#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


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