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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Literacy Teacher's Playbook - Chapter 3

Welcome to week #4 of our study of The Literacy Teacher's Playbook Grades K-2 hosted by A Teacher Mom. This week everyone will be talking about chapter 3, "Interpreting Data and Establishing a Goal."

My feelings have been like a yo-yo as I've been reading this book.  From "Oh, no! I need more assessment pieces!" to "I have this, it's just using what I have" and from "My instruction isn't assessment driven enough" to "Ok...there's room for improvement but you already instruct students based on needs." Well, once again, Jennifer Serravallo has me in the palm of her hand because this chapter starts off with some reassuring words:
"...the most time-consuming part of this process is behind you: analyzing each of data separately...." (p. 94)
Thank goodness, because time is always a teacher's enemy! Now we just have to take what we know and use it to establish goals. We may see something that contradicts our previous thinking about a student, but the author suggests that as we follow her four-step protocol, we will illuminate our own habitual missteps. 
  • Collect data
  • Analyze data
  • Interpret data and establish a goal
  • Create an action plan
Why set goals? We are teachers, hasn't the goal always been to help students become better readers?

"When goals come from an accurate assessment of what's really going on with a  reader, when they are decided upon in conversation with the student and supported over time, readers will accomplish more and succeed more." (p. 96)

At this point in the process, I might have a full array of assessments from one student that I find particularly puzzling or I may have just a few assessments from multiple students. In either case I need to come up with a few possible goals. The author suggests that by looking for only one goal we are more likely to choose something we are already preconditioned to look for, something we are comfortable with, or even something that's not as important. Push yourself to come up with 4 or 5 goals and then think about which one will make the biggest difference. You may even be able to combine two goals into one. But pick the goal that will make the largest difference. Look for a goal that will have a larger impact in more than one area. This is just smart teaching. 

Now it's time to get the student on board. You choose the goal, but it's still important to get the student onboard. "...the more a person takes ownership of her own goal, the more likely it is that the goal will be accomplished. The more we can lead students towards the articulation of their own goals, the more investment  they will have in working to accomplish that goal." (p. 103) Lead the student to the goal? It reminds me of the saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." I have all of the data, I know the goal that I believe will most help the student, but how do I get the student on board? In my experience most students will choose a goal that's something like this: "I want to read chapter books" or "I want to read hard books." The author suggests a few things that may help:
  1. Show only work that will help the student notice what you notice. 
  2. Be mindful of the language you use. "Let's look for some ideas for other things you can do."
  3. Remember that if the student knew what he needed to be doing, he would be doing it. You will need to guide the conversation.
  4. Write the goal down to make it official. The author gives an example of a great visual artifact that will support a student:

This reminds me a lot of The CAFE Book and how The Sisters advocate conferencing with every student and developing a goal for each student. I love the focus on what an individual student needs, but I worry about the impact of high class sizes on our ability to do this in the best possible way for all students. I feel my yo-yo string tugging on me right can I do this? As Jennifer Serravallo puts it, "Synthesis is so challenging. Putting together many parts, seeing the overlap and the inconsistencies, and arriving at an interpretation: It is serious brain work....there isn't always one 'right' answer." (p. 113) It might not be easy, but it should be worth it.  Thanks for stopping by.

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