If you are living in a constant battle between tracking data and planning instruction…you know you’re not alone. Like most teachers, you are probably looking for ways to minimize the time you spend grading, and recording data so you can maximize your time planning and prepping. You’re in the right place.
The most important shift you can make as a teacher is to set up systems that allow you to be more present during instruction and practice time in your classroom. Creating a simple framework that embeds data tracking into your workshop time will allow you to genuinely focus on your students’ strengths and needs, minimize the need for lengthy assessments, reduce tedious grading, and maximize student engagement.
Currently, the five steps below are working well to do just that during my Meet With The Teacher rotation during M.A.T.H. Workshop. Give them a try, and tweak them to be your own.
Step 1: Define Your Mastery Scale
Create a multi-point scale that provides a definition of student levels of understanding. Many districts have a scale in place already. If not, you may want to use the scale below (used in my school district) as a starting point.
Introduce this scale to your students, and spend some time having them create their own titles, and student definitions for each level of understanding. This will help them take ownership of the scale, and make it easier for you to have efficient conversations with them about the work they’re doing during M.A.T.H. Workshop, and beyond.
Step 2: Select A Standard
During each M.A.T.H. Workshop session, I highly recommend selecting only one math standard, and one mathematical practice to assess. This simplifies the data tracking process, and makes grouping and conferring decisions more straightforward.
Making students aware of the mathematical practice you’ll be observing helps them focus their brain power on that practice, resulting in more rapid growth.
When introducing M.A.T.H. Workshop to your class, it is important to acknowledge that, although you will be noting a specific mathematical practice, and focusing on a specific math skill each day, all strong mathematicians pull a variety of skills and practices from their tool belt every day during workshop.
Step 3: Decide How Students Will Demonstrate Understanding
When deciding what students will do to demonstrate their understanding of the skill being assessed that day, select an activity or question that allows students to evaluate, analyze, make connections, or find patterns when problem solving.
Selecting questions that simply require students to recall facts or solve a series of simple equations will not allow you to fully assess their depth of understanding.
This may mean creating a series of assessment tasks that your students will work on throughout the year. You can also make this happen by analyzing the set of problems you will assign each day, and selecting the problem that fits the bill.
If you are interested in a year-long collection of higher order problem solving tasks, you can grab my Second Grade Write To Explain Task Cards, or Third Grade Problem Solving Task Cards (shown above) to save you some time.
Step 4: Record Your Data
Create a simple form that allows you to quickly note student understanding using the mastery scale you designed for step 1.
If you’re looking for a starting point, the forms introduced in my How To Organize Small Groups post may work. You may also want a piece of paper, a digital doc, or a sticky note to jot quick noticings about needs for small group instruction, and individual student conferences.
If you are required to send graded work home with students frequently, you can quickly mark the score you’ve given for the activity, and follow up with a few verbal comments to the student about their performance. Have the student record the justification for their score, and make a quick personal plan for future growth.
This practice promotes student listening as you discuss feedback, and gives them time to reflect on that feedback as they put it in writing. Another worthwhile practice is having students complete a self-assessment of their work.
Step 5: Use Your Data
When planning for the next workshop session, refer to your data to determine your next instructional steps, and to create or curate activities for differentiation. You will feel so empowered when you pull out your data tracking sheet from M.A.T.H. Workshop earlier that day, and dig right into planning rather than pulling out your stack of papers and correcting pens.
If your district requires you to enter data into your online grade book frequently, quickly plug your data into the system and jump into planning for the next day.
Tell Me How It Goes
I hope these steps get you started with setting up a data tracking framework that allows you to be more present during M.A.T.H. Workshop (and throughout the day), makes your planning time more about planning (and less about grading), and helps you get a clear picture of your students’ levels of understanding.
I’d love to hear how these steps work for you, and answer any questions you may have about implementing. Share your thought in the comments below.