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by Erica Fischer on Oct 21, 2011

Provide Effective Feedback in the Classroom

Thanks to everyone who joined us for Thursday night’s #langchat, and thanks especially to our moderator for the night, Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell (@SECottrell). Our topic for the night was “How can we make our feedback more effective?”

Effective feedback is a popular issue, and teachers often struggle with the best method to provide it. Participants had a host of useful information and ideas, and our discussion was very fast-paced. We’ve included a summary of the night’s chat below in case you weren’t able to join us.

It’s not too late to take part in the discussion. Please include your thoughts in the comment box below; your fellow #langchatters would love to hear from you!

Defining Effective Feedback
@SECottrell says that making mistakes is the way that every single person acquires language. Because of this, we must provide feedback to students so they realize both 1) that they made a mistake and 2) how to learn from that mistake for the future. On the other hand, too much correction hurts students and decreases their confidence in class. We should then limit the feedback to specific areas and ensure it is effectively reaching the students.

But what is effective feedback? More than simple error correction, feedback involves discussing the students’ weaknesses AND strengths to guide them in improving their outputs. There are essentially two types of feedback: evaluative and descriptive.Evaluative feedback expresses judgment, whereas descriptive feedback is information about performance or the product. Descriptive feedback is the better of the two, as it provides established assessment criteria and enough information for students to recognize and improve upon their mistakes.

How to: Effective Feedback

In past #langchats we’ve discussed the importance of a comfortable atmosphere in world-language classrooms. Participants believe that environment and atmosphere are also essential to giving effective feedback to students.
  • A great start to your efforts is to make the feedback a two-way conversation between student and teacher, rather than directed correction (@mmebrady). Try to focus on negotiating the meaning of the language when correcting students. Can you understand their intended message?
  • @msfrenchteach believes that effective feedback also means commenting on a personal level with the student, such as “Hey, I read what you wrote and here are my thoughts.”
  • @klafrench says that knowing your students well definitely improves your feedback. It shows them that you care about their success.
To ensure students are fully aware of the feedback process, @sleary1023 suggests telling students ahead of time what you will be grading them on specifically. Follow up by having students write a practice sample as a class. Share rubrics and proficiency levels with students so they can see where they are going and what they are expected to accomplish (@suarez712002).
Also, though we’d like to think that students are capable of learning all aspects of the language through feedback and class instruction, @suarez712002 reminds us that sometimes certain things are just going to be acquired later. So, rather than give feedback on every little detail that could be improved, restrict yourself to elements that students can improve on immediately, or to just a few key points per assignment or lesson.
  • @CalicoTeach likes to focus on one or two areas of error at a time and leave the rest alone. This is great for maintaining confidence as students won’t be inundated with errors, but also keeps the focus small so it’s easier to adapt for future assignments.
When to Feedback
In order to keep a comfortable and inviting atmosphere, you often want to avoid correcting students’ errors in class, but this doesn’t mean you have to hold off on all feedback. Several participants indicated that they like to limit their correction of speaking and reading activities, but do more correction for writing — especially when the assignment is a [email protected] feels that giving students feedback in small group activities or one-on-one is more effective than in the full class. Students tend to feel more confident without everyone else listening.

At the same time, some mistakes are going to be widespread throughout the class. To address these issues without personally speaking with every student, @mmebrady suggests discussing the error with the class as a whole. This keeps students’ confidence up by letting them know that it’s not just them having difficulties, and lets you focus on individual problems one-on-one.
Several participants discussed whether teachers should correct accent or pronunciation in addition to grammar and vocabulary. Most said no, authentic pronunciation should come naturally from teacher modeling and listening to native speakers through authentic resources. However, @mskennedy13 will recast the word correctly if it’s a commonly used word so that students can hear the correct pronunciation and accent. @SECottrell focuses on pronunciation corrections if the meaning is compromised.Teacher Modeling + Feedback = Recast
In many world-language classrooms, teachers model the correct pronunciation and usage of words for the students. This keeps instruction in the target language while showing students the language in action. When combining teacher modeling with feedback, teachers recast students’ errors into correct language.

When students make a mistake in speaking, provide feedback positively by recasting the error as a corrected form. For example, student: “Juan hablo español.” Teacher: “¿Oh, Juan habla español?” For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, an English example would be as follows, student: “Sally speak English.” Teacher: “Oh, Sally speaks English?”

The main issue with recasting is whether students catch the subtle correction. Participants didn’t share any research on the matter, but speaking from personal experience they said that it appears that most students catch on. For those students who have already sunk back into their seat to check how long before the bell rings, we can try more direct feedback methods.

Another issue with recasting is that it works best with speaking rather than writing. Technology allows us to do more and more here, however. Check out the Resources section below for some tips from @mmebrady on tools she has found effective.

Tools and Techniques

Participants shared a wealth of useful tips and tricks for providing effective feedback in the classroom. Check them out below.

Techniques

  • Peer editing can be a useful feedback method — it helps students to look for and understand mistakes and takes a little work off our shoulders! To keep it effective, however, make sure students understand what they are grading and being graded on. Not guiding students in their efforts could result in wide variation or simple “This is perfect!” evaluations.
  • Several participants recommend positive feedback as much as possible to keep students motivated. For example, when a student makes a mistake in speech, pauses and corrects it, praise them wildly!
    • Compliment communication whenever it occurs and use an “encouragement sandwich” — compliment, correction, compliment (@CalicoTeach).
  • Several participants mentioned frustration with students looking at a grade and then forgetting the assignment — not checking over the feedback or giving the project a second thought. There were some interesting ideas to bypass this tendency and get students to focus on the feedback rather than the grade.
    • @cadamsf1 sometimes gives feedback on an assignment but doesn’t provide a grade. Instead, she asks students to assign a grade themselves — great way to get kids to think seriously about their mistakes.
    • @SECottrell withholds grades from physical assignments. If students want to see their grade, they must access the online grade book.
    • @sleary1023 requires students to revisit past assignments before working on future ones.
  • Writing assignments in multiple drafts can be effective learning tools. @mmebrady often provides feedback and error corrections to students’ assignments, without a grade. She then asks students to make corrections and assigns a grade to the second draft.
    • @MmeNero suggests that giving students chances to make mistakes before an official assessment gives them confidence and positively affects their language development.

Tools

  • @mmebrady and @msfrenchteach use a key when giving kids feedback on written work. @mmebrady’s key can be accessed here: http://francais3brady.wikispaces.com/Key+to+Editing+Abbreviations. @msfrenchteach uses a number system, where each number corresponds to a grammatical point.
  • In time for Halloween, @mmebrady mentioned using a Frankencollection of class errors. Create a mixture of common student errors so kids are thinking about them.
  • Several participants mentioned using screencast technology to walk students through their essays or other written assignments. While time-consuming, this method really appeals to many students. Check out the Resources section below for some blog posts by @mmebrady on the subject.
  • @klafrench likes Google Voice because you can send the students what they previously recorded so they can hear what you are talking about. To do so, download a student’s recording as an mp3 file and find the ‘Email’ button.
  • An easy-to-overlook tool that every teacher has access to is the “teacher look.” When students make mistakes in an area that they should know better, don’t draw attention to them with a correction, try the look (@profesorM).
  • Photopeach is a useful tool that allows you to make comments directly on a student’s video. A good way to provide feedback, both error correction and more (@klafrench).

Resources

@mmebrady shared two of her blog posts on writing feedback on students’ papers while using some interesting Google Chrome add-ons. Check them out at: http://mmetechie.blogspot.com/2011/10/grading-drafts-of-student-written-work.html and http://mmetechie.blogspot.com/2011/10/grading-student-writing-drafts-part-2.html?utm_source=BP_recent.

Check out @cybraryman1’s page on learning from mistakes at: http://cybraryman.com/learningfrommistakes.html.

Our #langchat this Thursday was full of debate and interesting ideas, and we want to thank everyone again for making it out. If you weren’t able to make it, feel free to join the conversation below, or we’ll see you next time!
#Langchat is held every Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, and the summary and archive are available shortly afterwards. To see this week’s archive, go here. See you next week, and in the meantime monitor the #langchat hashtag for information and a chance to vote on our next topic!
#LangChat is an independent group of world-language education professionals who come together every week via Twitter to share ideas and discuss pressing issues in the world of education. Check out the #LangChat wiki for more information about our goals and the team behind it all here. These weekly discussion summaries are sponsored by Calico Spanish as a service to the world-language community.
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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