kitchen table math, the sequel: help desk: how to chart progress

Saturday, July 4, 2009

help desk: how to chart progress

Years ago the director of the charter school for autistic kids Jimmy & Andrew were attending told me that the only way to turn 'data' into positive reinforcement was to chart it.

That was a revelation. I already knew about the importance of "taking data," as behavior analysts call it. Taking data seems to be a pivotal behavior in behavioral treatment; just keeping track of what you're doing -- or what your goofy kids are doing -- helps. Knowing what you're doing changes what you're doing.

This is true even for children with severe autism, by the way. I've seen it. The minute you start counting & recording a child's behaviors to get a baseline, the behavior changes. It's uncanny.

In any event, the director's friend was working on his dissertation and had been recording his word count every day. But he'd stalled out & was stuck. Blocked.

She told him he needed to chart his data. It isn't good enough just to write down numbers day in and day out, you have to see a line going up-up-up (or, in the case of weight loss, down-down-down) if your daily numbers are going to serve as a force for good.

Practically the instant the words were out of her mouth, I knew she was right, and I've been trying to chart stuff ever since. Problem is, I've never been able to figure out how to chart the things I need to chart. Weight loss is easy; it's weight against date. Page counts are easy. Pages against date & keep a running total.

But I've never worked out how to chart the other phases of writing (or anything else): planning, organizing, reading, interviewing, etc.

Just this week, I'm trying to figure out how to chart C's studies for the summer. He has a bunch of reading to do for Hogwarts, which is easy. Last summer I made a simple chart for both of us that worked like a charm. It's a good thing, too, because he had to read 2500 pages in 8 weeks. He may have been one of the few kids in the school who actually did it, and we have the schedule and the chart to thank for it.

This summer I want him to do a bunch of other things, too. On the advice of friends, I've decided to pay him to do some but not all of them, and I have no idea how to record these activities in a manner that will be a) clear and b) motivating.

Here's the scheme:

I don't know what to do with this, chart-wise.

Plus I'm befuddled on the question of positive reinforcement and intrinsic motivation, but that's another story.

Are there books to read on this subject?

And: has anyone used Chartdog?

Explanation of standard celeration chart
50 Google chart tricks for your next classroom presentation
free behavior modification charts


Catherine Johnson said...

The reference to "all four books" means Megawords, Sentence Composing, Grammar for High School, & Sentence Combining Workbook.

If he does 1 page in each, he gets a buck.

Which is not hugely incentivizing, sad to say.

Anonymous said...

I like the buck a page idea. I think that might help me when we start back up after camp.


Catherine Johnson said...

Well, I can't say it's been a blinding success.

Also, I can't tell if it's good or bad that a dollar means so little to C. when it comes to working on sentence composition (or anything else).

It's probably both. He's been doing ALEKS somewhat reliably because he finds it enjoyable (or possibly "reinforcing"). He's not getting paid for that.

Yesterday he discovered that he loves the French by Association book & he's already finished one chapter, which is 10 bucks - and he doesn't care about the 10 bucks, either. He did the whole chapter fast because he liked it.

Getting airborne on these things isn't easy.

The real problem is the 4 writing books, which I REALLY want him to do, and which he has no interest in doing.

He's not interested in doing the SAT math book, either, and that may be fine.

Anonymous said...

What's the Grammar for High School one?

The French by Association looks interesting, too.


Catherine Johnson said...

French by Association is fantastic. Wonderful.

I'm having C. do it because of research I read saying that all language learners at all ages move from single words to sentences after they've acquired a certain number of single vocabulary words.

I don't know whether that's true or not (Lefty and rightwingprof probably know) but it made a lot of sense to me.

C. is starting an Honors French sequence in the fall so I figured I'd have him use Gruenberg's "speed vocabulary" book this summer.

He loves it.

I've been using the Spanish book & I'm retaining all kinds of words with pretty minimal practice.

gansa, for instance

means goose

I learned that word for the first time months ago & still remember it