The Reason Why
N sits quietly, picks up his pen, starts to write, stares at his paper, and sets his pen back down. He doesn’t disturb anyone else, but at the end of writing time, even with partner and / or teacher conferring, his production is minimal.
“What else can I try? Here’s an example after he recorded his story on the iPad. Here’s an example after he acted out his story. What can I do to help him?” queries his teacher.
So N and I sit down to talk. It’s time to get ready for conferences. “Would it be okay if you practice with me before you get ready to use Seesaw?: He seems delighted and eagerly opens his notebook.
And then . . .
N sits quietly.
He says nothing.
the Queen of “wait time”,
but also mentally running through some possibilities,
my own mental checklist.
I open my iPad to be ready ,
to jot notes,
to take a picture,
and N says,
“What will you write?”
ever mindful of
“Don’t put a scaffold in place without a plan to remove it”
and the “NEED to write.”
‘Does N not picture himself as a writer?”
Does N not see himself in his stories?
I have no magic answer.
I just have a NEED to help.
Is that enough?
“N, I want to write a story for my grandson. But he’s little. He’s not yet three. Where do you think I should start?”
“Well, you make a heart map and then your idea comes from there.”
So I follow N’s directions. He KNOWS what to do. He has listened. He has paid attention to the steps. He can say them all.
When I say, “But I am stuck, N. I don’t know where to start, ” he stares at me in disbelief. I have the Heart Map in front of me. I picked an idea. I told him him three things about the idea.
“Is it a tricky part?’
“Ah, yes, using some of his reading talk even in writing.”
But, N still hasn’t written and it’s been 20 minutes.
Of course, I’m not in panic mode.
My goal was to listen and follow N’s lead.
You see N is a fifth grader. He moved into this classroom and district in November. He’s such a pleasure to have in class. He’s a sweet student who is ever, so helpful and will drop his work to “help” anyone else. You have to look closely to see that N is so busy looking busy that he doesn’t write or read much. He’s often so quiet that he looks like the most industrious writer in the class.
“N, can I show you a trick that I sometimes use when I hit a tricky part in my writing?’
Of course, he says, “Yes, ” and I gulp, this is it.
“Here’s one trick I use. My grandson doesn’t live near me and sometimes I’ve forgotten part of the story. So today I wanted to tell about the first time he went down a slide. I can’t find the picture from that day. I can’t act out what he did as a two year old because I’m not a two year old. So I google “boy on a slide’ and look for a picture that kinda matches the slide. Like this . . . The slide looked kind of like this. I use the picture to help me start thinking about that day.”
“But what if you don’t remember? What if you didn’t pay attention to what happened?”
“Good question. So is it an issue with ‘it must be real and accurate’?”
“So N, here’s a second trick I use. I look back at something I have written and I take one small idea and write more about that idea. I just write everything I can think of. I can fix the details later. I can change the order later. I put words and sentences on the paper so that I can read it to my friend and she can tell me what she thinks. Here’s a section I have called ‘characters’ where I just wrote about this person I saw in a diner and I wanted to remember her in case she fit into a story. You’ve never met this person, but what could you tell me about what might happen next?
And N was off . . . adding to my story. He calls it our shared chapter book. We’ve each written two pages. Today I will have to email “my part” with a quick video clip because I can’t be there and N is writing. Instead of two or three sentences, yesterday he wrote a full page.
Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this daily forum each March. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.
Where do stories come from?
If a student is stuck but they know they can:
- practice telling it and touching the pages (while recording),
- act it out (while recording),
- make a movie in their head and slow it down and tell it bit by bit –
but the child still is not “writing” . . . what are some solutions?
The idea for beginning a story and then seeing if the student could continue the story as I’ve been doing this week in my slices was one option that I wondered about. I’m not real fond of story starters and things like RAFT so I really wondered about the “what if I use as an example, one of my pages where I’ve just begun to play . . . the girl in the diner . . . . ” and that my friends is the
REST of the story!
And yes, there will be more of N and my work to come! Just not today!
Interactive writing partners. A form of shared pen to increase writing volume.
Is this sustainable in the classroom? Could this have been a small group lesson? Is there another student in the classroom that would also benefit from this work? Is there an “expert” in the class that could share how to get “unstuck” when writing?
Always more questions!
I’m a literacy consultant who works with seven districts.
How do I know if I’m being effective?
Doing a good job?
Doing what really works?
I have to start with the original . . . Clint Eastwood . . . same birth year as my dad who always kept me grounded!
A Short Story
I’ve been traveling a lot over the last two weeks. Over three thousand miles in a trip to Kentucky for an adorable grandson’s second birthday, then on to Florida with Mom and an aunt and uncle who is one of my mom’s younger brothers for a nephew’s high school graduation, and then back to Kentucky for some more time with the kids.
Was the trip successful?
Four possible data points might be these:
- The number of miles driven successfully. That is important because it was my first out of state road trip with my new car and then many miles driving a Ford 150 which is about three times the size of my car.
What might constitute a success? No flashing red or blue lights and no major problems. The number of palindromes I noticed on my odometer and particularly the one as I traversed the Missouri River bridge in St. Louis.
What data would not point to a success? Uncle Leo might say it was the number of times I drove over a curb.
- The number of times my GPS and Aunt Shirley’s google maps agreed. Less successful might be our decisions about which to follow when there was a disagreement.
Success? Google maps was definitely more up to date than GPS.
Not a Success? The “shortest” trip was NOT always the ideal route to take.
- The number of card games played.
Success? The variety from hand and foot to pepper.
Not a Success? The number of 9’s and 10’s I had in EVERY pepper hand!
- The variety of experiences and places we went.
Success? Wading in the Atlantic, time with so many precious relatives, driving to the top of Lookout Mountain in Georgia, the flea market, a little homemade wine, the food, the movies, and stories after stories.
Not a Success? Not driving back down Lookout Mountain (remember, not my vehicle!).
Do you notice a possible pattern?
Each data point seems to have more than one side!
If you had to sort these data points, could you find some summative as well as formative measures?
So back to the beginning . . .
I’m a literacy consultant who works with seven districts. How do I know if I’m being effective? Doing a good job? Doing what really works?
We collect a lot of data. We spend a lot of time with data. We spend a lot of time talking about data. But do we EVER really address these questions? Or does each question have multiple data points similar to those listed above. This post is the result of many miles of driving and a push from Elizabeth Moore at Two Writing Teachers when she wrote this post last week, “Literacy Coaches: How do you assess your impact?” Beth talks about using goals, student-centered data, survey data and quantitative data in her post.
I have a ton of quantitative data to share. At our agency we have had team Wildly Important Goals (WIGS) for two years focusing on our K-3 readers and using screener data to determine the effectiveness of our goals. I like to use them also as a beginning point when I reflect on my own effectiveness although they are only a small portion of my K-12 job.
Here’s my data for four different types of my work in buildings by each month.
- PDC = Professional Development in Core Literacy Instruction K-3
- OCC = Observation/Coaching in Core Literacy Instruction Implementation K-3
- PDI = Professional Development in Research-Based Interventions K-3
- OCI = Observation/Coaching in Research-Based Intervention Implementation K-3
The green boxes show that I met my goals which are also outlined below:
- I met all four of my goals in December and in February.
- I met my monthly goals 21 times.
- I met my Observation/Coaching Intervention goal in December (after 5 months).
- I met my PD Core and Observation/Coaching goals in January (after 6 months).
- I met my total goal in January (after 6 months).
And to make me feel better . . .
- My annual total for PDI was 94% so it was close.
- Average percentage of goals met is 96.8%.
- Total number of interactions was well above the annual goal just in a different distribution. (146% above the goal)
I missed my monthly goal 19 times. (19/40)
I met either one or zero monthly goals in August, March, April, and May. (4 months/10)
There were zeros in four categories across the 10 months. (4/40)
i did not meet my PDI annual goal. (141/150)
Ugly: The hard reality of the data
August was not required for data collection but because it was almost a full month of work I decided to include the data.
I can offer excuses for the spring – horrific sudden death of my nephew and his wife in March and then my brother at the end of April, but the fact is that I only missed one PD session during either of those times – so excuses don’t change the data.
And if you would like to see the data in a larger format – Data Here
PART TWO – How did students do on the screener administered in the fall, winter, and spring?
Data is reported in terms of green boxes for buildings by grade levels if 80% of the students or more met the benchmarks set by the state. (Red if below 60% or fewer of the students met the benchmark criteria.) Districts can choose from several approved screeners but the state of Iowa only pays for one.
- The total number of grades meeting benchmark by 80% or more by building increased from 7 in fall to 8 in winter with changing criteria.
- The number of grades meeting benchmark criteria by 80% or more (green) building increased for kindergarten from 2 in fall to 4 in winter.
- The number of first and third grades remained the same from fall to winter (3- first, 1-third).
- The number of grades below 60% benchmark criteria decreased from 8 in fall to 3 in winter.
- The number of grades below 60% benchmark criteria decreased from 8 in fall to 4 in the spring.
Grades 1 and 3 did not have any buildings meeting 80% benchmark criteria in the spring and kindergarten and second had 2 and 1 respectively.
The spring green (80% benchmark criteria) was the lowest of the three reporting periods.
The 8 grade levels by building meeting 80% benchmark criteria in the winter dropped to 3 for the spring.
The 3 grade levels by building below 60% benchmark criteria at winter increased to 4 in the spring.
What questions arise?
How does this data compare to state-wide Iowa totals?
Which specific buildings have multiple levels of green? or red?
What is working? What is not working?
Is more practice needed across the day (distributed practice)?
Are discrete skills transferring to reading passages?
What about fidelity of implementation? What does that data reveal?
Did we over rely on our winter successes that did NOT appear to transfer to spring benchmarks?
Brave = sharing this data publicly.
It’s not all roses and sunshine. What works in one building doesn’t necessarily transfer to what works in another building.
Is all data equal?
- How many students made growth?
- How many students made significant growth?
- How many teachers changed instruction based on the data?
- How many teachers changed interventions based on the data?
- What if the summative data (Iowa Assessments) shows a different picture of these same students?
- How many students have reading goals for the summer?
- How many students love reading?
- How many students read at school by choice?
- How many students read at home by choice?
- How many students can name their favorite books?
- How many students can name their favorite authors?
- How many students can name their favorite illustrators?
- And how do the students REALLY feel about school?
What data is missing from this snapshot?
Another short story
I am in total grandmother heaven. He meets me at the door, takes my hand, leads me into the living room, and tells me what to do/play/where to sit. “Gramma play.” “Gramma here.” “Gramma ice cream.” Gramma choo choo.” “Gramma dinosaur train.” I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I heard, “Where Gramma go?” during the last two weeks. I count that as a success. To disappear into another room and to be missed makes my heart melt!
Those are all data points that convince me that I’m doing a GREAT job as a grandma. Are they numbers? Are there specific criteria or cut points?
What data points match your school values and core instructional principles? When do you need to make sure that you are triangulating data and not over relying on any one source?
If I had only shown you fall and spring student screener data, you would not have seen the growth that doesn’t seem to have been sustained. That’s why my #OLW “BRAVE” is a part of this post. This is our third year with this process. Because the cut points for benchmarks change annually, we can’t compare each grade level year after year but we can look at trend data to see whether grade levels of students continue to grow as the move up through the grades.
How are you reflecting on successes? The good? The bad? The ugly?
AND who are you reflecting with?