Kevin Draper, Program Administrator at the Center for Curriculum and Assessment at the Ohio Department of Education, shared this story with us.
To ensure that early learners in kindergarten through Grade 3 read proficiently and establish a solid foundation for their future academic achievement, state legislators recently made changes in Ohio law known as the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Through this required program, schools are identifying young students who are behind in reading, and providing help and support to make sure that they are on track for reading success by the end of third grade.
At the same time, Ohio is embracing formative instructional practices (FIP) to personalize learning through the use of data. Although teachers may learn about reading improvement and FIP as distinct efforts, they can best use them in tandem as both efforts are about improving instructional practices and student achievement.
Because reading is a basic skill needed to access and acquire other content knowledge, it is critical that teachers, administrators and families work together to integrate reading improvement practices into students’ daily lives. As a teacher, you can use FIP to assess student needs and establish reading goals while encouraging children to build on their strengths and take ownership of their learning. Below are some ideas on how to plan reading improvement efforts using the four components of FIP:
Establish clear learning targets
Effective reading instruction begins with an understanding of student strengths and weaknesses. There are multiple assessment tools to help you identify students’ reading improvement needs – visit the Ohio Department of Education's website to learn more about the resources available. Student reading difficulties may be rooted in fluency, vocabulary acquisition, comprehension, or in learning disabilities like dyslexia or dysphasia. It is important to use assessment data to identify learning targets that meet individual student needs and are challenging, yet attainable.
Specific, clear learning targets help in focusing and concentrating improvement efforts. Rather than adopting the general goal of “becoming a better reader,” try focusing on efforts to build a few specific habits and skills at a time; then update the goals as the student progresses. Be sure to share learning targets with your students so they know where they are and where they are headed. Without an understanding of the learning targets, children often become discouraged and believe that they are inadequate. Struggling readers need to understand their strengths and weaknesses, yet know they can manage—and overcome—their challenges.
Collecting and documenting evidence
Focusing reading improvement efforts on specific learning targets makes it easier to collect and document accurate evidence of student learning, an essential element of formative instructional practices. Reading improvement is often difficult to track because it is a conglomerate of many skills. But when students participate in collecting and documenting evidence of their progress, the activity helps them see where they are headed and how much they are growing as their student portfolios show positive changes.
Teachers and students will need to show evidence of student growth in reading through a combination of qualitative and quantitative information, because using one or the other exclusively provides only a small snapshot of reading proficiency. Qualitative data reflects observational evidence (e.g., level of engagement, self-monitoring) while quantitative data supports more measurable skills (e.g., reading fluency, comprehension, accuracy). It is best to communicate both types of data to all involved, including students and their families, so that you can work collaboratively to monitor improvement, assess existing goals and continue making progress.
Whether you discuss a recent success or a need for further intervention, the effective feedback you give as a teacher is critical for students to achieve. Giving effective feedback means providing students with information that is specific, timely and doable. Try using reading conferences to share feedback with students, allowing them to ask questions to ensure that they understand where they are in their learning. Be sure to give feedback within a reasonable time frame for students to act on it; young students need to receive feedback frequently. Lastly, while giving feedback and adjusting individual student goals, remember to keep expectations reasonable and attainable, while encouraging students to challenge or stretch themselves to improve their reading.
The fourth component of formative instructional practices, student ownership, is perhaps the single greatest factor for influencing student achievement. Students need to know that they are a very important part of the learning process. They learn best when they are actively participating and working collaboratively with their teachers. FIP encourages students to take responsibility for their learning and take pride in their successes. Children who are engaged in setting goals and assessing their own efforts are more likely to become lifelong learners.
Try teaching students how to keep track of their reading improvement through reading logs, data charts and portfolios. Have students track their progress toward learning targets and follow their improvement along a learning progression, celebrating successes along the way.
As you work collaboratively to improve your students’ reading achievement and boost their learning capacity, consider using FIP as a guide to setting learning targets, collecting evidence of student learning, and asking “What’s next?”. The four components of FIP offer ripe opportunities for informing reading instruction and developing a road map for the most successful learning experiences possible.
Kevin Draper is Program Administrator at the Center for Curriculum and Assessment at the Ohio Department of Education. He directly reports to Senior Executive Director, Ms. Sasheen Phillips, and has been working on the Third Grade Reading Guarantee Initiative from its inception. Mr. Draper holds a B.A. in Early Childhood Education from John Carroll University and an M.A. in Educational Leadership and Policy from Ohio State University with a specialization in Educational Technology. Prior to working at ODE, Mr. Draper was an elementary educator in Northeast Ohio