be defined as "guided" or "close reading" or "reciprocal" or even in some cases "literature circles".  I see them as a hybrid mix of all those if they are to be most effective.  Reciprocal teaching strategies provides a structure for me to teach guided or close reading within a framework that is consistent.  Also, providing students with sentence frames and insisting that their answer be a complete sentence with a "because clapper" (see Whole Brain Teaching) takes their instructional level of reading to the next level.  The teacher modeling each strategy first is key to the success of this practice, and using this as the structure of our lessons forces us to think aloud, which we often take for granted and do not do enough of.  This was one of those PD's that I really felt was valuable right away :) 


When you see a need, fill a need.  I have been trying out a consulting opportunity for a local school.  One of my former principals is the School Leader there, and sought me out to help out his small staff comprised of mostly first year teachers.  So, for a couple of days a week, I can be found observing for best practices and making notes on strengths and weaknesses I see, meeting with individuals about their needs, etc.  What I haven't figured out yet, after about a month, is exactly how to present the ideas and actually make positive changes in these educators' rooms.  I am all about being practical, and that is what I want to provide them with--practical ideas to be implemented right away--but how best to do that without encroaching on territory is the hard part.  So, once again I have found myself in uncharted territory, making new relationships and showing what I can offer one little bit at a time.  I may jump in to redirect a behavior (this is an urban setting) or take over a small group that is off task when I walk by.  I am still thinking about how best to present ideas, but in the meantime, when I see that someone needs help, I help.  And that has been a pretty cool way to spend my time :) 


Primacy- Recency is a very real issue in our rooms that we don't often consider when we plan.  This short pdf with graphics shows that our students' "prime learning time" begins about 5 minutes into a lesson, peaks at about 12 (that when you've really got them!) and then declines for awhile when we need to give them two-ish minutes of independent or partner chatting. Next, at about 17 minutes in, they have more prime time-- but then it only lasts for like, 5 minutes.  So, theoretically as masters of lesson pacing, we should be hitting the new concepts the hardest, with the material that is most literal at those "prime times". Food for thought....


Centers can be thought of in so many different ways sometimes it can be overwhelming if you don't commit your classroom to one process.  I am referring more to the planning process for the teacher than the experience for the students.  Basically I was preparing a presentation to show the teachers I'm working with, and I found myself outlining a writing center, word work center, independent reading center, etc.  Then I got to thinking even MORE, and realized that depending on the learning standards you're addressing and the way you want to plan out how often you change your centers to keep them engaging, you may want to make them all , say, about sight words or all about synonyms/antonyms.  So instead of kids rotating through writing with the teacher about their favorite color and then moving on to read to themselves about sharks, followed by highlighting sight words in a poem, they instead rotate to each center and each center is about sight words.  With the teacher, it's writing them, while at independent reading it is key rings with words on them. At the listening center, its reading the words to each other..... Sigh, so much to consider! Thoughts?


Consensograms are Cool-- and should be used in every room, I think :) I love that they can be visited before, during, and after a week of learning about a standard.  I love that there is a non-linguistic representation for the kids to see where they are in understanding with relationship to the whole group. They look awesome, too.  I will let the pics say the rest:  

Thanks for reading :) How was your week?  


Updated: Reading to Someone in Centers is Important! Make it Productive for the Students with a Structured Activity they can Facilitate for Themselves!

In Elementary teaching, whether in public schools or charter schools at some point during their instructional day have a Language Arts Block that includes small group instruction.  For us teachers, generally that means pulling leveled groups for guided reading or some form of it (reciprocal teaching, close reading, etc.), and for students it means rotating through learning "centers" or "stations" that should reinforce previously learned concepts based on Common Core Standards.  When deciding how to manage these small group and center times, teachers often seek out instructional practices such as "The Daily 5", which includes the following 5 types of learning centers:                                      
1. Working with Words
2.  Reading to Yourself
3.  Writing 
4. Reading to Someone
5. Listening to Reading

Now, whether you use The Daily 5 practice, or some other center titles to reinforce learning strands, it is fine by me.  However, do you indeed have a Read to Someone center?  And if so, do students know how to share that time together productively, or are they simply sitting with a book between them and talking about what they watched on TV last night?  As you have probably gathered, I have had experience with the latter :), and I figured out some things to help structure the students' time together in "Read to Someone".

Consider using "The Crazy Professor Reading Game" from Whole Brain Teaching.  It not only requires that a student read aloud, but also that they comprehend what they're reading to use their voice and hand hand gestures to convey the meaning of the text to the listener.  When they finish a page or chapter or topic, they then use their own comprehension skills to form a question they know the answer to, pose that question to their partner, and give feedback to their partner.  Then, the partner takes over and it all begins again.  The beauty of this is that neither one of the students has to compromise reading something at their own interest level, because they can each use a different book!  The purpose is quality of time spent on a passage of text that they refer gestures and questions back to--not getting through a whole text that they didn't choose themselves.  Below, you'll see the video made by Whole Brain Teaching that I use to introduce my students to their Read to Someone "Crazy Professor" game:

And, here is a video of what it looked like in my 4th grade classroom!  I want to emphasize something here: THIS CAN BE USED AT ANY GRADE LEVEL AS LONG AS THE STUDENTS HAVE CHOSEN BOOKS AT THEIR INDEPENDENT, RATHER THAN INSTRUCTIONAL READING LEVEL.  Even in 2nd grade, The students loved this time and were asking when they could do it next.  It motivates them because it allows them to exaggerate, be dramatic, and act silly with a friend.  Sorry it is sideways, no matter how I try to publish it, it rotates : /.

How do you structure your small group time?  Are you a rotation within your centers, or do the students rotate with their own set of centers to be pulled when you're ready?  What products of learning do you have your students turn in for centers and how often?  Does it make up a percentage of their grade?  Let me know your thoughts below!  I would love to hear if you try this game out, and how it works to motivate your kiddos!