Saturday, July 25, 2015

"In God we trust. All others... bring data."

It's about this time of year that I wake up in the middle of the night either in cold sweats or hyperventilating.  Come on everyone.  You know what I'm talking about.  It's the back to school nightmares.  

Every teacher gets anxious for that first day.  You think to yourself, I wonder what they will be like.  Are they as nervous as I am?  Will they like me?  Oh, do I remember how to start those beginning of the year procedures?  How am I going to remember all their names?  How am I going to get to know them? 

This last question covers so many different things.  How will I get to know them as little people?  What do they like?  What don't they like?  What do they worry about?  What are their strengths?  What areas do they need help? 

As teachers, we are naturally observers.  We watch, we take mental notes, we write things down, we assess, we reflect.  So, we start the year.  We do our "getting to know you activities," and we start to observe our students.  Now comes one of the biggest questions each of us eventually asks: "How am I going to keep track of all the things I am noticing about each of my kids?"

In the day-and-age of Response to Intervention, there is a saying I have heard many times, but I don't know who said it first.  "In God we trust.  All others... bring data."  Common Core brings a necessity to understand our students at a deeper level.  We must observe (watch), reflect (think about how you taught the lesson and how the students responded to your teaching), and prescribe (decide what you are going to do next).

How do we keep track of all we observe?  As an interventionist, I found it easy to keep notes.  I only had 3-6 students at a time, and I scheduled a 5-minute break in between each group so I could record all of what I observed, reflect on what I taught, and make plans for the next day.  Then, 15 years later, I went back into the classroom.

I spent most of first quarter just trying to figure out what I was doing.  I had never worked with second graders before, nor had I any knowledge of the second grade curriculum.  Before I  knew it, here came the end of first quarter.  I went to complete my standards-based report cards and realized, I hadn't recorded, analyzed, reflected, or prescribed.  I had to guess.  It was then I realized I had to find some system of keeping notes.

I spent the rest of the year trying and trying and trying to record notes.  But the problem is, when?  How?  On what? There are so many times I need to take notes.  I need to take notes during minilessons (we call that carpet time), during guided reading, conferences, assessments, interventions, etc.  Good God!  How do you take notes during all those times?  It's not like being an interventionist where you get a 5-minute break so you can reflect.  That time in a classroom is full of transitioning, meeting individually with students, and grabbing materials for the next lesson.

It was then that I realized that just one method doesn't work.  I needed to be able to take notes in different ways based on the situation I was in.  So I came up with numerous methods.
The first method I decided to use was to take notes on note cards.  I tape each of these individually onto my clipboard/notepad.  Start at the bottom.  I don't tape all the way to the bottom because I want to give a place for my hand to rest.  I tape one down and then lay another note card on top.  I leave a full line of space so I can write the student's name and/or number on the bottom of the note card.  That way I always know who I am writing about. 

I have seen this used with file folders, but I like something sturdy to write on.  I found this cutie clipboard at target.  
It opens up and had a notepad on the inside.  I simply removed the notepad and used the space like a file folder.  

I suggest using each card for one subject.  If you like this method, have a different file folder/clipboard for each subject.  

Once the card is full, you simply peel off the tape and place a new card down.  But what do you do with the cards?  I created this form to keep the note cards on.  
This form allows you to notate the student and what subject it is for.  All you have to do is tape the note card onto the square.  (The note cards I use are 4X6)

I chose to hole punch the form and put it into a binder.  It makes for easier transportation to and from school for refection, analysis, and prescription.  I have a tab divider for each student.  I know some teachers keep a file folder for each student.  These forms could be put in the folder.

Another method of keeping track of observational data is to use a form like these:

Either of these forms could be used to record data.  Then after you have reflected and analyzed the notes, you can prescribe by setting a goal for the next time you teach or confer.

Again, I choose to keep these forms in a binder that has a tab divider for each student.  Then, I add this to the binder as I fill up the sheets.

Lastly, I use address labels such as these.
This way, I can write about multiple students on the same label sheet.  (I just have to remember to write his/her name on the label.)  I keep label sheets on clipboards and have them hanging througout the room.  At the end of the day or when I have time, I just collect the clipboards, peel the labels, and place the them on this form:
Again, when the sheet is filled up, I just put them in my student data binder (or you can put them into a file folder) and they are ready to go!

I already feel better knowing I have these record sheets ready to go.  All I have to do is get my binder tabs in my binder and print out my sheets and I am ready to go!  Okay.  So I know I won't have a nightmare tonight about this one, but I'm sure it will be something school related :)

If you like this or if you see revisions that need to be made, please leave a comment.  I don't currently have a TPT store, but I am considering starting.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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