Monday, May 17, 2010

Using Google Surveys to Gather Information

At the end of every quarter and at the beginning and end of every school year, I have distributed and collected surveys to my students. Often, these surveys helped me to better my instruction, plan for the variety of learners I have in my midst, and reflect on my teaching.

I have loved using surveys, but gathering hard copy surveys can be cumbersome. Plus, some students are not great writers and will choose to not write out a detailed answer because their fine motor skills are lacking or they just don't want to fill out another worksheet. Because of this obstacle, I decided at the beginning of this school year to offer all of my surveys online using google docs.

And what a difference it has made! I can store all of the results of my surveys in my google account, offer the same survey to multiple classes (or create class-specific surveys), create nifty graphs with the flick of my fingers, and project results onto my whiteboard using my LCD projector. This has become a tool for my reflective purposes and for students to reflect.

So far, I have asked all sorts of questions. Google docs offers many different types of questions, including: short text, long text, multiple choice, more than one choice (check boxes), ranking on a scale, and graphing. There are so many options that you can make your survey as complicated or simple as you choose.

Best of all, students have reported that they love the opportunity to offer feedback to me and to think about their learning. By offering surveys, I have allowed them to be active participants in their learning. When I make an instructional or planning decision based on their suggestions or feedback, I let them know. This way, they can see their feedback in action and they feel as if I've listened to them.

This is a simple, effective way to gather data from your students. You can use the same survey more than once. Results can easily be shared with students and colleagues. Also, you can compare answers from different sections of the same course or different age groups or particular students overt time. I have not run into any difficulties with this program and recommend it without any reservations.

Here are some screenshots of surveys I have used this year:

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Theater at Monmouth, Maine's greatest Shakespeare theater, has announced its 2010 summer and fall theater schedule. Every year, my mother, sister, and I go to the theater to see a play. It is an event that I look forward to all year. Ticket prices are reasonable and the acting is professional and experienced. Plus, the theater itself is gorgeous, with all sorts of beautiful paintings on the ceilings.

This year, we're planning to see Mark Twain's comedy Is He Dead? Here is the hilarious-looking promotional poster for this comedy:

Other plays featured during this summer and fall are: Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors and Pericles, Prince of Tyre, George Bernard Shaw's Misalliance, The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde, and the musical The Pirates of Penzance.

Whatever your choice of show, come out and support Maine's local theater!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Ideas for a Poetic Mother's Day

This Mother's Day, why not send your mother a poem? Chances are good that there's a poem that's already been written that will explain your inner most thoughts and feelings about your mother in a way that you simply cannot. Here are a couple of great resources to get you started.

-About My Mother: A collection of Mother's Day Poems from the Poetry Foundation. There are nine poems to choose from at this site. Topics and tones range from innocent to reflective to haunting. There's a poem for every mother/ child relationship here!

-Send a Coupon: offers a printable or email-able coupon allowing your favorite mother an hour of "undisturbed reading or writing time". It's super easy to get or send and even has a bar code. Best of all, it never expires!

-Make a Homemade Poetry Card: makes Mother's Day simple, inexpensive, and meaningful with their homemade card ideas. Don't know what to say? They offer preselected lines ready for use!

-Poetry Infusions: Decorate a gift of herbs and vinegar with a pre-made poetic label. Simply print and paste onto a gift of rosemary, lavender, or sage vinegar. Maybe this will inspire mom to do more cooking?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Power of a Story

I've been a Storycorps fan for a long time now. I visit the site ever now and again and every time I do, I find that I uncover some sort of gem. On my most recent visit, I watched a powerful animated video. This video is a Storycorps first--And I hope that there are many more to come!

This animated segment helps to represent the visually the range of topics covered when a preteen boy named Joshua interviewed his mother, Sarah. Joshua has Asperger's syndrome, which is an autism spectrum disorder. The range of topics covered in this short interview and the complete candor with which this mother and son talk is refreshing and heart-warming.

Here is the video:

With Mother's Day fast approaching, maybe you'd like to interview and record your mother or have a conversation with someone you care about? There is no time like the present to ask those simple or complex questions! And, think about having an interview like this to help preserve a child or an adult's voice? Priceless.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Shirt Off Your Back: Give a T-Shirt to Someone in Need

One of the easiest ways to give is not to write a check or even donate your time, though these are valuable means of contributing to charitable organizations, is to send off a used t-shirt to someone who does not have one. A group called One Million T-Shirts is collecting your used shirts and giving them to children and adults in Africa who might otherwise go shirtless.

The group is also asking that you include a dollar, but this seems like a tiny donation given the fact that they're doing all of the shipping and distributing of the shirts. More than a way to save a life, this might just be a simple good deed that will show others that the world cares. I have seen a couple of negative reviews of this project, but I think it's brilliant in its simplicity. I don't think that organizers of this project think that giving away t-shirts will end poverty in Africa, but hope that organizing groups of people to do something and spreading awareness will encourage more charitable acts.

Send your shirt and spread the word on the group's facebook page!
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