Last week, I shared the form my Beginning ELL students were going to use to anonymously evaluate our class (see Here’s How My ELL Beginner Students Will Evaluate Our Class AND Me – How Can I Make It Better?).
It’s an activity I’ve used for many years (see Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers)) in all my classes.
And it’s importance was recently highlighted by research (see Another Example Of Why “Impact” Is More Important Than “Intent”).
I’m not going to share their responses to every single question on the survey, but will be highlighting ones that I found most interesting and/or useful. Students were asked to grade activities and people combining “liking” with “learning” from it/him/her:
- Three-fourths of the class gave working with peer tutors an “A,” while the remaining students gave it a “C.” I have a fair number of peer tutors, who are mainly from my past IB Theory of Knowledge classes. As one student wrote in his/her evaluation, “I like Mr. Ferlazzo’s class because there are many people to help.”
- Using the Picture Word Inductive Model to learn vocabulary and generate writing was equally as popular. You can learn more about that strategy at The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons.
- Two other activities were comparable in popularity: Sequencing lessons, where students have to put sentences in order, as well as writing their own for their classmates to “solve” (see Four “New” Activities I’m Doing Next Week In My ELL Newcomers Class to learn more about it); and “Jigsaws” (go to Nancy Callan’s site to learn how to use this strategy with ELLs). There could be two reasons why these might be particularly popular: (1) they are both puzzle-like, and researchers have found that participants are more likely to enter “flow-states” when interacting with puzzles, and, (2) they are both activities I’ve introduced relatively recently, the the novelty factor might be in play.
- Going to the library and using computers to reinforce what we’re learning in class was also very popular. Students either use sites like Duolingo or Raz-Kids, or go to our class blog where they can access Thematic Lists For Beginner ELLs.
- Though the previous activities were all popular, I was a little surprised (but probably should not have been) to see what students identified as the activity they liked the most and that they felt helped them learn English the most: meeting individually with me in my “office.” Sometimes during the week, when a student teacher is in the room, I’ll ask him to take over the class, bring a stool over to my desk, and call up students individually for brief conversations. Sometimes, we review writing they have turned-in. Other times, I’m checking-in with them about their lives. Often, I’m challenging them about living up to their potential.
- Two other activities were not “unpopular,” but nor did they receive as positive reviews as the other lessons: (1) Students draw and complete a paragraph frame about a topic related to the theme we’re studying, and then record a short video that is played to the class (see My Latest Favorite Tech Tool For ELL Students To Practice Speaking) and, (2) a “Back-To-The-Screen” activity where we show silent videos to partners – one of whom has their back to the screen, while the other tells him/her what is going on in. See The Best Popular Movies/TV Shows For ESL/EFL (& How To Use Them) for more info on that instructional strategy.
- Students also liked using National Geographic’s Edge textbook. I’m not a huge fan of textbooks (see The Best Resources For Adapting Your Textbook So It Doesn’t Bore Students To Death) but have to admit, as textbooks go, Edge is pretty decent.
- Two activities that were mixed in popularity were independent reading (which also includes reading with peer tutors) and writing longer pieces of writing (we did a story unit and am now writing about an Autobiographical Incident). Part of the problem, I think, with independent reading is that many just don’t have the English vocabulary needed to access the hard copy books I have that are more interesting, and the ones they can read are boring. I’m going to try to have students access Epic or Raz-Kids on their phones, all which provide more support for more engaging texts, to see how that goes. As far as the longer writing pieces go, I think I need to provide more scaffolds – the English proficiency of these students is not quite as high as in previous classes where I’ve done those units.
- Students gave my student teachers and me high marks, though I did get one “F.”
As usual, I always learn a lot from these evaluations, and they always help make me a better teacher.
Now, it’s time to review ones from my other classes!