Two blog posts in under 12 hours?! I know, I know. However, if we’re being totally honest this less represents my extreme commitment to Teacher Week and the fact that in preparation for PD next week I refused to allow myself to get back into bed after the hubs left for work. I even made the bed so I wouldn’t get into it! But no one will be at school to let me in until 8:00am. Which means that I have about an hour and a half to fill. So you’re getting a bonus blog post! Once again, I’m linking up with Blog Hoppin’s Teacher Week for their last day–teacher tips and tricks.
Now, if we’re being totally honest, I don’t really consider myself a really tricky teacher, but I suppose I have learned a few things over the years. I’m coming at you today with a really cool trick I learned last year from another teacher–data folders. Previously, I blogged about my school’s partnership with the Flamboyan Foundation in DC. (You can check it out here if you missed it.) Flamboyan has really been working with us on how to engage parents AND how to meaningfully share data with them.
Last year, I went to a workshop after school hosted by Flamboyan about sharing data with parents and left with a ton of really great ideas. The one that I liked the best and put into practice in my classroom almost immediately is data folders. Here’s the basic rundown: You decide one day each week that these data folders will go home. (I would not recommend Fridays because you really want them back the next day.) I always do mine on the one day that we don’t have a special because that gives us a little more time in class to get the folders ready. So basically, you’re selecting 2 goals that you’re monitoring on a weekly basis and you’re sending the data home to families each week, giving them information on how their students are progressing. This is a little different from just sending home weekly assessment scores because you’re really trying to track growth over time with these folders, so you’re trying to assess the same skill (or group of skills) every week. For example, last year I tracked my students’ fact fluency scores because we took a fluency test each Friday and I also tracked their Fundations check-ups. (I would give them a quick check-up, even if it wasn’t in the plan for that week.) Then, I can either grade them during a planning period or over the weekend and sort all the tests by kid so that they’re reading to the put in the folder.
There are 3 other really important pieces to the data folder that really bring this picture home to parents. The first is the graphs. You make a graph for math data, and ELA data. You add in the benchmark line (where you want the kids to be; this is almost always 80% in my class) and then you have kids color in the graph to show their score. This makes it really easy for parents to see where their students are, in relation to where we want them to be. The second piece is the signature tracker. Here, you’re going to make a sheet with 3 columns. One will be the date for each week when you send the folders home, the next will be a box for a parent to sign that they went through the folder, and last (and super important) is a comment box. Parents MUST make a comment on the data. They can really write anything in here that shows that they went through the folder. I usually put a few suggestions at the top, like “So proud!” or “Way to go!” or “We need to practice short vowel sounds”. You just want to see by reading the comment that they went through the folder and looked at the data. And the last piece (and the reason that I always do this on my no-special day) is that you have each kid fill out a form letter to their parents about their data for the week. It’s nothing fancy, just a little “Dear Mom/Dad/Grandma, I am feeling ____________________ about my tests this week. Next week I want to ___________ (do better, do as well, study more, etc.) so that I can ________________ (get a treat, be smarter, know more math facts, etc.). Love, ___________”. This whole process definitely takes some time to get rolling, but after the first few weeks this goes much more smoothly.
Here’s why I love the data folder: you’re sending home consistent information every week, so parents can’t act surprised/won’t be surprised when report cards come home. I also love it because you can send extra information, like a note about increasing reading levels, but at the baseline they’re getting weekly updates about the progressing their child is making in school in a really clear and easy to read format.
Now, I’ve heard that there’s a giant sale on everyone’s favorite website this weekend, so I’m going to try really hard to have all the forms for this data folder up in time for this sale. I wouldn’t look for them before lunch time tomorrow, but that’s the goal. Have a great Friday!