Friday, September 30, 2011

When You Read and Share a Student's Writing, What is the First Thing You Comment on?

You are conferencing with a student to give him/her feedback on what they've written.  What do you comment on first?

The way we provide feedback to our students can have an enormous impact on their motivation to write.

The keynote below has some interesting points about what we do as teachers in terms of providing feedback, what the most common forms of feedback are in our classrooms; the information may surprise you.  What are the most effective types of feedback in terms of motivation and achievement and in promoting a love of writing?

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts - what rings true for you?  What surprises you?  What questions do you have circling?

The key message is to focus on the content first - the deep features - not the surface ones.  They are still important and are part of Reader Courtesy but, if you want to have motivated writers, focus on the message first - the content.

Feedback for blog


  1. Hi. I am two weeks short of completing level three assessment paper so could relate well to your slide. One area of discussion that came up was that we may sometimes over assess and always have a where to next without taking time to celebrate the completed product. We sometimes need to stop and celebrate before moving forward. I would be interested in your ideas around this.

  2. I always started by asking the kids what they were most proud of (#3) about their writing and taking their learning conversation from #4. I think by listening first you open up the dialogue to have the #4 conversation.

  3. Hi Sandi and Stephanie!

    Sandi, you are so right - that's the biggest mistake we make I think - too many comments. I know that was one of my biggest problems. I always celebrated the writing but it often got lost in the number of comments / next learning steps.

    I think it's so important sometimes to just stop and enjoy the idea of writing to express our ideas - ours and the students'. How many times do we write with them and share it as a group? Probably not often enough, if at all as we're so busy trying to assess and record-keep. Just my thoughts. :-)

    Stephanie, you have a great way of making sure that the students retain ownership of their writing in the feedback process. I loved reading this! I've often seen teachers - and have been guilty of this myself - taking over the writing process. I think you've linked #3 and #4 into the learning process / cycle brilliantly. It makes a very clear connection.

    Thanks for the feedback Sandi and Stephanie. :-)

  4. I get the students to talk about their writing based on their personal writing goals. But it always starts with them sharing the work, talking to the writing, me asking them what they feel has been successful and then getting them to decide their own next learning steps. It's also REALLY important not to psycho-analyse every piece of work - my class do diary writing each week and this includes personal voice (they choose to write a poem or a particular genre - my boys often write about cars) so that they are also writing in a way that interests them rather than always suiting a specific teacher-driven theme.

  5. Thanks for your comment Kimberley. I absolutely agree with you - we sometimes overanalyse writing and lose the joy of allowing the children to express themselves just to enjoy the process of writing. I would love to spend time in your class! :-)

    J :-)

  6. Hi, Teaching a K/1 in Australia with L3 - big teaching point was that we overassess and cover a page in corrections for either a teacher or parent satisfaction level. Identify one or two of the 'closest' mistakes to focus as improvement areas in that lesson. Repeat Repeat Repeat! Use lead pencil so parents can't see what you are doing:)

  7. Hi Neil

    You are so right. We actually, at some point, need to stop and ask ourselves who we are doing this for and whether it has any impact at all on the students' learning. My research has shown that it has little impact and that it may, in fact, cause more harm than good.