By Teachers, For Teachers
Do you have parents who claim they feel “out of the loop” when asked about their child’s progress? Sometimes, I used to get an angry call when interim report cards came out because parents didn’t understand why their child had earned a “C.” Of course, they had access to online grading systems 24 hours a day, and had supposedly seen the work coming home, but I knew I had to do something different.
I decide to create a folder that would go home every other week, and which would require a parent signature. This way, I knew that a parent would not be able claim they were not informed. My folders also require the student to do a self-reflection, which aides in the discussions at home about the current grades. Lastly, I wanted a way for the students to track their own progress with graphs and charts – hence the name Data Folders was born!
Parents are introduced to the Data Folders at Open House, on my teacher website, as well as in the Parent Handbook which is sent home. I try to cover all the bases so that parents are well-informed. They are told that it is a folder that contains data from their child’s progress and that it should be looked at, discussed, signed, and returned back to school by the end of the week. They are always free to jot additional comments too!
While many examples of data folders can range from one or two pages, others can be extreme, consisting of 10-20 pages. Personally, I prefer to keep my data folders at about 5-6 pages max, with a cover sheet, a parent signature sheet, 2-3 graphs, and a student reflection page. Inserting a printout of the child’s current grades form your gradebook is always easy and handy too! Creating your class set of data folders may be easier than you think!
Setting Up Your Data Folders
• Begin by purchasing a class set of two-pocket folders that have brads in the center (this is very important). Make sure all the folders are the same color, as this will make the management of passing out and turning in that much easier for you. Look for 1- or 5-cent folder deals during the back-to-school sales in August to get your class sets and always have additional folders on hand for lost or damaged folders, or new students that will need one as well.
• Next, create and print out shipping labels with “Data Folder” as the title, and maybe add some clip art, if you prefer. Make additional labels that have each child’s name on it. Place the title label in the center of your folder, and the name label in the upper right corner.
Create Your Data Folder Content
• Inside the data folder, I create a welcome page for the parent, which explains that the data folders will be sent home every other week, and will need a parent signature upon returning to class. After the cover page, I then create an additional template, which has a column of blank lines to input the date, and a column of blank lines for a parent signature. Keep it very simple and you will find the best results.
• I create graphs from a simple grid template for the students to track progress. I like to use one bar graph style, and one line graph style. This not only helps students to see their progress, but also to practice graphing skills for a real-life application! I usually choose two graphs from the following: spelling scores, Accelerated Reader stats, math test scores, math facts learned, or homework returned. Whatever you feel is most important for your parents and students to be made aware of are the best choices for your data graphs. Stick to your top two or three so that it does not become overwhelming.
• Finally, the last page in the data folder is a student reflection sheet in which the student must fill in the date, and one thing that he or she was proud of since the last update, as well as one thing he or she feels can be worked on. This reflection piece is one of the most important in the process because students begin to see that grades are not given by the teacher, but rather earned by themselves.
Holding Students Accountable
Data folders are simple to get started, and if maintained every two weeks, do not consume valuable teaching time. Parents will comment on how they feel more in tune with progress being made in your class, and students will have an opportunity to reflect and improve their effort based on their reflections in the data folder. All in all, data folders are a win-win for everyone!
How could you use data folders in your classroom? Share it in the comments section!
Charity L. Preston, MA is an author, teacher, and parent. Most importantly, she is an educator in all roles. The ability to teach someone something new is a gift that few truly appreciate. Visit her now at http://www.theorganizedclassroomblog.com or at her Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/TheOrganizedClassroomBlog to sign up for a free newsletter that offers free downloadable classroom resources every month delivered right to your inbox!