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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Literacy Teacher's Playbook - Chapter 2

Welcome back to week #2 of The Literacy Teacher's Playbook Grades K-2 hosted by A Teacher Mom. If you read my post last week you will already know that my first thought was...really? More assessment? But this book is not about more assessment, it's about using the data we already have.  So plan on digging into your students' desks or chair pockets and let's find something to assess. 

This week's chapter is called "Analyzing Data: Making Discoveries from Student Work" and we'll be talking about the first half of the chapter (up to page 62).  The first thing that hit me as I read this chapter is that the author suggests we look for potential areas of growth that are linked to the students' strengths. This is a very different idea for me. I usually look for things that my students are missing, but I don't consider if it's linked to an area of strength. By finding potential growth in an area of strength, the author suggests that we are within the student's zone of proximal development. It makes sense that we build their strengths, but it still leaves me considering when we tackle the missing gaps in their understanding. Obviously a student's strengths change over time, but sometimes I feel like the missing gap is too important to wait. I'm just going to tuck this question away for a bit while I continue reading and hopefully some answers will come.

So let's get into analyzing the data. First I think it's more helpful to look at a student's work with other teachers. I like to bring work samples to our weekly PLC meeting so I can get input and insight from others. Usually my team will all bring a sample of the same type of work so we can look at them all together. Mostly we focus on running records from our lowest readers but I can see from this book that adding other types of assessments will be more beneficial. 

" anything, with practice, the process of analysis will become like second nature and you'll be able to move through it quickly and easily." (p. 37)
Engagement Inventory
This example is from page 39 in the book.

What can you learn from an engagement inventory?
  • A student's behaviors during independent reading time
  • A student's ability to read for a sustained amount of time
  • Recognition of a student's signs of engagement or distraction 
I've never done an engagement inventory with more than a single student before, but I think this would really help at the beginning of the year when I am trying to train students for our literacy centers. Often I get so worried about how low my new little students are and getting started on guided reading that I rush too quickly through training them for centers. I regret this every year when I begin to have too many interruptions. Maybe analyzing an engagement inventory would help me really focus on teaching them techniques and strategies that will help them to be more engaged. Here are some questions to look at:
  • Do the students settle into reading right away?
  • Which students are easily distracted?
  • What are the signs of a student's engagement or disengagement?
  • Do students have strategies for reengaging when needed?
  • How long can a student continue reading?
Book Logs
I think book logs will be more helpful for older students who are able to record information about their reading. Here are some of the questions a log can help you answer:
  • Does the student's page per minute fluctuate during the day?
  • Are certain books, genres, authors, etc. more successful for a student?
  • Does a student gravitate toward particular genres?
  • Does a student read books that are at an appropriate level?
In first grade I have used a simple tally log. The only information I can really glean from this is the number of books or chapters read by a student. But I have found it helpful in encouraging students to build their reading stamina and be a little more accountable.

Reading Interest Inventory
I think this would be really helpful when working with older students. At kindergarten or first grade this would need to be done orally. My district requires a beginning of the year benchmark assessment and therefore provides a substitute for us. I think it would be really easy to ask a few reading interest questions right before the benchmark. A few hints from the author on this include:
  • Remember what you get will depend on what you ask and how you ask it
  • Open-ended questions lead to more honest answers
  • Asking about a student's interests can help you make book recommendations
Questions for you to consider are:
  • Does the student have a positive or negative attitude toward reading?
  • Can the student name a genre, author, book that is a good fit for him/her?
  • Does the student have outside of school reading support?
  • What does the student say about their reading habits and stamina?
Writing About Reading
When students are writing about reading you want to be analyzing their comprehension skills or to say it in another way, focusing on their use of the comprehension strategies.
" aren't looking simply at evidence for or absence of skills. Instead, it's important to consider how deep a student's work reaches within a particular skill." (p. 48)
One way to do this is to have all of your students respond to a prompt you give during a read aloud. Sort the responses into three piles - basic, on-target and sophisticated. Right away you will have an idea of how a student's work could go deeper within that comprehension strategy. Another way to do this is the stop and jot during a read aloud. I also use reading response journals with whole class read alouds. Sometimes I have students respond in any way they choose and at other times I give them prompts. These will be perfect assessments for me to use and best of all....I already have them!

Fluency Assessment
Now I'm all about using running records - it's an assessment I always have plenty of. But often I spend my time with miscue analysis and fluency just becomes a quick check in a box of yes or no. To use a running record as a fluency assessment you will want to put a slash(/) at each pause the reader makes and then we need to ask some specific questions:
  • How many words are in a phrase?
  • Where does the reader pause?
  • Does the student attend to punctuation?
  • Is the reader using expression?
  • Does the reader read with automaticity?
Ok...truth is I'm feeling a little worn down still from the end of the year. Assessing their writing about reading and fluency will be easy since I always have current samples from each child. Even the engagement inventory feels like it will help me find ways to better train my students for our literacy centers. I can see where at the beginning of the year and even periodically throughout the year it will help me know how to help them improve their reading stamina. But I feel a little overwhelmed when I think about book logs and really using them to help guide my instruction and I haven't even gotten to miscue analysis, analyzing conversations, writing engagement, and looking at all the writing samples.  That's all for next week's post. Ok...breath deeply. Remember there are lots of great things going on in my classroom and yours and there's still plenty of summer left. Please leave a comment telling me how you assess one of these areas - I would love to hear some of your ideas. I hope you will come back next week as we look at analyzing miscues, conversations and writing. Thanks for stopping by!

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