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Looking Beyond Proficiency

How well do you know your students? Here are some ways to know them even better

Ensuring that each student is consistently improving and progressing in ELA is vital.

Reaching all students and addressing their unique needs is, without a doubt, challenging work. Admittedly, it can be hard for us, as teachers, to identify and meet our own needs, let alone the needs of a class with 25–30 students.
And even when we have that near-perfect lesson or stretch of good teaching days, what still keeps us up at night? Our disengaged students, and how we wish we were doing more to support them.
Reaching every student is hard, and with limited time and resources, it can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Reaching every student starts with knowing your students on a deeper level — beyond just their proficiency. Today I’m going to share with you two strategies for getting to know your students better and how you can implement these strategies in your classroom tomorrow.

5 new ways to see your students

We often use beginning-of-the-year baseline assessments or pre-unit assessments to gather information about what students know so we can plan instruction. Although these assessments are useful, they are limited in many ways because they only provide one aspect of information about the students — their proficiency. But what about the whole child? Knowing your students’ academic proficiency is, of course, essential, but it’s not the only thing that matters.

Here are five additional factors that affect student learning in the classroom:

  • Motivation
  • Focus
  • Memory
  • Social Aptitude
  • Confidence

Understanding where your students are with each of these factors can help you know them on a deeper level. Asking students to self-report on these factors at the beginning of the year builds trust, shows students that you care about them as people, and provides valuable information. In conjunction with students’ proficiency levels, you can use this information to tailor your instruction and activities to meet students’ academic and social-emotional needs.

For example, if a fourth-grade teacher knew that the majority of the students who struggled with multiplication facts also reported a lack of motivation for learning them, the teacher could focus on increasing motivation. Armed with this knowledge, the teacher could design a lesson that tackles motivation by demonstrating real-world applications of multiplication through having students create pretend small businesses that require calculations of their startup costs, materials, and monthly sales and expenses.

Assessing students’ needs beyond academic proficiency gives you a complete picture of your students, builds stronger student-teacher relationships, and meets the needs of the whole child.

Using exit tickets to understand your students’ needs

You can integrate this whole-child approach to getting to know your students into your exit tickets as well. Traditionally, we use exit tickets at the end of a lesson to gauge how students are understanding the content and learn what misconceptions they have. But why stop there? This is a missed opportunity to learn even more.
You can also include questions about the five factors (motivation, focus, memory, social aptitude, and confidence) in your exit tickets to better understand students’ social-emotional needs and adapt your instruction accordingly. Examples from Tailor-ED Exit Tickets (Typeform)For example, your exit tickets could include questions such as:

Social: “I would like to work with the students in my group again.”

Confidence: “I get good grades in math”

Motivation: “I prefer work that is challenging so I can learn new things”

Memory:“Do you find it difficult remembering what homework you need to do?”
And students could mark their answers using a scale of 1–5.

Reaching every student through differentiation

With a holistic understanding of your students’ needs — reaching them can be so much easier. You can even group them differently and easily select activities that can enhance all the needs of your class.
For example, if you have students who score high on social aptitude — meaning they learn best with and from each other — you can plan learning activities such as group games, jigsaws, and student-generated problems. When students learn in a way that works best for them, their motivation, confidence, and academic achievement improve. Sometimes, all it takes is understanding the nuances of students’ motivation or social aptitude to help students grow.
At Tailor-ED, we want to make reaching every student as easy and as simple as possible. You can use the Tailor-ED Pre-assessment and Exit Tickets to get to know your students on a deeper level as well as find the most effective activities for your class.

Tailor-ED helps teachers create lesson plans that are tailored to the students’ needs. Teachers use Tailor-ED to continuously assess and group students by their needs to create differentiated lesson plans in minutes.