Feedback is essential for learning. Feedback from our environment and peers enables us to walk, talk, read, and write. It’s only natural that in our later years we still require feedback to learn. When it comes to English writing, teachers need to give effective feedback so students can learn from all the things they did right or wrong.
Commenting on students writing does take a good chunk of time, but it will certainly do your students good down the road.
Giving Effective Feedback to Students Writing
#1. Give a clear goal
It’s downright impossible to give meaningful feedback without a clear goal set in place. Students need to know which area to focus on. A vague directive such as “Write a good descriptive essay” is meaningless. List down what “good” means so students understand what to include in their work.
Here’s an example of clear directives when you ask students to write a descriptive paragraph of a place:
- Reveal the topic idea in one or two sentences.
- Reveal the place you about to describe.
- Describe your feelings about being at this place.
- Provide five specific details about this location by using as many senses as you can (sights, sounds, smells, feels, and tastes)
- Summarize the entire place in one or two sentences.
- Remember to use short and simple sentences for this task.
#2. Mention at least one thing the students did well
Praise is an excellent way to start constructive feedback on students writing. It makes the students more open for our criticism later on. Go back to writing task directives and point out on which part the students did well. Let the students know what their strengths are so they can build upon them.
#3. Mention the things the students did not do well and tell students how to improve them
Let say one student put too much focus on his sights when describing a place. Show him how to describe the place using his other senses. For example, in a restaurant, you can hear people ordering food and having conversations. You can smell the food being cooked in the kitchen and the food the waiter is bringing to the table next to you.
Please remember that it may not be possible to have the students fix all their weaknesses right away. it’s nothing to worry about. It’s good enough when they can fix one thing at a time. And that brings us to the next step…
#4. Give the students the opportunity to apply your feedback
Your feedback is not something for the students to put in a far corner of their mind to gather dust. Ask them to use the feedback on their next writing task. And when should you ask them to write again? As soon as possible, of course.
It’s always worth it to have weekly writing assignments planned out so students have ample chances to improve their writing skills. If you think weekly assignments are too much work, you can loosen the schedule a bit to every other week.
#4. Help them be their own critics
Since your feedback focuses on the criteria you’ve set for the writing task, you may not have enough time to help them correct bad grammar and spellings. Let your students know there are online tools that can help them with correcting misspellings and bad grammar. One such tool is the online-spellcheck.com. Teach them to build the habit of checking their writing using the tool before submitting the piece to you.