school performance

Formed Opinions: The Fine Art of Kid's Feedback Forms

Bob the Burger - Austin aged 10.  Has a sidekick called Nigel the Nugget, apparently.

Our main purpose of presenting our book to children is to get their opinions.  That might sound pretty obvious but in the heat of preparations for our school presentation it was easily something that could become an afterthought.

A selection of masks and props for our school performance

As always, we'd given ourselves an enormous amount of work to do, printing, cutting and sticking bits together to make our presentation more visually exciting than just looking at Eleanor and myself.  Now you might say, if you read your book in a certain way you will bring it alive, capture the children's imagination and you won't need all those props; we needed the props.

Consequently, we didn't have a huge amount of time to think about how we were going to get honest feedback from the children.  We did have a question and answer session on the day, but you always feel you are missing the views from the less gregarious children and we wanted views from across the spectrum of personalities.

Unformulaic

So we decided on creating a feedback form that we could handout.  Yeah boring, right?  Well no!  That's where you're wrong (if you thought that, I mean; if you didn't then I apologise, that was a rash and presumptive of me) we were going to make sure it was anything but boring.  It would have lots of colour and things to do as well as collecting their views along the way.

So one side asked a few simple straightforward questions about the book and the other side had something fun to do: Create Your Own Hero!  Woo Hoo!

Actually that 'Create Your Own Hero' side proved to be a very good call, but before I explain why, here are the two sides of that single page form...

kid's feedback form FRONT

Kid's feedback form BACK

Forming a Relationship

Feedback fun

When we got a batch of the forms back later that week, we started to realise that, far from just being a fun activity, the 'Create a Hero' side of the form actually told us something about the child who had made the comments on feedback side of the form.  It was a way of getting a clearer picture about the sort of child that had decided to comment on one aspect or another.  Something we will definitely consider when gleaning future feedback -find out a little bit about the person making the comment if you can!

Mr Toast 

Making adjustments based on feedback can be difficult if you don't understand more about the person that gave that feedback.  It could mean that you could be in danger of making a sweeping change to your story where a nuanced alteration would have been the solution.

Oh yeah, plus we got to see lots of funny hero creations, plus we now have lots of funny hero pictures to post on our site (which we will do and let you know, of course).

And we will discuss the feedback in future posts.

 

 

Character-Forming

Mrs Toast, of course

The teachers were also happy with the story creation aspect of 'Create You Own Hero' (it was part of their school book week).  We had given the children a chance to give their hero a score rating for strength, courage and wisdom.  This 'Top Trumps' style scoring gimmick actually made the children think a little more about the attributes of their protagonist before they started their story.  Yes, they could score their hero a ten out of ten for everything but does that make for a very interesting character?  Isn't what makes a character interesting their weaknesses too?  Even if they are a hero.

One other interesting point to note that surprised me: I'm glad we handed the forms out at the end.  Once those forms were in front of the children, that was it.  Heads down, filling them out, all attention to us was lost.  Not a bad way to finish though, we just need to make sure we never hand them out at the beginning!

School Results

Eleanor and Trevor losing whatever remaining dignity they ever had

There is no hiding anymore, time to step into the spotlight and sink or swim.

A collection of harsh little critics file into the school hall and sit down and deliver their finest harsh critic gazes towards us. This is just the first of seven sessions presenting our book to the children of Commonswood Primary School.

Snail sketch

Now, something we had created from scratch, will be laid out for children to see, and critique.  We came armed with big colourful images and big colourful masks. I would narrate and Eleanor was to act out all the characters.

Eleanor slapped a cardboard crown on the front of my Velcro'd head and we were away.  There followed a slightly awkward, ad-hoc rendition of the book., with the children helping us by providing the sound effects such as fanfares, sword-swishing and booing (now, hold on there -we had asked them to boo, it was part of the story, honest!).  We'd given ourselves a lot of mask-swapping and prop manipulation and it was quite a challenge.

Making it in the world of kid's lit takes nerves of steel

Making it in the world of kid's lit takes nerves of steel

I can't claim that our first performance was a finely polished masterpiece, but we had given it our best shot.  This was our first time after all.  I was happy we had made it through.

snail small

Then we showed them the trailer and explained how we created some of the characters from bits of card and showed them some of our models.  Then we answered some of their questions (thankfully no 'why are you here?'), handed out activity sheets/feedback sheets (more about those in future blogs) and they filed out to make way for the next class.  This was exhausting and we had only done one.  Six more to go.

However, as we went from performance to performance throughout the day, we got better and started to realise where to put our focus, involving the children more and spending more time showing them the models and the process.

A few of the children had their photo taken wearing the masks and holding the props and they loved it.

A couple of masked heroes

A couple of masked heroes

In a future blog I will detail more of what we learnt and the feedback we got.  Safe to say it was a very valuable experience and I'm glad we stepped out of our comfort zone to do it.