Remember what it’s like to be a student, constantly wondering if your teacher likes you, worrying about your next assignment and your next grade?
I give out periodic “teacher progress reports” to my students to coincide with the progress reports I have to fill out for them.
These “progress reports” are an opportunity to hear raw student voices enter the way I think about our work together and the way I plan future lessons and future units. Unlike your principal, students spend dozens of hours with you and aren’t trained to hand you a compliment sandwich.
Here’s some of what I learned by going through student responses:
Students really, really, really like independent reading time. It’s clear from student feedback that independent reading is an important routine to their days. Some wrote about how they look forward to coming in from lunch to a silent classroom for some reading. Others wrote about how they enjoyed the time to do something they enjoyed. Many students asked me for more independent reading time. Aside from giving out candy (most popular suggestion #1) and going outside to play for class sometimes (most popular suggestion #2), more reading topped the list. Some students even ask me if we’ll ever spend a whole period reading.
They love to write when they know what I am — and am not — grading for. One of the beauties of setting up strong workshop routines is that there’s always a good sub plan in the wings. If I am going to be out of class for a period or two, I assign a “free choice” writing assignment. Students are responsible for handing in a writing piece on a topic or genre of their choosing, and they are graded only on their attention to the grammar and mechanics concepts that we’ve reviewed in class. By making the assessment so literal, students play with form, content, and message: I collect memoirs, mob stories, text message conversations (with graphics!), screenplays, journal entries, epic fantasies, and more.
Students love “ghost grades” on major assessments. I give students the option of a “ghost grade” on a draft for a major project. That grade serves as a) a minimum final grade, and b) a benchmark for future improvement with concrete feedback on what needs fixing. Students enjoy making changes and watching that lower “ghost grade” improve in the final draft. This ghost grade helps make some of their writing progress visible as far as the literal gradebook is concerned.
Do you do elicit feedback from your students? If so, what have you learned from that feedback?
Amy Estersohn is a middle school English teacher in New York. She will probably never give out candy, but she will, on occasion, give out emoji stickers, which students pretend not to care about. (But they do.) Find her on twitter at @HMX_MSE