Ever had that kid in class who needs your support to get through the majority of the assignments? However, when you look at his (or her) grades, they appear to be doing okay because
A) you are supporting them in completing their work,
B) you are modifying and accommodating to meet their needs, and/or
C) they are redoing assignments to improve their grade to passing.
Of course, being the teacher you are, you’ve been in constant communication with the family. You’re discussing how you are adjusting your teaching to meet their child’s needs and giving them suggestions for ways to continue this support at home.
However, at some point you come to the realization that the grades going home don’t reflect where the child is independently functioning…and the parents (or RTI team…or whoever) are only focused on the score.
Somehow all your discussions seem to have gone in one ear and out the other, and now there are questions about why their child has performed poorly on an assessment or is being referred because their grades “seemed fine”.
This has happened to me more times than I can count. However, I’ve started a system that, over the last three years, has saved my student on more than one occasion. My hope is that you'll find them helpful, too!
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Documenting Differentiation Simplified
Today I am going to share my solutions for documenting Tier 1 supports and differentiation.
These strategies have helped me better communicate with parents about their child's strengths and needs. They've also been integral in getting students the support they need via our school's RTI system.
1. Get a stamp to document extra support.
A stamp that says "Completed with Teacher Assistance" is a MUST HAVE. You won't believe how helpful it is.
You can get a custom stamp pretty inexpensively from VistaPrint or get a one for less than $10 on Amazon. (Check out this cheap option.
How to use it: Stamp any assignment where you have to provide support above and beyond the norm.
When you send the assignments home, parents will be able to quickly and easily see that their child needed extra help.
Tips for implementation:
1. Make sure to tell parents about this system on Parent Night so you can answer any questions they might have. This makes sure the year starts with everyone on the same page.
2. Keep the stamper right near your small group area. This will make it quick and easy to stamp assignments when you pull a student or small group. It took me less than 5 seconds to document using this set-up.
2. Track the data for easy reference.
Use spreadsheets to track the extra support you're providing. At the beginning of the year, set up a template with your students' names. For each unit, add the objectives or key teaching points.
How to do it: After a pre-test, track the types of questions the kids struggle with using color coding. I used red and green to show which were already mastered and which were clearly a challenge.
When you pull a small group, record the dates in your spreadsheet. I made sure to record each date we met, and when a kiddo had mastered a skill I changed the objective to yellow.
This let me see how many meetings it took for mastery. This also let me track when mastery wasn't happening after numerous attempts to reteach.
Here's an example from a place value unit a few years ago (with names changed).
It was color-coded with the red, yellow, green code I mentioned above. I recorded the reteach dates in each box for the related skill.
You can clearly see who only needed minor clarification after the instruction, and who needed multiple reteach sessions. You can also see who is still struggling.
3. SHARE INFORMATION ABOUT The extra support you provide.
You will want to track the supports you provide in your grade book or another location. This will be very important if a student is referred for supports or a parent complains about their student struggling.
Sharing this information is also critical. Grades don't always reflect the struggle a student might be having because we provide scaffolds and extra help. Since this is the primary indicator for parents, it is important to share the information about gaps in learning with them.
How to use it: I created a shorthand code to track accommodations and modifications for my general education students. This let me quickly and easily communicate my concerns to my campus RTI team when I was referring a student.
If I started to see a pattern, I also started to staple a checklist to assignments so parents could get a better idea of exactly what support I was providing.
Tips for Implementation: Include a short letter in the child's report card reminding the parents that the grade reflects significant support. The parents should sign and returned this letter. I kept these in the child's file to refer to if questions arose.
This was great because if a parent came to a conference and said they hadn't realized their child was struggling, I was able to quickly pull it out as a reminder. I was also able to use the letter to document that I had informed the parent prior to any RTI supports.
In order to save you some time, I want to share my checklists and a copy of my report card letter with you. You can this parent documentation free by clicking the button below.
4. Create STUDENT PORTFOLIOS
Student portfolios are a great way to keep samples of student work. They also allow you to track progress across time.
How to do it: Another way I made sure I was able to advocate for my students was by including unit progress reports in my student's portfolios. These progress reports outlined the standards associated with the unit.
I was able to quickly and easily complete the form for students to document their progress toward these standards. I also had space for notes and a spot for parents to sign.
Here's an example:
I was able to bring these along to campus RTI meetings or discuss them during parent conferences. It also helped me track parent communication about academic concerns.
I kept these for all core subjects - reading, writing, and math.
Have more ideas for documenting tier 1 supports & differentation?
There are so many ways to document the supports you're providing struggling students. These are the four that have been helpful for me.
Have another idea that works for you? I'd love for you to leave it in the comments!