Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hard Data and Soft Data

 I hope you had an awesome summer and that you’re refreshed and renewed and ready to rock and roll for a new school year! As usual, I learned a lot this summer. I have hard data and soft data on my summer ...

Hard data is quantifiable -- you can count it and add it up. Here’s some examples of  “hard data” from my summer...

·         Miles traveled by car --- 2,714
·         Miles traveled by plane -- 2,098
·         Number of times I read the same picture book to my toddler on the plane -- 41
·         Number of my relatives seen -- 16
·         Number of my husband’s relatives seen --  over 50
·         Number of ferry boat rides -- 4
·         Number of subway rides -- 2
·         Number of museums visited -- 6
·         Number of caves visited -- 1
·         Number of states visited -- 6
·         Number of mermaids seen – 7 (and one mer-man)
·         Number of finger-paints spilled -- 5
·         Number of swimming lessons taken by my kids -- 54
·         Number of artworks created by my five year-old -- 230

I also collected some “soft data”. Soft data is harder to measure, harder to quantify.

·         My one year old would rather spill finger-paints then paint with them.
·         My five-year-old is so much more pleasant when she has protein for breakfast
·         Those Weeki Wachee mermaids are really amazing athletes.
·         Twelve hours in a car with a toddler feels like it
lasts for days.
·         Light-up shoes are really helpful (and funny) in a cave.
·         Climbing up the pedestal in the Statue of Liberty is more work than it sounds.
·         My backyard DOES flood when it rains for 21 days in a row.  
·         The zoo is half-empty when it’s hot outside. That’s probably for a good reason.
·         A dinosaur-themed wedding is more fun than you think it will be..

As we start a new school year, with new students, new courses, sometimes new classrooms, I know that you will collect and pour over tons of hard data -- last year’s grades, FSA scores, EOC scores, PM tests, AP scores, free-and-reduced status, languages spoken at home, reading levels, attendance records, discipline history, arrest records, test specs and blueprints..... It’s enough data to get lost in!

I would like to HIGHLY encourage you to collect some “soft” data during the first few weeks as well. Learn some less-quantifiable data about your students and classes -- and RECORD that “soft data”.

Ideas to find out about your kids -- “soft data”
·         where they do their homework (and if anyone helps them)
·         what their learning styles are (give an inventory like this)
·         what their interests are (try an interest survey like one of these)
·         what their first impressions are about your class.
·         whether they enjoyed and/or were successful in their previous social studies classes)
·         what sports/clubs/extracurricular activities they enjoy and are involved in.

Then, put that info in your gradebook, in MS Excel, in a notebook -- something! Do something with that info and make it easy to use. I used to collect some of that info in my class, but I always put it away, meaning to “do something” with it later. But I never did.

Put it on your wall (the no-name stuff, of course), put it in your folder, or somewhere. But make it accessible so you can get to it and use that data.

“Soft data” is just as valuable as “hard data”. Find a good system to collect, organize, and reference it regularly. I promise, it will be totally worth it!

Do you collect any “soft data”? Do you have any tips on organizing and using it? As always, I love to hear from you! Email me at

Tracy Newman
Reading-in-Social Studies Coach

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