search navigation

Daily Lit Bit

August 22. 2017

Track Student Progress with Literacy Portfolios

Portfolios are a popular way to present students' work over time so that progress is evident. Many assessments can be part of a writing portfolio. The goal is to guide the process carefully so portfolios don't become unwieldy and time-consuming collections of "stuff" that no one examines or uses to inform teaching.

You will collect reading data and writing projects throughout the year. Many teachers keep all products for the year, selecting materials for the “pass on” portfolio in the spring. Others identify particular times when the portfolio is examined in conjunction with the child; some pieces are sent home and others remain in the portfolio. Some general considerations for the type of the information to include in the portfolio follow:

  • Include a list of the books the student read and the writing projects he completed.
  • Feature “best work” or a range of writing projects and poetry (e.g. several pieces that you and the student have selected for a particular reason).
  • Document the level of texts the student read during the year as well as the range of the genres he attempted.
  • Illustrate the student’s growth and progress through a thoughtful selection of writing samples.
  • Include writing projects of investigations that demonstrate the student’s ability to use knowledge in content areas.
  • Encourage self-reflection by asking the student to write rationales for his portfolio selections: Why he chose to include writing samples, how he chose books to read, and his reflections on his growth as a writer and reader.
  • Feature writing samples from all the genres the student studied and explored in his own writing.
  • Weave in written evaluations by the student about his growth as a reader, writer, and learner.

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.

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.

From Guided Reading, Second Edition by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2017 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.