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K-12

7 Ways to Request Feedback from Students about Your Class

I bookmarked an interesting Twitter thread the other day:

When I returned to my bookmark yesterday, I was thrilled by the variety of the responses in the thread. There were many replies, and only one or two that I saw where the teacher reported negative experiences with doing this. I would guess that those outliers might need to fine-tune their methods, as I can honestly say that I’ve made it a practice to get feedback from parents and students for many years through various means and it has nearly always been extremely informative. Even when I asked for feedback from some of my more “challenging” high school classes, I received good information.

Before I share some of the creative student feedback methods you can use, I think it’s important to note how you can set the scene so the feedback is meaningful.

  1. Don’t just ask for feedback at the end of the school year. At least three times a year is good. (I did it every grading period.) Feedback will help you “tweak” and make changes that will benefit the students, and that is most effective if you are doing it during your course and at the end to help you plan for the next year.
  2. Be clear with your students that you are asking for this so you can keep what’s working and make improvements on what isn’t working. This has nothing to do with their grades
  3. Act on the feedback throughout the year, and be explicit about what you are changing and that it’s because of meaningful feedback you received.
  4. In most cases, make it a choice for students to be anonymous or include their names. I say “in most cases” because some of the examples I give below don’t technically allow for that. Some students are afraid of retaliation if they give negative feedback, so the more comfortable you can make them, the more honest they will be.
  5. Be prepared for negative feedback, and that some of it will not be constructive. Analyze it, but don’t take it to heart. Remember that some students will be lashing out for reasons that may have nothing to do with you.
  6. READ the feedback. Refer to the feedback. Bring it up many times in a positive way. Otherwise, students think it was just busywork, and that not only impacts the next time you ask for feedback, but the next time any teacher asks for it.
  7. Do some sort of short review of what’s happened so far in class before you ask for feedback. Lots of things are going on in their lives, and even the most wonderful experiences may have slipped their minds.

Some of the above advice may seem obvious, but I included it because it wasn’t obvious to me at first. The first few times I asked for student feedback did not give me helpful results. Don’t give up if you experience the same. It is very likely that you need to make some adjustments to your process, and extremely worth it when you get it right.

I asked some of the people in Jason’s original thread for permission to share their advice and/or images. Here are some of the suggestions from the thread as well as some others I’ve gathered:

1. Choose words to describe your year.

Gina Ruffcorn takes the words her students submit and makes them into a word cloud to represent the year.

2. Analyze classroom policies.

3. Use Exit Talks.

4. Use Google Forms. Once the results are in (if it’s not your last day), make screenshots of some results or quotes (without student names ) to project to the class and discuss. This blog post gives sample forms you can download. I used Google Forms as well. During the school year, I would sprinkle in some “fun” questions, like, “What is a song you love to listen to right now?” I would play the songs (if appropriate) sometimes during class.

5. Play “Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe.” I describe it in this post. Since students work in groups, one advantage is that you can hear their discussions, but they also get filtered down to the most important answers. Here are the questions we used: list 3 important features of this class, list 3 not-so-important features of this class, list 2 very different kinds of features our our class, identify a hidden feature of our class, what’s 1 feature without which our class would be very different, what feature of our class is the hardest to understand (and why), which of our class features are the most interesting to you and why, think of something very different from our class and tell us two ways it’s different and one way it’s similar, and think of something very similar to our class and list two ways it’s similar and one way it’s different.

6. Use Post-Its to brainstorm activities done in class, and then place them on a matrix as in this blog post.

7. Or, after brainstorming what has been done in class, or what could be done, sort them into Start, Stop, Continue columns as you can see here.

I’ll be adding this post to my End of Year Wakelet, though as I mentioned earlier, it’s good to get feedback from your students throughout the year. Also, don’t forget to ask parents for feedback. This can be extremely beneficial as well. Once you receive your feedback, you can use the Taxonomy of Reflection to decide on what changes you would like to make.

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K-12

Odds and Ends for Wrapping up the School Year

The problem with an educational system that focuses on testing and performance is that the joy of learning takes a back seat. This is never more evident than in the time following the stressful testing season. School doesn’t end when testing does — but many students don’t see a purpose for being there any longer.

This is a challenge for teachers; in fact I recently saw a post on social media from a teacher begging for ideas for the last few weeks of school when students seem to have “checked out.”

I just beefed up my “End of Year” Collection with suggestions for keeping students engaged as the year winds down. I’ve had a lot of success with many of the activities in this Wakelet, especially the ones that give the students opportunities for self-expression. Hexagonal Reflections (also Reflecting with Hexagons), Designing Manifestos, and Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe were all meaningful and fun. The Self-Designed Hashtag Awards (idea from @jtrayers) were also a big hit. These were all lessons I did with elementary students, but could certainly be adapted. One excellent idea I found for high school that was shared by Susan Barber (@SusanGbarber) on Twitter last year includes a Google Slide presentation she made for her students giving them choices that ranged from making blackout poetry with their college applications to book spine poetry reflecting their feelings about high school.

There will, of course, be days that you might want to show a video. I collected some of my favorite inspirational videos for this time of year here. And if you have the inclination to offer challenging puzzles or participate in some fun and games such as Goosechase Edu or Breakout Edu, I have links for those in the End of the Year Wakelet as well.

Some schools have just a few weeks left, while others will continue late into June. Some of you may be in countries that just began a new year a couple of months ago. Regardless of your situation, you may want to take a few minutes to look over this collection because many of these activities can work at other times of the year as well.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! The best way I can think of to celebrate you is to continue to share free resources and ideas that will hopefully ease some of the stress in your jobs.

3-12, Critical Thinking

Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe for Reflection

UPDATE 5/10/2022: For more End-of-Year activities, visit this post from 2022. You can also see the questions I used for Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe during our reflection by going to #5 in the feedback suggestions on this post.

To continue this week’s theme of year-end activities to use with students, I want to remind you of this blog post from 2016. We used “Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe” quite a bit in my class to analyze and synthesize learning, and the open-ended prompts work very well for an end-of-year reflection for upper elementary students. The game comes from Critical Squares: Games of Critical Thinking and Understanding, a book written by Shari Tishman and Albert Andrade for Harvard’s Project Zero, but you can see what the Tic-Tac-Toe game looks like if you go to page 24 at this link. I explain how I used it for reflection in my 2016 blog post, but you will probably find that you can modify it for lots of curriculum ideas. It’s one more way you can still learn and have fun once the year begins to wind down.

Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay
3-12, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, Student Products

IDEO Lifeline Cards

If you really want to take your feedback, reflections, critiques, etc… to a whole new level, you should consider using these IDEO Lifeline Cards.  I haven’t used them with my students yet, but just asking myself the questions made me think about my own work differently.  The cards are free (and quite beautiful), so download them while you can.  Even if the questions are a bit too high level for your particular student age group, applying them to your own life is an intriguing exercise and may give you some insight you have never considered.

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Critical Thinking, Depth and Complexity, Education, K-12, Student Products, Vocabulary

Reflecting with Hexagons

I think that the deepest discussions I ever hear in my classroom happen when we do Hexagonal Thinking.  If you haven’t heard of this strategy, I explain how I use it with my 4th graders in this blog post.  Last year, I did a post on using Hexagonal Thinking to reflect on the school year.  In the past, my 3rd-5th graders have used Hexagonal Thinking.  This year, on a whim, I decided to try it with my 2nd graders.

My 2nd graders have never done an activity like this before.  It was our last day of class together, and I wanted to help them sum up the things they have learned in our Gifted and Talented class this year.  Because they were new to Hexagonal Thinking, I conducted the activity in a slightly different way.

First, I went to this awesome Hexagon Generator, and asked the class to help me brainstorm words that represented things they have learned in GT.  Here is what they came up with:

Photo May 30, 1 35 37 PM

I did this right before their recess time, so I could make some quick copies for everyone while they played.

When we got back to the classroom, I paired up the students and gave them the paper.  Now this is where I really departed from my traditional lesson.  Instead of asking them to cut up the hexagons and place them where they wanted on a new sheet of paper, I asked them to make connections between words that were already sharing sides.  We went over a couple of examples so they could understand that I didn’t want them to say things that used the words in the explanation, (such as creativity goes with problem solving because you need to be creative to problem solve) but to think about the qualities that each word shared.

You know how you sometimes come up with an idea right before class and you start executing the idea and realize about 3/4 of the way through explaining it that it was the dumbest idea ever and now you need to figure out how to get through the next 45-minutes without anyone crying – including you?

That’s how I felt as I started monitoring the partner discussions.  Expecting 2nd graders to “go deep” on the last day of class was not a brilliant decision on my part.  There were comments like, “Well, bridges goes with stability because they need to stay up or they will fall down.”  True, but not what I was going for.

And then something kind of magical happened.  I heard partners saying, “No, no, that’s not what she wants.”  And I started reading some of their notes.  And I realized that these kids can think deeper than I can when given the opportunity.

A few of their comments:

  • Stability and Support – “You have to be strong and stand up for your friends.”
  • Creativity and Perspective – “You have to think the way others think to make them happy.”
  • Perseverance and Adaptations – “They both don’t give up trying to survive.”
  • Perseverance and Adaptations – “Sometimes you need to change to work together.”
  • Ethics and Perspectives – “When you don’t look at different points of view, sometimes you get in a fight.”

You can see the working drafts one pair used below.

The great thing about this activity was hearing the students use the vocabulary, like “ethics” and “perspectives” correctly, and being able to tell from their comments if they really understood these topics.

If you still have some time with your students before closing out the year, I definitely recommend this activity!

Photo May 30, 1 36 41 PM

Photo May 30, 1 36 51 PM

 

 

Creative Thinking, Education, K-12, Teaching Tools

More End of the Year Stuff

This is a reblog of a post that I did a couple of years ago, but it was originally titled, “Alternatives to Showing the Movie Frozen for the Next 14 Days.”  Since that movie is kind of over now, I came up with a more fitting title for my recycled material 😉

yearend
image from Live Life Happy on Flickr

You know how it goes.  Grades are turned in.  Textbooks have been collected.  The computer lab is shut down.  But the activity level of our students has gone up.  What’s a teacher supposed to do?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve been trying to get my students to reflect on the year.  Using our class blog as a reference has helped tremendously.

Yesterday, with my GT 1st graders, I also asked them to look through the blog posts for their grade level.  They used a simple printable I found from Laura Candler to write their favorite moments of the year.  Here are some examples:

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Using divergent thinking for activities like the Squiggle Challenge and S.C.A.M.P.E.R. were very popular with this class.  Speaking of S.C.A.M.P.E.R., here is what some of them did with a page from my Summer Pool Party S.C.A.M.P.E.R. packet – Put an inflatable pool cushion to another use. (By the way, all of my grade levels, K-5, love doing S.C.A.M.P.E.R. drawings!)

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One of the blog posts the first graders “re-discovered” as they reflected was this one.  Try showing the Kid President video at the bottom of that post, and see if your own students can add to the list.  We used Padlet, but old-fashioned pencil and paper works, too!

Here are some other ideas from past posts for making the last couple of weeks fun and engaging:

I would also recommend checking out the Not Just Child’s Play blog by Joelle Trayers for ideas.  That woman always has creative suggestions that can be modified for any elementary grade level!