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Guess Your Feedback

I am currently reading Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan William (2011).  I came across these sentences about providing feedback on students’ writing:

… instead of writing comments in the students’ notebooks, [the teacher] did so on strips of paper.  Each group of four students received their four essays and the four strips of paper, and the group had to decide which comment belonged with which essay. (pg. 130)

That is so smart, isn’t it?  Self-reflection (especially in the area of writing) is a hot topic in our school district, so I knew I had to try this technique.

First, I collected a group of five opinion essays from a fifth-grade teacher.  The pieces I used were written in response to our district writing prompt.  I read each essay and wrote some feedback for the student.  I tried to frame my feedback using our district’s gem (+) and opportunity (-) model.  In other words, I gave both positive and negative feedback.  For example:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge


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Click to enlarge

Next, the five students met in a group, and each student was given the five pieces of feedback.

Feedback Slips

Their job was to read the feedback statements and, through a group discussion, decide which feedback they thought went with their own essay.

Here is some of what I overheard:

Nolan: I think the last one is mine because I tend to do run-on sentences.  And I stated my opinion clearly in the introduction.
Brandon: I think that was is mine.  My opinion is clear, too.
Nolan:  Read me your introduction.

Gavin: I think mine is the second one because I could see how it was hard to tell when one idea ended and another one started.
Nolan: You should have indented.
Gavin: Yeah, I should have used paragraphs.

Arianna: This is mine.  I pretty much did only write one reason.  I could have done a way better lead.
Leilanni: I think that one is mine.  I only gave two examples.

Leilanni: That one isn’t mine.  I didn’t use a two word sentence.

In the end, only two of the kids were actually able to identify the feedback I had written for their essay.  But it didn’t matter.  What did matter is these kids were talking about their writing.  They were looking at their essays with a critical eye.  They were naming their writing moves.  This was self-reflection at its finest.

Dana Murphy View All

Literacy Coach, Reader, Writer

8 thoughts on “Guess Your Feedback Leave a comment

  1. I think this is a brilliant idea. It really encourages students to think about the feedback they are being given. Something that doesn’t always happen. I think this would be valuable in other areas of learning too. Not just for writing feedback. Thanks for sharing.


  2. This is fascinating to me!

    I think it’s brilliant to have kids looking at their writing with a critical eye. This is certainly the way to do it. I hope you’ll share something like this (and how it goes) with another group of kids in the fall. I wonder how students will do guessing their feedback if they get used to this kind of process (after awhile).


  3. Yes, what did matter was the conversation around the writing. I think any “trick” we use to get students to reflect is a good thing. This is how they will grow.


  4. What a simple but brilliant way to connect self-reflection and feedback. I shared your post with teachers at my school today and we are excited to try this (next year- we have just three days of classes left this year).


  5. I love this idea! I think if all the feedback differs, it can also raise more awareness/reflection about the qualities of the genre of writing as well. Thanks for sharing this wonderful idea!


    • Yes, so true, Kathryn. That is something else I noticed…by default, they ended up discussing some of the criteria from the final rubric since I had framed my comments around them.


  6. This is a very interesting way to foster self-reflection. I love the structure of a “the gem” and “the opportunity” because it is worded so gently and respectfully. The opportunity is a chance to learn and grow while the gem celebrates something positive about the piece. I plan on using this to help me structure my comments. I know the comments for the kids does not specifically say those words “gem” and “opportunity”, but I am wondering if you ever discussed the idea with them prior to them getting feedback. I’m a little concerned that kids feelings could get hurt in the process of comparing their work and their peers and groups would have to be carefully formed with this activity.


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