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!