Tag Archives: feedback

Writing Feedback


slice

On April 1st, I read this tweet from Cornelius Minor that has sent me on a path of discovery, learning, and thinking about writing instruction and writing feedback.

corn . writing.better pic.

 

When I followed his link to the blog, the Chart Chicks had an entire blog post on writing that you will want to check out for yourself for the detailed explanations.  Here is the summary:

“Have you noticed that there seems to be three main approaches to teaching the writing process?

  • The “free to be me” approach
  • The “assigned task” approach
  • The “demonstrate, scaffold, release to write” approach”

 

I often see variations of those approaches in classrooms ranging from kindergarten through twelfth grade in school districts of varying size.  Instruction in writing varies.  Teacher assignment of writing is the norm in many classrooms.  Why is this?  Is it the lack of instruction for teachers themselves?  Or does this concern begin with teacher preparation courses?  Do teachers know how to demonstrate, scaffold, and release to write?

Writing Feedback

After attending the June 2013 writing institute at Teachers College, I had many choices to make in how to help teachers and myself improve writing.  One area of special interest to me is feedback because of John Hattie’s work in Visible Learning for Teachers.  Feedback is critical for growth in teaching knowledge and confidence.  A second source of information more recently has been Taylor Meredith’s The Formative Feedback Project that can be found here in Medium.

I believe that “feedback” for writing can also be categorized in three main approaches as well.  Writing responses that I commonly see are:

  • bleeding red ink
  • no red marks – just a summative grade, score, or comment
  • a thoughtful post-it with “think abouts” for the author

Writing is hard for students and teachers.  Writing is evidence of thinking.  If quality thinking is one of the classroom goals, teachers need to provide thoughtful, individual feedback that is  goal referenced, tangible and transparent, actionable, user friendly, timely, and ongoing (Grant Wiggins, 2012).  That may require a transformation by many teachers.

So let’s explore those a bit more.  The first form of “feedback” listed above is “bleeding red ink.”  So what does that look like?

red ink

Who did the work here?   The teacher!

The teacher should not be the copy editor who corrects every error.  That kind of “feedback” is merely information for the writer.  There is no learning or change in the student’s knowledge.  Recopying “corrected” work is only editing.  No revision or understanding of revision has transpired.  There is also a high probability that the next written work will have similar errors.

End Result:   Student writing   +   Teacher red ink   =  No real learning  (only recopying)

 

The second form of “feedback” is no red marks,  just a summative grade, score, or comment.  This may look like:

checked                         B

 

A check mark or a B+ provides minimal information for the writer. Someone has read that work and left one mark.  A one word comment can also be limiting as evidenced in this Jerry Seinfeld quote about essay tests:

“I always did well on essay tests. Just put everything you know on there, maybe you’ll hit it. And then you get the paper back from the teacher and she’s written just one word across the top of the page, “vague.” I thought “vague” was kind of vague. I’d write underneath it “unclear,” and send it back. She’d return it to me, “ambiguous.” I’d send it back to her, “cloudy.” We’re still corresponding to this day … “hazy” … “muddy”…”
– Jerry Seinfeld  (SeinLanguage. Bantam Books: 1993)

Who did the work here?   There is not enough evidence to tell us who is doing the work.

But how helpful is that singular piece of information?

The student on the receiving end of these marks may say, “Wow, I dodged that.  I don’t have red marks all over my paper so I don’t have to rewrite my paper.”  But what did he or she really learn?  Are the learning targets clear?  How “close” to the learning targets was the work?  What needs to be done in order to show improvement? And even more importantly, “How does the student really become a better writer?”  “What does the student need to improve?”

End result:   No red marks    +  Summative mark   =   No real learning (No idea how to improve the quality)

 

The third form of “feedback” is a  thoughtful post-it with “think abouts” for the author.  What does this look like?   The first picture shows three post-its coded with + and one with “??” for think abouts for the author.   The pink flower post-it says, “Tell us what you think!” so that also gives the student enough feedback to know “what” to do as the next step.

post it comments                                   think

 

It’s more helpful to focus on one single aspect of a student paper for improvement.  Taylor Meredith has a great post on the difference  between input, information, and feedback.  You can find the link here, “Input, Information, Feedback“.  You will notice that I “borrowed” the idea of “equations” from that post.

End Result:   Student Writing  +   Thoughtful post-it with “think abouts” for the author   + Revise, Grow, Change  = Student who is able to Revise /Change “own writing” now in this piece  and also on the next piece!

There is a shift in this third version of feedback for student writing!  The student knows exactly what to do!

What does your writing feedback look like?  What will you do next?

Source:  Wiggins, G. (2012). Seven keys to effective feedback.Educational Leadership, 70(1), 10–16.

 

Is Our Writing Improving?


How can we measure writing so students, parents, the community, and the teachers know that students are improving?

If this is our definition of assessment, we have many options for measurement.

writing assessment

If I am a student, I can use rubrics, checklists, my personal goals and feedback from peers, teachers,  and those I communicate with through blogging, etc. to talk about what qualities are present in my writing now that were not there earlier in the year.  This could be in the form of a summative reflection that is posted with two or three papers/writings that I believe demonstrate my growth and that I would have annotated with those specific qualities for a quarter or semester or across the entire year.

But what keeps a student writing on a daily basis?  How does a student know that this week’s writing piece is better than the last piece?  Or that this piece really was the perfect match for the audience and purpose?  I believe that students need feedback to not only be able to “improve” their writing but also to have the language to explain what they are doing to others. Excitement about a topic can carry a student for several days, but at some point the enthusiasm may wane as the task of rewriting or revising becomes laborious.

John Hattie believes that feedback needs to include these factors:

“• focus on the learning intention of the task
• occur as the students are doing the learning
• provide information on how and why the student understands and misunderstands
• provides strategies to help the student to improve
• assist the student to understand the goals of the learning”  Source 

So a learner would need to know the task/goal, be able to explain what he or she is learning and have some strategies that enhance his/her understanding of the work.  The checklists in the new Units of Study in Writing, from Lucy Calkins and the many, many talented folks at Teachers College Reading and Writing, would help meet those criteria especially if the students are involved in daily writing workshops that allow them to continually stretch and grow and there is a safety net provided by the teacher and peers.

Is this the only writing format that meets these criteria?  No, other rubrics such as 6 Traits + 1 within a writing workshop model could also set up this learning and feedback environment for students.  These environments would include clear writing targets, models and strategies for students to continually plan, reflect and self-assess.  When working well, these classrooms are better than well-oiled machines; when not working well students might be saying, “I don’t know what to write.” or  “What do YOU want me to write?”

How does that all fit in a writing workshop?  Very, very carefully as a teacher combines both student-led and teacher-led activities to increase student independence!  At the end of the mini-lesson, the teacher may ask the students to go ahead and begin an example of the task/work at hand before they even leave that comfort of the writing circle.  A few students may stay for a quick conference and/or a more specific “check-in” with the teacher.  A student may have put a post it up on a strategy chart to mark the specific work that is his/her goal for today that will improve the narrative (adding action, adding dialogue, or adding thoughts).  The teacher will circulate and may have a “mid-workshop” interruption where student work that is “on target” is quickly celebrated and shared.  Students may quickly meet with writing partners to see if they are “still on course to meet their goals.”

This is an example of “knowing specifically what a student needs to do” to meet the learning target in kindergarten – first grade writing.

K end of unit one writing

The student will have a “collection” of writings in a folder that will be evidence of learning.

What will the parents and community members see?  They will see examples of early writing in a unit and later writing.  They will see “student revision” in work and evidence of student thinking.  Parents and community members will not see traditional “percentages” for grades.  They will see comments that delineate what the student CAN do.  The students will be able to tell their families what they have been working on and how that has helped them be more powerful writers.

And the teachers . . . How will they know that “students are improving”?  Teachers may have to take a step back because the “day to day work” may cloud their view when they think of overall growth for all students. But student growth, when students are writing every day in writing workship for 45 minutes to an hour, can be seen after three weeks (Lucy Calkins, June 2013 TCRWP Writing Institute).  Will it be easy?  Heck, no!  But will easy provide results that will help your students meet the demands of opinion, informational and narrative writing?

What are you waiting for?  February is the month to “Fire Up” student writing in your classroom.  Your students will love writing with you!

What questions do you have?  What do you need in order to get started?

Information about the K-5 Units of Study

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