Feedback…how do we give it?

As teachers, we know how important it is to give our students feedback.  We want them to understand how they can improve somewhere or see where they did exceptionally well on an assignment.  At the beginning of this semester, I was introduced to a concept about grading that was different than I was used to.  Instead of circling wrong answers, writing in the errors they made, and putting a grade on top of the paper, a teacher went through math tests and highlighted where the mistakes were and passed the papers back…without a grade!


I loved this idea and immediately tried it with my fourth graders.  I passed their tests back and immediately hands shot up in the air. “What did I get on this?”  I told them instead of grading the quiz I wanted them to learn from their mistakes for the test.  We called it I Spy and the students had to look at their papers and talk with their group about where their mistakes were and how to fix them.

I recently read an interesting chapter about feedback which gave me some insight on how to give feedback for literacy.  The book is titled “Embedding Formative Assessment” by Dylan William and Siobhan Lehy.


There were a few main points that really jumped out at me while I was reading this.  They included:

  • In order to give feedback to students, you need to develop a relationship with them.
    • Not all students can handle criticism and not all students will use praise effectively.  In order to know the type of feedback your student needs, you need to know them well enough to make that decision.
  • In order to be able to receive feedback, students need to be exposed to the concept of a growth mindset.
    • Feedback should never consist of comments such as “great job!” or “you’re so smart!”
    • Students need to know that there is always room for growth even if their work is showing mastery.
  • Teachers should only be giving written feedback one-fourth of the time.
    • If teachers are spending time writing feedback, they need to allow time in the classroom for students to respond to the feedback.  In order to make it most efficient, teachers should only be doing this for one fourth of their assignments so that students don’t get overwhelmed.

The first two bullet points I knew were important, but never thought about them in regards to feedback on assignments.  The last one surprised me as I felt that it was important to provide feedback on everything.  What I realized happens with that is that students don’t get assignments back in a timely manner because I always feel behind on my grading.  Providing feedback one-fourth of the time would help prevent this delay and make sure students are getting things back quickly and able to apply the feedback given for future assignments.


What specifically can be done with regards to literacy?

If you’re anything like me, writing assignments can be dreadful for the sole reason that they are incredibly hard to grade.  I personally have a difficult time sitting down with a rubric and grading each category on each student’s writing assignment.  In this book, there was a great idea on providing feedback in a way that keeps students engaged.

The idea they proposed was to grade each students paper, but instead of marking on the paper itself create strips of paper where you make your comments.  There should be a balance of positive comments with things to work on.

The next step is to cut out all of the feedback so that each student’s is on one strip.  Put students in groups and hand their papers back.  Then hand the group the comments for their papers (without names on comments of who they belong to).  Students need to work within their groups to see which comment matches up with each of their papers.  This gets students looking at each others papers as well as determining appropriate feedback for each one.

This is an idea that I am excited about trying in my classroom when students finish up their current writing assignment.  I’ll discuss in a future blog how this went!


10 thoughts on “Feedback…how do we give it?

  1. ckllit17 November 5, 2016 / 3:58 pm

    Thank you for sharing these resources. Feedback is so hard to teach students who need instant grades. This also creates a sense of growth and not finalizing achievement once the assignment is turned in. One strategy I have used for feedback is code system. I worked with my students to. Rebate codes for feedback. I then “graded” the paper with the codes and handed the paper back with the feedback. The students then worked on the feedback parts. This was quicker than writing comments and the students were familiar with the feedback they received. Good luck with your students.

    Liked by 1 person

    • rachelhaley36 November 8, 2016 / 10:18 pm

      I like that idea of using codes! That’s a great idea. Thank you for sharing!


  2. thomasunc November 5, 2016 / 4:49 pm

    This post is a good one. Here is how it helped me.
    1. When you wrote about the relationship with students, I was affirmed. I don’t start the year with a lot of feedback. I don’t know them and they don’t know me. By the end of the fall, we know each other and I increase my feedback and know how to cater it to each of my students.
    2. We keep hearing a lot about growth mindset. I think this could easily be overused and become a slogan. Placing growth mindset in the context of feedback shows students, “hey we are here to get better. No just to criticize you.”
    3.When we give students feedback 1/4 of the time, we are giving them time to make improvements. When you are telling someone a different feedback point each day or several days a week, they are continually shifting and not focusing on one goal. I also think it is important to help students remember their goals.


    • rachelhaley36 November 8, 2016 / 10:19 pm

      Those are great points. I agree that my relationships get stronger as the year goes on and feedback increases on it’s own due to this bond.


  3. Heidi November 5, 2016 / 5:30 pm

    When I give my students tests and quizzes, I always give them a grade. I do like how you mentioned about just highlighting what they missed and they have to work with their group to fix it. I have done this with math sheets that they do in class. If they get an answer wrong, then I will put a little circle by the number and they have to fix it. I do not give them the answer. They have to do it on their own.
    I also really like the idea about the writing and putting all of the comments on 1 sheet and the group has to figure out which comment goes to which paper. This is a great idea. It gets the students reading all of their groups writing and looking closely at each of them for their writing mistakes.
    Thank you for sharing.


    • rachelhaley36 November 8, 2016 / 10:21 pm

      Thank you for commenting! I agree it was difficult to not put a grade on everything since that’s what I’ve always done and always known. I do think it benefits students though to not be as stressed out about their grades on everything.


  4. jackieb38 November 5, 2016 / 9:23 pm

    This is an important topic to be reflective of as teachers, so it is good that you are thinking about it! I really like how you related giving feedback or grading students and growth mindset because they are directly related. In a classroom that encourages a growth mindset, I like how you explained that the feedback should be based on their effort and growth, not whether they got the answer right or wrong. This way we can point to the positive so that students are discouraged by a “bad grade.”
    I like your honesty in grading writing, because I agree that it is the subject that I also dread to grade. The suggested assessment process you shared sounds really fun for the students! it really makes them look closely at each others writing, so that they are learning from peer’s work and their own. It also makes the feedback way more authentic because they have to think about why it is being given. Great suggestions and reflections!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ateach17 November 5, 2016 / 10:56 pm

    Great post! My students also are eager to know how they did on an assignment–they want to know their grade. I love the feedback you received on highlighting mistakes, passing them back, and having students work together to figure out what they did. While I often give my students another chance to work an incorrect problem, and we talk about how mistakes are opportunities to learn, I love the collaborative nature of this and the signal that it sends to students–we ALL make mistakes, and we can ALL learn from each other! Thanks for sharing, and encouraging me to try this with my third graders!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. cheriedh November 5, 2016 / 11:04 pm

    I love the idea of teachers giving students’ papers back to them and providing feedback with comments on strips of paper. Then the students work together to decide which feedback strip goes with which paper. What a great way for students to begin to understand how to give and receive appropriate feedback.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. mereadair87 November 6, 2016 / 3:03 am

    Enjoyed your post! I love how you allow your students to correct their assignments and I think having conversations with students individually will help students learn from their mistakes. Teachers should think about our feedback to students and use feedback meaningfully. I think teachers are so overwhelmed with giving grades that we forget to revisit the assignments that we gave to begin with.

    Liked by 1 person

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