#pypchat is coming up next week, all about TEACHERs as RESEARCHERS. One of the key aspects of this is the use of DATA. We all agree that we need to carefully define data, and we need to use it in our practice.

But how? How do we use DATA to help our students succeed? Rather than just saying that we use it and we agree that it is important and getting stuck in the definition, can we explain how we actually do it?

I'd like to try.

A teacher in our school is starting to implement Math Centers in day to day practice. For anyone who uses centers, they know how amazing it is. The kids work independently, self and peer assess, and reflect as they go. The room buzzes with groups of kids doing different yet related activities. If you use centers, you also know how difficult it can be to set up. We want the centers to be consistent, but we also want them to be differentiated. We want students to be discovering, practicing and applying at the right level, not missing key conceptual steps along the way. We need to plan carefully, but we don't want to spend all our prep time painstakingly prepping for centers that are not developmentally appropriate or differentiated.

In order to set up these centers, we decided to focus on one skill. 

MEASUREMENT - using appropriate tools to find area and length in non-standard units

From here, we set up a pre-assessment task. Very simple, very accessible to all students in the class. To help us gather data, we created the following rubric.

The teacher introduced the task, had a bit of discussion about the difference between length and area, and then the kids were off, showing what they know. As they discovered and measured, the teacher made notes on each students rubric, recording what attribute they measured (length/area), which object they decided to measure, what tool they used, and what their final result was. Then, the teacher made an evaluation of the relationship between the tool and object using our schools assessment indicators (EMERGING, DEVELOPING, DEMONSTRATING) and highlighted the specific box on the rubric. 

Once the activity was over, the teacher simply took all the rubrics and put them into three groups. 

1) The kids in the EMERGING group needed conceptual work on what it means to measure something and how our tool affects the measurement. These kids would start their centers with the teacher receiving explicit instruction and support in this area.

2) The kids in the DEVELOPING group needed practice in measuring, so the teacher set up a checklist of objects and attributes they had to measure around the class, and the kids chose the tools and got measuring. The teacher could check in with this group as they measured because they were using the list to record their learning.

The book is four bugs long

3) The kids in the DEMONSTRATING group needed challenges, so the teacher provided them with a list of difficult questions. How long is the hallway? What is the area of the classroom? The kids were set up to try and find the solutions. When they finished, the teacher had prepared extension problems. Oh, the length of the hallway if 145 chopsticks long? I wonder if the hallway on the first floor is longer or shorter than that? What do you think?

NOTE to SELF: A next step in here would be to make ESTIMATION skills explicit and record them somewhere before measuring. END NOTE to SELF.

Once the kids in the EMERGING group were ready to practice, they simply jumped to the DEVELOPING group and took the list. Likewise, once the kids in the DEVELOPING group had shown they could use multiple tools and measure various objects, they jumped up to the DEMONSTRATING group.

In total, the teacher planned one PRE-ASSESSMENT task, and three CENTERS, for a grand total of four different learning engagements. This will be a week or two of centers. Not over-whelming, not too much work for the teacher, and a clear and rich progression of developmentally appropriate tasks for the students. It is focused on concepts, on practice, and on extending and applying thinking. It can go in a number of directions from here.


- the students were grouped according to an evaluation of the PRE-ASSESSMENT task. The rubrics were used as data.
- the students recorded their progression in each task, giving clear formative assessment data to the teacher. The teacher could use this data for one-on-one conferences and together the students can determine if they are ready to go on to the next task.
- each of the artefacts used to gather DATA along the way (rubrics, lists) could be kept and recorded for later analysis (reports) and send home to communicate learning to parents.

145 chopsticks long


Parenting and teaching bilingual children

Being bilingual is difficult. There is no magic solution, no perfect course to follow, no method that we can copy. Our children are not robots who can easily fit into nice little packages. They have their own thoughts, feelings, and desires. Sometimes what we want (as parents or teachers) is not what they want. I guess then, the key to raising a bilingual child is knowing your child, where they are at this moment, and where they want to go. We have to resist our urge to push and set future goals, and sit back and support them in the moment. Know the person they are, not the person you want them to be.

During Dr Yukawa's presentation, I loved this image/metaphor:

It says so much. 

Reading stories, in any language, will help the future development of other languages. It doesn't matter if your son is native Japanese, or German, reading them stories in that language will help their development of English. The concepts about books and stories they learn while being read to in French, are the same concepts that they will use when they are learning English. The knowledge that is learned in language A, is transferred to language B. Therefore, the more knowledge we learn in language B, the more we can transfer to language A. 

Let's look at a couple of examples:

a) If a child is reading a science textbook in Chinese, they are going to learn things about how textbooks work. They have a table of contents, glossary at the back, chapters, titles, subtitles, images, pictures, captions, etc. All of these things give different bits of information that help a person use the book. When looking at the book in Chinese, these ideas are exactly the same as they are in English. They are part of the underwater part you don't seem, but they are incredibly important skills that transfer between languages.

b) Imagine a child who is reading a storybook in Korean. They are going to be looking at the pictures and trying to use the picture cues to decipher what the hangul text is saying, using their previous knowledge of stories and pictures to fill in the blanks for the words they can't read or don't understand. Those are skills, and they are the same skills you use in English when learning to read. By reading in one language we pick up skills to use in the other language.

So what do we do with this information?

1) Development of the mother tongue is crucial. If we want our children to be bilingual, we have to continue to develop their mother tongue. English at school, Japanese at home. Japanese at school, English at home.

2) Focus on the skills. When working with our children in their mother tongue, make sure they are aware that these skills they are using are transferrable from one language to the other. They can use them in both.

3) Don't think too far ahead. Try not to plan out their future, try to be in the moment with them and figure out what they know, what they like, what they don't know, what they don't like. Be together and teach them where they are NOW, not where you want them to be in the future.