Random ideas for ELT people, plus guest blogs & travel notes

My latest guest blogger is Brazilian teacher Cecilia Coelho, someone I follow with great interest on her blog and on twitter. Cecilia has one of those distinctive voices that comes across vividly even in only 140 characters on twitter and her blog shows what a caring, thoughtful and imaginative teacher she is. Cecilia is exactly the kind of person I want to be associated with here.

Her blog details are at the end. It’s well worth a visit.

Cecilia Coelho

I’ve been an EFL teacher in Recife, my hometown on the northeast coast of Brazil, for the past 17 years. I teach at a Binational Center (ABA) www.estudenaaba.com and my students are mostly teens to young adults. I have two beautiful kids, read obsessively and have recently discovered the world of twitter and blogging. Both have been an amazing boost to my professional development, and through them I have met some wonderful teachers whom I’ve been having the pleasure of sharing with. Ken is one of them, and I thank him for kindly inviting me to write this post for his blog. I was flattered by the invitation and hope I live up to his expectations!

We hear them – but do we listen?

Reflections on giving students feedback on their production.

My students sometimes have difficulty understanding closely-related words in English that in Portuguese either have only one word for it, or have two but are indiscriminately used (i.e. music/song, bring/take, watch/see, etc). I like drawing attention to those differences and the proper use of these words whenever the opportunity arises in the classroom.

It’s no different with listen and hear. Hearing is about perceiving the sound whilst listening is about paying attention to what you hear, decoding it.

So I ask you: when it comes to your students’ efforts in using English to express themselves – be it orally or in writing – do you listen or just hear them?

This dichotomy is a common “visitor” in my musings about teaching. Whether it’s listening to them speaking in class or reading a piece of writing they’ve submitted, I try to keep a balance between focusing on its content (the what they are saying) and on its accuracy (the how they do it). Whatever shape it comes in, my number one focus is on communication – would they be understood properly?

What happens most times is that when they are speaking, I rarely interrupt to correct for accuracy – I usually take note of the most relevant mistakes and go over them after the student has finished speaking. Many times I do it with the whole class – because some of the mistakes are recurrent among the other learners as well – sometimes more privately, especially if the student is shy or self-conscious. If I believe whatever mistake they’ve made hinders communication, I wait until the sentence is finished and I ask for clarification or the rephrasing of the sentence.

When it comes to their written production, I have to admit most times I find it hard not to correct for accuracy (though I do it in different ways, not just crossing the mistake out and writing the correct form), but I always pay attention to what they’ve written.

The idea for writing a post on this topic came from a student’s email to me. She’s a very bright 15-year-old student, loves English, has been studying it for a long time and is a fluent speaker (in my opinion). She wrote to thank me for taking an interest in what she wrote, for believing in her and caring. She said it really meant a lot to her. And that simple, ordinary message touched me. And it made me think…

When you correct a student’s written assignment, do you ever write any comments? If so, are those comments about the student’s language or about what they wrote? I take the time to write my opinion on what they wrote, whether I agree or disagree, asking questions that came to mind while I was reading it, giving them names and links to articles, books or other resources that are related to the topic and I think they might enjoy taking a look at.

Sometimes I do this by scribbling throughout their texts, sometimes I concentrate all in one bigger comment at the end of the paper. The way I do it doesn’t matter.  My students’ response to my comments DOES matter.

What I have noticed is that if you return their work all marked with language corrections, they will (maybe) glance at it and put it away (probably forever, or at least until the end of the semester, when it will surely end up in the trash).

But if there is a comment on the actual content of what they wrote, they’ll stop and read it.  Many times they’ll even do some follow up and say something else about it to you right after they’ve read it or after class. I have had students who actually wrote replies to my comments and gave the paper back to me – as in a conversation. Most students feel more motivated to put some extra effort into writing (and even speaking) to really be thorough in expressing their opinions. And in doing so they write more, and more carefully. They produce more, develop their skills, their language. Many times they write me emails about it or approach me at the end of a lesson to say they’ve read the article I mentioned on the comment and tell me what they thought about it.

Another ELT teacher, Ceri Jones (@cerirhiannon) has had interesting (and very rewarding) experiences with this (taking it a step further), and you might enjoy reading about it on her blog – Close Up http://cerij.wordpress.com/

Bottom line? Giving content feedback on my students’ production has been a much more effective tool to help them in their path to learning English. It has reached and motivated them.  And the language accuracy is not left aside, since they have to use the language properly to express themselves.

What about you? Do you hear or listen to your students? Have you ever had a similar experience?

Cecilia blogs at http://cecilialcoelho.wordpress.com/

Comments on: "Guest post 24 – Cecilia Coelho on giving meaningful feedback" (29)

  1. Ken Wilson said:

    Well, I think I’m going to start the ball rolling on this one!

    I think Cecilia may hit a raw nerve with some teachers here – she certainly has with me.

    Looking back to the comments I wrote on the written homework of my students, I don’t think I gave them the attention they deserve, and now I feel just a little bit guilty about that.

    I remember my first teaching job, in Seville Spain, when I seemed to have enough time on my hands to write pages of notes about what students had written. But even then, I don’t think I encouraged the kind of dialogue that Cecilia suggests here. And later in my teaching life – well, there just doesn’t seem to be time, does there?

    But I think Cecilia shows that going the extra yard (metre?) is so worth it, not just in terms of your students’ improvement in English, but also the warm and successful relationship that can build up between teacher and class as a result.

    • Hi Ken,

      What an honor to have you as the first comment I reply to….in your own blog!!!🙂

      My intention when writing this post was not to hit any raw spots or make anyone feel guilty… But if it has made people reflect and maybe consider taking this road when correcting students’ writing pieces once in a while, it was worth it!

      When you talk about the beginning of your teaching career, when you had more time in your hands, I wonder if when we are starting this type of feedback isn’t even harder than when we become more experienced. Firstly because new teachers are more concerned with the correction (at least when I was starting I used to think the students had to get feedback on the mistakes they made… Maybe that’s our first mistake: thinking and giving feedback on the mistakes instead of giving feedback on what was good and worked on the student’s production.

      I’m no super teacher. I am no different from any of the teachers I’ve met (in the flesh or virtually) especially when it comes to struggling with time and trying to stretch it so that I have enough time to do all I have on my to-do list – and no, it’s never enough, not even close. But despite what it may seem, focusing the feedback on a writing piece on the ideas rather than the form doesn’t take as much time as we’d think. Especially if you don’t correct the accuracy, marking and crossing and writing the correct form.

      How about compromising? Every once in a while looking at the content and just noticing the accuracy as you read it – or maybe not even taking accuracy in consideration. After all, the purpose of accuracy is to allow the student to adequately convey his/her message isn’t it? So if the message gets across clearly, the accuracy can’t be so bad. Choosing a task where students had more room to expand their opinion might be a good start – give you more to work with.

      And you don’t have to keep the dialogue going in writing. If the student returns the paper with a response to your feedback, you can reply to it orally – that wouldn’t cost you any more time.

      But you’re right when you say going the extra metre is worth it.

      Once again, thanks for opening your blog and having me :-)Cheers!

      Cecilia

  2. Hi Cecilia,

    Congratulations on an insightful guest post – a thought-provoking read!

    As you know, I work with kids so the question of commenting on the content of their work is more difficult due to their low language level. For many years, I was just writing ‘good’, very good’, ‘great’ etc on their work with no explanation of why. I realised (eventually) that the kids wuold just scan the top and bottom of the paper looking for the comment, dance a little jig if it was ‘great’ and look disappointed if it was only ‘good’.

    This year, as I have specific instrcutions to develop writing skills with our 4th graders, I’ve started to add comments on content and it really works wonders. The comments are only simple (e.g. ‘I like that too!’ or ‘Wow! You can ski? I can’t!’) but they respond to them – some kids do so immediately, others come up after the lesson but they all ask each other ‘what did he write on yours?’ That makes it worthwhile.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Dave,

      your new method sounds like a great improvement – but doesn’t the dance-a-jig for ‘great’ and disappointment for ‘good’ still apply to the new style of comments?

      Ken

      • My new method mainly sticks to comments on content. I don’t give grades (or graded comments) unless a) the writing is assessed and b) the criteria are clear to the students.

        For dealing with language errors, I sometimes include a ‘grammar box’ or ‘spelling box’ at the end to draw attention to a repeated error. For more in-depth correction, I create my own text on the same topic using real errors from the students work and I have them work collaboratively to correct them. The last thing I do is ask them to compare the corrections they made to their own writing and see if they recognise any of them!

        In short, I focus on content first, utilise other ways to draw their attention to errors and try to avoid any comment that suggests I’m in some way grading their writing.

    • Hi Dave!

      I’m so glad you liked the post. Personally I love posts that are thought-provoking (but I think you already knew that ;-)!), because they make us question and assess our own teaching practices – and that’s what PD is all about, isn’t it?

      But it seems you’re already approaching your students’ written production focusing on the content. I think you’re amazing for doing this with YLs… But you also prove that it doesn’t take as much time or effort as we may think. The comments don’t have to be long or complex – especially in your case. You even took it a step further. I really like you idea of creating your own text on the same topic – I told you as much on your blog :-)! I’m actually waiting for an opportunity to do the same myself.

      Thanks for sharing how you do it Dave. Always a pleasure (and enriching) sharing with you!

      Cheers!

      Cecilia

  3. Cecilia, what a great post!
    Sometimes we take simple things as correcting a piece of writing for granted. It’s in such time that students need reassurance and validation.
    I also like to give good comments on their compositions. With more advanced ones I have a list of codes I uses to show them what is linguistically wrong and I usually say sth in the end about the text itself. Whether it be too far-fetched, too simple or too extravagant I always leave some comments.
    Great work!
    Keep it up!

    • Thank you for your kind comments Bruno! I’m happy to hear you also comment on your students’ texts, and that like me you also feel a difference in the students’ responses.

      I sometimes use correction codes myself. At other times I just use a highlighter on things that should be re-written, no matter what kind of mistake it has – I usually do this with more advanced learners, they’re more aware of the many types of mistakes and are frequently able to self-correct when reading their texts with more attentionespecially at what is highlighted.

      And you nailed the key for this to work: simple, quick or more complex and deeper comments, leaving them whatever shape they have is what gets the students.

      Thanks for sharing (and stopping by to comment!) and keep up the great work you’re doing too!

      Cecilia

  4. Ania Kozicka said:

    Hi Cecilia,

    Thanks for your post and making the readers think. Let me share what my mind has just whispered to me:

    It seems teaching is about simple things. However there are loads of such simple things and we fail to notice a lot of them let alone take advantage of them. Those who pick the great ideas from the jungle of teaching hints and make amazing use of them- deserve a proper admiration:)
    Well done Cecilia!!!🙂

    A lot of teachers ( including me) add ‘brilliant’, ‘ great ideas’, ‘well done’ when they mark students’ work. However, not many realise it’s a great opportunity to add something more, ask questions and play with the students and with the language!

    Thank you for making us realise how this idea, which may seem a very simple one but A GREAT one at the same time- can contribute to our teaching and building relationship with our students!🙂

    David- I work with YL too and apart from ‘great’ etc I draw suns, smileys- students love them. Your ‘ You can ski? I can’t!’ example of a comment stirred up ideas in my mind! Thanks!

    Great post Cecilia- Really good points to take into consideration while teaching.
    Keep up unearthing such brilliant ideas!🙂

    Ania🙂

    • Hi Ania!

      Thank you for so many great compliments🙂 Reading your comment I thought of something…. Do you think maybe our “default” correction comment being the generic “well done” or “great ideas” comes from us repeating what was done to us? I mean, as far as I am concerned, that’s the kind of feedback I got when I studied English. Well, food for thought…

      I’m really happy my post (and Dave’s comments) stirred your mind and gave your ideas. I hope they become positive changes in your teaching and that you have the same rewarding result we’ve been getting! (I took the liberty of speaking in your name here too Dave, hope you don’t mind!).

      Cheers!

      Cecilia

  5. Ken, thanks for asking Cecilia to write a guest blog for you!
    And thank you Cecilia!
    Your thoughts and ideas are great, and I have to say that I also pay a lot of attention on student’s writings, and to homework in general (the old one, you know, if you give homework, check it). I do correct grammar, word order, choice of vocabulary, but I also comment on the structure of the essay (they’re usually essays), and finally, I add some opinion on the things they wrote, I agree, disagree. I remember that in the beginning when I started doing this, student were surprised, they did not expect teacher to read their writings thoroughly, and make comments. Sometimes some essays are so good that I mark them. The next time, there are more students who make effort to write a good essay.
    Since they usually write it for homework, there are students who take the advantage of the Internet, and just rewrite the theme… What I do in that case is tell them nicely that they forgot to write down the link to their source of information, or I find it myself and just add it at the bottom of their paper…🙂 They are surprised by that and they never do it again! (I know my students and I know exactly what each of them is capable of writing, I mean, on which level).
    My students are teenagers, but I also teach a couple of children, and, when checking their writing, I use stamps. Different shapes and colours, or, if lack for stamps, I draw a flower or a heart or a smiley…
    As far as homework is concerned, I like the idea of challenges… I read it somewhere and I stole the idea momentarily! I give students the options, concerning the tasks, the quantity and the way they hand it in (in class or by email).
    B

    • Hi Branka!

      Wow! I’m amazed (although I shouldn’t by now) to see that teachers (and students!) are pretty much the same no matter where they teach or where they’re from😉

      Many times my students are surprised when I take this approach to correcting their writings, whether they’re essays, letters or paragraphs (such as the sample I scanned to illustrate this post). this just serves to show that not many of us do this, so they don’t expect it. It gets you thinking how we expect them to be motivated to really put their opinions on paper if they don’t believe we’re going to “listen” to what they’re saying (more food for thought – that’s why I love blog posts and the comments they get!).

      I smiled to notice we’re very similar in many ways: I do the same thing when I get a student’s work that I know he didn’t write, so I google it and write something like what you said. Many times I write the link to the original plagiarized text – they’re always embarrassed to be caught, and usually don’t do it again, many times letting other know I check ;-)). And just as you do, I love using stickers whenever I correct something – my adult / advanced students get a kick out of it!

      Thanks for sharing how you do your corrections!🙂
      Cheers!

  6. Cecília,

    What a great post to make us think! Honestly I used to correct my students homework giving them back all marked in red pen with the appropriate usage of language which I’ve realized was not effective for them. As the years passed, I really noticed that they never look at the corrections made, as you mention at the end of semester their assignments are thrown away.

    Knowing that I wouldn’t get any further with this correcting method I decided to try a different one. So, after reading Jason’s post about “Corrections Exercise” I decided to try out his suggestions.
    As every teacher knows, we spend countless hours correcting students writings. Since then, I only spot the 3 or 4 biggest mistakes, which I explain in more detail. My advanced group really enjoyed it, and since then they are making less mistakes than before.

    So… I am a kind of teacher who listens to her students. Students, they like to feel unique, as everybody does, so everyone needs a different feedback.

    Congratulations for this insightful post!

    Cheers!
    Luciana Podschun
    @inglesinteract

    • Hi Lu!

      The infamous red pen! I have to admit that I am silly to a point that I always choose a different color – rarely red – to correct my students’ work after I attended a training session where they talked about the use of the red pen and how, depending on the amount of mistakes, the work goes back to the students looking like a bloodbath😉 LOL! yeah…I’m silly like that. I know the color doesn’t really matter, but it stuck to my mind… I like using green (hope maybe?).

      I really liked Jason’s post on Correction… have tried it in class and have had good results as well. And you seem to be the kind of teacher I am… I’m not sure whether it’s good or not, but I like to develop a personal relationship with the students. Bigger with some, but with all nonetheless.

      Thank you for your comments!🙂

  7. Vladimira said:

    Hi Cecilia,
    WOW, it really is amazing post. Congratulations!
    I am also a huge fan of feedbacks in various forms. It seems so unnatural just to mark a paper and leave it with corrected mistakes. I was taught at university to give students hints not correct answers when it comes to correcting papers. And later I have found out really nice motto for a feedback (I think I have already mentioned it somewhere :)) – medal and mission. The teacher should always praise the students for effort and good work, make some relevant comments but shouldn’t stop there. Mission is a way to help them with progress…and that should be made very gently…to encourage them.

    Thank you very much for you post!🙂

    Vladka

    • Hi Vladka,

      Feedback is essential to keep you motivated and willing to give your best. If we, as professionals, like and take advantage of feedback why should we expect it to be any different for our students?

      By the way, thank you for your feedback on my post!😉 It makes me feel like writing more!

  8. hi ya Cecilia,

    I love this post – I love all the blogging you do and it’s a great pleasure getting to know you!

    I also think that it’s really important to listen and comment back to students on their written work which is kind of how I fell into blogging with them.

    The beauty of doing that was that it also invited my students to also comment on each other’s work too.

    However I also discovered that sometimes they actually want their comments to be “private” and sometimes they don’t mind if others see… It’s quite interesting who likes what.

    In the end I found that I could use a google doc and provide colour-coded feedback in private which they can scan through over and over to see patterns in their errors and mistakes.

    I wrote about this system here perhaps, if your students have computers at home it might also be useful for you – it’s pretty much the same time/work as on paper however offers permanence, reflection and very importantly feelings of progression.

    • Hi Karenne🙂,

      Thank you for you words of incentive and for always being so supportive of my attempts at blogging🙂. I’m glad I started, I just wish I had more time for it…

      I have tried using Google Docs, but I’m afraid we still have some technology-phobic students. And besides, our whole evaluation system is done through electronic portfolios, and they resemble blogs a lot – you can even leave comments on the students selected/posted work. And with our portfolios, it’s up to the student to share their portfolios with others or not. If they so wish only the teacher sees it.

      As for the technology-phobic students I mentioned…they’re the same ones that refuse to do the portfolios online and still hand them in the paper format😛 Baby steps…

      Thanks for the link to your post…I have saved it and will get to it this weekend, when I’ll hopefully catch up on some of the work I’ve been drowning on.

      Thanks for everything! Cheers!

      Cecilia

  9. Cecilia,

    What a great post! My experience has been the same as yours as far as commenting. In my students’ journals I always leave positive comments as well as a goal for which they should strive to achieve next time. I circle parts and make comments. Many times the journals pose personal reflections so I make sure to be specific and say something positive, add a question, etc. I want it to be an open conversation and the students really enjoyed this. It kept them motivated to continue writing in their journals🙂

  10. Hi Shelly!

    Thanks for your comment… When I was reading I remembered something that might have been the first little seed towards getting to this kind of feedback I give my students… When I was 16 I was an exchange student in Kansas (US) and I had an English teacher who made us all keep journals and write on them on a regular basis. Sometimes she’d give us a prompt or a question to start from, others it was up to us. But the one thing I remember (and I still have that journal – am not going to tell you how old it is though!) is that her comments were always personal and had to do with what I had written, never with the language. And that was the very first time I had contact with this kind of feedback, and I fell in love with it! It made me feel special and closer to her.

    I mean, not that I’d expect us to develop that kind of relationship – I would NEVER have the time for it, that’s for sure! But there are ways of doing it in a lighter way, as so many people have shown in their comments here.

    Cheers!🙂

    Cecilia

  11. Hi sweet Cecilia!!!

    I was so happy to see your post on Ken’s blog. I love-love-loved your post, as I am sure that the students in your class cannot wait to come to your classes, as you give them something so significant, apart from the knowledge of English – motivation and praise. And you do it so uniquely! Students need to see the praise you give them and hear it – it gives them tremendous motivation.

    I loved how you scanned the piece of writing with your lovely student’s writing and your comments (they both show the connection you and your students have). The student must feel as if you are talking to him or her – and I am sure he or she truly appreciates it! (And what beautiful handwriting! – I also use any colour except red : ))))

    Thank you so much Cecilia, so happy to connect with you on Twitter and read your blog and now this amazing post!

    Ken, thanks a million for having Cecilia on your blog!

    Kindest regards,
    Vicky

  12. Hello dearest Vicky!!!

    Thank you for taking the time to leave your comment :-)!

    I can’t speak for my students whether they love coming to class, but I love teaching them! And I’d like to think I’ll be one of those teachers we fondly remember years and years later…

    I chose this specific assignment to scan and use to illustrate what I was talking about in this post because it is an activity in which the students had to write comments on each other’s paragraphs… So I guess you can say that besides giving feedback on the content of my students’ work I’m also teaching them to do the same!!!

    Thanks you for all the kind words of incentive and praise… Connecting with you has been a real treat, and a source of fun and learning too!

    BTW, the handwriting is the result of my BA in graphic design (at a time when we didn’t really have computers yet, so I actually had calligraphy classes!😉

  13. Hi Cecilia

    Firstly well done on your guest post – you have certainly made a positive impact and I’m just loving how you are an educator so many people seem to be talking about at the moment. Very positive indeed🙂

    For once it was lovely to read a post that made me feel positive about some of my own teaching methods. What I mean by this is that as I catch up on blog reading over the weekend, some of the items I read do, if I’m honest, leave me with a sense of ‘falling short’ somehow – or at least give me the sense that there are a million ways in which I should better myself if I’m to become a ‘proper’ teacher. Yet I’m also aware I won’t manage all one million of them THIS week 

    Your post however has been a breath of fresh air and has reinforced something I was advised of during my CELTA. To see another teacher doing the same is very encouraging.
    Nick Hamilton (IH London), my CELTA tutor, told us towards the end of the course that we should aim to read all students’ work twice over. The first time, only consider content. Then write a genuine and heart-felt response to only the content of the piece. The second reading can focus on language correction. Obviously the latter depends on the reason for writing and how much accuracy you’re demanding but certainly with our pre-intermediate classes, we needed to focus on approximately three language areas which they clearly needed to improve on if intelligibility was not going to be negatively affected.

    Regarding the red pen, I always use orange🙂 don’t know why – I find it a cheery colour! But red marking for me has odd feelings from primary school that are not altogether positive.

    I’m really looking forward to hearing more about your approaches in the classroom Cecilia and sharing with you on Twitter🙂

    Emma x

  14. Hi Emma,

    First, let me thank you for you kind words… I was really happy to be able to write about feedback here, and super happy to throw the idea to some teachers who hadn’t tried it yet and especially about hearing so many do.

    I totally relate to what you say about sometimes feeling like we’re falling short, especially after reading some posts. I feel that more often than not. Jumping into the world of blog reading/writing (a lot more emphasis on reading) and tweeting I’ve been greatly inspired and motivated at times and have felt inadequate at others (due to my lack of formal TEFL training). At other times I see what some of the other teachers are doing and think how great it is and how I wish I could do it. In the end, it always turns out to be positive, because even when I feel I haven’t done (or am not doing) enough, it drives me to go after it.

    I’ve come to admire many people through this experience, and it’s fantastic to learn from them and read about what they do in their lessons. But it’s also fantastic to learn that we all go through similar problems (too much work, balancing personalXprofessional life, too little time, challenging students, school policies, etc etc)…and this is, just like you said, encouraging. Because if these people I think are incredible educators have their own insecurities and frustrations, then it’s ok. Maybe I’m not that bad (or wrong) after all.

    On a different note, isn’t it funny how so many people thought of talking about the color of pen they use to mark students’ work? And nobody uses red…

    Really looking forward to sharing with you on twitter as well…have been reading your blog for a while, and I really enjoy it, your teaching.🙂
    Cheers!

    Cecilia

  15. Hi Cecilia!
    I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to find this post😦 – there’s no excuse, but things have been so busy lately I’ve really got out of touch with the blogging world. It was heartening to see that the twitter machine works though, and that if something’s important enough, interesting enough, it’ll be tweeted and retweeted and will finally surface, no matter how negligent I am!

    And thank you so much for the mention. It’s a fascinating area, it really is. And so rewarding. I love the way writing can create a special, one-to-one, personal channel of communication, how simple comments can do so much for rapport and motivation. And how this spreads as well throughout the class when students comment on each other’s writing. And the extra time it gives you to think and reflect and decide how best to respond, to experiment with different ways of helping and extending and stretching the students. A great post and a great topic! as well as a great folow-up discussion🙂

    Thank you! I’m so glad I didn’t miss this post after all🙂

  16. Hi Ceri!

    You’re welcome for the mention – I did it because it was such a great example of the effectiveness of written feedback on student’s content, and how it greatly helps create good rapport between students and teacher. It’s the kind of rapport that motivates both students and teacher as well as it fosters a better (and more enjoyable) learning experience.

    I’ve come to see written feedback especially helpful when we are dealing with more reserved, shyer students, or those who are insecure about their language ability and usually doesn’t speak much in class. We can even compare it to how many wallflowers bloom and flourish at “social” life in virtual settings.

    I’m glad you didn’t miss this post too!🙂

    Cecilia

  17. Hi Ceci!

    What an insightful post! My experience is quite similar to yours. I think what has value is the content the students are transmitting, either orally or written. There’s always the opportunity to do remedial work without affecting fluency by means of interruptions. I never use red or green for corrections. And I write comments for students to read.

    How nice of you to share your student’s piece with your comments. Thank you for sharing this amazing article.

    Hugs!
    Marisa

  18. Cristiane Prates said:

    Hi, Ken. I know it’s been a while since this post was written, but I couldn’t help describing my own experience in checking students written texts. I don’t know if it’s because we’re both teachers in Recife, but I myself give the exact same kind of feedback when it comes to students writings. Sometimes I ask them to write a paragraph and my feedback (or my conversation) takes more lines then they do! And the response has been great. Fortunately most students realize it’s not an easy job for me, as I teach 8 hours a day, 5 day a week, so I just receive lots of compliments on that. Compliments are wonderful, but what really makes me happy is to notice how the change during a semester time.
    When it comes to accuracy, however, I simply underline mistakes or write question marks or even ask questions such as “where is the verb”, “is it he or she”, etc. and ask students to rewrite.

  19. Ken & Cecilia … I have truly enjoyed reading this entry regarding feedback. After I read the blog post, I caught myself also reading all the comments and responses. In a lot ways, you received the feedback that I believe our students would enjoy more than the corrections we often end up giving.

    As one of the comments noted, (and I paraphrase here) she used to correct papers and after noticing that students were barely looking at them, she decided to change her method. Most teachers get stuck in the “good” or “great” rut of feedback. But I really appreciated the professional, life-long learner in her (as well as the others who have joined the discussion) that caused her to pause, reflect, and find a new method of providing feedback.

    I really like the idea (which one of my new teachers did last year!) of connecting with students regarding their content. As Dave wrote, “I like to ski, too!” (even though I don’t, so mine would be more like “Wow I wish l could ski!”), and in my observation of my new teachers, I find that the connection with the students motivates them to want to take pride in their work and find their own ways to improvement. Students want to be understood, so, Cecilia, your blog post makes perfect sense and puts words to what I have noticed.

    (Though these comments may be confusing, I hope my message is clear … I wonder what my feedback would be with this one.🙂

    Thanks again!

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