Managing data folders in the primary classroom doesn’t have to take a lot of time. In this post I’ll share some management tips plus how I’ve learned to use student data folders effectively to guide my instruction, but most of all, give my students a voice in their learning. Learn how to implement this valuable tool and pretty much make it manage itself. I’ve even included a free data folder classroom kit at the end of this post to get you started.
Prepping Your Data Folders
I use paper pocket folders with prongs. I find the labels won’t stick to the plastic ones. Inside our folders I include graphs for reading fluency, math pre and posttest, and spelling. We are required to track all of these at my school, but you can include any subjects you like. We keep the discussion questions in the left hand pocket and glue the labels o the front of the folders.
Teach Your Students to Understand Their Data
Explicitly teach students to monitor their progress and how to interpret their data. Make up a few example graphs and project them to discuss. Ask your students what they can determine about the example student’s progress. Use the discussion questions sheet to guide your students in determining the example student’s scores, their strengths, and what they need to work on.
Set Learning Goals
Once students understand what their data is showing them and how they can use it to monitor their progress, teach them to set realistic and achievable goals for themselves. Discuss ways your students can accomplish their goals and what they can do if they don’t meet them. With your guidance, students can work toward successfully meeting goals in a systematic way.
Give Your Students Feedback
Feedback from you is key. It gives purpose to the process and without it, many learning opportunities are missed. Meet with students briefly to conference one on one or during small group times to guide them in setting their goals. The subject or activity you are collecting data on will determine how often you meet and set new goals with students. For example, if my students are tracking their Accelerated Reader (AR) levels and points, I would help them set a goal at the start of each 9 weeks. I briefly check in with several students each day to conference during our AR time. Tracking reading fluency would happen weekly or bi-weekly with conferencing during guided reading groups.
Have a Coaching Conversation
Have a “coaching conversation” where you listen to students’ insights and interpretations. Give feedback that guides them in where they need to be and how they can get there. Encourage students to set small, incremental goals that are achievable. Setting clearly defined, realistic goals that include a plan for how to accomplish them, gives students a sense of pride and satisfaction in their accomplishments as well as motivation to achieve.
Set Up Routine That Works for Your Class
It’s important to find a routine that works for you and your students or you just won’t do it. I know from experience I tend to avoid things that aren’t working. Recording their data doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Once students are familiar with the routine, it can be done in under 5 minutes without taking up instructional time.
Keep data folders handy for your students, rather than taking extra time to pass them out. I have students record math facts and weekly spelling as I pass back their graded tests. Teach students the format you want them to use for writing in the category. For example, they can write the date, week 1, week 2, by standard, by concept etc. You might also want to write in the categories before you make copies. For spelling, I write in the spelling pattern tested before I copy my class set of graphs. I also copy everything I use at the start of each quarter.
If you are not already using data folders, I’ve put together a free classroom kit to get you started!
The kit includes:
- 4 different folder labels
- 10 different graphs in a variety of scales and increments
- Student discussion questions to guide conferencing & goal setting
This flexible resource includes scales in increments of 5 and 10. Differentiate easily with graphs that go to 80, 100, and 200. Titled and untitled graphs are also included. This file is NOT editable, but I’ve included blank versions for you to write the title at the top and categories at the bottom.
Click here or on the picture above to download the kit.
Happy teaching and data collecting!
(Be sure to pin it so you don’t forget it!)