In third grade Zachery Ward despised math. “I resented my math teacher, and I hated doing the work because I didn’t understand the rationale behind it.”
But something happened that transformed Ward’s math teacher into his favorite teacher—she took the time to recognize and then address his emotions, changing her practices to meet him where he was with real-life examples.
“She stepped out of her comfort zone to help me, and I’ll always remember it. Now, as a teacher myself, math is my favorite thing to teach,” explains Ward, a third-grade teacher at Bryan County Elementary School in rural Georgia.
Only four years into his teaching career at a Title I school—with a diverse student population and a high percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch—Ward understands just how tricky it can be to gauge students’ emotions. The same goes for determining, in the moment, if students genuinely grasp classroom lessons. That’s why when he heard a new student feedback tool had been added to his school’s Vivi classroom engagement technology—he immediately started using it in his classes.
Schools might know Vivi as a screen mirroring tool, but the technology is evolving, with the recently launched Student Feedback Tool rolled out to existing and new customers in late 2019.
I could see where certain groups were struggling...and use that learning to inform and alter lessons with my remaining classes providing more clarification or support.
Using the Student Feedback Tool, teachers can push out a quick formative assessment to check students’ understanding of a concept or a lesson. They can also conduct on-the-fly well-being assessments where students choose an emoji to indicate their current emotional well-being.
Today, Ward is among a growing list of teachers who say gathering student feedback through Vivi makes it easier to address students’ emotional and personal learning needs in the moment.
Clay Thomas teaches 10th-grade honors English at Cardinal Gibbons College Prep, a private school in Raleigh, North Carolina. He says students in his school are highly competitive when it comes to academics, which can lead to students feeling stressed, panicked, and even burnt out during busy points of the school year. Gathering student feedback on lessons and how they’re feeling has helped him reach out to students who need support and even adjust his classes when students feel overwhelmed with coursework.
Below Ward and Thomas share some specific examples of how they use student feedback to personalize learning and support students’ well-being.
Formative Assessments to Personalize and Inform Lessons
Ward uses the feedback tool to do quick formative assessments after a lesson and then uses the data he gathers to guide his teaching. “Let’s say the question is a division problem and 15 students got it correct, and five did not. With the feedback data in the Vivi platform, I can see which specific students didn’t answer the question correctly. Then I know I need to meet with them the next day during a small-group session for support.”
Thomas also uses his findings to both provide personalized support and tweak lessons for each of his four classes.
For example, when the class was reading Catcher in the Rye, Thomas asked students to break out into groups to talk about what they thought were the most important parts of what they’d read. “With a quick assessment through the Vivi tool, I could see where certain groups were struggling. I can support those groups and then look at the common areas where students struggle and use that learning to inform and alter lessons with my remaining classes providing more clarification or support.”
Daily Individual Well-Being Check-Ins to Guide Personalized Learning
Ward believes when students feel like you care about them, and they’re able to express themselves socially and emotionally, academics fall into place.
They felt seen and reciprocated with their attention in the following class.
“If a student feels safe and cared for, they’re going to open up with you, and they’re going to be more open to feedback than a student that you don’t have a good relationship with.”
Credit: Clay Thomas
He says the feedback tool gives students a chance to privately share how they are feeling. And Ward can see how many students are ready to learn and how many need emotional support.
“My morning questions are geared towards having a good and productive day. They don’t really even have to explain it in Vivi. They just click the little emoji that’s sad or mad or happy. Then throughout the day, I’ll make contact with those students, check on them, and let them know that I’m there if they need me and acknowledge their emotions. That’s a big part of supporting their well-being—and their learning—acknowledging when students are upset or when they’re happy and celebrating even the smallest of victories.”
Ward says before Vivi, students used a poster and magnets to indicate whether they were happy or sad or upset or tired. “It was a good thing, but it wasn’t private, and students would comment on each other’s emotions. I couldn’t be sure students were honest about how they felt.”
With the tool, Ward says students are willing to share their emotions. “They want to be acknowledged. They want to talk about it. They want to feel comfortable.” Thanks to the feedback tool, Ward has seen some problematic students “change tremendously.”
For example, an energetic student who has trouble staying focused shared through the Vivi feedback tool that he was excited about learning, but found it hard to stay in his area. “So I tried a kinesthetic learning lesson where the students moved around the room. He shared that he loved that lesson because he could move. This tool helped me be a more reflective teacher and realize I need to plan more lessons like this because it’s impacting him and others positively.”
Assessing Well-Being as a Group
Doing a quick well-being check can also give teachers a sense of how their class is feeling as a whole, says Thomas. “I don’t want to make it sound like we’re the most competitive or most academically rigorous school in America, but students feel the pressure. And part of feeling that pressure either socially or academically as a teenager, is not letting anyone know that you’re feeling it.”
Around the end of the first quarter, Thomas noticed the majority of his students were feeling overwhelmed, tired, anxious, and even a bit panicked. “We were supposed to watch a movie later in the week, but after seeing how they were feeling, I decided to do the movie earlier, because I saw that they could benefit from a less rigorous day than I had planned.”
The next day students came back with gratitude and appreciation.
“They felt seen and reciprocated with their attention in the following class,” says Thomas. “And those are key ingredients for creating the kinds of classrooms both students and teachers need today.”