February 20, 2015

Wordle for Teacher Feedback

After graduating from UGA, I just couldn't bear to leave the great city of Athens. So, I stuck around and got a job teaching 2nd grade at what turned out to be my dream school. As a result of sharing a home with the largest University in the state, I have been fortunate enough to host several interns and student teachers in the past few years and have learned so much along the way. I'll admit, I feel for my first ever student teacher the same way I feel about my first ever 2nd grade class: sorry that they had to suffer from my inexperience!

However, I can now say that I really enjoy having student teachers! Do you? Of course, it's nice to have an extra person in the room to share in the care and instruction of my kids, but I get really excited about helping these student teachers learn and grow. Although it is not required of mentor teachers, I spend a lot of time doing different types of observations and providing feedback to them. I feel that it is my responsibility to kick start their "in service" learning in a deep way. 

At some point in the last few years, I read The Power of Our Words by Paula Denton for the first time. I won't go into the book at this time, but I was inspired to share what I was learning with my student teachers. So, I began to do "scripted" observations. A former instructional coach had done this once for me before, and I really enjoyed the insight I gained from it. Basically, as the observer, I just sit in the classroom and try to write down (or type) everything that is said by either the teacher or the students. Simple, right? With that said, unless you have the aid of a recorder, I wouldn't try to script both sides of the conversation at once! 

Then, this year, I decided to copy and paste my "scripts" into Wordle! Wordle takes a text and creates a word cloud which gives prominence to words occurring more frequently. AND it does it in a really beautifully graphic way. So, I would do an observation, paste it into Wordle, and print out both the Script and the Word cloud for my student teacher (and this year a first year teacher I am mentoring). 

Here is a Wordle of this blog post:

Neat, huh?

Often, the script and Wordle are feedback for the teacher in and of themselves. We HOPE that the biggest words will be the main idea of our lessons, whether teacher or student language is the focus. So for the most part, I just print it out as is and hand it over to them to explore and reflect upon at their leisure. However, I sometimes go back and make comments alongside the script. Mainly because it wasn't that long ago that I was a new teacher, so I know that it takes time to "see" what you've done well and what needs work in simple notes from a lesson. At other times, I give the student teachers the script and ask them to make comments on it to share with me at a later time.  

I encourage you to read/skim The Power of Our Words  and explore Wordle.net if you find the time. Have fun!

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