Focus Fridays

A main focus in education today is using data to tailor teaching and learning for the individual. In our district we are required to give our students 4-6 interim assessments throughout the school year. Using this data to reteach students and, hopefully, fill in knowledge gaps is fairly straightforward in some subject areas. Many science, math and social studies curriculums build upon previous units and skills. English is different, since many times from grade to grade the differences are based on the level of reading and added depth in the written and spoken responses students must provide. There are many skills that students are introduced to in primary grades and continue to build upon as they prioress through the intermediate and high school grades.

This was the challenge I was facing when determining the most effective way to use the data from the interim assessments my students completed. Since the majority of an English Language Arts is based on skills and not necessarily facts (ie. science and social studies) reteaching specific facts wasn’t an option. A few weeks ago when thinking about how best to use the data collected through my first two interim assessments I came up with the idea of Focus Fridays.

In short, Focus Fridays are pausing the unit we are working on each Friday and working on specific skills that the data shows individual students need to improve upon. A more detail explanation can be found here. After looking at the data all 81 of my students fit into four categories based on the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS). The skill areas that my students needed to improve on were citing textual evidence, determining central/main ideas and using context clues to determine word meaning. There was a fourth group of students whose data showed no weaknesses and they were put into a challenge group. It should also be noted that some students need to improve upon multiple skills. Ideally, they will move to the next skill after mastering the skill they work on first.

Our first Focus Friday was yesterday and went well. I used our districts assessment creation tool Testwiz to create four different mini assessments. For the three skill based groups I used the same texts but the questions for each group focused on the specific skill they need the most work on. For the fourth group I created an assessment using 9th and 10th grade level texts and questions. Most weeks I plan to work closely with the students individually and as groups to strengthen the specific skills. For this first week I will use these assessment results to confirm that students are in fact in the group that is best suited for their current skills. Really I wanted to make sure the interim assessment data was accurate and didn’t reflect that a student simple had a bad day when taking the assessment.

I will continue to post updates on the progress, successes and failures of Focus Fridays.

This post is different than my normal technology focused posts, but it should be noted without the assessment system, bubble sheets and scanner I used I would not have the depth of data needed to begin Focus Fridays.

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