How to Personalize Your Templates

How to Personalize Your Templates

Hello Teachers! It’s Teacher Caryn EU. I am so excited to be joining forces with FeedbackPanda. Periodically, I will be guest writing for the FeedbackPanda Blog and sharing some of my tips and tricks for writing and personalizing amazing templates.

Lately, I have been thinking about how important it is to still make my parent’s feedback special and unique even though I use templates. FeedbackPanda is an amazing time-saving tool, but it is well worth it to spend an extra 2-3 minutes adding in your own personalized touches for each template. With the time FeedbackPanda saves me from not having to write every feedback from scratch, I can spend it on personalizing each template for my students and their parents.

Feedback for Students

Here is what one of my templates look like before I personalize it as well as what it looks like after I submit it to the parents.

Before

After

So how do I go from before to after and what kind of things do I add? Here are my top three tips for personalizing your templates!

1. What the Student Needs to Practice

This might seem like a no brainer because it is simple, but it is important the parents know what the student needs to practice at home.

Sometimes, I include a list of words that the student should practice for pronunciation; other times, I try to be more specific like encouraging the student to use the proper articles (a/an/the) with nouns:

Today, Baobao learned these new vocabulary words: [fin], [shark], [beak], [eagle], [horn] and [bull]. She did a great job matching the pictures of the body parts to the animals! She can practice saying [an eagle] and [an apple]. Sometimes she will leave out words like [the], [a], and [an] in sentences. 

Here is an example of including a list of words for the student to practice. I also added some things the student told me about to make it a bit more personalized:

Some words Baobao can practice are: [adult], [form], [driven], [participle], [equal], and [scoop]. She told me she went swimming and had art class today. That sounds like lots of fun!

Parents (and students) like to have concrete and specific things to practice. You, as their teacher, most likely know exactly what the student struggled with or needs to review; however, don’t assume that the parents or students know this information. Therefore, for me, the number one way to provide meaningful feedback is to always include areas for the student to practice at home. Parents will thank you for this type of information!

2. Something Unique that You Did or Talked About with the Student

I always try to include something that the student told me or something that we did together in class.

For my lower level students, if there is extra time, in the end, we will often read a story together. One of my favorite books to use is ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?’ Even if the student can’t read, they can often identify different:

  • Animals
  • Colors
  • Make animal sounds

Here is an example of my feedback using a book:

At the end of class, Baobao read a story called [Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Did You See?] She did an excellent job reading and answering questions about the story. She was able to identify different animals and colors. She has very good pronunciation and speaks clearly. I would like to encourage her to practice answering using full sentences.

I try to include more than just that we read a story in the parent feedback. That’s great, but what did we do with the story? How was it a meaningful component of the lesson?

I know if I was learning Chinese, and I had to just listen to a story in a language that I was not proficient in, I would completely zone out. To keep the student engaged, I ask questions, have the student read on their own, repeat key words or phrases if they are still learning how to read, or even draw what is happening in the story.

For my higher-level students, I always try to summarize what we talked about in class. If there is extra time, I try to ask the student what they did during the day or how was school. I include their response in my parent feedback. I include something unique or particularly interesting that the parent might like to know.

Here is an example:

Baobao chose option 2. She showed me a wonderful house that she drew and did a great job telling me about it. Her house had two rooms, a big one and a small one. The big one had a yellow door and two blue windows. The small one had a green door and two triangle windows.

I enjoyed talking with Baobao at the end of class. She showed me two beautiful fans that she painted! I was so impressed. She is an extremely talented artist.

I think this is one of my favorite extras that I try to add to my feedback. I love learning new things about my student, and I hope maybe the parent also learns something new about their child! For me, this helps to build strong relationships through a teacher/student relationship as well as a teacher/parent relationship.

3. Something Exceptional that Baobao Did in Class

If you are going to tell the parent what Baobao needs to practice at home, it is equally, if not more important, to tell what their student did a great job on! Parents love to hear what their child does well. For me, being able to tell the parent what their child excelled at during the lesson is my favorite type of feedback to leave.

Currently, I have a Level Two student who is just finishing up unit three. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find the first three lessons of Unit Two are really hard for beginning English speakers. Trying to get a beginning English speaker to say, “May I borrow this book please?” is often like pulling teeth:

Teacher: May I borrow this book please?

Baobao: Mayibollodisbookpeaze?

But this student has done an amazing job! I was so excited to share with his parents how great he was doing in class. This is the feedback that I wrote:

Baobao easily read and blended words from the [-ap] word family. He was able read the sentences from this unit like: [May I borrow this book book, please?], [Yes, you may], and [Excuse me, could you repeat that please?] This was very good! He is an excellent reader. He understands the sentences, and he is able to have a conversation!

Keep in mind that every student does things well in class, whether it is listening to the teacher, following directions, speaking in full sentences, or drawing on the screen. And by drawing on the screen, I mean scribbling everywhere! And come on, you know you have had that student. Even when faced with our most challenging students, it is vital that we see the good in every child.

Let me tell you a story that doesn’t really have to do with VIPKID, but it does have to do with giving positive feedback to parents. I was a high school English teacher for eight years. During my first four years of teaching, I taught on the Arizona/Mexico border in a little tiny town.

To put it mildly, I had a student who was going through a rough time. She was in and out of juvie and generally making poor life decisions. I think the majority of her other teachers wrote her off as never going to graduate high school and would probably end up either pregnant or in prison (or both) before she was eighteen.

For some reason, we connected. I never gave up on her, and I pushed her to not give up on herself. To be honest, I don’t think I did anything particularly different from her except be kind and always welcome her to my class.

This student had just come back to my class after being in juvie for about a month. One night, I ended up seeing her and her mom when I was shopping at Walmart. She was so excited to introduce me to her mom and little sister. I was thrilled to meet them both and told them how much I loved having their daughter in my class.

The look on her mother’s face was priceless. She literally had her mouth hanging open in shock. I don’t think any teacher had ever told her how much they loved having her daughter in class and what a great student she was. After exchanging a few more pleasantries, we parted ways. The student and her mom both had the biggest smiles on their faces.

Outstanding feedback is relational and tells a story. As teachers, we create relationships with our students. I created a relationship with this student and shared that relationship with her mom. It’s the part of teaching that I love the most. I wish I could say that I completely changed that one student’s life, but I ended up moving shortly after I had her in my class. I still think about her to this day, and I hope maybe, just a little bit, I made a difference.

Adding personalized touches doesn’t have to be time consuming or excessive. I add one or two things to each of my parent feedbacks, and it takes me maybe 2-3 minutes. With the time Feedback Panda saves me from not having to write every feedback from scratch, I can spend it on personalizing each template for my students and their parents; this in turn allows me to focus on building strong relationships with both my students and parents. You can also check out this post-https://www.feedbackpanda.com/comparingtemplates/

Happy Teaching! – Teacher Caryn EU