Data conference with students

The purpose of this item is to help guide you through conversations with different students as you look at their reading profiles in Newsela. To accomplish this, we’ll look at two anonymized student reading profiles in Newsela and walk through a few minutes of a reading conference you can have with them. 

We’ll call these two students:

  • Staircase Stephanie
  • Erratic Eric

We’ll take a look at their profile in your binder and in the student’s binder and play out a few pieces of feedback that you can give each of them that will help them to understand their reading behavior up to this point and what they can do to improve going forward.

Staircase Stephanie

Meet Stephanie. She’s a 6th grade student who has been showing steady growth throughout the year. She’s been reading articles at a specific level and demonstrating proficiency at that level. After initially leveling her down due to some early difficulties, Newsela has been leveling her up and she’s been consistently demonstrating proficiency as she reads. She’s climbing the staircase of text complexity.

Here’s your view of Stephanie’s binder:

And here’s Stephanie’s view (note that in the student’s view the data is more dispersed because it doesn’t group around grade levels but around Lexile levels):

The Conference: What can you say to Stephanie?

Stephanie, I’m excited to talk with you about your reading progress this year - you’ve come a long way in a short time!

Here’s what I see when I look at your binder: 

it looks like you had a little difficulty when you started out. You began reading at grade level but bounced around a little until Newsela leveled you down.  

Then you worked hard on the on the lower level articles and really started to show improvement. That’s when Newsela leveled you back up. Great job! 

You kept at it into January and in February it looks like you started to experiment with more challenging articles at an even higher level, where you’ve been doing well, even pushing up into articles at even more challenging articles.

What I’d love to see is if you can start to demonstrate that you are consistently reading and understanding articles at the higher grade level. So follow Newsela’s recommendations on levels when you read what I’ve been assigning or choose your own articles. And if you pass at that level, try the next level up. 

And I’d also like you to practice the annotation strategies we’ve been talking about. I’d like you to “talk to the article” with your notes, highlighting where you’re confused (in red) or have questions (in blue), or think something’s worth mentioning (in red), so that you’re prepared for our full class discussion. Keep up the great work!

Erratic Eric

And now Erratic Eric. Eric is another 6th grader who’s been reading a lot and taking many, many quizzes (more than 2x Stephanie), but his choices take on a random appearance. He seems to enjoy reading the MAX level articles, though he has only performed well on the quizzes a handful of times. A few times (mid-December, for instance), he’s taken quizzes on the same article multiple times at higher and higher levels after doing well at a lower level. And he did this again in early March and in the beginning of April. 

We’d like to see more of this, and less of the randomness of attempting articles at all levels. Newsela indicates that Eric is “Almost At Grade.” While he’s passed a number of quizzes at or above grade level in the entire history of his work in Newsela, he has yet to establish a clear pattern of performance at a single level over a shorter period of time. That’s what we’re going to focus on in our conference with Eric.

Once again, here’s your view of Eric’s work:

And Eric’s own view:

The Conference: What can you say to Eric?

Eric, first off I want to commend you for all of the articles you’ve read and all the quizzes that you’ve taken. In order to read well we have to read a lot, and you’ve been reading a lot! 

I’d like to help you to have more success as you read by making better choices about the levels of text you’re reading.

One of the things that I notice when I look at your binder is that you’ve got a lot of red and green mixed together at the same level. There’s some green going up higher and some red down lower. 

The green going up higher shows me that you’re capable of reading and understanding some articles that are pretty challenging - for instance I can see you passed several quizzes at a 1100-1200 Lexile - which is great.

The red down lower also shows me that you’ve had some trouble demonstrating your understanding on some of the easier articles at the 700 Lexile. Now, if I just look at where the green dots are, I think it’s fair to say that you’re able to read at a higher level than 700. But sometimes you’ve had trouble doing this.

What I’d like to see you do going forward is to stick with the level of the article that Newsela gives you. If you pass the quiz at that level, go ahead and try the next level up. If you don’t pass it, level down, re-read the article and try it at that level.

The next time we look at your graph together, I’d like to see plenty of green on the lower half of the graph. A little red up high will be okay, as long as I see plenty of green down below.

And I’d like you to use the annotation strategies that we’ve been talking about. In particular, at the end of each section of an article (before the next header), I’d like you to summarize in 2-3 sentences in the margin the main idea of that section. This way you’ll have an easier time following what the article is saying. I’ll read and respond to your summaries every so often, giving you some feedback.

Keep up the great effort - let’s grow the green together!

[end scene]

Stepping back a little, we can note that these two conferences have a few things in common, notably concrete strategies for:

  • making smart choices about the level at which they choose to read
  • using highlighting and annotation to help themselves...
  1. stay focused
  2. practice metacognitive thinking about what they understand of what they are reading
  3. prepare for discussion and further close reading

Are you having insightful conferences with your students? What do these look and sound like? Let us know by emailing us at [email protected]


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