How do we best teach students to give effective feedback? Every year I ask this same question. Certain pieces of the puzzle I know – kids need authentic experiences that result in meaningful feedback, plenty of opportunities to practice, and a variety of examples and models.
This year, I’ve found that using comments in Google Docs has really enhanced student feedback during the writing process. As students finish a piece of writing meant for publication, they edit their own work and leave a comment identifying the strengths of the piece and any areas they feel could use assistance. Then they share their Doc with another student. This new editor reads the piece and leaves a comment with their thoughts and suggestions. Next, the author makes revisions and shares the document with another peer. Once they’ve left a comment with feedback, it’s time for a teacher conference.
This is an opportunity to work through the piece together. We start with the original self assessment comment, and begin the discussion with a focus on those strengths. Then we work through the writing. As we talk, I create a comment that documents our discussion, including the goals we set. (It’s very simple to copy and paste this comment into my anecdotal records). The student has clear evidence of their growth, and there are no surprises when report cards roll around.
I find that the authenticity of this editing/commenting process has created a stronger independent focus on feedback with my group. When it comes time to share, students sharing their writing are also identifying and sharing comments, and how they initiated revisions. This conversation easily leads into meaningful discussions of the 6 Traits of Writing we use at my school. Students are aware of how easily they can improve the quality of their writing when they focus on a certain trait. They are doing so in their first self edit, which means that their writing is stronger when it begins the process, and even better at the end.
These discussions have made it easy to create criteria for feedback. I love that during writing, I have students coming up and whispering in my ear, “A is really good at giving helpful advice about Word Choice,” and “S always knows her capitals and Conventions!” As we discover our feedback ‘experts’, we look at how their comments are consistently
To recognize and celebrate these Editors, they are given an Editor’s badge (made using bighugelabs.com). As a class, we decide what area of expertise should be highlighted on the badge. I print them and laminate each. They are attached to a tear away lanyard and kept in their desk. Each day as we work on writing, the Editors proudly wear their badges.
The growth in writing skills continues as students are continually seeing other students’ work, which improves their writing. The comments they leave and observe improve not only their writing but also their feedback skills. The whole process is authentic and engaging, and a definite win-win.
I would be interested in hearing how you use comments with students as well!