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Making Feedback Count: 3 Strategies That Work

I'm pretty sure that I have spent half of my career as a secondary ELA teacher grading essays and providing feedback. Unfortunately for many of those years, I don't think my students were spending as much time applying it. Most students would glance at their grade and toss their writing aside.

Fortunately, with the adoption of standards Based Grading practices and growth mindset and my district's switch to google chromebooks and applications, I've been able to develop new practices among my writers that make feedback count.

1. Developing a Growth Mindset towards Writing

If we want students to apply feedback we give to their writing, we need to start by developing a growth mindset in our writers. Students need to develop and practice the understanding that one of the most valuable learning tools in writing is making mistakes and learning from them.

Most of the process of making mistakes and learning happens in the initial revision stage of writing and ideally the final revision stage AFTER we hand students' graded papers back with


In order to foster a growth mindset and encourage revisions we need to allow our students to hand in their writing multiple times after their initial hand in for a higher grade and more importantly a deeper understanding of the genre, grammar, organization, and development of their ideas.

2. Standards Based Grading

Standards Based Grading is grading focused on learning and mastery of the standards. As part of my grading policies, students have the opportunity to retake tests and revise writing assignments. My goal is for students to learn. My understanding is that not all students master standards at the same pace.

Johnny might need an extra revision or two before he masters the art of using dialogue. His classmate might master dialogue on the first try.

I grade all writing with standards based rubrics (for most writing I adapt the NYS writing rubrics which are standards based). I give separate grades for each category of the rubric. For example, a student might demonstrate mastery of content and evidence, but not of organization and grammar.

Based on the rubric alone, students know what changes he/she would need to make to increase the quality of his/her writing.

3. Using "Latest Changes" in Google Docs

Beyond the rubric, teachers providing students with rich, meaningful feedback is a powerful tool--when students apply it. If students have the time and opportunities to improve their scores and learning using teacher feedback, they most often do.

There are a few simple teacher hacks for when students turn in their paper for a second time (or third!) to get graded again. First, I ask my students to fill out a basic cover sheet telling me specifically what changes they applied based on the rubric and my feedback. For some writing, I put together a small packet with the cover sheet, rubric, and a few exemplar papers that I ask students to examine to help them determine what changes they need to make. I do not accept revisions without the completion of a cover sheet.

Second, when I open google docs to regrade student essays, the first thing I do is click on "recent changes." Clicking on most recent changes allows me to see the revisions students made since handing in their papers. I can see if they fixed spelling, rearranged paragraphs, added detail, or removed ideas that were not relevant.

In about 10 seconds, I can also see when a student has not changed very much at all. For these rare cases, I simply report the student's grade without a change.

For the students who have made major revisions, I can see the original rubric and I only need to focus on regrading certain categories and I only have to analyze their recent changes, so grading the second time around is not so cumbersome and time consuming as one might expect.


Make it Count

Mistakes are learning opportunities. When I give feedback, I want to make students think about the revisions they are making and learn from the process. My hope is that when I hand a student back a paper with a score that is "developing" their instinct is not to feel disappointment, but to pick up their paper and see what they can learn.


to check out the Standards Based Writing Rubrics I use with my students.

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