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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Literacy Teacher's Playbook - Chapter 2, Part 2

Welcome back to week 3 of talking about The Literacy Teacher's Playbook by Jennifer Serravallo. This book study is being hosted by A Teacher Mom.

This post is part 2 of chapter 2, "Analyzing Data: Making Discoveries from Student Work." I'm going to be talking about using running records for miscue analysis, using conversations, and analyzing writing samples. Part 1 of this chapter talked about other assessments such as engagement inventories, book logs, reading interest inventories, writing about reading and fluency assessments. Click here to read my post about the first half of chapter 2.

Running Records
As I've mentioned in previous posts, this is an assessment that I use all the time. Normally I look for miscues as an insight into what students need to learn to move ahead, but Jennifer Seravallo says we want to find our teaching points by what students already know. By teaching them skills that are connected to what they already know we are sure to be in their zone of proximal development. So I need to reconsider how I use the data I have. The author suggests that running records are essential for readers at levels A through J, however beyond that running records may be useful but shouldn't be our only tool. (Whew...justification for the low number of running records I have at the end of the year with my highest first grade readers. No more guilt for me!)

The most helpful running record to analyze is one at an instructional level - we need miscues to analyze. So what should your look for?
  • Look at all 3 cueing systems - meaning, structure and visual. Ask yourself which of the cueing systems did your student use?
    • Did the error make sense?
    • Did the error sound right?
    • Did the error look right?
  • Which cueing systems does the reader rely on most often and which do they use inconsistently?
The system the reader uses inconsistently might provide the teaching point for improvement. Take something the student can do, even if they only do it inconsistently, and support that skill rather than teach to something they can't or don't use at all. This will definitely be a new way of looking at data for me. I am just so engrained with looking for gaps and trying to fill them regardless of the strengths of the reader. 

UGH...unless I notice something glaring right at me in a conversation with a student, I never analyze conversations. The author suggests that we think about two things while analyzing conversations: a student's ability to articulate his/her thinking about the text and the child's speaking and listening skills. Ok, I have to take that back. I do analyze conversations to assess comprehension in whole class, small group and one-on-one settings. But I never have more than a post-it note record of it that eventually loses its stickiness and gets lost. So when the author suggests listening to a recording or reading a transcript of a conversation I think who has time? I know recording or transcribing a conversation will be too much for me. So I need to think about how I can make more use of the data all around me in conversations to inform instruction. Maybe some notes during guided reading discussions or whole class discussions about books. I could possibly tape my post-its into my binder of running records. I need to keep thinking about this, but I love the way the author analyzes a conversations and pulls out possibilities for growth. This is something that would be really beneficial to my students.
This picture shows how the author categorizes the strengths she notices from a conversation and then the possibilities for  more growth within those strengths. I love how she does this.

Narrative Writing
Now this is something I have lots of samples of - I love writing workshop. Here are some questions the author gives for us to ask about a student's writing:
  • Is the student able to focus on a moment that is most important?
  • Does the student maintain the focus?
  • How well are details used to support the focus?
  • Is there a sequence of events that make it easy to follow and understand?
  • How strong is the story's beginning? Does it have good closure?
  • Does the writer use the following: setting, character description or development, action, narration, internal thinking?
  • Does the writer use temporal words to signal the passage of time?
  • What does the student understand about spelling? sentence structure? punctuation?
And let's not forget about writing engagement...
  • How would you describe the student's volume of writing?
  • Does the student have a process?
I can see where analyzing my student's writing more often would be helpful in preparing whole class mini-lessons or small group lessons to really help students progress. Right now I use whole class mini-lessons and one-on-one conferencing to address teaching points. When I conference with an author, I really tend to focus on what they are lacking. Does this seem like a common theme about my teaching? This would be the first time I have ever considered that I might have a reoccurring problem across the spectrum of reading and writing. Time for some more self introspection here! 

Informational Writing
In the last few years, I have made informational writing more and more a part of my writing workshop. One of my favorite projects is a spider question and answer book. I incorporate it with a unit that teaches non-fiction text features, a genre study of informational texts and research. (You can find my spider unit on TpT.) Here are some questions that you can use to help in analyzing your students' informational writing:
  • Is focus established early in the piece?
  • Does the conclusion match the initial focus?
  • Is the piece organized?
  • Is there structure within each part?
  • What types of information is included? (You will be looking for both facts and details.)
  • How concrete are the details? (Look for specific, rather than vague details.)
  • How precise is the vocabulary? (Look for content specific vocabulary.)
Opinion Writing
For most of my teaching career I have used opinion writing in conjunction with literature or topics of interest depending on grade level. Adding it to my writing workshop was something new for me last year. I used Lucy Calkin's Units of Study for first grade where the students write reviews. As I started planning the unit out, I wasn't sure if I would like it. But I have to say it was so fun. You can check out my previous post about this. Here is a sample review written by a first grade student about me:

Let's look at the questions for examining opinion writing.
  • Is the writer's opinion clear?
  • Does the writer maintain support for his opinion throughout the piece?
  • Does the piece have a logical organization?
  • Does the author provide reasons that match the opinion?
  • Does the author elaborate with examples?
When at looking at this example from my class, I think my little student has done a great job of stating his opinion and providing reasons. Expectations of providing examples, especially more detailed examples, would increase in later grades. I think this student is lacking mostly in his use of the conventions of writing. Maybe some clarification in regards to his closing statement would be appropriate but truth be told I was trying so hard to not laugh that we didn't even talk about it.

I hope you aren't feeling overwhelmed. For some reason assessment usually feels overwhelming to me. I don't know why because I firmly believe in being able to show academic improvement and data. But this book is about so much more. The author is not asking us to show improvement or learning. She is asking us to take our student's work and use it to inform our teaching. That is much more important than just assessing. Should we do all of these assessments with all of our students? Maybe once a year, but definitely not more than that. These assessments should be used for those students that are the most puzzling. Students who you can't figure out how to best help them whether they are high achieving or low achieving. And remember you don't need to do them all at once. They should be in your little bag of tricks for when they are needed all through the year. One last thought from the author is that we need to remember that the more we use these various assessments and questions, the easier they will be for us. As teachers, we will learn to quickly find what we need and obvious answers will jump out at us.

Next week we will dip into the next chapter which is all about synthesizing the data and setting goals. Thanks for stopping by.

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1 comment:

  1. Brandi, you make some really good points here. I love your work sample. I even showed it to my husband. Only in the primary grades! :)

    Sharon Dudley, NBCT
    Teaching with Sight