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Leveraging The Power of the Online Form: English Teachers Can Love Data Too

BY: LIZ KEIPER

We all do some form of it—the Get to Know You Questionnaire, or the All About Me Sheet.

I think these sorts of activities are incredibly valuable; it gives you an opportunity to start getting to know your students, gives you some valuable information about them, and shows them that you care about them as human beings enough to want to get to know them.

However, this year I decided to leverage technology in my introductory form so that I could not only use it to find out my students favorite hobbies and ice cream flavors, but that I could use it to collect imperative data on my students.

Here’s the link to my online form that I used this year with my students.

This summer, I attended a technology conference run by my county, and one of the sessions was about how to create Office 365 and Google Forms. As I learned about these tools, I realized that all the information that I normally collected on a Get to Know You sheet could also be collected, and accessed much more easily, online. So, I went about transferring some of my standard All About Me questions to online form. I had standard questions such as whether students preferred to be called a name other than their given name, what activities they were involved in, and some silly, random questions just for fun.

In the process of exploring online forms, however, I realized that this could be a powerful data collection tool. For multiple choice and rating questions, both Office 365 and Google forms automatically calculates and tabulates responses and shows you results in graph form.

This year, when I asked students what kinds of technology were available to them at home, I gave them multiple choice options, and I immediately had a visual of different forms of technology to which they had access. I also included a multiple choice question about their future educational and career plans to get an understanding about the demographics of my students.

Then, I decided to go out on a limb a bit. A few years ago, I attended a session on reading and writing instruction by teacher Kelly Gallagher, and during the session, he said that one year he polled his students at the beginning of the year about their feelings towards writing. He asked them to rate how much they liked writing on a scale of 1-10 and then to explain why.

At the time, I was really surprised. I mean, we know that not every student likes every task in our class. My approach to this had previously been to try to mask and minimize students’ dislike by pretending it didn’t exist. I thought that if I acknowledged the fact that some students didn’t like reading or writing, that it would create a negative classroom atmosphere. And it would be the biggest Awkward Turtle moment ever.

This year, though, I decided to ask them in the Office 365 form I created. I asked them to rate both their feelings about reading and writing through the following questions:

“Be honest–at this current point, rate how much you like reading. (1 star = I’D RATHER BURN MY EYES OUT WITH LIQUID NITROGEN, 5 stars = IT’S TOTALLY THE BEST THING EVER!!)”

“Be honest–at this current point, rate how much you like writing. (1 star = I’D RATHER BE EATEN ALIVE BY STARVING MONGOOSES, 5 stars = IT MAKES ME FEEL LIKE I’M IN HEAVEN!!)”

After each rating question, I asked the students to explain why they gave the above rating. This has helped me to identify the specific types of obstacles which I will need to help my students overcome this year relating to reading and writing.

If a student answered that they never understand what they read, I know that they are having comprehension or processing issues. If they responded that it gets boring or that they don’t like the books they read, I know that I will need to work hard to find books on subjects that they do enjoy. (Luckily, I also have a list of their hobbies and interests available from an earlier question!)

If a student answered that they never know what to write about, I know that they need to work on adding more detail and content to their written explanations. Many of my students, to my surprise, commented that they disliked writing predominately because it made their hand hurt and cramp… I’m not sure if that is actually the case, but if it is, luckily we live in the 21st century with access to Word Processing! Dear students, you no longer have to dislike writing—you can type your work! In all seriousness, this makes me think that they couldn’t quite self-analyze what their actual struggles with writing were, which perhaps might mean that they’ve never been given the chance to see themselves as writers before.

All around, I think that my students appreciated that I was being honest with them right off the bat–that I wasn’t trying to pretend like they clearly all loved reading and writing, but that I was willing to acknowledge their struggles so that I could work alongside them to help them improve this year. It also gave me a chance to hear why my advanced readers and writers enjoy those tasks.

In any case, I have a lot of data at my fingertips for every student in my class this year. I plan to use this form as a reference point throughout the year to help pinpoint problem areas for students.

Some other nifty benefits of Office 365 or Google forms…

  • You can add pictures to your questions! For me, this meant that I added memes to each of my questions, clearly… 😀
  • You can download answers as an excel spreadsheet and save it as a document. Then, you can search the spreadsheet by clicking Ctrl + F.
  • You can send out the link to the form via email, you can copy and paste the link for the form, you can embed it, or you can create a QR code which takes you to the form. (I used the link and used tinyurl.com to create a more manageable link for the form.)

 

WVCTE is wondering…

  1. In what other ways have you used either Office 365 forms or Google forms in your ELA classes?
  2. Share more ideas of how collecting data can help you better understand your students and differentiate for them.

Leave us a comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!

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Dear English Teachers of West Virginia,

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