Brain Books = Data Collection that is FUN

Report cards are due next week. If you have ever seen a Kindergarten report card, you know that means I have to assess a million different things for every one of my students. One on one. During class time.

This used to be a HUGE headache. I used to get overwhelmed, and then put it off, get even MORE overwhelmed, then finally do it in a rush and work late every night until they were finished. And when they were finished I would say to myself: there has to be a better way!

A good friend showed me how she kept all of her data in a binder. Keeping data together was a breeze because everything she needed to test was ALREADY there. Another friend showed me how she kept data in individual folders for her students. I decided this was the path for me. Brain books. Simple, concise, and you only have to worry about putting them together ONCE.

I keep all of my students papers in individual binders. I could place them all in a single spot for easy access (I know people who do this and it works well for them!), but by putting them in binders, the kids have ownership. Their binders are so important to them and they love, love, love to track their own learning.

My brain books have pages for EVERY single standard we learn and test (plus a few more I find important) over the year. Each week,  I have a goal like “I will test all of my students on this skill,” or “I will grab so-and-so who is brand new and test all of his literacy knowledge so I can put him into a reading group this week.”

It’s magical.

And the COOLEST thing is – no one hates testing.

I’m going to say it again because it is a miracle sentence: NO. ONE. HATES. TESTING.

In fact, they love it. I love it.

I enjoy that time with my students because it is some of the only time I have to be one-on-one with them. We are focused on a certain skill and we get to celebrate the fact that they know more than they did the last time! How amazing is that?!

My students love come to my teacher table because they get to add to their brain book. Maybe they get to color in a few more squares on their sight word graph or make a new learning goal. Whatever the case may be, it is enjoyable for them.


I am all about letting them choose the color I test with, the color they fill their data in with, the sticker they put on their shirt, the way I holler their achievements to the rest of our class.

I am telling you, 100% truthfully, data collection is one of my favorite things about Kindergarten. I think it is a very special time of growth and teacher-student time that is incredibly valuable to our classroom community.

Oh, and I finished my report cards in one day. How, you ask?

I already had the data 😉

Does this sound strange to you? Do you have questions about how I make it work? Please ask! You can either comment here or email me at

I would love to help you make testing and data a more enjoyable part of your life!

Looking for a resource to get you started? I have just posted my literacy brain book on Teachers Pay Teachers. It is my first product so I would love any feedback you have to give!


Thanks for reading! I appreciate you!


Confession Time: Please don’t hate me!

Confession Time: Please don’t hate me!

Hello fellow teachers.

I have a confession to make.

Please don’t hate me…because…

I seriously love data.

I love testing my students and tracking their growth with them. I love to see the progress we make throughout the year and I love to see their excitement when they realize they have reached a goal.

Disclaimer: I know testing has gotten out of hand and we as teachers are TIRED of it. I hate that many teachers feel like they have to spend all of their time teaching to a test. That is no way to teach. I am telling you right now: this is not the kind of data I love. Mandated testing is a huge problem and I have no solutions.

The kind of testing I am talking about is much, much different. It is an opportunity to turn that testing you hate into something enjoyable. It is a relationship between teacher and student like no other I have found and I want to share that love with you.

Here are a few of the many benefits I have found in tracking data with my students:

  • Better understanding of one another: I know exactly where my students are at any given time because we test together. They know how much I want them to succeed because I get to celebrate their growth so often.
  • Classroom community: We set goals together and help each other reach them. When a student masters something like a sight word list or their letter sounds, I yell something like “Woo hoo! Jesus mastered his alphabet!” and the whole class cheers. Every. Single. Time. Talk about heart warming!
  • Better instruction: when I test a student and he is obviously struggling with something, I jot down  a note to make sure I cover it in small group. I have closed so many gaps this way!
  • More directed small groups: I know exactly who needs to come to my teacher table together and why. My groups are literally always changing because students are mastering different things at different paces. Our time together is meaningful and focused and therefore very valuable.

I was inspired to share my ideas after I posted some pretty amazing data in a Facebook group a few weeks ago: IMG_4432

The first picture shows my student’s alphabet mastery at the beginning of the year. The second shows our mastery after one month of focused instruction. My kindergarten class is at 89% mastery! I will tell you, I have a really great group this year and we have worked hard this month! Each one of my students has a “brain book” (that is what we call our data notebooks) with several data pages.

  • IIMG_4407

This is what my alphabet page looked like. Can you believe this growth?! Our class had a dance party after testing on September first!

After I posted those photos, I was asked to share my files. I decided to create a whole literacy brain book for Kindergarten! This is my first teachers pay teachers project and is definitely a leap of faith for me. It is free for a short time in the hopes I will get feedback on things that could be changed or adjusted. If you decide to download it, please email me with changes you would like to see! If you love it as much as I do, please review it on teachers pay teachers! I would really appreciate it!


You will see several posts about tracking data with students because I love it so much and feel it is so under utilized in teaching these days. I definitely do not want to overwhelm anyone so I am going to take it slow. I will be posting more specific strategies and benefits as well so please subscribe if you are interested!

Thank you for joining me in this journey to discover the best way to help our students succeed!

Mo Willems, Pigeon and Directed Drawings

Mo Willems, Pigeon and Directed Drawings

Hello friends!

I hope August treated you well. It’s September! Yippee!

A few weeks ago I did this super fun, whole week unit on Mo Willems and I wanted to share some pictures. We learned from his writing style and drawings and used them as inspiration to be authors and illustrators.

It was incredible to see my 5 and 6 year olds take on this role so CONFIDENTLY. This age is so fun because they really believe they are capable of whatever they put their mind to – and they are!

My absolute FAVORITE activity was our directed drawings of Pigeon. We just love him. We especially love yelling “NO!” whenever he asks us to drive the bus or stay up late. And we giggle a lot when he tries to get out of taking a bath or finds a hot dog.


Didn’t these turn out SO cute?! Oh my word. I’m thinking about “losing” them (at my house) instead of returning them 😉

I found this image when doing a google search (I couldn’t find the original source! I’m sorry!) and thought hey! That doesn’t look to hard! So I figured we would give it a try. I explained and drew each piece on the smart board while they watched and then they did it on their papers. I had them use crayons instead of pencil so there could be no erasing. It worked out really well!


The kids really, really, really loved it and were so proud of their accomplishment!


Here is a close up of a few of them. I mean every single one turned out so great! Every one!

So I am completely obsessed with directed drawings now. I purchased a great set on Teachers Pay Teachers and we have already tried out a pig to go with our Three Little Pigs book last week. It is one of my favorite new activities!

The final benefit of this project is reading the hilarious stories my students keep writing about Pigeon.


One of my boys was writing “If You Take a Mouse to Pigeon’s House.” I was cracking up when he told me all the things that would happen. Think: the mouse will try to eat his hot dog; the mouse will drive the bus and pigeon will be mad, etc. So creative! I love that they have gained the confidence to draw him and even mimic stories they have heard.

I hope these drawings gave you as much joy as they have given me!