D’oh

Last year I asked my students to fill out a version1 of Dan Meyer’s “Who I Am” worksheet.2.

I looked over the sheets when my students handed them in. I remember liking what they wrote. Then I put them in a file folder and didn’t think about them again until last week.

Looking back at them after having spent roughly 9,000 minutes with each class, I’m amazed at how much information was contained on that one piece of paper. Information that I had access to on day one. Sometimes brutally honest information. Information that I didn’t use well.

Of course, I came to learn most of those same things through the year by talking with my students. Then again, that just may be my rationalization.

So this year I’m going to do better. I’m going to find a way to actually use these insights that my students give me. I just haven’t figured out how yet.

What do you do with your beginning of the year surveys?

1 Here’s a link to .doc of my version of Dan’s worksheet.
2 I occasionally wonder how different things would be if Dan didn’t blog.

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9 Responses to D’oh

  1. Alison Blank says:

    In my school, each faculty member gets to make a speech on any topic they like addressed to the whole upper school. I used the responses from my first day questionnaire to share with the students how common their problems with procrastination were. This year I’m going to ask students how about their perceived competence as students and their enjoyment of school as well as their procrastination habits, to see if I can find any correlations. I think some students might really think about their work habits if confronted with this data.

    Obviously, your students are different, but I like the idea of using the first day questionnaire to find out something about your student body that THEY don’t know – and then letting them in on their own trends, preferably with a healthy dose of statistical analysis.

  2. Kate Nowak says:

    I don’t think they’re particularly useful until you have names connected to faces.

    I make a point of writing a narrative comment for every student’s 5 week report. (We don’t have to do anything, but shoot, I’m not going to pass up that opportunity to connect to parents.) I pull out the day 1 surveys and read through them then.

    I have a shorter more boring version than Dan’s but it does the trick. Mine has the feature of my own answers to all the questions on the back, so kids who finish early can learn a little about me.

  3. Why not make up a Google form that has the students answer these questions online. Also, have each student use the webcam on their laptop/desktop computer to take their picture and place it in the Google form.

    You then have all of the info summarized in a spreadsheet format that you can scan through at any time.

  4. Dan Meyer says:

    Kate: I don’t think they’re particularly useful until you have names connected to faces.

    Yeah, it’s like, cool, another student whose favorite movie of all time is Transformers 2.

    But I scan all the forms. Halfway through the year it’s fun to toss up the self-portraits and have students connect their classmates to the really, really surrealist self-portraits of their classmates.

    I also like Kate’s suggestion that the teacher participate also. Probably good advice, in general. Boo, Kate, that I had to find that idea in the comments section of another teacher’s blog. Seriously.

  5. Craig says:

    I had this same revelation a couple weeks ago when I cleaned out my filing cabinet and found the surveys from last year. I agree that they aren’t really useful until you get to know the students individually. You could have them attach a picture to the survey. Maybe find some time a month into the school year to reread them while the students are taking a test.

  6. Hemant says:

    Alright. You convinced me to do it 🙂 I’ll give the kids this on their first day.

  7. Kristen says:

    I remember reading Dan’s post last year and saving a copy of his worksheet, but never gave it to the kids. Then I had a student teacher (who you may recall bombed pretty badly) who found it and gave it to the kids. I read over them and was amazed at what they had to say! I totally was kicking myself for not doing it myself. So this year I gave them out (with a few changes) on the first day, glanced over them, and am determined to go back to them in a week or so when I have names firmly attached to faces.

  8. Kristen says:

    I forgot to add that I showed my classes my info, too – but I love the idea of copying it on the back of theirs!

  9. Your comment about collecting the surveys on the first day and then not looking at them ever again reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend last year. She did the same thing. She said she stopped surveying students or collecting anecdotal information about them in the first weeks of school because she never used it. I was amazed. She’s an amazing teacher and a good friend, so her abandoning the anecdotal or initial assessments surprised me. I use mine all year.

    At the beginning of the year, I use the surveys and letters students write to me in the first couple of days to build a rapport. I write back to each student 3 of the first 5 nights of school–they are LONG days/nights of commenting and writing, but I believe it pays off. The kids notice that they have my full attention and that I want to get to know them.

    We’re in our 4th week now and the initial pieces have all been filed alphabetically in large binders. I add pieces to them throughout the year. I use them and make notes on them during conferences (the first page for each student is a card stock information page with lots of blank space for me to add notes to). I refer to them when talking or emailing with to parents.

    Students are so honest and open the first few weeks of school–perhaps that’s what I love about the beginning of a new year.

    I love the Dan Meyer’s Who Am I sheet! I posted several of my initial pieces here: http://www.laspillane.org/teachers.html

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