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How do we Teach Students to Incorporate Feedback into the Writing Process?

How do we help students realize the value of feedback, whether it’s from peers or teachers?  How do we help students figure out how to address and utilize the feedback they’re provided?  What is the best way to provide feedback to our students?

As a teacher of writing committed to excellence each and every day, I often become frustrated when my students disregard or ignore the feedback I provide to them.  If only they had thought about this aspect of their piece or that character they could have really grown their piece, I often think.  Even more frustrating is when the students don’t seem to understand why they were unable to meet the objective of revising and editing their writing.  It seems like such a simple answer to me: You didn’t revise or edit your piece.  Of course, they then argue that they did fix a run-on sentence here and add a word there.  So, baffled, they stand there, waiting for me to suddenly say, “Oh my goodness.  You are so right.  I am so sorry.  I totally missed that.  You have an A now.”  Usually, it takes me sitting down with the student and going through the revision history of the piece on Google Drive for them to see that they didn’t effectively revise their piece based on the feedback I provided to them.  So, this all begs the question, why?  Why did they not revise the piece?  I sometimes spend at least 30 minutes reading over their pieces and crafting a response to the students that includes questions, highlights, and specific areas in need of improvement or change.  I’m giving them the answer to the test.  Why can’t they seem to translate that into their writing?  What am I not doing?  What could I do differently?

I’ve modeled how to use feedback in the revision process and usually have a chance to meet with almost every student to review the feedback I provided and explain what they need to do to improve their writing.  What else can I do?

Now, I should preface this with, most of my students are very capable of utilizing feedback and revising their writing.  This inability to effectively revise writing really only applies to one or two students.  Why?  Do they not care?  Can I make them care?  Oddly enough, it’s usually those students I spend the most time conferencing with during the revision process so that I know they understand what they need to do.  Could I be doing something wrong?  Is it lack of effort on their part?

Today in Humanities, the boys revised their myths they have been working on for the past week or so.  I had them read through the feedback I provided each of them at the end of their Google Document before beginning to revise their piece.  I even had them underline in their myth where they made changes based on my feedback.  For one student, he was finished in about 15 minutes.  Now, time isn’t the issue here of course.  When I met with him, he had only made minor changes and edits.  He didn’t address the larger issues in his piece and still had many editing errors in his myth.  I asked him some guiding questions and suggested he review my comments and re-edit his piece.  Again, he went back and made some cosmetic changes, but ignored the big issues in his piece.  Did he not see the issues?  Should I have more directly pointed out to him the areas he needed to change?  What can I do to motivate him to want to succeed and grow as a writer?  

Teaching students how to revise their writing based on feedback is a difficult process, but a vital one.  Through modeling, discussion, one-on-one support, and practice, the students will learn this important skill.  Trying new strategies and approaches is helpful as well.  Using mentor texts and our own writing can be very beneficial too.  What we can’t do is give up.  We need to persevere and help our students understand the value of becoming a great writer through reflection.  So, I’m going to “keep on keepin’ on” as Joe Dirt said because something I haven’t tried yet might just light the spark needed to ignite the writing and revision fire.  Growth comes in spurts, and so, I’ll wait.  In the meantime, I’ll have fun teaching.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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