In mid September I attended an awesome professional development with Dr. Policastro, author of The New Balanced Literacy School. The professional development focused on formative assessment specifically during the read aloud. I am in love with Policastro’s book, appreciated the extremely engaging professional development, and could not keep all of my learning to myself.
In a nutshell, Policastro emphasized the importance of using the read aloud to collect data on comprehension, assess the use of skills and strategies, and foster the love of reading. Sounds like a lot, right? All of this is doable with the help of a clip board, individual white boards and dry erase markers for all of your students, and intentional planning of your read aloud.
Are you clip board ready?
In previous professional developments with Policastro, my colleagues and I learned to be clip board ready which essentially means teachers have a way to collect anecdotal notes on students at all times. When thinking about the balanced literacy classroom, clip board readiness means that the teacher must include ways to record anecdotal notes about all aspects of the literacy classroom from read alouds to guided instruction.
White boards and dry erase makers for all? Say what?
If your school or district has not provided you with white boards for all of your students, start your Donors Choose grant now! While reading aloud, ask students to make predictions, inferences, answer text dependent questions, and more. Teach your students how to respond to the read aloud using their white boards! Students will then hold up their responses and the teacher will quickly observe who is on track and not on track. Recording anecdotals during the read aloud can be tough, but again, it is totally doable with practice. Do you have a paraprofessional or co-teacher in the room during read alouds? This could be a perfect person to assist in the data collection.
Read alouds are the perfect opportunity to model skills and strategies of a great reader. Good read alouds require precise planning. If you plan on collecting useful data, you probably should know what data you are collecting ahead of time. No need stress out about what your read aloud lesson plan should include. Think about what standards you are teaching, map out questions you will ask, identify what strategies you will model, and make connections between your read aloud and your mini-lesson.
When reflecting on my practices, it is clear that I’ve been collecting formative assessment data on my students, but the organization and consistency of my data collection needed to be improved upon. Last school year, I created a document to collect data on my students during guided groups in the science classroom and this year I modified it for ELA.
My clipboard includes a couple copies of the above form for data collection during guided instruction. This form includes a spot to record the text my students are reading, check off for before/during/after reading activities, includes a spot for NWEA Des Cartes standards, and a spot to record my observations of fluency, strategies, comprehension, student comments, etc. Did I reinvent the wheel? No way, but I did use ideas from the hundreds of ELA blogs from primary through high school to create a tool that fit my classroom and my teaching needs. In addition, I have a laminated copy of the Busy Teacher’s Cafe upper grades anecdotal form handy to help help guide me.
Also, my clip board has a roster printed from my district’s online grade book, which is used to record independent reading data and active listening/speaking. What does independent reading look like? How do you know when students are actually reading? What behaviors do good readers engage in? My network has a rubric with a scale of 1-4 with specific look fors during independent reading. I simply circulate, observe, and then add the appropriate grade that fits each student. In addition, I selected common core listening and speaking standards to focus on each week. Using a similar 1-4 scale, I record listening and speaking data during centers, guided groups, and the read aloud.
White boards and data collection during read alouds have been the hardest to implement and I can be honest, I have yet to master this art. My kids love getting to share their responses on the white board and it really allows all students to participate, but this is not a concern. Recording observations without assistance of a paraprofessional or a co-teacher is challenging. What if 1/2 the group does not answer the question correctly? Do I write notes on each student everyday? What notes do I take? How will I support my students during tomorrows read aloud to address today’s data collection? Ahhhh!
Part of my troubleshooting must include consistent use of the white boards (I’m using them once or twice/when ever…#sorrynotsorry) and scheduling days to record specific anecdotal notes on specific students because you can’t possibly take notes on 36 students at once…yes, I have a class of 36. I know I also should probably modify the anecdotal note form my colleague created with open space to write comments to include a check list of some sort for quick notes… I haven’t gotten to this point yet, but it has to be done.
Best of luck in your data collection!