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NYC Helpline: How To: Talk the Talk

Talk the Talk: How to look at and learn from student writing work Sarah Picard

After spending a few months learning a new curriculum and classroom management techniques, many teachers in collaborative relationships start using their collaboration time to look at samples of student work. 

As an elementary school teacher I find it helpful to look at my notes from reading conferences and the students responses to literature. My notes from the reading conferences are both descriptions of children's behaviors as they read and talk about what they are reading, as well as running records of specific selections of text. 

Looking at samples of student reading work can be helpful in many ways.

First, I use the samples as an assessment tool of the child's performance. I look at a child's running record with my collaborative partner and we ask one another the following questions: 

  1. What is this child doing well?

  2. What reading strategies can this child use independently?

  3. What kind of interactions is this child having with the text?

Then we look at some of the child's responses to literature. We ask each other some of the following questions: 

  1. What is the child saying as s/he reads?

  2. Does the child jot questions, wonderings, and/or predictions?

  3. Do these responses indicate understanding?

Once my partner and I have taken some notes about the students' level of understanding, we take a look at the student's work and it's relationship to our planning. We ask ourselves some of the following questions while we are looking at conference notes and running records: 

  1. How is the student using some of the new strategies I have taught this week? 

  2. What strategy does the student need now in order to enhance understanding of the text? 

  3. Is there something I notice in this child's work that is similar to what other children need? Are there some whole class or small group mini-lessons I could teach based on this work?

  4. Do I need to change the level of text to better suit this child's needs?

Ultimately, this collaborative questioning will change your planning. Once to look at a child's reading work, you begin to understand your immediate teaching focus for that child. Perhaps your planning for a small group or even for your entire class may become more focused - all because you gathered around a table with a colleague to talk about your students' work!


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