Touching Base with Touch Points


By Allison Behne and Lori Sabo

Every time we touch base with a student, whether in a small group or in a one-on-one conference, we take notes about what we noticed, the instruction we provided, and what the student’s next steps might be. We stay focused on the child’s goal and strategy in order to keep the conference brief and to maintain curricular coherence.

Touch Points are the scoring system we use to evaluate and determine how a child is progressing at using an assigned strategy independently.

For example, if a student is working on the strategy of Infer and support with evidence to boost comprehension, we may listen to them read a brief portion of a text and make an inference, or have them share a place in their book where they made an inference founded on text evidence. We assign a score in the space under “Touch Point” on the student’s conferring form. The next time we meet, we assess again and give another score to reflect the current level of proficiency:

1 = below standard

2 = approaching standard

3 = meeting standard

4 = exceeding standard

When a child has received two or three 3s or 4s in a row, we trust they have competently added the strategy to their repertoire and are ready to layer on a new one. A check mark and date in the Touch-Point box on the conferring form or strategy-group page signals the end of the teaching and coaching support for this strategy. Though we phase out direct instruction, we continue to monitor periodically.

We value Touch Points because of how easily they allow us to monitor student understanding and application of the strategies we’ve taught to help them reach individual goals. Touch Points also help us monitor the effectiveness of our instruction. If we are unhappy with a student’s progress after three or four conferring sessions, we must make adjustments. We evaluate the

  • books and materials the student is reading,
  • instructional setting (one-on-one or small group),
  • form of instruction (modeling, think-aloud, explicit instruction),
  • student’s reading behaviors (from the I-chart), and
  • strategy and goal (asking whether this is the best strategy/goal for this child at this time).

Touch Points serve as a formative assessment tool for CAFE strategies. They are one data-collection piece we use when determining a child’s grade. If your school uses letter grades, be careful not to make a correlation between the two: it is not that simple. For example, a 3 does not always equal a B—a child might excel at a strategy while reading a good-fit book that is below grade level, but be unable to pass a grade-level assessment passage. We use conferring Touch Points in conjunction with grade-level assessments and grade-level running record passages when determining if a child meets standard.

Your professional judgment, grade-level assessments, district standards, rubrics, and guidelines will help you determine a score, whether it’s a letter grade or in some other form, that truly represents a student’s level of mastery.