Friday, May 9, 2014

Writing Feedback Idea

What does your essay feedback look like?

I was correcting my student's essay the other day and started writing my feedback for her essay, and then I thought to myself, "Will she read all this? Will she benefit from it?" So, I racked my brain a bit and then came up with a brilliant idea! Feedback Q & A for my student. Have I grabbed your attention yet, fellow teacher? Great! Now, read on. So, let's take things from the beginning.

Background information
The learner: My student is a C2 level learner who has been learning English for approximately 7 years now. She will be sitting for C2 level certificate exams at the end of the year. She is a studious learner. She had to write an essay about the advantages and disadvantages of using the internet.
The teacher's feedback track record: Although my feedback style varies, often when I comment on my students' essays I : 
  • Circle/mark/correct things on the essay.
  • Follow up with feedback comments where I rewrite/ correct some of the mistakes/ give grammar comments/talk about organisation-content and so on.
  • I follow the sandwich method (strength-weakness-strength OR you did this-you didn't do this-you need to do this).
  • I use the learner's L1 when my student is a bit weak and when I see L1/L2 transfer errors.
  • I do not comment about every single mistake in the essay.
  • I try to make my feedback page one page long (A4).
  • I do not squash everything up. I like space!
  • I use bullet points not numbers.
  • I use smiley faces : ) and sad faces : ( (sometimes there are even tears!).
  • My comments are handwritten. The good old-fashioned way.
  • I never use a red pen!
Why do I do this?
 Well, I have been correcting essays like this for many many years so, it is only natural for me to write my feedback page! I feel like I haven't corrected an essay if I do not state their mistakes/ strengths clearly or if I do not make suggestions on what they could have written.

My students' opinion of my (lengthy) feedback:
Some learners read it and like it. They learn from their mistakes. I often tell them to go over the feedback from all the essays they have written to check if any of their mistakes reoccur. Others don't bother reading it. They just take their notebook and chuck it in their bag. The latter for me, as a teacher, is demotivating. I then think of all the students who do read and do learn from my comments, so I keep writing my feedback comments page.

What did I do differently this time?

Feedback Q & A?

As I said earlier,I get discouraged when my students do not bother to read what I have written and I also want to check to see if they have learnt something from what I wrote. I also want to see if they can reflect on what they have written. So, I thought, " Hey! What if I ask them questions about the feedback? Something like a feedback questionnaire? " and I did. I made a feedback quiz/drill/reflection page!See picture.OK, so it ain't the best thing you have ever seen but it is a start and I do think it will benefit my learners.

What did my learner think?

She said that she liked the idea (implication: would she have told me if she didn't? Hopefully, yes). My questions were focused on the mistakes she had made in her writing task. She also had an opportunity to amend some of her errors. She got extra practice on some of the things she got wrong in her essay. I asked her a question about the strengths of her essay. She found pinpointing them quite hard. I was expecting the latter because upon reflect, I do not know about you guys, but whilst I write down the positive points of my students' essays, I do not often ask them to tell me what they think is good about their essay.

Why should a teacher try this?
Well, if nothing else, you ensure that your learner actually looks at the written feedback you have given him. They notice their mistakes! Your learner, depending on the questions/tasks you put on this Q&A form will get a chance to correct any mistakes/ make new sentences with the language he got wrong and so on. It is also a great opportunity for him to reflect not only on his strengths but also the weaknesses.
BUT.... and there is always a but....
this is VERY time consuming for you and the class. I would not make a little feedback Q&A page for every single piece of writing my students give me but I would do it from time to time because it does help my learners. I think I would be more eclectic as to when I make these feedback Q&A pages and branch them out to different genres so that my learners can look closely at different types of texts.

You can do this with any writing class and with all learners, so try it out. Will your students' writing be impeccable? Maybe not. Improved? Yeap!

Downloadable writing feedback Q & A idea. Step by step

Feedback Q.docx
I really enjoyed this blog post. I hope you did too. Feel free to comment below. I am interested in seeing if you do this in your writing classes and how effective you think it is.
  A few days later... note to the reader... This post was shortlisted for this month's (June) Teaching English blog post award, so if you like it, go to the Teaching English via the British Council Facebook page, scroll down to where it says this blog post has been shortlisted and press 'like'. Either way, thanks so much for reading : ) and thanks to the Teaching English Facebook page for shortlisting this post : D
Till next time.....


  1. Theodora's comment on my FB page. As you said, although it is really great work and Students can really benefit from much an analysis on their essay, this can take a lot of time, esp. if you have a lot of people in the classroom. How about some kind of "bulletin" with your comments on all the essays with the same subject?
    Good point!

  2. Excellent article! I use some of this methods, too. And I will certainly use some of those that I haven`t used yet.

  3. I love this! My students always have drafts, so I often don't correct their work. I circle errors and put boxes where they are missing something. This way they have to critically think about what mistakes they had made.

    I have them pick out positives of oral presentations, but hardly ever written. Thanks fot that suggestion!

  4. great idea! I'll try to implement it!

  5. They are both good methods.To my mind the second works well with B2 - C2 levels, I have used it and was happy to see how the questions helped them correct themselves!!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I also think feedback is really important - and students tell me they think the same. However, it can be time-consuming if you have a large number of students to think about. Audio-visual feedback using screencasting tools such as Jing or tools designed specially for marking like Kaizena can save valuable time here - plus learners get reading and authentic listening practice at the same time.

  8. Hi Joanna,

    Just to let you know that we’ve shortlisted this blog post for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award and I’ll be making a post about it on today’s TeachingEnglish Facebook page, if you’d like to check there for likes and comments.


    1. Hi Ann,
      Thanks so much. Thank you for sharing my posts and shortlisting this blog post. I am honored : )

  9. ok ... i am a student and i like that . i really do . i wish if you wear my teacher . cause my teacher do not o such thing . do it alot teacher . you are the one . i gess it is great

  10. Obviously you LOVE teaching and love your students. Great blog!

  11. Thanks for your kind words and for reading : ))

  12. Hi, Joanna
    Thank you so much for this inspiring idea. It is really worth trying. I have been suffering from the problem of correcting my students' writing. They seem do not like hearing any feedback from me. I will try your idea soon.

    1. Hi thanks for reading!! Let me know how this worked with your students ok? I know getting your learners to actually pay attention to the feedback is not always an easy job!!

    2. Dear Joanna, I found your suggestions interesting, I share your dislike of red ink on essays! unfortunately this seems to be a common usage for Italian teachers in state schools where emphasis is purely on the errors and no praise for good work. Alison

  13. Thank you for this post! I think feedback on written work is important. It's always to great new ways of doing it.

    Am I right to understand you give the Q&A form along with a feedback sheet (the kind which you mention at the beginning of the post)?

    This idea is obviously a lot of work. You could lighten your load by giving the learners their feedback and then tell them you want them to improve and alter their work based on your feedback. They bring it back to you and you quickly check it.

    It's great to read about others also actively experimenting with ideas in the classroom.

    1. Hi Anthony,
      Thanks for reading. I usually do this (feedback Q&A) when I have one to one classes because it is a lot of work. It does wonders!! I also do what you suggest. Write feedback and then do activities which aim to improve class mistakes or individual mistakes!! Thansk for commenting and for the suggestion : )

  14. I always like your blog post because you always comes with different ideas and information. I always shared your site post with my friends. Keep posting and i will follow you.
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    1. Hi Peter,
      Thanks so much for sharing my post and for the kind words : )

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