How to give constructive feedback on your students' writing

Constructive Feedback on Writing: Secrets and Illustrations

Constructive Feedback on Writing: Secrets and Illustrations

18.10.2023

149
2
minutes
  • Writing
  • Teaching qualifications
  • Activities
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

Giving valuable feedback on written work is an essential element of English instruction. Providing constructive feedback to students is crucial, as it not only enhances their writing abilities but also boosts their self-assurance and improves their overall communication skills. 

Nevertheless, it can be a daunting endeavour for educators to provide feedback that is not only constructive and specific but also inspiring. 

In this article, we will delve into a range of valuable tips and strategies that English teachers can employ to deliver feedback on writing in an effective manner. 

How to assess students correctly?

Tips on making feedback constructive

Start by providing positive feedback

Begin your feedback by emphasising the strengths demonstrated in the student’s writing.

Positive reinforcement enhances a student’s self-assurance, motivating them to persist in honing their abilities. Acknowledging their strengths establishes a constructive atmosphere for the remainder of your remarks.

Be specific and clear

Refrain from using ambiguous or general remarks such as “good job” or “needs improvement.” Instead, provide explicit feedback on what aspects were successful and which require your attention.

As an example, you could write, “Your introduction has successfully grasped the reader’s attention by sharing a captivating anecdote” or “It might be worth considering a revision of the conclusion in order to offer a more impactful ending.”

Prioritise key issues

Determine the key areas in the student’s writing that need to be addressed with the utmost priority.

The student may feel overwhelmed when they try to focus on too many aspects simultaneously. Focusing on one or two crucial areas enables them to implement significant enhancements.

Offer specific examples

Provide specific examples from the student’s writing to support your feedback.

Citing specific sentences or passages assists individuals in comprehending your recommendations more effectively and implementing them in their forthcoming endeavours.

Employ the Feedback Sandwich Method, which entails placing constructive criticism between positive remarks.

Start by expressing your admiration, then propose recommendations for enhancement, and end with additional optimistic commentary or motivation. This approach effectively lessens the blow of criticism and helps maintain students’ motivation.

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Avoid negative language

When giving feedback, it is important to adopt a positive and supportive attitude. 

To prevent student demotivation, it is advisable to refrain from using harsh or negative words. Rather than expressing the negativity of “This is terrible,” you could suggest a more constructive approach by saying, “You might want to consider improving this section to enhance its clarity and captivation.”

Focus on revision, not just evaluation

Promote a growth mind-set by highlighting the significance of revisiting and enhancing one’s work. 

Communicate the notion that writing is a gradual undertaking where the initial draft is not anticipated to be flawless. Motivate students to perceive feedback as a chance to enhance themselves rather than as an assessment of their skills.

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Set realistic goals

Collaborate with the student to establish precise and attainable objectives for their writing. 

The objectives in question should be closely connected to the feedback you have given. In this manner, students acquire the ability to monitor their progress and determine concrete outcomes.

Recommend sources

Suggest useful resources like style guides, grammar websites, or writing handbooks that can aid students in effectively tackling certain writing concerns.

Equipping students with supplementary resources can empower them to assume control over their own learning.

Promote peer assessment

To enhance student learning, integrate peer review tasks into your teaching methodologies so that students can benefit from valuable feedback provided by their classmates.

Peer feedback can enhance and enrich your own feedback, offering a multitude of different viewpoints on the writing.

Peer correction

Examples of positive feedback

If you are still uncertain about what exactly you can write to your students, the following examples of positive feedback may be helpful.

Strong introduction:

“Your introduction is engaging and effectively sets the tone for the entire piece.”

“I loved how you grabbed the reader’s attention right from the start with your intriguing hook.”

Clarity and coherence:

“Your writing is clear and easy to follow, making it a pleasure to read.”

“You have a talent for organising your ideas logically, which greatly enhances the flow of your writing.”

Effective use of language:

“Your vocabulary choices are impressive and add depth to your writing.”

“You’ve demonstrated a strong command of the English language, which enhances the overall quality of your work.”

Well-structured paragraphs:

“Each paragraph serves a clear purpose and contributes to the overall coherence of your piece.”

“Your use of topic sentences and transitions between paragraphs is exemplary.”

Tips to motivate your students

Strong Conclusion:

“Your conclusion provides a satisfying closure to the narrative, leaving the reader with something to ponder.”

“I was impressed by how you tied all the threads of your argument together in the final paragraphs.”

Besides, it is important to bear in mind that criticism should also be constructive, as demonstrated in the following examples.

Clarity and Conciseness:

“While your ideas are strong, some sentences are a bit convoluted. Try to simplify your language for greater clarity.”

Grammar and Punctuation:

“Pay attention to subject-verb agreement in this sentence; it’s a common grammatical error.”

“You have a few comma splices in your writing; review the rules for comma usage.”

Word Choice:

“The word “nice” is a bit vague. Try to use more precise and descriptive language to convey your thoughts.”

Organization:

“Your ideas are scattered throughout the paragraph. Try to create a clear structure with a topic sentence and supporting details.”

“It might be helpful to outline your essay before writing to ensure a logical flow of ideas.”

Why is teaching writing so important?

Conclusion

To sum up, English teachers must utilise constructive feedback as a vital instrument in fostering the development of their students as writers. By adhering to these guidelines and tactics, you can offer feedback that is precise, encouraging, and helpful for progress. Keep in mind that providing effective feedback is a cooperative process that motivates students to proactively engage in their own learning journey. Under your guidance, they have the potential to enhance their writing skills and gain confidence.

A Sandwitch Method is considered to be an effective approach to give feedback.

Article authors & editors
  • Olesia Turchak

    Olesia Turchak

    Author

    CELTA, TESOL, IH CYLT certified teacher of General & Business English, Young Learners & Teenagers

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