Monday, September 22, 2014

Student Data Binders

One of the greatest things that I have ever implemented in my classroom was the creation of  "data binders." I learned about these when I taught in Ohio and worked with some teachers who had implemented data binders in their prior district. They taught me about the purpose of data binders, how they benefit the students, the types of data that are beneficial to collect, and how to set them up correctly. 

Purpose: To drive student performance, to teach students about effective goal setting, to encourage a growth-mindset, and to make students responsible for their own learning and reflective about their work.   Research has documented that setting goals and reflecting on them can improve student learning over time. 

Our data binders demonstrate...

-improvement or growth
-mistakes that we made and have learned from
-our interests
-things that matter to us
-what our parents would like to see
-versatility as a student
-a sampling from all subject areas
-favorite books and pieces of writing
-things that we are working on that challenge us
-things that make us proud
-our goals
-our reflections

Teaching students how to set SMART goals is one of the most important pieces of creating a data binder. One reason is that setting SMART goals prepares them for the real world and provides them with 21st century skills. Another reason for teaching SMART goals is that it gives the students a measurable goal that they can assess over time. We discuss the difference between, "I will get better at multiplication this week." and "I will try to score a 95% on my multiplication fact test by Friday." Which one is easier to measure and to tell if it was achieved? 

I prefer to use a view binder for the data binder. Then they can tuck their cover sheet in the plastic view cover.  There are also pockets to hold different papers and extra papers that we may need. We divide our binder into 5 sections: SELF, ELA(Reading/Writing), MATH, CONTENT, and GENIUS HOUR/PROJECTS. Within the SELF section we keep our weekly goal setting statements, interest inventories, learning style inventories, personal mission statements, and other types of papers that pertain to the individual child. 

We also complete academic inventories about reading, writing, and math. We use this data to determine what kind of student we are and we watch for growth over the school year. We reflect on what we see and what we know about ourselves. The Weekly Goal Setting Form is something new that we have started using this year and it is great for getting students to keep track of their goals, reflect on if they are meeting them, and what is helping them or blocking them from meeting their goals on a weekly basis. 

The students love to track their progress for their fact fluency. We practice our multiplication and division facts once a week and graph our progress in colored pencil. This chart really motivates them to go home and study so that their graph goes up each week. I send the data binders home every Friday for the students to review with their parents and share their learning. They are also great to use at student-led conferences. 

Overall, data binders are a great tool for learning and reflective practice. It helps teach organization, goal setting, and reflection.  I highly recommend implementing them in the classroom! Start small and then let them grow as you see the benefits of using them. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A New School Year!

So this Tuesday, I started another new school year! 28 fresh faces entered my classroom...or should I say...entered our classroom, because the classroom doesn't just belong to ME! So one fairly fresh teacher(THANK YOU SUMMER!)  is ready to take on a new year with new ideas! I have done a lot of reflecting over the last few months and have come up with some ideas that I really want to focus on this year. Some of the ideas are things that I loved from last year, some of the ideas are new ones that I have learned about in the past few months, and some are ideas that I have come up with on my own. 
Here are some of the things that I am looking forward to implementing this school year...

1. The new awesome website

I am loving this site and I have JUST begun to tap into it. I heard about it just a couple of weeks ago and it looked like a great fit for my students. You set your class up on this site by uploading their names and their parent's email addresses. They will then receive a username and password to enter the site. The teacher and the students can set up a bookshelf with recommended books, favorites, required books, and wish list books. The site can also direct you to AMAZON to purchase any of the books. (there are parent controls for this as well.) The teacher can set up reading challenges and students can earn badges for completing certain tasks.  We are just getting started on this site, but it seems very promising and well thought out for teachers and students. 

2. Another site that I am going to utilize more this year is KidBlog.  I decided that when the students write about the books that they finish, I want them to have an authentic audience. I dabbled in this site last year, but didn't use it to its fullest potential. I would like to have students blog on our class site each time that they finish a book.  I am also going to 

encourage them to respond to 2 other posts each time they blog.  Over the years, students are always reluctant to write in their reading journals and turn them in after finishing a book, and I am hoping with 1-1 iPads and the availability of KidBlog, we can make their reading responses more authentic and exciting. 

3. I am going to use Google Drive to create Reading Notebooks.  I am trying to go digital this year! I saw a great pin on Pinterest that showed an idea for Reading Notebooks on Google Drive. I played around with this sumer and made a folder on Google Drive with other folders within the Reading Notebook folder. This is going to be a little challenging as most of my students will be new to Google Docs, but they are going to be experts before too long. 

This is what I am envisioning...

4.  Another tool that I use that is a non-negotiable for this year is Student Data Binders. I use data binders for students to set goals, track data, reflect on their learning, show growth, keep work samples, and store interest inventories.  I call them S.T.A.R. binders (Students Taking Academic Responsibility.) This week we have been filling out interest inventories and learning style inventories.  We will soon be goal setting and creating SMART goals. I love these binders and I encourage the students to share them often with their parents. I am starting to look into digital portfolios and how I can create these to complement our data binder. I found a site called Fresh Grade that looks promising and I am going to play around with it once we get our iPads. 

5. The biggest thing that I am going to KEEP in my classroom this year is Genius Hour. I started this last January and it was a HUGE success.  My students loved it and couldn't get enough. I had no idea what to expect and was blown away by their engagement and excitement. It was a wonderful way to integrate the 4 C's-critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. The students created projects that were beyond what I thought  was even possible. Websites, presentations, songs, movies, models, etc. Their enthusiasm for Genius Hour was mind blowing and with each passing week I was reminded of the importance of voice and choice. I can't wait to experience this with a new set of kiddos this year. 

6. The last thing that I want to improve upon is our Interactive Math Journals. I love these tools and I see a lot of value in these notebooks. I am going to add in some more metacognitive thinking and some more higher level thinking. I decided to focus on adding in 2 additional things...

Processing Questions:
1. What did we learn today?
2. How does what we learned today connect to or add to something we learned previously?
3. How can what we learned today help us in the real world?
Thinking Stems:
• The most important thing I learned today was…
• I would explain to an absent student what I learned today like this…
• I still don't understand…
• I first thought…but now I realize…
• I’m not sure…
• Another strategy I could have used …
• I will understand this better if I…
• Tomorrow I would like to …
• The easiest/most difficult part of the lesson was…

I'm anxious to see where all of these new ideas lead our class and to see how they contribute to student success. I'll keep you posted!