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Daily Lit Bit

August 15. 2017

Practice Continuous Monitoring Using Data Walls

A data wall, or a data board, is a visual tool used to keep up with the progress of all students in a class and, ultimately, in a school. It keeps student progress on display at all times. We emphasize that data walls are a teacher’s tool. It is not good practice to label students or label groups using text levels.

For teachers, however, it is important to know the instructional levels students can currently process (and that includes the behaviors and understandings outlined by the level of text) and to have a vision for what teaching is needed. The data wall becomes a living document that reveals the diversity among your students. It helps to blur grade-level lines and to remind you and your colleagues that you need to teach students where they are but give them impetus to go further.

For getting started with a data wall, these suggestions may be useful:

  • Convene teachers in a grade-level group (or some combined grade levels if needed.)
  • Have a large graph on the wall with text levels across the top and blank space to place sticky notes. Create a bracket or shading to indicate your district’s grade-level expectations.
  • Each teacher brings results of the first administration of text-based assessment, e.g., BAS, to the meeting.
  • They record the student’s first name and reading level on a sticky note with a uniform color for each grade level.
  • Add colored dots if needed for any additional information.
  • Place sticky notes under the appropriate column (text level) on the gradient.
  • Create a key so that everyone recognizes the classroom or grade level and special designations.
  • Have a discussion of what you notice as you look at the data wall and set some goals.
  • Return to the data wall at regular intervals (often quarterly) for a continuing discussion. As time goes on a student’s progress up the ladder of text, teachers can move the sticky notes and place them at a higher level.

As previously stated, the data wall should reside in the teacher's workroom. It is not a tool for students or families to see. It helps to create a culture of collaboration in which teachers can support each other in solving problems and have shared ownership of student outcomes. This culture forms the fabric to support a high-quality instructional program for literacy.

August 8. 2017

How to Test Students' Knowledge of Vocabulary

While the best measure of students’ ability is to observe them while reading continuous text, you can also learn much about their word-solving strategies by having them read individual words. Certainly students should be able to recognize frequently encountered words automatically and unconsciously. You can create your own informal assessments to detect whether students can recognize and/or pronounce words in isolation.

You can also create inventories that will provide information about their knowledge of vocabulary. To begin:
  1. Create a list of words. Use a graded list, take words from a basal series, or pull words from content areas.
  2. Ask the student to read each word, use it in a sentence, explain the meaning, or provide a synonym or antonym. For a written test, you can have them match words with meanings, synonyms, or antonyms or provide multiple-choice answers.
  3. Look at the results. What do students know about words? What kinds of connections do they make? What can you learn from partially correct responses? The answers will help you plan your word study program and inform your work with students in guided and independent reading.
Keep in mind that there are many ways of knowing words, and any test of words in isolation can only provide limited information.

From Guiding Readers & Writers by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2001 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.