Feedback Fridays & Contest

(Read on for contest details)

The newest member of our English department is a bright young lady named Uvonda Willis. Ms. Willis seems driven to meet the needs of her students and to constantly improve what she is doing, two goals she attempts to tackle with a strategy she calls Feedback Fridays. Each Friday, she solicits input from her students by passing out note cards and asking them to share their comments and ideas regarding the lessons and activities for the week. Students drop their cards in an attractively-decorated box; then, Ms. Willis reads them and facilitates a brief discussion.

A word of warning. This strategy is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. The teacher must be willing to hear whatever criticism students offer and must demonstrate a genuine interest in student feedback. Sometimes that means being flexible.

For Students Who Don’t Care
Those teachers who have participated in the book club for Allen Mendler’s Motivating Students Who Don’t Care will certainly remember the author’s thoughts on building relationships, one of five key factors for motivating the unmotivated. Mendler writes, “It is as if we make deposits into a reservoir of goodwill from which we can make withdrawals when needed.” The Feedback Fridays strategy is exactly the type of deposit Mendler has in mind. By soliciting students’ input and making a genuine effort to consider it in planning and instruction, the teacher invests in the relationship. The return comes in the form of effort.

Going Digital
Ms. Willis is not yet satisfied with her feedback strategy. She recently discovered and realized that the reply function on the website makes it easy for students to provide her with the weekly feedback she desires. So, along with much of Ms. Willis’ communication with students and parents, Feedback Fridays might go digital this semester. Either way, it is a strategy certain to help teachers improve their teaching and foster stronger relationships with their students.

Building relationships is important for motivating students. Briefly describe one strategy you have used in the past or plan to use this semester to build relationships with your students. Please submit your strategy as a comment (scroll to the top of the screen and look for the word “comment”) by Thursday, 1/13/11.

All submissions will be entered into a drawing for a gift certificate to the Great Outdoor Provision Co. and will be posted to

4 Responses to “Feedback Fridays & Contest”

  1. Tonya Ebron says:

    In the past, typically at the beginning of the year/semester, I would have my students to make a poster describing themselves. They would illustrate their likes and dislikes, family, friends, wishes, dreams, etc. For those that could, we used actual photos from home. We also used pictures from magazines. I created a poster as well to introduce myself to my students. The posters were mounted on the walls for a period of time. Considering, I taught TMD in the past, I would suggest other teachers incorporate the course content into the poster. For example, an English teacher could allow pictures as well as words having students indicate whether it is a noun, verb, adjective, etc. They could also have them use titles of books, authors, etc. The project not only help me get to know the students better, but was typically very relaxing and allow them to get to know each other. Once the posters were finished each student presented their’s to the class.
    One thing I have learned during my short time teaching is that getting to know students does not mean you will always like, agree, understand or condone their way of like or thinking, but we must be willing to just listen sometimes. I have found that teachers are sometimes the only sounding board many of our students ever have.

  2. Uvonda Willis says:

    I love this idea…I also do something like this called a personal portfolio/brochure where I ask my students questions and get them to attach a picture and we share these with the class. I ask them questions such as likes/dislikes, what they like about writing/reading and dislikes, family background, favorite songs/quotes, where they see themselves in five years, etc. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Scott Childress says:

    I do an exercise called the flag exercise at the beginning of the semester. Students secretly create a flag with drawings and symbols that define them – typical symbols include dollar signs, churches, shopping bags, cars, etc… They are not allowed to use any words, only pictures. Once every student has completed the flag, they fold it in half so it is covered and turn it in to me. I scramble them up and then hand them back out, instructing students to check to make sure they did not get their flage back. Then they have to go around the room and figure out whose flag they have. They can only ask questions about the symbols and cannot ask the person if it is their flag or not. Based on the responses, they guess whoes flag it is and give that person the flag. Sometimes, students end up with two or three flags that are not theirs. When the exercise is over, I check to see who got their flag back and who got someone else’s. Students are told to find their flag. Then each student stands and presents their flag, explaining each symbol and what it means to them.
    This exercise accomplishes a few things: it helps the students get to know each other. They learn about people they may already know in addition to finding out that they have a lot of common interests with people they may know of but not actually know.
    This exercise also helps me to get to know each student and to rembmer their names. I use the information throughout the semester whenver possible.
    I use this exercise with all levels that i teach, including my college classes. The students enjoy it and it is a good icebreaker. If the flags are good, I sometimes display them in the class.
    This is similar to Tonya’s poster, but it does work very well because of the visuals.
    In my English class, I also have students write personal reflection essays about how they have become the person they are today and what shaped them. Some of these essays are quite eye-opening. I’ve read about kids from some tragic situations. This helps me to have some insight into them and to understand where they’re coming from if I have an idea of where they’ve been.

  4. Karen Meetze says:

    For my students, I have typically done a lot of ice breaker activities at the start of each semester…activities like “You, Too Bingo” which has several other names like Autograph Bingo; I also like the “Hum That Tune” activity. It gets students making music from the beginning of the class: I pick well known songs or nursery tunes and put one title on a card; there are only about 4-5 songs depending on how many students are in the class. Everyone starts humming simultaneously and students must wander around the room trying to connect to the person who is humming the same tune as they are. Then that group visits a bit and gets to know one another answering printed questions. Each group “performs” their song and then tells the class about the members of the group.
    I also love the balloon popping activity that comes with the SmartBoard. That one is really cool.

    My students are always like my children; and I am Mama Meetze.

    After the class has made their introductions, I tell the class more about myself. My number one goal is to let the students know that besides being a music teacher and coaching them through each song or music activity, I am a life coach; my job is to help them become the best person that they can be, to have high standards for their lives, to rise above negative thoughts, to give 100% to every class-not just my class, but above all to know that I will consistent; I will not make threats, but promises; and that they can trust me to follow through. Sadly, I have to prove this on occasion when I send a student to Choice, but it does make the point. It’s never a dull moment in room 802.