I’ve done Sara Van Der Werf‘s name tents the last several years and have really enjoyed hearing from every student every day the first week. However, after that week, I wasn’t nearly as intentional about this. This year I started asking a non-math question at the end of every test, and I respond to every student like I did on the name tents. I shared briefly about that in this post. This has been one of my absolute favorite things I’ve implemented this year. I look forward to test day because of this, and as I walk around while students are testing, I notice that when they get to the back page of the test, they skip ahead and answer that question first, so I think they like it too.
The first few tests I asked random things like “If you could live anywhere, where would you live?” “If you could go on vacation anywhere, where would it be?”
Then I remembered Rebecka Peterson has her students write down One Good Thing in a notebook every time they take a quiz. Rebecka never reads these from her students; it’s just for the students. I thought about using that as the prompt for students, but I admit, I was a little bit hesitant. I wondered how this would go with my middle schoolers compared to Rebecka’s pre-calc and calc students. I wondered if I would get a ton of “nothings”. I was worried about what they would think knowing that I would be reading them or if this should be something just for them.
My goodness. Their responses were incredible. I decided after that first time to never ask another question all year.
I heard about students who helped another student pick up their stuff, who realized they paid attention in class more that week, or who couldn’t think of a bad thing that has happened in a long time (Man, reading that response from the student knowing some of what’s going on outside of school stopped me in my tracks. That student is going through some tough stuff right now, yet couldn’t think of a bad thing. Wow!). Another response started, “Bad thing first…” and then the student went on to say how that bad thing turned into a good thing. How often do I not take the time to see that the bad/difficult thing, ended up being something pretty great?
My students taught me more than I taught them that week.
Did I get some “I don’t know” or “nothing” responses? Yes. Even then, it gave me the opportunity to think back on the week and try to point out a good thing that the student did or that happened to the student.
I’m also really enjoying the opportunity to check in with students and ask about their good things while they are working on test corrections.
And some of their responses just make me smile. I love that they are taking the time to recognize these good things in their lives.