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Compliments Versus Feedback

Something Stacey has made me think more deeply about is complimenting student writers. (Much of my learning & prodding to think about this topic has been through reading her drafts for the book.) I’ve always tried to use a compliment to push into a teaching point, but Stacey has helped me consider this idea on a deeper level.

However, I’m not sure the word compliment is quite right. Compliment makes me think of praise. Praise makes me think of external motivation and Alfie Kohn. Alfie Kohn makes me think of authentic learning. Authentic learning makes me think about giving specific feedback on writing so students can realize the work they are doing as writers and feel proud of themselves, intrinsically. (Can you tell I just read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie fifteen minutes ago?)

Stacey has challenged me to think about giving specific feedback to students.  Yes, that’s a more accurate statement.

One of the reasons I love Slice of Life Challenge is because of the feedback I get on my writing. The compliments are nice; however the specific feedback is even better. I’ve decided to track the kinds of comments which stick with me this month. I want to notice the kinds of feedback I find most valuable in order to lift the level of my feedback to student writers.

I’ve also decided to practice giving specific feedback to other Slicers this month. I’m planning on using the comments I receive on my Slices as mentor texts for the comments I leave other Slicers. Being able to experience life as a writer, within a writing community is an invaluable experience. I encourage you to take advantage of it this month and leave specific feedback for other Slicers. Even if you aren’t “Slicing” yourself, you can still be a part of the writing community by checking out some of the slices (just click on the comments at the bottom of each day’s Slice of Life Challenge post to view all of the links) and leaving a comment.

One more note: Years ago, when I first entered the blog world I was nervous about leaving a comment on strangers’ posts. I felt like I was invading their privacy. Now I realize bloggers are putting their thoughts and stories out into the world in hopes that others will respond. Comments fuel bloggers. Specific feedback fuels writers.

Be brave and comment. 🙂


compliment, feedback

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

11 thoughts on “Compliments Versus Feedback Leave a comment

  1. Your last paragraph really resonated with me. I startted blogging this summer while taking one of the National Writing Project classes. I looked forward to hearing from other people and I was always disappointed when there were no comments.

    After reading your entry I thought about my students and how important it is to make sure they get comments and validation as writers. They also need to be encouraged to give appropriate comments of their own.


  2. I bet that you and Stacey are learning a lot through your collaborative project.

    Feedback and conferring is one of the areas that I have been investigating a lot this year. Right now I am reading and loving Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them, and it has been a great book to reflect about what I am already doing and areas where I can use her ideas to improve.


  3. I think it’s a wonderful idea to work on mentoring by looking at comments as mentor texts. How insightful Ruth!

    (I feel as though I should be more prolific right now, but I just spent 15 minutes on the elliptical rider, while watching “Unwrapped with Marc Summers,” so it’s hard to write something inspired when what I really need to do is hop in the shower. I know… tmi.)


  4. As hard as it can be to find to find the time to respond to student writing in an authentic manner, I think that we need to do so if they are to take their writing as seriously as we’d like them to. One does not feel like a real author without real feedback. I always try (hopefully successfully) to immerse myself in student writing as a reader. Whenever possible, I read the work aloud with the student and try to make my thoughts/ reactions/ emotions as transparent as possible. I once had an instructor who used this type of processing/ editing with me and it was the most intimate, helpful experience I’ve had as a writer. It takes longer, but I’ve found it to give confidence to students and it places them in a position of power as the writer rather than just a student passively reading through my red pen remarks.

    Thanks for your post. It’s great to think about honoring student writers and the writing process.


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