Effective teaching involves routinely tracking student progress. How can teachers be tracking student progress in a way that enhances their instruction, rather than takes away from it? I hope to go through some of my routines and structures that I have set up on how to help a struggling student with their progress.
Tracking Student Progress
There are many assessments that are used in districts to prove that students are learning. However, these assessments do not help inform instruction. Teachers must regularly do quick assessment check-ins with students to help inform their whole group and small group instruction. They can use more formalized assessments, like these letter ID and letter sound assessments. They can also use more informal assessments like exit tickets, small group work, and observations to help inform their instruction.
Whether formal or informal, these assessment check-ins should be routine. I like to check-in about foundational skills, like counting and letter sounds, once every six weeks or so. It helps inform my instruction and plan small groups and intervention groups. Other skills I might check-in on after a few small group sessions when I am observing the children are understanding the skill. I’ll do a quick exit ticket or independent work sample to confirm what I believe my students are understanding. This is similar for reading- after reading certain levels with students, I’ll check-in informally with them if I think they are ready for more difficult texts. I don’t want to hold them back in their progress simply because the district didn’t tell me it was time to reassess their reading levels.
Organizing Student Data
Checklists, tables, and tabbed binders to help me organize all this student data. I organize my more formal assessment data in this 3-inch binder with numbered tabs for each student. I give my students a number each year to save on all the labeling. This number goes for their mailboxes, unfinished boxes, these assessment tabs, and more. This way, I can easily look at each student’s information, which helps with tracking student progress.
I also keep a clipboard for each subject area that holds blank checklists with the class lists so I can write in different skills and keep track of what I am observing in small groups. I also have a blank table sheet where I can write in small groups based on the more formal assessments. For example, after a post-assessment in math I plan small groups based around the skills missing for different students. I also form small groups in writing based on the pre-assessments for each unit.
It has taken me years to get the systems that work best for me. It takes many tries before you find the system that works for you, and that’s ok. Try these ideas out, try other ideas out, and see what’s best for you! Just keep in mind that there is no point in constantly assessing if you don’t do anything with that data. Assessing should inform instruction. These quick check-ins should be used every couple of weeks to help inform where your focus should be in small groups and if you should rearrange the groups.
How to help a struggling student
So what happens if you are tracking student progress and don’t see progress being made. Well, this is important information. When you first notice a lack of progress, this is a clear sign that what you have been trying isn’t working. Make a plan to change up the small groups and the activities you do. Ask your colleagues and coaches for activity ideas. Try some of my interventions and small group activities. Whatever you pick, be consistent with it. The students that aren’t making progress should really work with you every day for 10-15 minutes or so (in each subject they need support with). After a couple of weeks, do another check-in. Is there some progress? If there is some progress, then you can re-evaluate if there are other students that need more support. If there is little to no new progress, it’s time to check-in with families.
Checking-in with families is an important step in how to help a struggling student. It can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be! You don’t want parents to ever be surprised by information at conferences or report cards, so as soon as you notice a pattern of struggling or lack of progress, you want to meet with the parents. You want to let them know what you noticed, show them the data you’ve collected, and let them know your plan for moving forward.
I would also have some materials prepared on ways they can support at home. Acknowledge that families are busy, but that the hope is that the student spends 10 minutes or so a day on these skills. I like to pick activities that the child can easily complete independently while the parent is making dinner. It’s especially a benefit if the child has already done the activities at school.
After meeting with families, implement the new plan and again, be consistent with it, for about six weeks. Really try and meet with these struggling students every day. Continue to check-in with your students and celebrate small successes. After these six weeks are up, do a more formal check-in. If there isn’t any progress or still very little progress being made, reach out to your administration. Some schools have protocols in place for discussing struggling students. Write that you have been keeping track of student progress and are concerned with the lack of progress after six weeks of daily small groups.
When you eventually meet with the administration, be prepared with the data you have collected and to show them what activities you have been doing. Be open to new ideas for activities to try. They may say to try another set of activities for a number of weeks before checking in again. You can also ask for help – is there an available coach or interventionist that can support this child one-on-one and more intensely than you can as the classroom teacher? Is there a history of lack of progress with this child – have they already received intense intervention? Is it time to consider evaluating them for special needs? The administration and team will need to discuss all the possible next steps, so the best thing you can do is prepare data over time and the activities/curriculum you use in small groups to support the child.
Tracking student progress can sound daunting but it can be easy with the right systems in place! Teachers must use assessments to inform instruction and help guide small group and intervention planning. If progress is not being met, then the teacher should regroup, try new activities, and consistently meet with students.
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