What kind of feedback do you offer your students on their writing?
Are you red pen crazy? Do you mark up the paragraph, page, or essay with slashes, carots, and circles every where there is an error? Do you do this with another color pen – trying to conceal your zeal for marking the page?
Or, are you a minimalist, just circling the area of the rubric which critiques the writing with a 4-3-2-1, offering nary a hint at what was right or wrong in the writing sample?
Are you correcting Greenbelt Writing? Ralph Fletcher says this is a no-no. Did you interrupt the flow of that student’s Slice of Life to point out a mis-spelled word? I hope not.
Luckily, I do not think I fit into any of these categories!
But, I do know that feedback to students on their writing is extremely important! Yes, I know, I know; it is also extremely time-consuming.
The reason the topic of feedback is part of my slice today is that I am awaiting my grades from a graduate course that ended on November 22nd! The course was Environmental History – I have talked about it on my blog before. There was a paper due each week from the 8th of October through November 12th. The final project was due November 19th, and was worth 30% of our grade. But, here’s the thing – none of it has been graded! Yes! I said none! Five papers, requiring the synthesis of a great deal of reading material, complete with citations turned in on time, but sit ungraded in the course drop box. As a perfectionist, a hardworking student, and someone who looks for teacher feedback to use with which to improve myself, I find these ungraded assignments hard to understand. Yet, I have not choice but to wait. So, wait I will….and hope for the best!
This week I also told the third grade teachers whose students I borrowed for the last six years that I will not be back to lead writer’s circle this year. This was a group I founded when my youngest was in third grade because he liked to write. As a parent who liked to write (and, teach) I asked his teacher if I could lead a writer’s circle for a small group of her students, including my son (who is in 10th grade now). It worked so well that the following year, I was given students from each of the three third grades in the building for a once a week writer’s circle meeting in which we wrote, shared, laughed, and learned together. It was a great experience for me, as well as the students, I think – at least that is what I was told. Throughout our time together we explored narrative and expository writing, poetry (my favorite), newspaper writing – which we shared with their classes, travel brochures, pourquoi (another favorite – although difficult), and more. Over the years, almost all of my writer’s circle students were published in a national poetry compilation. I am especially proud of that accomplishment. In terms of feedback, I tried to offer a mix of both verbal and written praise and suggestions, as well as guided constructive criticism. These were students who already liked to write – I was cogniscent of that and did not want to do anything to diminish it. So, I carefully guarded what actually flowed from my pen onto their paper. It was a difficult decision to let this group go, but one I feel whose time had come. I am looking for opportunities to build a similar group in more of a community setting.
Once my next semester of graduate school is underway, and I can gauge my own workload, I will look into some possibilities. Hopefully, I will also know by that time how I did with my own writing assignments!