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Welcome to my practical data use email for K–12 educators! Every other week I send an idea for practical data use that you can use today in your education job. I'll be including activities like these in my new book The K–12 Educator's Data Guidebook: Reimagining Practical Data Use in Schools, which will be out later this year.

If this activity helps you, consider sharing it with a friend by clicking on the buttons below! That helps me learn more about what's helping you go from stuck to unstuck with your data work. 
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I know it can feel tedious and painful, but there's something about writing that makes vague ideas clearer. Trust me on this one!

Part 2: Scribe a Question About the Chart 

Here's a rule of thumb I use: when I'm confused about something, I write about it.

What This Does 

In this activity, you'll learn the second step in the Spot, Scribe, Study approach to using a chart. You'll build your confidence around charts by writing about the chart's elements.

Pick a chart you've seen at work, forward this email to a friend, and try it together in-person, on a video call, or as a staff meeting activity. 

How This Helps Us 

Imagine this: You're a teacher at an elementary school. It's Thursday at 3:00. You're planning for Friday when your laptop dings, alerting you to an email. You stop what you're doing to look at the email and see it's from the principal. The subject line says "Prepare to discuss data for tomorrow's staff meeting."

You double click on the attachment and up comes a data chart. You feel something that's not quite panic, but not quite peace either. You think to yourself, "What am I going to say about this tomorrow? What will my teammates say about it? Will I have to show my own data?" 

Here's the thing: a chart's ability to condense a lot of data into a single image is why it can be so helpful and so overwhelming at the same time. 

Having a routine to use when you encounter a chart will narrow your actions down so you proceed with more confidence. In the last email, you learned how to spot the elements of a chart. In this email, you'll use a sentence frame to help build confidence when writing and talking about charts. 

Instructions: Scribe the Chart's Elements

Review the basic elements of a chart, which you saw in the last email: 

  • x-axis: The x-axis is the horizontal line that represents a category or a set of numbers. 
  • y-axis: The y-axis also represents a category or a set of numbers, but it runs vertically on the chart.
  • visual elements: These are the shapes on the chart that represent values, usually quantities. They’re the bars, dots, and colors that help us use the data to make comparisons.

Next, use this sentence frame to write a discussion question about the chart:

What does the [VISUAL ELEMENT] tell us about the [X-AXIS] and the [Y-AXIS]? 


To make this concrete, use the same example chart we used in the last email. It's not real data, but it's similar to other charts you see at work. It's a bar chart that shows the average score of all students who took five quizzes.

Here's the question and answer I would write if I were interpreting this chart: 

Question: What does the length of each bar (visual element) tell us about the average quiz score (y-axis) for each quiz (x-axis)?

Answer: A longer bar suggests a higher average quiz score. 

Now you know how to use a sentence frame to help you interpret a chart's elements. You also know how to write and talk about the chart so you can practice ahead of your data meetings and build confidence. And the more confidence you build, the more willing you'll be to try new things and find what practical data use means for you. 

In the next newsletter, you'll learn about the third part of the Spot, Scribe, Study approach to charts: Study. 

If someone forwarded this email to you, click here to sign up and you'll join the community of practical data users that receive these activities automatically.

A couple more things before we close up: I've got a podcast with my colleague Joshua Rosenberg called About Practice. We talk about challenges and solutions for using research in everyday education jobs. It's super fun and you can subscribe on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

And last, I wrote a book with some awesome people about using data science tools in the education field called Data Science in Education Using R. You can read it for free here and buy your print copy here.

That's all for now! More in a couple weeks!

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