Week 20: Focus Student

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Why is it worthwhile to have a focus student? How can taking an Oral Language Record focus a conversation around student learning? Focus to notice is the topic of this week’s blog. 

A learning opportunity last week provided clear answers to the questions above. In addition to teaching and blogging, I’m also coaching teachers attending a professional development focused on literacy and language provided by the New Teacher Center. With the teacher’s permission, I decided it might be worthwhile to share the outcome of our collaborative analysis of the authentic assessment I collected. 

In the pre-observation conversation, the teacher identified a student she wanted me to focus on.   This opportunity to just zoom in on the learning, without having to manage and make instructional decisions on the run, afforded me the time to capture the student’s thinking to process and solve a math problem.  In the CCSS, students are expected to explain their thinking in math. But what if you are just learning the English language?  What should the teacher be listening for to assess understanding and use of academic oral language so students will be able to clearly articulate their thinking?   

To set the context, students were learning how to multiply a two-digit number with a single digit multiplier using partial products.  At the start of the lesson, the teacher reviewed the strategies for multiplying single digit numbers.  Then, she modeled how to use partial products. Next she provided a shared experience by having a student solve a problem with the class.  Right away, the teacher was able to clarify confusions by listening to the class discussion.  Then, she told them use partial product to find the product of 33x4. I sat next to the focus student and used the OLR form to capture our conversation.  Here’s what I recorded on the OLR: 

Me: What will you do first?   

Focus Student: First circle the 3 because it’s in the ten’s place.

Me:  Then what?                

Focus Student: Next circle the one’s place. Next do it all together. It has to equals.

The teacher, observing a student solving the problem on the board, asked, “What else do we need to do to move into the one’s? Are we ready to move on?” Turn and Talk. 

Focus Student: Not yet because… because we are not done with the ten’s place.

I also made notes of what he did step by step, his drawings, and strategy he used to solve the problem.   At the end of the lesson, the teacher asked, “What did you learn about partial products?” Turn and Talk. 

Focus Student: That partial product helps you remember you remember the product.

After the lesson, the teacher and I analyzed what I had recorded.  By having a clear teaching point and an authentic assessment of a focus student’s oral language, it was easy to notice if the student was able to apply  the learning and the language structure and academic vocabulary the student holds. Compared to his oral production in the beginning of the year, the teacher was glad  to see the progress he has made in oral language. It also made it clear what academic vocabulary the student needed that the teacher could intentionally reteach the following day. We saw where the misstep was and where the confusion occurred.  After analyzing, we then determined next steps. A targeted “intervention” to address his confusion and teach the academic vocabulary for “do it all together” were some of the things the teacher decided to address the very next day. 

Later that week, when I stopped by to ask the teacher for permission to use this learning experience for my blog,  she shared with me the successes the focus student had already made and how other students benefited too. 










valeriaperez's picture

Upon the lesson, the educator and I broke down what I had recorded to do my essay today. By having an unmistakable showing point and a credible appraisal of a concentration understudy's oral dialect, it was anything but difficult to see if the understudy could apply the learning and the dialect structure and scholarly vocabulary the understudy holds.