The world is one big data problem. There’s a bit of arrogance in that, and a bit of truth as well.
There I was at the YMCA working out on the elliptical machine, flipping the TV channels between Dr. Phil and Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. I don’t typically pay attention to the people around me while I work out, but I had noticed there was a tall, fit man next to me going about ten times my pace. As I pumped my arms and pushed my legs, I got into the drama that was unfolding on Dr. Phil’s stage, and also decided that I really must make tamales soon like the ones Guy Fieri said were “out of bounds.” When my workout summary popped up on the screen, it said I’d burned 372 calories. 372? I’d been working out less than 20 minutes. Wow — I was impressed with myself.
Until I got to my car. That’s when I remembered overhearing the YMCA trainer explain that when fellow exercisers hook up their personal workout monitors, the data can show up on neighboring machines because of the way they are networked. I didn’t burn 372 calories — adjacent Mr. Fit had burned 372 calories.
Sheepishly, I realized how quickly I felt impressed with my effort. The numbers trumped the reality of my workout experience, and helped me understand two recent conversations with teachers better.
Mary said, “I don’t really have to confer with my students. Their state test scores show 80% of them are at standard, so I just let them read.”
Trista said, “I can’t confer with my students. Have you seen the test scores at my school? Half of these kids aren’t proficient. I have to spend time on the basics, not their choice books.”
Mary was a little like me. She was impressed with her data and didn’t go beyond the numbers to ask herself, “Could conferring improve my students’ reading?” Trista went in the other direction. Because she was panicked about her students’ test scores, she didn’t feel she had time to encourage independence and individualized instruction for students. Both of these responses to disconnected data are troubling. What makes for good data? How can we simultaneously be impressed and push ourselves to do better? How can we relieve the panic that comes when we receive numbers that don’t match our experiences?
This week we consider the complicated mix of choice and structure in literacy workshops. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Senior Editor, Choice Literacy
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In this feature from the Choice Literacy archives, Aimee Buckner considers the balance of Writers, Choice, and Independence in her writing workshop:
Lester Laminack shares some of his favorite books for helping students make good choices when dealing with bullies in this podcast from the archives:
Teachers are always reading and loving what they read, right? Donalyn Miller (aka “The Book Whisperer”) explodes that myth with her latest blog post Guilt Trip: Accepting My Reading Slump:
Two of our favorite rites of spring, National Poetry Month and the start of the baseball season, come together in these poems about baseball from the Poetry Foundation:
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Ruth Ayres and Heather Rader draw on their work as literacy coaches and teachers to explore the complete connections between choice and structure in writing workshops:
This week’s video is an excellent example of scaffolding choice. Karen Terlecky confers with fifth-grader Jillian, the day after she has selected two books Jillian might enjoy reading during workshop:
Michelle Kelly explains how gifted student writers have needs that vary greatly. “Carolyn the Voice,” “Alan the Verbose,” and “Bailey the Perfectionist” are all gifted writers who need different workshop structures and guidance to do their best work:
When middle school students have choice and independence in book clubs they lead themselves, how do you assess their learning and thinking? Katie Doherty provides a variety of question prompts she uses with groups to spark reflection on learning:
Finally, it’s never too early to help students learn to make wise choices for independent reading. In a bonus two-minute video, Mandy Robek reviews the I-Pick strategy for choosing appropriate books with her kindergarten students:
That’s all for this week!