Effective Feedback

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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

  1. Kind
  2. Specific
  3. Helpful


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.

Editor blur

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!


6 thoughts on “Effective Feedback

  1. Paige Couros

    I love the idea of an editor badge, that is something that my students would be very proud of. I really like that you have students set goals prior to the editing process. I find that feedback needs to be timely in order to be helpful and getting two students to look at another students writing would be a lot faster than the teacher trying to get through all of them. My students use google docs and I love to comment on their work. They enjoying reading my comments and they are pretty good at revising their work. I think they would be better at revising if it was a peer giving advice. I also like the feature in google docs that allows you to go back through revisions to see how the student has changed their work and what they are editing themselves. I am going to try to include peers more in the editing process on our next writing project! Great idea 🙂

    1. kelliholden Post author

      Thanks, Paige! I agree, providing feedback in a timely manner to 20 students can be a real challenge for us. Involving students in the process makes sense, and I love the features in Google Docs that make this so easy. The best part is that the more they write, the better they get – and the better they get, the more they write! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Diane Lander

    I love how you have seemlessly embedded critical thinking into this process with the use of the “criteria for effective feedback”; i.e. kind, specific, helpful. This is such a good example of assessment AS learning, Kelly- self-assessment and peer coaching really are a ‘means of learning’ for your young writers:)

    1. kelliholden Post author

      Thanks, Diane! I agree, assessment AS learning provides a powerful and authentic experience. We would love to have you stop by and share with you anytime!

  3. Kathryn Davies

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. Your process is exemplary and clearly effective at engaging your students. I wish I was a student in your class!


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