Data-Driven Family Engagement Tools for Head Start and State Preschools

Learning Genie is an app for ECE educators and family service workers for Distant Learning and Family Engagement including tracking in-kind. During the COVID-19 crisis, Learning Genie offers free tools till the end of 2020 under a grant (or in-kind) to support all ECE agencies for Distance Learning and track school readiness outcomes.

PRESCHOOL PORTFOLIO APP- LEARNING GENIE

Learning Genie also provides a useful application for portfolio-building. The portfolio tracking and tagging systems could be readily applied to DRDP 2015, Florida VPK, Head Start (HS), Early Head Start (EHS), Montessori, and other state or private-backed assessment tools.

Topic #1: Learning and Applying Preschool Learning Foundations and Assessment Data in Lesson Planning, Environment Setting, and Leading Small Group and Big Group Activities.

Learning the DRDP

After teaching 23 years, in various grade levels all the way from Kindergarten up to 8th grade, I began my TK career 11 years ago. I started teaching Transitional Kindergarten the first year my school district decided to implement the new grade level. None of the other Kindergarten teachers at my school wanted to take the class because of the oh so many unknowns that inevitably came along with something as significant as this being brand new with very few guidelines to follow. Besides, being the only one with an A.A. in Child Development, it made the most sense. So, with my “I can do anything once” attitude, I took on the challenge. And while it started off with a few struggles and had many ups and downs along the way, I have come to learn a few valuable strategies over the years.

In the beginning, we really taught Transitional Kindergarten like Kindergarten, but simply at a bit slower pace and just spent more time on the beginning standards of Kinder. Now with the DRDP and Preschool Learning Foundations driving our instruction, things look a little different.

To be completely honest, when I started the DRDP assessment it was overwhelming and scary. There were so many Development Domains and so many Measures in each of them! For our District, using the Fundamental version, there were 30 measures that were required! And this did not even count the Conditional Measures that accompanied an ELD student or a student with an IEP, which could potentially add four or more to the already high count. My initial feelings were that it would be impossible to complete it with any fidelity at all. I just had to give myself some grace and do the best that I could. Luckily I wasn’t alone and was able to both commiserate and brainstorm ideas with my colleagues.

The hardest part of the DRDP process has been learning what I should be looking for, and this is something that I am still continuing to work on since this is my first year doing the DRDP assessment.

I now give students more opportunities to choose and decide where they want to go and what they want to do as far as activities, and I am spending more time watching and facilitating their learning instead of direct instruction.

I am finding the best way to gather evidence is to have my iPad with me and when the students do something that is representative of what I think is a Developmental Domain, I take a picture, put a short description and save a draft. I then go back later and decide what Developmental Domains it would be in.

One example that was really exciting for me was when two girls were playing in the block area. They were creating a mall because I have Environmental Signs in my block area, and they had found a sign with the Target logo on it. So they decided to build a mall around that idea. They went through all of the signs and had to figure out who got to use what signs. One girl made an entrance and put the Target sign above it. The other girl noticed and said that that was the mall entrance and the Target sign shouldn’t be there. I told them that at our mall in town, Target did have its own entrance. After thinking about that for a moment, she said to me that there wasn’t a sign that said Mall. I suggested she could make one herself. So she went to the Writing Center and got a piece of paper and asked me how to spell it. She then asked for tape and taped it to another entrance that she had made.

During this time, they also were asking what a few of the signs they didn’t recognize said. They were also using various items to enhance their structure. One of them also chose to incorporate some big Legos that were lying around to build a tower for the mall. When it fell, I asked her why and she said it was too heavy. They then brought out the toy families to play “going to the Mall”. And all of this took place in only a matter of thirty minutes.

With this one activity I was able to observe many of the Developmental Domains:

ALT-REG 5: Control of Feelings and Behavior – When the one girl didn’t want the Target sign where the other put it, she found another way to make things work.

ALT-REG 6: Engagement and Persistence – Even when things were not going as planned, they kept working on it, like the blocks falling and no sign that said “Mall”.

ALT-REG 7: Shared use of Space and Materials – They were having to work around each other and compromise on who got what, like the signs.

SED 3: Relationships and Social Interactions with Familiar Adults – One girl asked me for help on making the Mall sign.

SED 4: Relationships and Social Interactions with Peers – The girls organized and worked together to build the mall.

SED 5: Symbolic and Sociodramatic Play – They used the dolls to role play.

LLD 3: Communication and Use of Language (Expressive) – They were able to tell me what they were building and what they were playing.

LLD 7: Concepts About Print – They were able to read most of the signs because they were environmental print.

LLD 9: Letter and Word Knowledge and LLD 10: Emergent Writing – The one girl was able to write the word “Mall” by me spelling it to her.

COG 5: Measurement – One girl told me the blocks fell because they were too heavy. 

PD-HLTH 3: Gross Motor Manipulative Skills – The girls were able to build a structure with the blocks and move around them without knocking them over.

I was amazed at the amount of evidence I could gather by just watching and sometimes interacting with the students. Because I really wanted to be present with my students, I quickly jotted down what was happening and went back to add the Domains at a later time.

Not all of the evidence I collect is happenstance, though. I am too scared that I will not be able to see a certain Developmental Domain or miss a Measure. So I do some one-on-one or group activities where I am looking for something specific, but I try to add as many Domains and Measures as possible.
One instance of this was when I decided to assess the students on patterning. I first had students cut out button shapes. There were three shapes (circle, triangle and square) and three colors (blue, lavender, and yellow.) I actually had them cut the pieces out the day before because doing it all at once would have been a bit too much all at once.
When I first started it I asked them to make a pattern, giving them the option of using colors or shapes or maybe even both for my more advanced students. After working with a couple of students, I realized that I could easily add sorting to this activity. I pulled out a sorting mat and had them sort the buttons first and then make their pattern. By doing this I added another measure. I also would ask them questions like, “What shapes are we using?” “Are there more circles or squares?” “How many sides does the triangle have? The Square?”

LLD 1: Understanding of Language (Receptive) – Students are able to follow the directions of the activity. 

COG 2: Classification – The students were able to sort either by color or by shape. 

COG 6: Patterning – The students were able to show me that they could do a pattern, some were more complicated than others. 

COG 7: Shapes – I also was able to see if they knew the three shapes or not. 

PD-HLTH 4: Fine Motor Manipulative Skills – I was able to assess their cutting skills when they cut the pieces out.

With this seemingly simple activity, I was able to assess five measures! I also got to spend some one-on-one time with the students, which is always nice.
Not always can I get so many measures with an activity. Sometimes I can only get one measure, but I can get most, if not all, of the class at once. Doing a scarf and movement song can gather a lot of evidence for PD-HLTH 1: Perceptual-Motor Skills and Movement Concepts. There are many great videos on Youtube, and the best part is you can just sit back and observe to gather your evidence.
Many times, I will also just go sit with a group of students while they are doing an activity with my iPad and just write all of their names down and record what they are doing individually, going back after the fact to separate them out.
These strategies have helped me immensely as I go through the DRDP process the second time. Although I was very hesitant about having to do the DRDP assessment, it has allowed me to really get to know my students and see where they are developmentally. It has also challenged me to think of developmentally appropriate activities where I can better observe where the students are and how to advance them.

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