Have you heard the words, “DATA, DATA, DATA” in your sleep recently? In all of my 25+ years of teaching, never has there been such an emphasis placed upon data as I have seen in the last couple of years. Back in the Stone Age when I first started teaching, my thoughts regarding data were centered around grading tests and student work, transferring those grades to a grade book, and creating an honor roll. Fast forward to 2013, and my thinking has changed. Now, when data is mentioned, I think of external data (information from my New Jersey state assessments, i.e. NJASK) and internal data (information from class and grade/content specific assessments). I think of how data drives instruction not only for my students, but for the students in my district, state, and even the country. It affects the way instruction is delivered in the classroom.
My school district requires that at the end of each school year, teachers develop their own Professional Development Plan (PDP). This gives teachers an area of focus for their instruction. This year, I decided to step out of my comfort zone to research data walls and create my own in my classroom. I chose this as a means to truly assess my students’ strengths and weaknesses and to guide them towards success. Who knew I would be awakening the sleeping math teacher inside of me? I also looked at data walls as a way for the students to be accountable for their work, reflect upon their learning, and how they fit into the scheme of the classroom. After all, shouldn’t the students be held accountable for their learning?
I have to be honest, I am new at this. As teachers, we have always been collecting and analyzing data on our kids to notice trends in student learning, especially for common assessments and standardized tests. But we have yet to use it consistently in the classroom — that’s the new part.
Pearls of Wisdom — If you are just starting with data walls, keep it basic. I attempted to create data charts for every assessment and activity in my classroom and soon became overwhelmed. I remembered my mantra of “keep it simple” and made myself breathe and refocus. Make a decision as to what you feel is most important to be displayed. Also remember to consider what type of graphs would be appropriate for the information you are presenting.
One of my biggest concerns as literacy teacher is the fidelity and integrity of student reading logs. I decided to create data walls about their work as readers. The data walls would reflect their growth as readers based upon their reading levels from running records and using the information from their at-home and in-school reading logs. And in this way, students get to see and reflect upon their work.
In creating the class bar graphs, scatter, and dot plots, I had to call upon the spirit of math teachers past and present to assist me. It has been awhile since I have taught math and my students were a big help as well. It was great for them to see the connection between math and literacy in real life application. I hope these inspire you to plot your own data, but if you have new ideas, please share them here.