Student Success Data Binders

Are you overwhelmed by the thought of data binders? Do you want a way to help students become responsible for their learning?



I first heard about data binders from a partner teacher when I was teaching 5th grade ELA. My partner teacher wanted to start data binders after we had already "gotten in the swing of things," and I didn't have much notice. Not surprisingly, I wasn't enthused about the idea. I didn't want to put in the effort to change my whole system. Needless to say, our data binders that year were a mess. With students changing classes, they constantly forgot their binders and lost pages. I did not use them with consistency. Having something this huge "thrown" at me did not make me buy into the idea; however, after reading about data binders over the summer, the following year I decided that I would give it another try with my second grade class. I knew there would be value in having students track their own data. I also was willing to pass off some of the responsibility of keeping binders FULL of data on each student for every subject. This was for the kids after-all, so why not have them track their own data?

Implementing student data binders with fidelity was LIFE CHANGING in my classroom. It was really one of the BEST teaching decisions I made. Data binders transformed my students into being motivated goal seekers. Students learned that they hold the key to their own success.

If you are thinking of getting started with student led data tracking, my biggest tip is to START SLOW! Pick a few of the most important things you would like your students to track and start there. It is easy to add more things later on. If you get in over your head before you start and try to do too much, you will be less likely to follow through at all. While you should certainly pick what is most important to you and your classroom, these are the things I chose to focus on first.

1. Student Goals- When I was in the classroom, I liked to have students develop quarterly goals. At the beginning of each quarter we set new goals, reviewed them periodically, then again at the end of the quarter as we were ready to set new goals. At first my second graders were clueless as to what their goals should be. They made meaningless and unattainable goals such as "Read more." "Read longer." "Read for 5 hours every day." I quickly realized my kiddos needed more guidance. Splitting their goals into four different reading sections helped. Students made a goal for fluency, stamina, reading strategies, and phonics. I created a goal sheet where students could write the specifics for each goal and check of strategies they could use to meet their goal. I did a similar form for math including fluency and math strategies.

2. Tracking Student/ Teacher Conferences- Our goal sheets tracked our longer term goals. I needed an effective way to track conferences. Conferences were a HUGE deal in our school, but that is an entire different post. Before using student data binders, I had pages of student conferences for each child, but rarely did anything with them. They were ineffective for me and the student because the forms were sitting in my huge binder. I created a student/ teacher conference form that mirrored our quarterly goal sheets. Each conference, I would meet with each student and go through each area of focus. For fluency I tested students' WPM, asked them to summarize what they read for me, and asked them clarifying questions. Based on this data, the student and I were able to come up with fluency and reading strategy goals. We also discussed their stamina (I did monthly class stamina checks) and phonics goals (based on their weekly phonics assessments and small groups.) Student then kept the conference notes in THEIR binder. After-all, these are their personal goals they are creating to help themselves. During the conference I also tracked their reading level on a graph in my teacher data binder.

3. Student Graphs for reading level and fluency- Since we already go over this during our conference, it is simple to teach students to track their progress on their graph. For little kids, you do have to walk them through this at the beginning of the year, but after a few conferences they know exactly how to graph. I would just have them complete their two graphs at the table while I called my next conference. Graphing progress has been POWERFUL for my students. They LOVE to see the line go up and it really motivates them to improve their reading skills. If their line isn't going up (or goes down), students really start to make the connection that they need to focus on their goals. (On a side note, I feel strongly that we don't want to create misconceptions for children. I do have students do a line graph for their reading level and fluency. Line graphs are not introduced in math until a much later grade, but this is the proper type of graph to use since we are showing change over time.)


4. Student Graphs for Math Fluency- Math fluency is a huge problem for many students. Having students track their progress with their math facts really motivates students to study and learn their facts. They love to see the progress they make. Students quickly see the connection between practice and progress.

These four things are a great starting point for student data binders. Once you and your students get the hang of these things, you can certainly add more data tracking. The more you use your data binders, the more independent students become with them. Here are some other aspects I used to add later in the year when my students got the hang of things.

  • Stamina Graph
  • Standards assessment tracking sheets
  • Sight word tracking sheets
  • 100 Book Challenge
  • Writing Polished Pieces with Teaching Learning Rubrics
How and when do we use data binders?


*Conferences: Data binders are the main tool for student led conferences with both teachers and parents. I already went over briefly how I used with with student/ teacher conferences. During parent conferences, I always began by having the student go over their goals and successes in their data binder with their parents. This really makes parent conferences meaningful because parents can actually see their child's progress through graphs and conference notes. It also helps parents understand the importance of developing students who are responsible and accountable for their own learning.

*Daily Use- Students keep their data binders with them at their seat all day. (Yes, I know they take up space, but to use them with fidelity, they need to be right net to students at all times.) Students always have their data binders out during center work or independent reading. They need to have their goals right in front of them because during independent reading time and center time they are working on their goals. Don't forget to hold students accountable to this. At the end of reading and math block I always choose a few students to share how they were working towards attaining their goal. In my experience, if you do not use data binders daily like this, they are not nearly as effective.

To purchase my Student and Teacher Data Binder, click here. They are available for first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade.

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