Feedback in the Shape of a Tree

     Providing effective and timely feedback to students is a constant goal for a teacher, particularly when there seems to be so little time during the day. With a crew of 20+ students, it can be a challenge to find the time to sit down with each student and explain spelling and various goals targeted in writing. Often, we get really good at correcting the same errors over and over again without very much evidence of growth or improvement on the students’ part.
     For my grade 3 students, I like to use a quick and effective feedback tool someone shared with me long ago. It is fast, effective and easy for primary students to recognize and utilize.
     Here’s what I do on written work which has been either hand written or typed on the computer; as I read, I underline or circle common spelling errors or errors in syntax such as forgotten capital letters or periods. When I have finished reading the text, I choose a few spelling mistakes or goals that may be missing and write them, correctly, in a list on a corner of the student’s work. Any more than 2 – 4 items in the list can be overwhelming for a student, so I keep it short. Then, I draw a tree around the words so these corrections represent the area of growth for the student. On the page beside the tree, I make sure to write a response or a positive comment such as; “Good details!” or “great ideas!”, etc. When students write the next time, they can conveniently flip through preceeding pages in their journal to check the words in the trees.

Using this feedback strategy, students have a concrete example of how they can improve the content and syntax of their written work, and each time they write in their journal, they have a mini dictionary of some of the words or tips they can easily refer to. A tree is a simple, friendly image to use to offer student-specific feedback. I have found that this strategy encourages students to proofread their work before they submit it, helps  the ‘unlearning’ of some fossilized errors, and sets small, attainable goals for students to improve their writing.


The Author

Beverly Papove

I have joined the staff at a small school this year and it will be the first time teaching a combined, French Immersion Jk/Sk crew for me. Happy to be bringing in gardening, outdoor learning in a forest setting, wild plant knowledge and inquiry to this diverse group of little souls.

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