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Feedback That Moves Writers Forward: Review and Giveaway

When I was a fifth grader, I wrote a story about characters stranded on a deserted island- likely inspired by reruns of “Gilligan’s Island” I enjoyed watching. Proud of this story, I  waited to hear my teacher’s thoughts on it. She never offered them, so finally I asked. It has been over 28 years since that moment, but in my mind’s eye, she is standing by the blackboard and I recall her saying only, “It wasn’t your best.” Oh, how those four words stung! Why wasn’t it my best? What went wrong and how could I improve? My teacher offered me no other feedback or suggestions, no path to making my writing stronger. When I think about my school memories and specifically my memories about writing, this moment sadly stands out.

Feedback That Moves Writers Forward: How to Escape Correcting Mode To Transform Student Writing, written by Patty McGee, is a must-read for educators who know we can do far better for students than offering comments such as, “It wasn’t your best.” Red pen (or purple or green- the color doesn’t really matter as much as the marks it makes) corrections do not teach students how to grow as writers. Patty McGee writes, “Feedback that is clear, timely, and relevant to the writer is central to writing development” (7). Writing identity, growth mindset, and ownership and agency are central themes throughout the book. What stood out to me is the way McGee makes the case that teacher language about students as writers and student writing is one of the biggest factors in a student’s growth. In all the ways I’ve thought about writing and teaching writing, I have never thought about the tremendous influence my words, my tone, and my approach can have on my students perception of themselves as writers.

There are two parts in the book. Part 1 is entitled “Why Feedback Matters As Much As (Or More Than) The Lessons We Teach.” In this section, Chapter 1 explores what effective feedback is for writing instruction. Chapter 2 discusses how feedback and grading can co-exist. Chapter 3 shares the four fundamentals of feedback, which are: (1) Discover the writer’s identity, (2) Set the tone, (3) Use formative assessment, and (4) Deliver feedback that has the power of three. I loved the focus on building a writer’s identity because that is something I personally believe in and strive to cultivate in my students. McGee cites research and brings in growth mindset ideas as well as making the case that teachers should be writers as well. Part 2 is entitled, “Words and Ways to Transform Writers and Writing.” Chapter 4 shares the type of feedback we can offer when writers are stuck. Chapter 5 focuses on feedback for goal setting. Chapter 6 centers around providing feedback to support choice making. Chapter 7 connects all the previous chapters by looking at reflection as feedback for yourself.

Throughout the book, there are QR codes that link to video conferences. There are also online resources for many of the charts and forms found in the book. Several of these will become staples in my conferring toolkit, especially the Grammar and Choice Feedback Chart (199). The Iceberg Illusion, created by Sylvia Duckworth, showcases how the bulk of a writer’s work is under the surface. McGee calls this “underwater mindframes” and gives ideas on the language we can use with student writers to help them develop positive writing habits and attitudes. There are also charts for helping students elaborate in narrative, informational, and argument writing. These would be the perfect addition to your conferring toolkit, depending on the genre you are teaching.

If you’ve ever found yourself unsure of what to say in a conference, this is the book for you! McGee offers helpful language for teachers to use with writers in all situations. I was struck by how supportive and strategic the words she suggests were- tweaks in phrasing that will make all the difference. One such phrase, “Because you…you are ready for…” is wording I will use from now on. (“Because you structured your piece so carefully, you are ready to elaborate” (15).)

As I read Feedback That Moves Writers Forward, I wanted to capture my thinking to share with the Two Writing Teachers community. I’ve seen #BookSnaps on Twitter and was anxious to delve into this way of capturing my ideas with the text. I used SeeSaw to create my #BookSnaps for this thought-provoking book.

I’ve always believed that words have power, but Feedback That Moves Writers Forward made me realize that what I say, how I say it, when I say it and how I look while saying it influences my student writers more than I ever thought. Patty McGee has written a book that will challenge you to approach student writers in a whole new way, with the intent to help each student before us realize their writing identity. I highly recommend this as a book you read and discuss with colleagues because these are conversations we all need to be having. We don’t ever want our student writers to feel the way I did in 5th grade- stung, lost, and without any ideas on how to improve as a writer. We can- and must- do better for the students in our care. Thank you, Patty McGee, for writing a book that has the power to move all of us forward.

Giveaway Information:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of Feedback That Moves Writers Forward: How to Escape Correcting Mode to Transform Student Writing.  Many thanks to Corwin for donating a copy for one reader.
  • For a chance to win this copy of Feedback that Moves Writers Forward, please leave a comment on this post by Friday, July 7th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winner, whose name I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Monday, July 10th.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contact at Corwin will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – FEEDBACK. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

98 thoughts on “Feedback That Moves Writers Forward: Review and Giveaway Leave a comment

  1. Congratulations to Beth Lepley who has won a copy of Feedback That Moves Writers Forward! I’ve sent you an email Beth- hope to hear from you soon!

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  2. Timely feedback is my goal for next year, so this is perfect. I especially look forward to reading what Patty has to say about feedback and grading co-existing.
    We need to remember the power of positive feedback, too. Nearly 40 years ago my high school English teacher wrote “You have a strong transitional style” on a paper. I often recall that when giving writers feedback.

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  3. I love this post! We all have our moments where our writing identity has been slightly eroded perhaps just enough to create doubt. Could not agree more that feedback is the key. Summer reading hopefully will include this resource.

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  4. This sounds like a great read! Precise language and feedback it so important. Love the idea of the embedded videos. Thanks for the opportunity.

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  5. Thank you for the review as I had not yet heard of this resource. Couldn’t agree more with, “Feedback is clear, timely, and relevant.” Can always use ideas that make feedback more helpful for young writers! Looking forward to reading it.

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  6. Your powerful review made me realize that I definitely need this book! I am always working on making sure my feedback is valuable and timely enough to help move my writers forward. I have never read a book specifically about feedback, though, and this seems like the one to get! Thank you for this opportunity! My fingers are crossed for the giveaway!

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  7. I also like the “because you did this, you’re ready for this” language. I also use “these little mistakes are getting in the way of your great ideas” to point out errors while encouraging. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. This looks great and something to add to my summer reading list! I tend to do writing conferencing when I can so that students can ask questions and I can try and help. Finding new ways to speak to students in ways that resonate with them is wonderful!

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  9. Thank you for recommending this book! As a writing teacher feedback seems to be the biggest struggle because we have to not only get to the know the students and learn how to COACH them and not TELL them what to do. I will be going into 4th grade from 2nd grade next year, so whether I win or lose, this book will definitely be an addition to my teaching resources. antonette.franceschi3@gmail.com

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  10. I love the powerful phrase of ” now that you can —-, you are ready for—. “. That type of feedback would make any of us soar! I want to remember to use it always! I look forward to reading the book in entirety.

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  11. There are so many comments already, but I think I need this book, so I’m joining in. I am so afraid that I will say the wrong thing. I’ve probably said to a student “This isn’t your best work.” Ugh! I want to be able to give feedback that moves a student forward. Thanks!

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  12. My friend Jennifer Laffin has been singing this book’s praises as well as telling me how wonderful Patty is! And seeing your review just adds more to that! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this must-have book!

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  13. I’m loving learning more and more about feedback lately because I understand and see the power of my words with readers and writers! Thanks for the review and sharing your #booksnaps!

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  14. This book sounds like it could rescue me! What am I doing differently with writers who take feedback and run with it, and those who feedback not useful or heard?

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  15. I MUST have this book! I will be teaching writing to 90 kids this year. I need to know how to make this happen for all of my students to learn.

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  16. This book would be very useful to me. Last year, I made conferencing one of my teaching focuses. Practice and reflection has helped me gain more confidence. But, I also realize that this is one of those areas where there will always be more to learn!

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    • I have spent many thinking hours swimming in the world of effective feedback over the last couple of years. I look forward to the insights of this author.

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  17. Wow, thank you for sharing your thoughts about the book, Feedback That Moves Writers Forward.” It sounds like a great resource for more than writing feedback. You packed so many ideas in your post for us to learn from with the Booksnaps examples too.

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  18. This would be a great book for my vertical team group (writing teacher from each grade level) to use this upcoming school year to discuss and implement.

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  19. There’s so much power in feedback…for good or evil! I hope we can drop that red pen and share all the strengths in the piece of writing to spur the writer onward, upward! A writer’s life depends on it!

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  20. I love the phrasing “Because you…” I will defined use this and lol for the book. I will also check out the SeeSaw snaps!

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  21. Thank you for the informative feedback. I’d love to refine my practice in this area. Thanks for also model your thinking using Seesaw, I’d like to investigate that too.

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  22. I am out of the business of being a classroom teacher, so I don’t need a copy of the book. But I do remember a very painful comment I once experienced as a much older student. I believe I have more than overcome that criticism, but the scar is still there, and always will be. Be gentle….teachers.

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  23. Thank you for this post and review. I remember lots of red pen on my papers correcting mostly grammar and conventions but no conversations about what I could do to make my writing better. Feedback is key!

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  24. Thank you for the book review. I often struggle with writing feedback and fear my words and tone are not promoting a growth mindset. Also, I am loving the booksnaps. What a great application of Seesaw to show our thinking while reading.

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  25. Thanks for your thoughtful review, Kathleen. I’ve been trying to cram in too many fabulous new PD resources this summer, and your post has inspired me to get back to Feedback that Moves Writers Forward. Having your concise overview will help me keep the big picture in mind. Although I have a copy, I would love to win one for my early-career teammate. We are going to focus on writing together this year, and this book would provide her a great foundation.

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  26. I’m thinking this could be a perfect book for our book study group as we move forward with implementing writing workshop next year. I also LOVE the idea of using SeeSaw for capturing teacher learning. I need to figure out how to do this!

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  27. As a mother, as a wife, as a teacher, and currently as a literacy coach, I know more than ever how much words matter. Entering our 2nd year of writing workshop, the teachers are craving guidance on feedback. This book seems like the perfect resource! My budget is completely gone, so really hoping to win this give-away!!!

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  28. Thank you for sharing such as important topic. I struggle with comments hoping what I write isn’t misconstrued and is taken in the light of positive energy. I find it so much easier to conference than to write a comment.

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  29. This fits in perfectly with our summer focus, teacher language and the power of our words to support student growth and development both socially and academically. I can’t wait to read this book!

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  30. I am reminded of how important our words to students are and how they can inspire or harm if we are not careful. I would love a copy of this book as conferring that matters is one of my goals for this upcoming year. Thanks for introducing this resource.

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  31. This book looks like an excellent resource, especially for the ways a teacher can frame verbal feedback so that students hear it as positive expressions rather than a negative critique.

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  32. I need this book! I know what I shouldn’t be doing, but I could use some guidance in regards to putting it in to action next year! Thanks for your wonderful, useful posts! ☺️

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  33. I have been wanting to read this book. I always strive to give my students helpful feedback, but I often find myself at a loss for what to say. It can be so tricky.

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  34. I love that phrase “Because you….you are ready for.” What an excellent way to acknowledge/praise a writer’s current piece while moving them toward the next step. Would love to win this resource for improving my writing conferences.

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  35. I’m moving from teaching first grade to fifth grade this year and I think this. Ok would be perfect for helping me design my writing conferences. The variety of resources (text, video clips, forms, etc) is very appealing.

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  36. . I began thinking about correcting vs. feedback a lot last year. This book sounds like an amazing resource for me to read and use, as well as share with others.Thank you for sharing!

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  37. I’m going back to the classroom after two years as an instructional coach, this book would be a wonderful addition the professional resources I am reading this summer.

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  38. This would be a fantastic book to add to my my stack. I totally love my writing conference time with my kiddos and this would help me to stay focused on supporting my writers. Thanks for sharing!

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  39. Live the idea behind this book and the language it provides to move the writer forward, not fix the piece. We can no longer be the editors and revisers for our students. We must help writers unlock their abilities.
    Jcourt@sacs.k12.in.us

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  40. It sounds like just what I need! I am trying not to go beyond my weight allowance for the two suitcases I can take back to Malaysia and see that there is a Kindle version. I wonder if the forms will still be easy to use/access in this form…

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  41. As a new first grade teacher I feel it’s important to promote ownership and foster their growth mindset while also gently nudging them to enhance their skills. I’d love to learn new vocabulary to do this during writing conferences.

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  42. Feedback is all about growing the writers – meeting them wherever they are. What NOT to do is painfully clear in your post. How will children ever love the craft if they can’t attain a sense of their own power? Why would they want to strive for more? The right feedback – like the road less traveled – makes all the difference.

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  43. Words matter! I’m sure many, if not all of us, recall a writing piece that warranted relevant and thoughtful feedback, only to be received with a ‘meh’ comment or two. Feedback is important to all writers. Thanks for sharing your insight.

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  44. I am always looking to read articles/books on conferring. I love conferring with my second grade students, but sometimes feel like I struggle with my best writers. I will embrace this: “Because you…you are ready for…” is wording I will use from now on. (“Because you structured your piece so carefully, you are ready to elaborate” (15).)

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  45. I learned from Peter Johnston’s work that the language we use is important. I’m glad to see a book that focuses on the things we say to writers and how we can make our language the most effective.

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  46. Can’t wait to read this book! Always looking for conferring language to use so that my writers leave me with increased energy for their writing work.

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  47. This book has been on my wish list. I’m so glad you shared some highlights from the book. It sounds like an excellent choice to add to my conferring toolkit.

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  48. You’ve intrigued me as this is very timely as I am looking at how to be more effective in my teaching of writing, for all students not just my priority learners/strugglers. I’m going to have to hunt out a copy of this book!

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