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Data Can Be More Than Numbers

By Jessica Monahan

As a special education teacher, using targeted instruction ensures that my students are receiving exactly what they need in order to be successful. I typically have my students complete several assessments (PAST, DIBELS NWF, DIBELS ORF, informal phonics screener, etc.) in the beginning of the year to determine their strengths and skill deficits.

From there I would group students together based on which skills I am going to target during Extended Learning Time (ELT). I feel confident with where I am in my ability to complete those tasks, identify skill deficits, and provide lessons in order to target those deficits. However, I felt as though I was missing a key component in my practice: student input.

Before this fellowship, when I thought about targeted instruction, it was all about the data. "What is the data telling me and how can I fill the gaps?" Now, I am developing the mindset that personalized learning plays a major role in all aspects of education, including targeted instruction. Once I started to act on that missing component, I found that my students were more engaged in my lessons.

For example, during ELT time today, I asked both groups what they liked about the activities we completed during our group time and what they would like to do. My second group was very vocal about exactly what they would like to do to practice their skills.

We always start our time together with a “word game”, which is going through some Kilpatrick activities. Next, we read words that contain the specific skill we are working on. They decided that instead of just flashcards when 'word reading', they wanted to make it a game.

As a group, we came up with the rules of the game, the point system, and of course a name for the game. They decided on “Seek and Read the Fish”. All of the cards (both read and nonsense words) will be face down on the table. When it is their turn, they pick a card and read it. If they read the word correctly, they get to keep the card. If they read it incorrectly we will work as a team to sound it out then put it back in the “sea”. They were really excited when I took the time to ask them what they wanted to do during our group time. Below is a picture of “Seek and Read the Fish”. They had a blast practicing their skills in a new and exciting way. I will be asking for their suggestions more often!

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