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Give students just-in-time feedback so the learning process continues after the essay.
I preach to my students all the time that the whole writing process is a waste if they don't read and react to feedback.  They get the spiel every time I pass back an assignment; some of them even act on it.

But that's not what this post is about.  This time I'm putting the spotlight on me, and how I respond to the feedback I get.  I'm not referring to actual feedback on my teaching (which is important to seek) but the feedback I get every time I assess student work - and how I use it to give just-in-time feedback.

Give students just-in-time feedback so the learning process continues after the essay.One of the ways I "relaxed" over my break was to finish up the essays my IB students wrote. They had to write a 1200-1500 word essay on Macbeth, on a topic of their choice.  It had to be narrow and focused on Shakespeare's purpose and one technique he used to achieve that purpose.  They chaffed at the "one technique" requirement, sure they couldn't get enough detail for only one.  I was sure they could. We've been working on idea development and focus since the semester changed, and it was time for them to show me their stuff.

For the most part, I was happy with what I saw.  They have the basics down pat. Every essay was focused on a thesis; most were dealing with technique and not summarizing the plot. That was a big win.

However, I saw that a number of them were struggling to really flesh out their ideas and rather than digging deeply into the play, they just repeated themselves.  Many wrote about how elements of the play support the belief in Divine Right of Kings.  Some used pathetic fallacy as the technique; others used the clothing motif.  Most gave a very surface brushing.

As I marked their work, I kept a notebook by my side to keep track of where my students need more instruction, and designed my lessons for next week based on what I found.

1. I've asked two students who did really well to send me their papers electronically. I'm going to select each one's best paragraph and put them together on a handout for students.  They will work in pairs with pens and highlighters to identify the things that make each one a good piece of analytical writing.

2.  I will write my own version of one of the repetitive paragraphs (so I don't have to ID particular students).  Students will work in pairs again, to identify repetitive areas and then to come up with ways to replace those sentences with better evidence from the play.

3. I'm going to write  to illustrate the belief in the Divine Right of Kings at the top of a piece of chart paper and get students to take turns writing other ways to say this underneath (I'll come up with some other repetitive phrases too--there were lots to choose from!).

My first thought when I started thinking about this was that I didn't have time; we need to move on.  However, I talked myself out of that.  I'm giving them feedback that I want them to use now; if I race off to the next thing without giving them the opportunity to fix the things that need fixing, I'm not walking the walk. Let's see how it goes.


  1. Hi there, I hear ya on a couple fronts.Students don't always make the most benefit from the feedback they get. They may understand and recognize the recursive process of writing but not "learning" so for many the mark is the end of something, not a continuation of the conversation. If you're a blogger, I'm surprised you're not using more digital/shared learning methods in your class. Studies show, my own examples support and my students collectively agree that giving e-feedback is widely more understood and useful to students. If they email a final copy, submit to Google doc etc you can use all sorts of tools to identify errors to be addressed in a much easier way for them to understand since you're not restricted to between the lines or one inchild margin. It can be colour-coded, underlined things (I underline their transition phrases to help reinforce and identify them more clearly - where they're used and not used). Students can get the electronic copy returned as well as a printed copy with the comments with at the side or as footnotes. If you haven't tried marking work this way, I'd encourage you to give it a go!
    Also for the writing process, if the ss can use the digital methods in practice at some point the examples and feedback can benefit many. For example, my ss were practicing formal literary paragraphs- I shared a single Google doc w them and they all wrote their practice pars there. They read each others to see what other paragraphs looked like and moved on while I was in the doc adding the formative feedback. It was being corrected live on the smart board so some ss watched and followed that while others came back to review the marked paragraphs at their own time. The feedback was during the process, more so than a tc could even walking around the room monitoring.
    You're going to use these paragraphs foe focused instruction, you said. You could do it through Socrative too. Give your paragraph example or break it down by sentences so you monitor pace of review and ss could anonymously add suggestions or what errors they see. They love using Socrative. Love that it can be anonymous and it's everyone/anyone and live. Ts love it because of the methods available to you to use it during & after learning. Or review the work together in Google docs. The tech engages them like pen/paper cannot. If they don't have provided tech so many have personal devices these days.

    I like that you want them to understand how to use feedback to improve. The digital feedback makes it so much more accessible for them each to understand the feedback and how to use it. Something to consider. Cheers!

  2. I totally agree and do give them feedback digitally--one of my last posts referred to how I do that:

    But I like the old-fashioned method too, and try to use a variety of methods -- just like I ask my students to do.