We teach kids to speak real Spanish. For life.™

by Erica Fischer on Mar 9, 2016

Make Friends with Feedback, Help Students Build Proficiency!

Last week, #langchat participants settled in for a fast hour of discussing feedback, and they ways that it can be used to helps students improve in various modes as their proficiency increases. Langchatters shared their thoughts on ways to actually work on providing individual feedback to students, while also discussing specific feedback strategies to help students improve in various modes, including interpretative, interpersonal, and presentational. Finally, participants chatted on ways to use peer-to-peer feedback and self-evaluation to help students improve their proficiency over time.

We want to say thank you to everyone who joined in a fun hour of #langchat, and also give it up to our dedicated team of moderators who help to grow the #langchat community every day! Colleen (@CoLeeSensei) led the Thursday chat with assistance from Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell) and Laura (@SraSpanglish), and they also welcomed help from newcomer, Grant (@grantboulanger), while John (@CadenaSensei) moderated the #SaturdaySequel with more help from Laura!

Question 1: How do you manage to provide individual feedback to students?

Managing to provide regular, individual feedback to world language students can be tough, but participants had lots of good thoughts and actionable suggestions to share. Chatters agreed that doing it on a regular basis can be a difficult task, especially as appropriate feedback depends so heavily on students’ proficiency levels.

From there, many langchatters liked the idea of developing rubrics for each activity, and then making sure to always include a personalized comment section for individual students. Others agreed that making an effort to give feedback on the spot as much as possible can be really useful no matter the proficiency, as it help students connect with the idea/correction immediately and in turn, remember it better for later use.

One popular idea was to structure a classroom in a way that naturally facilitates the ability to better give individual feedback. Several langchatters had great suggestions for restructuring class time, and @LisaShepard2 suggested that she likes to have students use, “Lots of interpersonal activities with a partner [which] allows [her] to circulate, monitor, facilitate and provide feedback.” And @muchachitaMJ shared her use of stations when she needs time to give feedback. That way, “Students are doing something new while I work with [other] kids in small groups.” Similarly, @ProfeCochran added that, “If your “instruction” is truly S-centered, & you’re constantly circulating, chances are you are constantly giving [individual] feedback.”

Additionally, participants also shared their favorite technology tools, sites and apps for helping to provide individual feedback to students – suggestions included using Google Voice, Google Classroom, Google Docs for comments, student devices, Nearpod, Notability, and even texting feedback to students. (See Tweet archive for links).

Question 2: What specific feedback strategies help students improve in the interpretative mode as they move through proficiency levels?

Understanding how to give feedback on students in the interpretative mode proved to be a challenge for a lot of participants, which made everyone glad that #Langchat decided to tackle it! @lottesensei summed up the general feeling when she said, “I’m not sure I give formal feedback for interpretative tasks…unsure of what this looks like?” @SraDentlinger added that she, “…feels like the immediate yes/no, right/wrong is most effective for interpretive.” Several chatters agreed, including @yeager85 who said, “I feel like everything just boils down to ‘more input more input more input.’”

Knowing that it’s a hard things to do, contributors posited various strategies for giving students helpful feedback in the interpretative mode, including:

  • Giving strategies to approach what is hardest in the task
  • Teaching that there are several ways to say the same thing
  • Reminding them to always look for ways to rephrase/reword
  • Doing regular reading checks to gauge understanding
  • Encouraging to look for context clues
  • Using ACTFL proficiency targets to let them know where they are headed

One very popular suggestion came from @alenord who said that she likes to regularly utilize a, “Reading check = TL cloze passage with choices in word bank. [Students] must read and apply words in context.” Participants agreed that it can be very effective for higher level students, and that the idea can be simplified/adapted for use with lower level students as well.

Question 3: What specific feedback strategies help students improve in the interpersonal mode as they move through proficiency levels?

Understanding and coming up with feedback strategies for helping students to improve in interpersonal mode proved to be a simple task for participants.

Suggestions came in rapid fire, including the highly lauded idea that students need to really be able to listen to themselves in order to improve in interpersonal mode. Whether that comes in the shape of listing new vocabulary, LTS words or questions, and then once they can “hear” their conversations, having them evaluate the types of questions they asked, how well they elaborated when answering, etc., so that they get an immediate grasp of how well they used the language. That can include making time for partners to interact and see how well they got their point across.

Lots of chatters appreciated @MmeBlouwolff suggestions to, “Assess with TALK rubric: TL use, Accuracy, Listening to others, being kind [etc].” Similarly, @alenord added that she, “Sometimes [has] students listen w/ rubric right after assessment. They write to me what they did well.” In that same vein, many participants felt that having students evaluate themselves on rubric before feedback with the teacher is a very important step, since students can then take ownership of their own performance and lead the feedback discussion.

Participants liked a more structured idea that came from @sarah_e_moore, when she recommended, “Though not always practical, individual oral exams lead to good personal feedback & are great 2-way conversation practice.” And @SraSpanglish agreed with her saying, “I’ve gotta say that the 1 on 1 conversation time provides INVALUABLE insight into all KINDS of progress.”

Question 4: What specific feedback strategies help students improve in the presentational mode as they move through proficiency levels?

Participants had lots of great ideas for helping students to improve in the presentational mode. Suggestions included getting students to think about voice and personality to get them to start speaking the TL in the same way they use L1 (i.e. -sarcasm, humor). Another idea was to consistently use peer feedback to help students concentrate on eye contact, volume, not reading, and fixing basic pronunciation errors.

A suggestion to lower the “performance” pressure was to have peers give anonymous constructive criticism on things to improve and ways to be more understood. Similarly, @KathleenBlum suggested that teachers of all proficiency levels, “Provide informal low-risk practice by having Ss stand in an inner and outer circle and present small topics to each other.”

For students at higher levels, @ProfeCochran said she “…feels like presentational mode gives [the] best opportunity for formal feedback via peer Q’s or teacher rubrics.” And @CoLeeSensei added that she’s a “HUGE believer in having [students] fill out the rubric before I do to know how/what they think.” Participants agreed that a big piece of making feedback successful for students in the presentational mode is to help them focus on more than just the words that they know or the words they think they are supposed to use.

Question 5: How do you employ peer-to-peer feedback and self-evaluation with your students?

Langchatters had lots of opinions and ideas for how to use both peer feedback and self-evaluation. Some suggested using really specific checklists for peer feedback so that students know what they’re looking for, while others felt that using a really simple rubric of “How did that go?” type evaluation is more effective. Another thought for students at higher level is to give one thing to look for in a specific writing assignment, and then give feedback on that one task to their peers, with a new paper/new task each time. Several chatters found that students really benefit from that style of peer interaction.

Others felt that a more individualized peer feedback is useful, such as when @KathleenBlum suggested that, “Having [students] compare answers to homework or a worksheet allows [them] to help each other and reduces anxiety about answering in class.” Similarly, participants suggested the benefits of having students listen/read peer performances, write feedback, and then explain what they saw/heard to each other, so that students can hear constructive criticism from someone other than the teacher.

Most chatters agreed that self-evaluation is key in student’s progress, regardless of their proficiency level. @SraClouser suggested having students “…complete one [self-evaluation] at the beginning & end of each unit to identify growth/challenges.” Overall, participants agreed that working in ways to help students be self-aware as they go through assignments and projects is key to helping them be cognizant of the things they need to work on since they can easily get stuck in ruts if they don’t look at their own performance and reflect.

A helpful takeaway for many langchatters appeared towards the end when @alenord’s suggestion to, “Consider having Feedback Fridays once a grading period. Do several peer feedback in one day. Then set goals!” was re-tweeted en masse.

So while opinions on how to go about using peer-to-peer and self-evaluation were mixed, everyone agreed that they are key to helping students improve their proficiency.


Last week, Langchatters shared really helpful ideas for how to successfully structure the world language classroom to facilitate various forms of feedback. Participants advocated for immediate/direct individual feedback, as well the use of various technologies to make it easier to keep track of, and impart it, to students. Contributors gave their colleagues lots of great advice on how to actually make feedback useful in the various modes (interpretative, interpersonal and presentational) through the use of various tools, such as specific rubrics, low-risk student interactions, cloze activities with word banks, and more. Finally, participants chatted on ways to successfully use peer-to-peer feedback and self-evaluation to help students improve their proficiency over time, such as checklists and simple “how did that go” evaluations.

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who joined in and shared their ideas for how to successfully use feedback with students in the various language modes! We hope that you continue to contribute to #langchat once or twice a week! If the regular chat on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET doesn’t work for you, try joining the #SaturdaySequel, every Saturday at 10 a.m. ET! Due to space limitations, this summary focuses on the main themes and takeaways from this week’s conversation, and many tweets had to be omitted. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. Have an topic that you’re impatient to discuss?! Send us your ideas for future #langchats!

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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