Responding to students’ written work 2

Published on 10th February, 2011 in Teaching Tips by Frances Watkins

Last week we looked at the importance of writing an overall comment on students’ written work, and at how to evaluate texts effectively, on different levels. It is certainly easy for students to misinterpret teachers’ comments, which may at times seem brusque or one-sided. Short comments in-text may come across as negative too, although clearly students may become hardened to this and even learn to expect it!

Many teachers will be familiar with the use of a correction code, which considerably reduces the ink-load on the paper, making it easier on the eye. It also encourages students to reflect on their errors independently. However, it is only practical to annotate language problems which you believe students can actually repair themselves. Thus, gr, style, WW, WO (word order), P (punctuation), and so on, can be used by the teacher. Here are one or two variations.

•  Write the codes specifically over each relevant problem word or phrase.
•  Write the codes at the start of each problem sentence, so that students also have to locate the problem first.
•  Remember that this can be done very easily too if work is sent in electronically, using the InsertComment function on your computer.
•  Use the code system with the second variation (see above). However, present students’ problem sentences as a grammar auction, where in pairs or teams they have to ‘bid’ for correct sentences.

If you have the facilities, giving students their work back with only oral comments is a nice variation. You can do this by sending them a sound file of your spoken feedback. Receiving personalised, spoken feedback from your teacher can not only be very motivating, it also provides meaningful intensive listening practice. Furthermore, it can allow you to give much fuller comments, including for example more information on the learner’s overall progress.