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Arts & Letters Daily



How to write feedback

The primary goal of Read More … Write More Program is to enable grade six students to excel in writing the State English Exam. As for the student in grade four and five in the Program, they have the advantage of preparing for the grade six exam over a period of several years. The Program, Read More … Write More used in ROOM TO READ AND WRITE is to enable students to write paragraphs using several different templates. The following templates represent the level of achievement set for the students in the Program.

The templates used in this Manual are samples. Templates are most useful when they are developed in class by the teacher with input from the students. When students are involved in developing and using a template to review and assess what they have written, their writing improves.

This Manual offers four templates for writing feedback comments:

  • Paragraph Format/Sentence Patterns
  • 5 W’s
  • Descriptive Paragraph
  • Comparison Paragraph

These templates need to be adapted to the needs of individual students during the course of the Program. The goal of the Program is enable every student to be able to write paragraphs involving descriptions and comparisons. This prepares students to perform at the A and B level on the Grade 6 State Exam.

Read More … Write More – Teacher’s Manual describes a variety of useful teaching strategies. However, none of them are more effective than the strategy for writing feedback comments to individual students. Feedback comments provide students with two sets of important information. First, it tells them what they are doing well and second, it suggests ways of improving their writing. Each of these feedback comments have to point to specific aspects of the students’ text. For example, it has to identify effective use of grammar as well as grammar errors and explain each. Similarly, the feedback comments must address the use of effective and ineffective use of writing strategies.

It is very important not to overwhelm students with too many feedback comments; a student can manage only a limited number of errors in a given text.

Feedback comments should focus on what was taught in the lesson that was designed to prepare the students for a writing assignment. Sometimes, students need some prompts on how to respond to a template. Here is an example:

Topic: An Accident

Introduction:      What do you know about “accident” ?

Body             :      An accident happened:  When? Where? How? Result?

Conclusion   :      Why the accident happened?

It is a great idea to give students freedom to write. It provides teachers an opportunity to let students know what they know about English and what they have not mastered. It provides a way of assuring students that they can master certain new skills over time with a lot of practice.

Students should be encouraged to focus on a limited number of grammar and writing skills at any time to master them. It takes time and practice to become proficient in the use of specific writing strategies. Tell them how well they have done … read several of the best paragraphs to them. For sample:

You are showing improvement each week. You are consistently using the simple verb tenses correctly and are writing in complete sentences and applying the paragraph format very well. Occasionally, you use very complicated forms of verbs. I suggest you stick to the simple tenses for now because the more complicated forms are difficult to use.

Here is another sample of the kind of feedback students may need:

You are getting the idea of the paragraph structure,  using the 5W’s to organize your information and description to explain it. Well done!

The problems that need the most work are: using verb tenses correctly and choice of specific vocabulary to state ideas clearly.

One more example of a summary feedback:

This was an excellent assignment. You wrote very good paragraphs. You are mastering the paragraph structure, the 5W’s and description. You still have difficulty using past tense verbs and prepositions. I know youhave not had a lesson on prepositions and they are very difficult to get right. I am sending you a resource on prepositions. Just use what you think you can understand. Keep up your excellent work!

Sometimes students need to see samples of how their errors can be corrected. Correct a few of their errors and ask them to correct the rest. This approach can provide you with information on what they are ready to do what is too difficult for them. They may need some more coaching or re-teaching.

Special attention should be paid to the grammar lessons on sentence patterns before students are asked to write paragraphs. Sentences are the basic structure for expressing a thought and therefore basic for writing paragraphs. Students should work through the Lessons on sentences in the Grammar section to become familiar with sentence patterns and kinds of sentences.

Feedback comments should also address correct and effective use of grammar. Special attention should be paid to the grammar that has been taught. The comments should focus on two or three grammatical errors that recur in a given paragraph. The error patterns will vary from student to student.