Showing posts with label assessment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label assessment. Show all posts
My first year teaching, I was moving 90 miles an hour all day long and my organizational skills suffered those first few weeks of back to school assessing!  I had assessment documents all over the place, I had no time to come up with a good system, and I had to look in 500 places before finding the piece of paper or spreadsheet I was looking for.

Sound familiar?

My OCD self won out after the first few weeks of school and I nailed down a system for keeping the student data organized and easy to find and use. Take a peek at my favorite tips for recording data, and using that student data to guide instruction (since that's the actual point, right???)

Tip #1: Go Digital

Digital data keeping is where it's at in my opinion.  Even when I do pencil/paper data trackers, I always transfer it to my digital student data tracker.

Why?  Because if it's on my Google drive, I can look at it at school, at home, on my phone, on my laptop, in my car, while I'm at PD... anywhere! :)

Most of the time, I keep my laptop right by me while I'm assessing kids.  For example, when I tested my kinders' rote counting, I would call them to my table, have them count with me and then just type in the number the counted to in my student data tracker.  I put their score straight into my spreadsheet and skip the paper copy.  

If I absolutely can't have my laptop with me, I put the student data in a paper sheet and add it in to the computer later.  

Tip #2: Keep the Data In One Place

Not much is more frustrating than having to flip through a bazillion spreadsheet pages to find the student data you need for your administrators during PLC meetings or for your literacy coach when she runs down to your room to get a data point from you.

For years I had roughly a bazillion different sheets for approximately a bazillion different kinds of assessments I needed to give my kids.

Sound familiar?

The year I switched to having my data all in one place was a game changer for me!  

Now all of my student data is in one Google Sheet on my Google Drive.  

So, why not just have several Google Sheets all in the same folder on my Google Drive?  I mean, I've definitely had to do that before when I had someone who needed me to fill out a specific sheet, but I MUCH prefer it all on one sheet.  

Having it all in one sheet means I just have one place to look for the student  data.  When I'm talking to someone about intervention on a kid, I have one line of data to look at instead of flipping through a bunch of spreadsheets.

Also, having it one sheet means I can easily see trends in kids.  I can easily see how lower PAST scores affect the nonsense word fluency scores for the same kid.  And that helps me make better data-driven decisions. 

Note: I do usually have a separate sheet for math and literacy.  I've actually done it both ways (altogether and separate) and both work well since we usually talk about intervention with one or the other.

Tip #3: Keep the Paper Copy

Yes, tips 1 and 2 were all about digital.  

But let's face it:  Many assessments, like the math one below, have pages that must be filled out during the assessment and aren't digital.  This is true for DIBELS, PAST, fact fluency and any student math assessments or writing prompts and rubrics.  

For these types of assessments, I fill out the paper assessment with the kids during the assessment just as I am directed, and then when I have the final score, I put that right into my laptop.  Then, I file that page into that students manilla folder that I keep on them for the entire year.  

Why keep the paper copy?  It's simple.  The paper trail.

Parents want to see the paper trail.  I use the kids assessment folders for parent teacher conferences.  There's nothing "extra" to assemble for conferences, I just pull out their folder and we go through it.  That way, in the spring, if parents forgot how far their kid has (or hasn't) come, I can just pull out both assessments and we can side-by-side compare.

In my early years, I stapled the relevant stuff for conferences together to go over with parents.  And inevitably I would understandably have questions from the parents and then I would have to go digging.

So, filing assessment pages into student folders as I go means I have the most up to date data ready to go for any parent or school person that comes to ask me about a kiddo.

The RTI Team needs to see the paper trail.  Having all of my paper copies all in one place helps me when we have last minute intervention meetings or a administrator comes in wanting to see data evidence on a kid.  It just makes sense to have it all in one spot.

I know it seems obvious, but if you're like me, sometimes it's a simple change that makes a HUGE difference.

Tip #4: Actually USE the Data

Okay, okay, another obvious one.  

But ya'll.  I've totally been guilty of racing to get #allthethings tested and recorded and then never look at it again.

Because, let's be honest, after all that assessing, I don't WANT to look at it again.  At least for a few weeks... :)
But I finally got to the place where I thought, "If I'm gonna have to collect it all, I might as well use it!"

I know you don't have much time.  I feel you.  That's why in my own classroom, I just use my digital data wall and pull groups on the spot.  For example, when I was teaching kinder last year, when I had a quiet moment during morning work, or if I finished a reading group early, or during snack time, I would look at my data wall, and call all of my kids back who couldn't count past 20, or 50, or 100, or wherever I wanted to focus.  

Those counting strugglers would come back to my table, we would spend 5 minutes practicing our rote counting and then they would return to their desk and I would highlight their data points so I knew I had met with them!  Simple as that.

Other times, I called back all the kids on a specific PAST level and we would practice the phonemic skill they needed to move on to their next level.  Again 5-10 minutes max.  I met with all of my kids as I had a spare 5-10 minutes.  Once I had met with them all for that assessment area, I would check it off and move on to another data point.  This helped me keep track of which groups to pull next.

Often times, on Fridays, instead of pulling reading groups, I would pull data groups like I just described to just reinforce or reassess those skills.

This was an EASY, ready to go way to use my student data immediately.  I literally finished assessing and then began pulling data groups during spare moments throughout the day.  It was purposeful, targeted, quick, but most of all, super effective!  Having all of the info in this student data tracker was a HUGE help for this too!

You can find the fully editable, Digital Data Wall I use in my classroom here.
I blogged awhile back about using anecdotal records in math problem solving.  And I've had a few questions about what these strategies look like--especially what differences we see in relational strategies.

So, let's chat math problem solving strategies: What they look like, what they tell us about kid thinking, and what we can do to help kids in each strategy. #longpostalert

Direct Modeling

A kiddo who is a direct modeler is one who literally models the story problem directly.  They do everything the story problem tells them to do, in the order it tells them to do it.  People outside of the CGI circle might call this "drawing a picture."  For this post, let's use this basic addition story problem:

Whitney picked 42 carrots and 29 green beans from her garden.  How many vegetables did she pick altogether?

What does it look like?  Our direct modeler will draw out all 42 carrots (that look like carrots or just look like circles or dots...doesn't matter).  Then, he will draw out all 19 green beans.  And then count them all up starting at 1 and counting by ones all the way to 71.  These are my babies that are take 30 minutes just to finish one story problem!

What does this tell us about kid thinking?  Direct modelers are telling us that they cannot think beyond the confines of the story problem.  They are not able to see groups of tens.  They are not able to compose numbers into tens and ones (at least without being prompted to do so).  They are not able to conserve a number and count on.  Sometimes, they are able to do these things, but are stuck direct modeling because they think it's easier, what they are comfortable with, or the numbers are too high for them to display those skills.  For example, a kid who counts on in a 13 + 14 problem, may not in this one because the numbers are much higher.

What can we do to help a direct modeler?  A direct modeler who is still drawing pictures just because it's easier just needs a simple push--"Show me another way you can solve this problem besides drawing a picture of every single veggie."  I always find out who my direct modelers by choice kiddos are during Math Talks.  During math talks, these kids see groups of tens, they count by tens, they count on...but they are struggling with or unwilling to make the transition to showing these strategies on paper independently.  Another routine I have in place is making my kids label their counting.  That means if they direct modeled and counted from 1 to 71, they MUST write all numbers from 1 to 71.  While that may seem works.  First, it helps with number writing.  But it also gets tiring writing 71 numbers.  When I hear complaints, I simply reply, "Find a faster way then!"

Direct modelers who are stuck in this strategy--and not by choice--need lots of experiences with counting, skip counting, finding groups of tens in larger numbers!  I do this through Math Talks (read about that here) where we can model other strategies whole group, Counting Collections (read about that here) where they can work with partners to count large numbers using groups of tens, and through small group interventions.  During our counting collection or fact fluency partner work days, I pull small groups where we do some guided math interventions...I often pull my direct modelers and work on counting on and finding groups of tens.

Another way I help direct modelers is during share time.  If I share Whitney's direct model strategy with a direct model by tens strategy after it, I can ask, "So did Whitney have groups of tens in her strategy too?  Can anyone come up and find a group of ten in Whitney's thinking?"  And then we highlight groups of tens.  After one person has found one easily, I then call on my direct modelers to force them to find tens.  This helps push them past direct modeling!

Direct Modeling By Tens

A kid who direct models by tens is able to solve with base 10 blocks (or unifix cubes if you've thrown away your base 10 blocks like I did!)  They either use the tools or draw a picture of tens and ones.

What does it look like? A direct modeler by tens will use tools to build 42 and 29 with tens and ones.  Then, she will count by tens and ones to get the answer.  The important difference between this and a relational thinker is a direct modeler by tens HAS to draw the picture or use the tools first and a relational thinker doesn't need the picture.

What does this tell us about kid thinking?  A direct modeler is telling us that she is dependent on tools and pictures.  She can count by 10s and one by ones.  She can decompose a 2-digit number into tens and ones, but needs picture/tool support--it cannot all be done in her head.

What can we do to help a direct modeler by tens? It's important not to rush kids out of this strategy.  The logical next step is relational thinking with base 10 understanding.  That's a super abstract strategy that takes time with concrete tools and pictures to help solidify.  My focus for kids in this strategy is two fold: notation and flexibility.  I work on getting these babies to flexibly move between direct modeling by 10's to counting as needed.  The more flexible their thinking, the more they will be thinking about other strategies and begin to stretch their thinking.  I work on notation because that is the bridge to relational thinking in my opinion.  I teach these kiddos arrow notation and going beyond just writing 42+29=71.  Eventually, when they are ready, the pictures will drop and they will realize that the notation is enough and will be able to follow the abstract steps in the notation.  So, just don't rush this one!


A kid using a counting strategy is able to count on from any number...not just starting at one.  They can start at the smaller or larger number and still be considered a counter, even though starting at the largest number is more efficient.

What does it look like?  A counter will start at 42 and count on 29 more.  She may also start at 29 and count 42 more.  When I model this strategy, I circle the number to show that I got that number in my head.  And yes, I make them write out all of the numbers just as they counted.

What does this tell us about kid thinking?  Counters are telling us that they can conserve numbers (hold a number in their head and count on).  If they count on efficiently, they are telling us that they can find a larger 2 digit number.  They cannot skip count on from any number.  They may or may not be able to see groups of tens.  Some kids can see groups of tens, but prefer to count anyway because they think it's faster. (And sometimes it is, like in 42+5.)

What can we do to help a counter?  Counters only need our help if they are stuck and unable to use base 10 to solve problems.  If they are not able to solve a problem using a base ten strategy, then I will sometimes pull them with my direct modelers in small groups to talk about finding groups of tens.  Counting Collections will also help build "ten-ness" in these kiddos.  One important thing to remember is that counting is a GREAT foundation for incrementing (a relational thinking strategy), so I am always careful not to push base ten on these kiddos.  If they understand base 10, can find groups of tens, they will be just fine!

Relational Thinking

Relational thinkers do not rely on pictures or tools.  They are able to solve problems mentally or with equations or notation only.  They need to be able to explain or show more than just the equation for the story problem--more on that in a bit!  There are no pictures in their thinking....All abstract, no concrete.  There are 3 different kinds of relational thinkers and each of them look a little differently, but the abstractness of these strategies can make it difficult to differentiate.  Let's take a closer look at each.

Base 10:  These sweeties were most likely direct modelers by 10's before and they just began dropping the picture.  However, we can pick them out easily because we can still see tens and ones in their notation.  How they notate their thinking will depend on what you model in your classroom, but here are several options that I've seen first graders notate with and without help.

Compensators: These kiddos rarely show up in my first grade classroom.  Maybe it's because I struggle to think in a compensating way, but every now and then I will hear this strategy come up verbally in a math talk.  These kids want to work with friendly numbers, so they will compensate to make the equation easier.  Instead of doing 42+29, they will change the equation to 41+30 to make the equation friendlier.  They must have a fantastic understanding of equality to use this strategy!

Incrementers:  These babies were most likely counters before.  I often see counters transition into incrementing once they understand base 10 and counting on by 10's and ones from any number.  Unlike base 10 kids who decompose both numbers, incrementers hold the first number and only decompose the second number.  They count on by 10s and ones (or really any increment...this is just the one I push to help with base 10 understanding) to find the answer.  This looks different than the other strategies because one of the numbers does not change or get decomposed.  And the increments are the same (all 10s and then ones, not 5 more then 3 more, then 10 more, then 2 more...)

What can we do to help relational thinkers?  There may be three different kinds of relational thinkers but I help each of them similarly...My focus for these first graders is focusing on flexibility.  Many relational thinkers already move between strategies easily, but if they don't I focus on this by asking them to show me more than one way or partnering them up with other students with different strategies--like partnering a base 10 kid with an incrementer to share and try out each other's strategies.  I also focus on sharpening their notation skills...which takes longer than first grade to perfect! *wink wink* :)

Which of these strategies do you see in your classroom and how do you help kids keep their strategies moving?
I'm a CGI math junkie through and through.  You can read more about that here.  But it can be a struggle to get data from a CGI lesson, with all kinds of questions left unanswered, like...

How do I know if my kids successfully "got it" during our story problem time?  

How do I measure growth?  

How do I prove that my kids are actually learning...even if they don't get the right answer? 

Traditional grades don't work for CGI, so how do I tell parents how their kid is doing on math story problems?  

I am data girl.  I think in numbers.  So, I spent several years working on a system for collecting data for story problems.  Here's a look at my data collection system during my CGI time.

What Are CGI Anecdotal Records?

Anecdotal records for CGI are like running records in guided reading.  They give me a snapshot of a kid's math thinking on a particular day for a particular math story problem.

The record sheet I use...
*is organized by problem type...with a different sheet for each type of problem
*records the date and number sets I used for that day
*let's me write down which strategies I expect to see from kids for that problem type
*tells me who understands the problem and who doesn't
*tells me which kids used which strategy that day
*tells me which kids shared their thinking that day

Why Anecdotal Records?

Math story problems aren't one size fits all.  There are at least 14 different problem types, all kinds of variables depending on the number sets used, and even how we word our story problems is a variable.  So, the data collection for math story problems can't be a one size fits all either.  That's why I finally settled on anecdotal records.

Anecdotal records help me easily see who understands the story problem and who doesn't.

I simply write the names of my babies who have no understanding of the problem in the box under our number sets.  Then, this gives me a heads up on who I need to pull for small group intervention to work on story problem comprehension.

Anecdotal Records also help me see what strategies kids are using.  In my data records resource, I have left these gray boxes blank because I don't anticipate the same strategies for a problem type all year long.  Hopefully, as we grow throughout the year, our strategies grow too! :) I anticipate the strategies I expect to see kids use for this story problem type and record those in the gray boxes across the top from least sophisticated to most sophisticated strategies.

Anecdotal Records help me see patterns in a kid's thinking.  Is he using the same strategy each time we do this problem type? Or is she flexible in her strategies depending on the number sets? (I use an arrow to show flexibility within the same day like in the picture below):

How Do I Organize My Data?

A record sheet for each problem type can be a lot.  And by the end of the year, I have several pages for EACH problem type.  So, keeping everything organized is a must!

I keep my record sheets in a basic pocket folder.  It's nothing fancy, but it's the best system I've found in 11 years.  I keep blank pages and "unfinished" sheets on my "unfinished side."  The finished side is data sheets that are all filled in.  Once I have more than one page for a problem type, I staple them together to stay a little more organized.
Here's an old picture with my old records sheets in my file folder with the index cards.  And excuse the privacy boxes! :)

I rotate which kids I conference with each day.
 There is no way I have time to adequately meet with every kid every day in a conference to interview them about their strategy!  If you do...kuddos to you!  But as a dear friend of mine says, "Ain't nobody got time for that!"  I wish I did.  I really do.  But the reality is I don't.  So at the beginning of the year, I do a basic story problem and I sort my kids into 3 piles: no understanding, some understanding/lower level thinking, higher level strategies.  This is very similar to what I do in writers' workshop...just with math!  Then, like in writing, I make 3 piles...each with 1/3 from each of the levels.  I want them to be mixed in levels so that I have time to meet with everyone.

Then, I write down my schedule on an index card with colored dots and staple it on one of my pockets.  The colored dots help me color code my records.  On the day I meet with my pink group, I record my data in pink.

This helps me remember who I met with last...because Lord knows I wouldn't remember it any other way! :)

I circle names of kids who share that day.  This is also just to help my feeble mind remember better!  If I'm not careful, and don't keep track, it's easy to have the same kids share each time.  By circling the names of kids I chose to share, it helps me vary kid strategies each day!

How Do I Use the Data from my Anecdotal Records?

I'm too busy to collect data I'm not gonna use...amen?!?!  I love being able to open up my folder and reflect on today's math problem, or a series of math problems from the same problem type!

I can pull intervention groups.  Kids who are constantly in my box under my number sets because they don't understand the problem type are my babies who need some extra small group attention.  And their names jump out at me after I have several days of records from a particular problem type.  I can also pull intervention groups for kids who are only direct modeling by ones.  In first grade, I want to see kids' strategies growing.  If I have kids who are "stuck" direct modeling every time, they need an extra small group push from me to help grow their math thinking!

I can decide what strategies I want my kids to move to next and how I will get them there.  In addition to looking at individual kids for intervention, I can see my class as a whole...and make some professional decisions just for my class' needs.

Are almost all of my kids not understanding the problem type?  Then, we need to work on this problem type again and I need to give more support when I launch the problem.

Are most of my kids direct modeling their thinking?  Then, I need to change my number types to make them uncomfortable and force them to try another strategy.

Are my kids direct modeling by tens and ones during story problem time, but I've seen flickers higher level, relational thinking during conferences?  Then, I need to plan some math talks to focus on notating thinking to give kids a bridge between base ten blocks and relational thinking.

And those are just a few, common examples I see in my own first grade classroom!

This system has worked well for me over the last several years and I am so so thankful for a way to record data that is meaningful for me and helps me track growth that I know my kids are making during our CGI math time! Grab the anecdotal record pages here!
It's that time of year...the back to school crazies are starting to settle down and we are almost ready to start guided reading groups!  If you are like me, you *love* the day that you can get small groups started and trust that your kids are ready to work in stations independently while you meet with a guided reading group.  It's pretty much the stuff angelic choruses are made of! :)

I've already blogged about how I get organized, set up and ready for guided reading.  So let's talk about tracking data in guided reading groups.

Data is a hot topic these days in the education world.  And I definitely understand that there is too much pressure on us where data collecting is concerned...too much of our time is spent assessing and gathering data.  I totally get it.  But good, solid data is what real teaching is all about.  You know, the kind of data that you want to collect because it's actually useful and drives your instruction?

I've always been a number nerd teacher.  I love data--data that I choose to collect because I need it to be a better teacher and help my kids grow!  One of my favorite pieces of data collection is a running record!

Here are the most common questions I get on doing running records in the classroom.

What Is a Running Record Anyway?

A running record is a way to record exactly how a child reads a text.  Running Records are used for every single formal reading assessment I can think of right now (Fountas and Pinnell, DRA, BEBOPS...)  There are formal recordings for a running record which I learned in college and I'm sure you did as well.  But, practically, I use what works for me on a daily basis.   My short hand for running records looks something like this...

How Often Do You Do A Running Record?

Everyone has different views of a running record...I know many teachers that do running records every Friday in place of guided reading groups or once a week, or once a month.  But in my classroom, I do a running record every time I read with a child in guided reading.

Why do a running record every single time?  The first reason is because I'm just a creature of habit and I more likely to forget or put it off if it's not part of my regular guided reading routine. Another reason is because the more data the better when it comes to how a child reads.  And the last reason I do a running record every time I meet with a child is because it helps me focus while I'm listening.  If I'm just watching and listening to a child read, I'm more likely to daydream or get distracted by kids off task in stations... (just keeping it real, ya'll!)  So recording while I'm listening helps me focus on that one child for that brief moment in time!

My goal is to do a running record with every child in a guided reading group every time I meet with them.  Reality is that doesn't always happen.  Interruptions come, but I would say 90% of the time I'm able to complete a running record on each kid during each group.

When Do You Fit In Running Records?

Like I said, running records are just a part of my guided reading routine.  When it's time to read independently, I stagger start my kids' reading.  That means the sweetie sitting in chair 1 starts first.  I'll say something like, "James, you may start reading," and write the title of the book on his running record card while he starts reading.

The reason I take the time to write the title on the card then instead of doing it ahead of time is it just seems to give me the right amount of time to space out my kids' reading.  Then, I have the kiddo in chair 3 start reading following the same pattern.   Then, chair 5.  Then, chair 2, then 4, then 6.

The reason I stagger start my kids' reading is to keep them from listening to their next door neighbor and copying how they read or those neighbors reading together!  Most of the time, that works pretty well!

Once I have everyone reading independently (which takes less than a minute to start everyone), I go back to the first person I started with (chair 1) and listen to that firstie read and I do a running record on the index card.  Typically, I listen to at least 2 pages of text (give or take some depending on the reading level) before moving on to another kid.

How Do You Organize Your Running Records?

I have a 3 ring binder I use for guided reading.  Each group has a corresponding colored plastic tab folder.  Inside the pocket I store each of the running record index cards for the kids in that group.

This simple, 5 minute preparation, makes sure that all of the index cards I need for a reading group are easy to reach when I meet with them.  I can also keep the next book we are reading in that pocket too.

Once the index card is full, I move it to my running records box.  I got this index card holder years ago.  I love it because it is magnetic and sticks to my teacher desk behind my small groups table.  I just hot glued some ribbon to it and added a label to make it a little more attractive!

The box has number cards 1-25 and I file full running record cards behind my kids' classroom number.  That way I have all of the running records for the year on a kid in one place--perfect for bringing to RTI meetings or showing parents at conferences!

What Do You Do With All Those Records?

The first thing I love about having all the running records in one place and doing them on each book is I have a record of every book each kid read.  So when it's time to collect guided readers back at the end of each quarter, I can easily see what books each kid has.  In the past, when I sent guided readers home, I would highlight the title of the book once it was returned to school and then highlight the date beside the book on my card when the book was I collected the book back.  That makes it easy to see where the book should be so I can track it down better!
{And yes, I do different stories in different colors...mainly just because it's easier to see the difference between the stories.  If I always do records in the same color, they just start blending together!}

The other thing I do with all those running records is study them.  Every night.

Okay, I'm just kidding! :)  Honestly, it's really an in-the-moment data analysis.  I jot down any notes on the card that I don't record (like fluency problems, pacing, etc) and I just do a quick glance at the record to look for patterns before moving to the next kid.

Did he miss mostly sight words?
Did she have problems sounding out words with blends?
Is he just making up a word that follows the beginning sound without reading through the word?

Then, I can plan my instruction for the next time we meet.  I usually do an "ugly plan" in the moment on a sticky note on that groups tab folder (so I won't forget!!)

And later, when I have some quiet time, I can go back and adjust my weekly plans for guided reading groups (find the lesson plan templates in my guided reading packet).  For example, if most of my kiddos had miscues with reading all the way through a word, we need to revisit our What Good Readers Do anchor charts (get them here) and do some skill work with reading through words.

I will always be a big fan of running records.  No matter how laborious data collection gets, some data is worth my time to collect!
In my last post, we talked about teaching kids steps to spell new words in a meaningful and engaging way.  So, what do you do when Friday comes?  Do you give that traditional spelling test that's been around since the one room school house?  Or do you forget it altogether in the name of "What's the Point"? {yes, I've seriously considered it before!}

But then, parents are looking at you like--say WhAt?!?!?!?--if you do away with them altogether. #thestruggleisreal

Let's talk ways to assess kids' spelling abilities in a less than traditional way!

First of all, when thinking about assessing kids' spelling we need to think about what the expectations are for our grade level.  Just because it's listed as a spelling word in a phonics program doesn't mean it's grade level appropriate.  The Common Core standard for first grade spelling says...

Use conventional spelling for words with common spelling patterns and for frequently occurring irregular words.
Spell untaught words phonetically, drawing on phonemic awareness and spelling conventions.
Common spelling patterns? What's common? My state has defined these as CVC, blends, digraphs, CVCe patterns and a few vowel digraphs like ai and ay.

So, why does the phonics program my district uses have spelling words with all kinds of spelling patterns in the words? Ones that can seem a little bit of a stretch for 6 and 7 year olds?  Probably because of these Common Core Standards...

Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
Know the spelling-sound correspondences for common consonant digraphs.
Decode regularly spelled one-syllable words.
Know final -e and common vowel team conventions for representing long vowel sounds.
But the important language to note in these standards is know and decode.  Students have to be able to apply the phonics patterns they learn in their decoding skills.  Not spell them blindly on a spelling test.  They need to be able to recognize those patterns and decode words.

Yes, there are still many words our first graders need to be able to "spell cold" so to speak.  But not all of them.  The standards still say to spell new words phonetically--not correctly!

So, for those words with "common spelling patterns" that students need to spell correctly, a traditional test is still appropriate...with some modifications!  I love this traditional spelling test because it gives me the option of a self-check rubric.  I love having kids double check their work on their own.  At the end of the test, I have them go over the rubric we have practiced together all week and check their work for mistakes in each category.  Then I can add my checks next to theirs so parents can see how our checks measured up.

I use these traditional tests for words with blends, digraphs, CVCe words and some vowel patterns that I feel are common enough for first graders to know.  In my spelling tests packet, I have these traditional tests for those same sounds.  There is a template that can be used for any sound and the rest are marked with what phonics week we are on {if you are using the same program I am...if not, my phonics pacing is included for free with the demo download}.

Once we get into words that are developmentally inappropriate to expect first graders to spell, we move to the non-traditional spelling test.  Because even though correct spelling may not be appropriate, they still must be able to decode regularly spelled one-syllable words.  So, the non-traditional test focuses a bit more on the application of those spelling patterns.  My kids are given 3 or 4 choices for the correct spelling, I say the word, and they circle the correct spelling.  They are having to decode, use their eyes and sometimes even use their mind to spell...all things we work on all week long.

These tests come with 2 grading options: a score box that you can use however you see fit, or a 5 star system which is meant to focus on how many words they spell right instead of what they are missing!

In my spelling test packet, there are also 7 unit tests.  At the end of each group of sounds, we review all of these similar sounds {all of the blends, not just l-blends or all of the vowel digraphs, not just ai/ay}.

These assessments are perfect for seeing which kids are remember spelling patterns long-term.  I think they work best when parents aren't given a list of these words to study again to discourage memorization.  Instead, encourage parents to study all of the previous weeks' sounds.  Or just give it as an informal, impromptu assessment in the classroom.  This is GREAT information to form intervention groups for also!

In addition to our spelling test, I give students a dictation sentence or two to write each Friday also.  This is less about spelling and more about kids' abilities to spell words in the context of a sentence or in their writing.  It's also about seeing who remembers how to use correct mechanics.

These sentences also have a mechanics rubric that my first graders fill out before turning in their test.  It forces them to double check their capitals, handwriting, spelling and punctuation.  These tests are really big eye openers for me each week on who has great control of their writing mechanics and who doesn't.

All of these assessments plus pacing guides, a year's worth of spelling words and dictation sentences are included in my Year's Worth of Spelling Tests!




Tier 1.  Tier 2.  Tier 3.

These are not terms I learned in college more than 11 {yikes!} years ago.  In fact, until this past year, I didn't fully understand what this RTI business was all about.  I sat through a 30 minute presentation several years back about the Pyramid of Intervention and thought, "Okay, so this is how kids qualify for special education now.  Check."  And went on about my teaching...

It wasn't until recently that I began to understand how Response to Intervention {RTI} and classroom differentiation really were connected.  2 years ago, my district was asked to essentially jump off the deep end into using PLCs to guide an intervention block of time.  And 2 years later and 2 school districts later I can say that now I get it.

But...BUT....that was after many trials of coming up from the deep end gasping for air, lots of panicky dog paddling and a little bit of drowning too. LOL!:)  Here are the mistakes I've made myself and mistakes I've witnessed when trying to make an intervention block work within your PLC team.  ...And, most importantly, here are the 6 "INSTEADS" that I'm doing from now on with RTI intervention!

1. No Data

If intervention is going to work, we have to come to our PLC with the data.  The question is not, "What do you think?"  The question is "What does the data say?"  When our PLC team meets to talk about Tier 2 kids, we are expected to bring our data.  My husband would loose his job on the spot if he showed up to Walmart Home Offices for a presentation with no data.  Why do we think it's okay to sit at a table and talk about kids without records to back us up?

Instead...Bring Yo Data! :)
I start off the year with tons of district assessments that are required.  I organize that in my data wall so I have no excuses for our first PLC meeting.

As I assess, I record the scores in the data wall.  It's really no extra work at all!  And when it's time for our first PLC or RTI meeting, I haul my laptop down to our meeting and have my data on hand to help me talk about kids.

Yes, our teacher intuition is important.  I've had the feeling of, "but I just know...." many times over the last 10 years of teaching.  But my PLC team and administrators take me much more seriously when I can back up that statement with some numbers!

2. Too Much Data

Then, there's the flip side of this coin....too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Instead...Assess for ONLY the data you NEED! 
Good RTI interventions can be planned around the data we already are required to have.  There is no need to make up an additional assessment just for an intervention.  Don't get me wrong...if you want to assess just because it's super fun and you have plenty of extra time on your hands, then go for it!  But, I struggle to find enough time to assess what's required, much less extras!  If it's needed, then I'm happy to make the time.  Most of the time, though, interventions that are super effective can be built around the data I already have.  Double the work is not how good teachers roll!

3. No Flexibility

Remember the days of the red bird, blue bird and black bird readers?  Once a black bird, always a black bird, right?  Well, gone are those days. willing to move kids as needed!
My kiddos look forward to switching intervention groups...even kids like a fresh start!  But flexibility is more than just redoing intervention groups every so often.  It's getting 2 days into intervention groups and realizing Sammy is a lot farther behind the rest of the group than you expected and really needs to be in that other group.  It's getting excited for Sally because she's soaring during intervention time and would really benefit from extension now.

When our PLC team sits down to plan our intervention grid, it is not set it stone.  It's a fluid document and we have just come to expect changes.  Because always staying a black bird is not what's appropriate.  And great teachers are in the business of doing what's best for kids.

4. Too Much Flexibility

And while being flexible is what's best for kids, there's a flip side to this one too.  I've lived through some way-too-flexible interventions.  Switching kids around every week or every two weeks and expecting any growth in that amount of time was just wishful thinking on my part at the beginning of my intervention experience! And if pre- and post-assessments are required for each intervention cycle then just forget about that teaching thing.

Instead...give your RTI intervention time to work before switching everyone!
We have to be willing to change kids around....but within reason!  And we have to be willing to stay the course long enough to figure out if our intervention is working!

5. Focusing on the Why Nots

Because the RTI system is set up to identify kids who are not successful in the regular classroom, our first instinct is to focus on the kids who are struggling.  And that's important.  Don't get me wrong.  One of the superintendent's I taught under and consider one of the greats used to say,

Who's not performing? Why not? And what are we going to do about it?

All valid questions.  Extremely valid.  And it helped make me the data driven, small group focused teacher I am today.  However, somewhere along the way I started feeling guilty for my strongest learners and the little attention I was giving them.  How was this fair?  Their parents trusted me to give 110% to their child too, right?

So, INSTEAD.... after a lot of reflecting over the years, I've changed my mindset to...

Who's not performing? Why not? And what am I going to do about it?
Who's achieving? Why? And how am I going to keep them growing?

By focusing on these two areas, I am able to find out what's not working as well as what is working.  We can add extension groups to our intervention block and not feel bad about it.  I can pull small groups of my highest learners more than once a month and feel less guilty about the students I'm not working with and more like I'm fulfilling my promise to every child and every parent who has trusted me with their most treasured possession!  A wise co-worker once told me that parents send us the best that they have every day to school--and while that has a world of implications, I like to think that parents of my lowest and my highest babies feel their child is the best they have.  And I want to do everything I can to treat them like the best--no matter their academic abilities.

6. These Are MY Kids

This is a big one.  My first year teaching I realized really fast that I can't do it all.  While I'd love to be everything to every child every day....that just doesn't happen.  It is physically impossible.

Instead... These are OUR kids!
So the fact that I was on a "dream team" for so many years that shared kiddos was a blessing that I didn't even realize I had at the time!  You can read about how we shared our kiddos during guided reading groups here...and intervention groups work the same way with my teammates.  Check out how we *physically* share our kiddos during intervention time using this interactive intervention grid.  It's seriously been a life changer for planning how we would share kids!

Watch this video first to see exactly how I use this document!

Intervention groups really only work when your whole PLC team is on board.  Otherwise we are just differentiating in our classroom.  Thankfully, both schools I've taught at had an "our kids" mindset.  Not just in physically sharing kids, but in owning the successes and failures.  While Jane may be in my classroom, my teammates who see her during intervention are the first to be frustrated when she hits a brick wall and are the first to celebrate with me when she succeeds!  And that's a culture that is so SO important in a school.  It's not me against you.  There is no, "my kids are smarter than your kids." And at the school level, there is not one shining grade level favored above the rest.  Because every grade level has a part in each child's story.

They're our kids.
Our family.
And...we are all in this together. (Cue the music!)
I've been blogging about data in the K-2 classroom.  If you're just know catching this mini-series, you can read the other blogs here....
Day 1: Collaborating to create data displays from scratch
Day 2: Collecting Data and making a plan to keep track of data

This will be the final installment {for now!} of my data mini-blog series!  So, let's talk about assessment!

I wanted to make sure my kiddos really understood our attributes of a data display chart from earlier in the week.  So, I gave them this cut, count and graph from my Spring Graphing Packet.  They worked on it independently, but not in a testing environment...they were sitting with their groups and were aloud to talk to each other.

While this is an "activity" in my graphing packet, I used it as a formative assessment to see how much growth we'd made with our understanding of data.  No, this activity is not as "from" scratch or authentic as our collaborative displays from day one.  But I felt it was appropriate for our independent practice to give them some the category labels and starting points.

After they finished, I collected all of the papers and we put each one on our document screen and assessed them based on our anchor chart we were using as a data display checklist.  And I was floored with how far my firsties had come from day 1 of building graphs.  I said it in that first blog, but I think it's worth repeating.  This growth and understanding would've NEVER happened if the only data experiences my kids had were coloring in pre-made graphs.  They wouldn't have had to deal with the problems of starting point, gaps, overlaps, labels....

At the end of our unit, I did a summative assessment from my year long math assessment packet.  They counted and graphed the animals in my pre-made data display.  In this assessment, I was really more focused on the data analysis part of our standards.

You can find this assessment and many, many more {at least one for each first grade math standard, plus quarterly assessments} in my math assessments packet!

And don't forget to grab my Spring Graphing Palooza Packet for all of the graphing fun I've been blogging about plus much, much more!  Or download the graphing bundle for year long experiences with data displays!

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