More Than a Plot Point Please

by gillis

Today I sat through an excruciating professional development inservice centered around findings made by our district’s Data Team. Ooh the tables and charts! Ahhh, they were numerous. And so colorful. Yet repetitious. They shared the many many ways the team had sliced and diced standardized test scores, attendance rates, demographics, and grades to profile the learners. All the better to target instruction for them individually. I sat and tried to listen. I know my colleagues spent many hours on this project. I also know that I will have to help move some of those plot points forward on the graphs. But they can keep their graphs, I don’t need them. I have my own data.

My data warehouse consists of sticky notes and an orange binder. They don’t need to show me the test scores that suggest Shaun has difficulty with inferencing, I’ve noticed myself during conferences and class discussions. I open the binder and see the sticky notes on his page that show me that Shaun has abandoned the last three books he has started. I can also tell you that he has little confidence in himself as a writer, that’s why he sticks to writing about his basketball team week after week.  He thinks if he writes about a subject that the group thinks is interesting, they’ll let the listing, staccato sentences slide by and won’t notice that his word choices continue to be vague and generic. Luckily his response group has told him they’d like to hear about something else, so he is going to try a story about a taco that went bad in a food truck this week. When he writes that story, I’ll try to catch him to conference about using punctuation marks for his dialogue because I also see a note that shows he didn’t master that during our fiction unit.

I also notice that the only books he hasn’t abandoned this term have been “Wimpy Kid”  books so to get him unstuck I’ll set Shaun up to partner read The Fourth Stall with Hunter. I think that will pull him along with inferencing much faster than reading and answering multiple choice questions about a passage on Antarctica. When I conference with Shaun about The Fourth Stall, I’ll find out where his comprehension lies and help him clear up any misconceptions. When he writes to me about the book, I’ll work to push him past summarizing and get him further into critical thinking. And when he book talks the book, he will be teaching his classmates what he learned while reading it and I can assess his growth. Will it solve all of his comprehension issues? Not likely. But I’m certain that having him work on released test items in isolation won’t help him become a stronger reader or writer and I’m pretty sure that my job is to grow readers and writers. And if it gets his plot point further along the line in the graph than where it is today, that’s icing on the cake.