I’m forever trying to find ways to make feedback stick. I suppose it comes from the harsh realisation that much of what we write on pupils’ work goes unread or unattended to. Therefore, the many hours I’ve spent on it is a waste of time. Recent blog posts have dealt in detail with approaches to marking but, in the senior school especially, when the technical side of writing should not be as much of an issue one would hope, I keep looking for ways to get my message through. Last week, I stumbled upon a blogpost which might well help.
I came across a you tube clip (see bottom of post) from Jim Burke, and English teacher in the USA whose blog I have followed for a while now. Jim has written several educational texts which I’ve read and his creative approach to English has been an inspiration to me at times. In this clip, Jim models how he gives feedback to students via iphone. It seemed to me to be a simple but practical way to provide feedback to my students, especially those going into their Fifth year of Secondary school, the big exam year. Written comments were working for some but not all.
Perhaps podcasting would prove to be a more helpful method, for some anyway. And, you never know, I may well cut out some of the time I felt I’d been wasting. I’ve had an iphone for a few months now and am only just getting used to its possibilities in the classroom. I use the camera a lot to connect to the digital projector to display good pieces of work or problems areas we all need to address in writing. If you have one too, then you’ll have the Voice Memo App.
As it was a new strategy I initially asked for ten volunteers from a class of 30. I got fifteen, perhaps due to the novelty factor. The only difference they had to make was to include numbers at each paragraph and an e-mail address. I’d take care of the rest. I also promised to mark them in the usual fashion if they were not happy or comfortable with the result. We’d spent a few weeks looking at persuasive writing and were writing responses to Nick Hornby’s book, ’31 Songs'; a project entitled ‘I Don’t Care What You Think About My Music!’. As a class we came up with ten criteria on Penultimate on ipad:I responded on the Sunday and really enjoyed it. After a couple of practice runs I settled into it and was, on average, creating podcasts of about a minute and half to two minutes. I also felt that I could go into a little more depth in places and definitely use praise more specifically. (I will try and add one of the podcasts here once I learn how to do that.)
I emailed the podcasts and got very positive feedback in return., They could stop and start their feedback and listen to particular areas in detail. Final drafts were excellent, as I would have expected from this class anyway, but the whole process felt more productive and more personal.
On the whole, I can see the potential of this new approach in the senior school. I wouldn’t dare do it in S1 to 3 (years 8 to 10?) as they need correction as well as feedback. But a more focused, mature connection to students’ work seems to make sense. I don’t think I could make it a blanket policy – I’ll need to give students the option – but it could well work, you know. And, if that feedback is getting through at all, then it has be worth it.
Jim Burke’s you tube clip