Blog #3 Using Data to Inform Teaching and Learning!

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Data, data, data. To be completely honest, I used to find myself rolling my eyes at the thought of all of the data studied in our PLCs. However, just like any job, we really DO need “research” and concrete data to back up our daily instructional and overall classroom decisions day in and day out. Anecdotal records, informal observations, formative check ins, and summative assessments are all essential ways to gauge and evaluate the level of understand and growth from each individual student.

Exit and entrance slips for any math standard can be used to pre and post assess a student in order to ensure that it has been mastered. If not, that is where intervention strategies and reteaching/relearning happens. This is how our first grade team runs our math instructional model and uses our extension teacher for small group Guided Reading Plus intervention time. We communicate this information to families and parents by entering each standard into our online grading portal and also use progress reports with this information listed as well. Parents then can see whether their child is beginning, developing or secure in that standard or strand. We then reassess these standards to show growth.

In reading, we use a few different assessments that drive our instruction forward. The AIMSWeb words per minute timed reading along with a sight word check in are a few of the common assessments we use across our first grade classrooms. We use the famous “Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System” to assess the guided reading levels of our students. This is also how our Tier 2 and Tier 3 groups are decided. We use the exit and entrance criteria to decide which students need another “boost” and which students can exit the extra intervention. We communicate this to parents by sending home letters from the intervention teachers explaining the process and introducing themselves. We also share what reading level their child is currently at when they enter and exit the intervention groups. We also send home quarterly progress reports along with checking in regarding growth and progress during monthly communication nights as well. We also input this data into our online grading system as well along with other language arts standards for parents to view as it us updated.  

Assessing students takes A LOT, and I mean A LOT A LOT of time from our instruction time. Therefore, if we are already using up precious learning time to gather this critical student data, we need to actually utilize, analyze and adjust from it. The simple and informal anecdotal and informational observations are all part of formatively assessing growth and progress among all students. These small observations lead to bigger decisions during a lesson. Whether students are grasping the standard or content determines the next step in instruction. It is key to know where your whole or small group is at in order to move on with a lesson. Not all lessons will go as planned and not all groups of kiddos will respond the same as the last year’s did. Teachers need to be quick thinkers, adjustable and flexible with making instruction decisions for students. This is best practice and will ensure growth among all students, no matter their skill level.

Assessments are like dominos and if the small informal observations are used to adjust instruction, then the formative and summative assessments should be straight proof of the growth in the classroom. This data should be shared with parents as often as possible and also with any other adults working with that student in the building so that all communication lines are covered. Involving students in their growth is important as well. Communicating the success and growth throughout the year and having students be involved and make goals for their own learning is a huge motivator and part of allowing students to take ownership of their own education and learning! 

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3 thoughts on “Blog #3 Using Data to Inform Teaching and Learning!

  1. Taylor,

    Thanks for sharing all of the assessing you do in your classroom! It sounds like you use a variety of assessments and data points to really get to know your students as learners. It is so important to look at multiple data points and not just look at one big benchmark test such as a MAP test. We teach at the same school and grade level, so I do all the same things as you in terms of assessments and parent communication! When I was writing my post and was on the Founts & Pinnell website, I came across an article that I found very interesting. Here is the link: http://blog.fountasandpinnell.com/post/a-level-is-a-teacher-s-tool-not-a-child-s-label. The marketing manager says the level is not meant to be shared with students and/or parents. I found this very interesting since at our school we share it with both students and their parents! I emailed our literacy coach to hear her thoughts, so I will let you know what she says!

    -Lindsey

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  2. I really agree with your statement that assessments take up a lot of time, and that if we do take away this time from learning to assess, then we need to be using this information to inform our instruction. When I wrote about this same topic, I did not address informing parents of reading levels. In the past I always informed parents about the level their child was reading at and where they should be at the end of the year. My feelings have changed regarding this topic. I do feel it is important to assess and know what level each child is reading at, but I feel that this information is to guide my instruction. I do discuss whether their child is below, at, or above grade level. I plan to look at the link that Lindsey provided and possibly share it with my district leaders as well.

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  3. Hi Taylor,
    My favorite quote from your post: “These small observations lead to bigger decisions during a lesson.” That is such an important statement of how assessment needs to be used in the classroom. You talk about the abundance of data collected on your students, and that is all important for big picture planning. But the most important assessments are in the moment of teaching, when you’re with the kids and you have to make a split second decision about whether to move on or not. I also agree that if assessments are taking up so much instruction time, the information has to be used effectively. The scores don’t mean anything if they aren’t used to help students grow!

    Thanks for your post!
    Angela

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