Wednesday, July 9, 2014

2014 In Review: Or What My Students Really Thought

Following Bob Patrick's advice in his presentation on the No Failure Classroom, I skipped all the websites, articles, and blogs on student feedback and simply asked three questions:

  1. What did we do that was helpful?
  2. What did we do that wasn't helpful?
  3. If you could change one thing, what would it be. 
I am still going through these and plan a follow up in a few weeks during pre-planning where I'll discuss the third question in more detail, namely, the things I do and don't plan to change and why. 

For this post, I want to reflect on the Comprehensible Input activities we did do and students' main responses to them. I am not going to go over all of them, especially not the ones I intend to talk about later, but there was a nice amount of variation in the things they brought up.

I recorded their responses in a Google spreadsheet and used a formula to count the number of responses. Originally I wasn't going to count responses, but then it occurred to me that it would be helpful to simply see how many students wanted to comment on it. 

I polled all of my students. Of the roughly 130 of them, a few did respond with things like, "everything helped" or, "I can't think of anything", but mostly they were incredibly specific, some even providing detailed explanations. 

I did not provide them a list of activities and I did not ask them to comment on certain things. Instead, I left it completely open and have only recorded their responses. 

  • Quia - We used this website for all our "study guides" (which I don't give. Instead I make games and activities on Quia for in context practice) and tests. Students get immediate feedback and can replay and replay, rather than memorise answers. 18 students discussed this type of activity and 17 of them said it was helpful (94%). Students liked not being given the answers mostly, although some commented that they wished there was an "answer key" they could look at. The students liked how relaxed the study environment was and felt well prepared for tests and the final.
  • Movie Shorts - This activity was mostly done with students in levels II, III, and IV. 12 students listed this activity and all 12 called it helpful (100%). The response was overwhelming asking, in addition to the change below, if we could do this more often. Some even wrote suggestions for future movie shorts.
  • Reader's Theatre - I didn't do this activity often, and that showed in that only 5 students discussed this. All 5 students loved this activity and much of their thoughts were strongly written (100%). This is not my favourite activity, but it is something I will do more of next year.
  • Read and Discuss/Read, Discuss, and Draw - This activity was a central part of all my classes and one we did often. The students knew well what to expect. Of the 16 students who mentioned this, 14 found it helpful (88%). The ones who found it most helpful wrote why, explaining that reading it to themselves (or a partner), my reading it with emotion, Q and A time, and drawing (when applicable) helped them greatly make sense of stories. They liked the steps and knowing what was coming next.
  • TPR/TPRS - 9 students mentioned this. I was honestly expecting more, but this is such a major part of my class that I never really announce it, we just do it, so I wonder if it wasn't brought up more because they don't think of it as an activity so much as just a natural part of class. All 9 found it helpful (100%) and left comments that they really enjoyed talking about themselves and pulling my stuffed animals out. My kinesthetic learners really enjoy TPR as do my students who dislike sitting still for long. I have made plans to include more TPR next year, which I'll discuss in more detail in my next post.
  • Dictatio - 15 students named this and 13 found it helpful (87%). By far, this is the activity that students groaned about the most during class. We started every unit with it and I use it to introduce vocabulary and preview grammar. I was expecting more to say it wasn't helpful, given the groans, but overall they said that writing it down as I said it, correcting it, and going over it was incredibly helpful. The 4% students used it as a guide for the unit, referring back to it and using it to look ahead, while the rest used it as an introduction and a jumping off place.
  • Google 80/20 - This project, which I've written about before, was only done with the IIIs and IVs. Since I had given them a separate survey on it, I was not expecting anyone to put it here, but they did. 6 out of 8 students found it helpful (75%). They did have some suggestions for improving it, which I appreciated, but they really did enjoy being able to use what they like to teach others. 

Some of the other activities listed were our Timed Writes, themed units, Sustained Silent Reading, Sentence Frames, using PPT to display embedded stories, Speed Date Reading, Socrative, and using song in class. 

I really enjoyed reading their feedback for the most part and I do intend to give a report to them when we go back to school. While I will not take all of their advice, it has opened my eyes a little to the way I do things and some things I should change. 

In my next post, which I'll post probably in about two weeks or so, I want to focus on Timed Writes, Sustained Silent Reading, Speed Date Reading, and my lesson plan book for this next year. 

Did you use a different feedback system? I'd love to hear what your kids had to say.