One thing we know for sure is that the world of the neatly compartmentalized content teacher has changed when it comes to teaching literacy. Whether tackling speaking and listening standards or student writing, many secondary teachers outside of ELA struggle with how to give appropriate and meaningful feedback to students through a literacy lens — which is not their specialty — and still meet the demands of their content area. The good news is most content teachers possess strong literacy skills. A few great strategies are all they need to feel more confident and help students grow as communicators and in content knowledge simultaneously.
Give Real Time Feedback With A Participation Quiz
In Participation Quiz: Real Time Teacher Feedback, Patricia Segura listens to student conversations as they work in groups. She uses a participation quiz as a tracker to focus the group activity and redirect students if they wander off-task. She also captures the academic language used by individual students as a scaffold for others in the group. All students can then see the words their peers are using and use the same words and phrases as a part of their own conversations. Ms. Segura teaches a newcomer math class entirely composed of ELL students, so this tool doubles as an effective way to check in on them as they practice their English language skills. The participation quiz establishes a routine and makes the teacher’s expectations more concrete. The beauty of this strategy is it can easily be modified to track focus areas across content and grade levels.
Make Feedback Meaningful with Targeted, Personalized Instruction
Tch Laureate Sean McComb often focuses on giving students more targeted, personalized, and differentiated feedback as he prepares them to become independent learners. In Making Feedback Meaningful, Mr. McComb teaches a mini-lesson focused on a standard, then employs small group instruction to give specific, targeted feedback to students who, based on data from previous tasks, are all struggling with the same skill.
He uses this strategy because it’s essential for the students to close this gap in their learning before they can successfully meet the academic challenge set before the class as a whole. Simultaneously, students who have mastered the skill are making progress as well, because Mr. McComb set them up with feedback prior to the lesson in the form of voice notes, color-coded highlights, and thoughtful, intentional comments in the margins. Students know which parts of their writing need attention and revision and are motivated to be independent thinkers by the probing questions posed by their teacher.
Another benefit of this strategy is it allows time for the teacher to confer with students about their learning, challenges, and reflections. If you can build in time for a conference — do it! A conference will give you rich insight into how a student is thinking and what they might need from you to move forward. It’s also a great way to do “on the spot” assessment and remediation.
Peer to Peer Feedback
One of the most challenging tasks for an advanced placement teacher is teaching students how to master the skills necessary to compose a successful answer to a document-based question. In Document-Based Questions: Warm & Cool Feedback, Jennifer Wolfe supports her students and pushes their thinking as they set goals and learn to engage in a model of peer-to-peer feedback built on warm and cool feedback.
If warm and cool feedback is new to you, check out 5 Steps to Revision: Using Warm and Cool Feedback to see Erin Gilrein work through this model with her students.
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I hope these ideas have inspired you to shake it up and think in a different way about feedback, to try a few new things, or to share your ideas with colleagues. And make sure you check out Teaching Channel’s Formative Assessment Deep Dive for more ideas on feedback.
Please add your ideas in the comments. We’d love to hear how you tackle feedback in your classroom.
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Lisa Hollenbach is Editorial Content Manager for Teaching Channel. She’s a former high school Social Studies teacher and Department Chair, who has experience planning and implementing professional development with educational technology integration and innovation, and teaching and learning with the Literacy Design Collaborative framework. Lisa is also an adjunct professor, working closely with pre-service social studies teachers and behavioral science students at Lebanon Valley College and Pennsylvania State University. She is passionate about storytelling, teacher voice and leadership, collaboration, innovative instruction, social learning, and redefining professional development. Lisa is a member of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council, several ECET2 Steering Committees, and is a Co-Founder, Director, and Writing Coach for the National Blogging Collaborative, a non-profit organization that cultivates and supports the capacity of all educators to use their unique voice to elevate the craft of teaching and learning. Connect with Lisa on Teaching Channel or on Twitter: @lisa_hollenbach.