Offering Feedback in Writing

One of the hardest part of teaching writing is offering feedback.  There are SO many things that I want to help the students with, but if I start correcting every little thing, by the time I am done

1)  I have spent every last second of my free time correcting the papers
and
2) I have basically re-written every paragraph for the students.

Doing that does no one any favors.  The kids are immediately deflated and defeated by all of the corrections on the page.  They can see that EVERYTHING they did was wrong and that really doesn't motivate them or make them want to write.  And selfishly, it wastes my precious time as well.

So what do I do to make sure that no one walks away from a completed paragraph feeling like a total failure and despising writing?

I focus on one element of writing for the student to work on.

Usually, at this time of year, that one element is structure.  Does the student have proper paragraph form?  Does the topic sentence introduce the paragraph topic?  Do the details go along with the topic?  Is the closing provide some sort of resolution?

When offering feedback, I tend to stick to things that have to do with the structure of the piece.  Here is an example.
You can also see the rubric.  I do grade them according to the rubric, but I tend to only leave feedback on ONE of the areas. It makes writing a much more focused and enjoyable task.  (Though I do have to say, that with the Paragraph of the Week, they do like to write anyway, because by nature it is very structured.)
This student had some other things that I could have mentioned.   Spelling. Varied sentences.  Extended sentences and vivid language.  However, if you wrote a paragraph and I started in with my pen and wrote all the things you did wrong, how do you think YOU would feel?  Not very good.  You would hate writing.  So would this student.

So I am focusing on one area.  As the student makes progress in that area, I will move on to another. This particular student did focus on that area (staying on topic) for a few weeks and now, she does!  So now, I am able to focus on a different area with her.

I am also not the only one in my room offering feedback.  I very often have kids giving student feedback.  I find that when suggestions are coming from their peers, the students tend to be less nervous and more apt to listen.  They take the constructive criticism a lot better and grow as writers.  I like to use Panicked Teacher's student feedback wheels (they are free in her store.)  This allows the students to talk about the things needed to improve the writing while giving them a chance to have something tangible and written to go back to their seat with when revising.  You can read a bit more about them in detail in her blog post here. (sorry, I forgot to take a picture of one of the wheels in action :( )

How do you manage the feedback conundrum?


2 comments

  1. Hi Stephanie,
    I really enjoyed reading your post- I completely agree! :) Offering feedback on student writing can be very challenging. I love how you give positive comments and then focus on just ONE area to improve. Also, I hadn't seen those cute student feedback wheels! Going to download them now...Thank you! Happy Sunday!
    -Stacia
    collaborationcuties.blogspot.com

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  2. I am currently working on just this very conundrum! What my Dept. has come up with is a checklist where we can check off what was good and what needs work. It's a kind of modified rubric. This is a good start but there's more to do....as always....:)

    -Lisa
    Mrs. Spangler in the Middle

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