Did you know there are 167 synonyms for feedback? reaction, response, answer, reply, assessment, comeback . . . criticism . . .
By definition, feedback in the business world means: Process in which the effect or output of an action is ‘returned’ (fed-back) to modify the next action.
In the mini-lesson I posted Monday, I mentioned that I’d asked my students to write for five minutes in response to this: Think about your reading growth and improvement this year. Can you honestly say you are better now than you when you walked in the classroom in the fall?
TTT reader Leigh Anne commented: “I love this idea. . . I do wonder though, what were some of their responses to how they grew as readers this year. I only teach 6th grade, but answering this question seems to be a struggle for them. I can’t image how junior AP students would answer it.”
So I took snapshots of four students’ writer’s notebooks and transcribed what they wrote.
Before you read (in their own quickwrite language), I’d like to suggest that while this simple writing exercise served as self-evaluation for students and set up the personal reading challenge activity, more importantly, it served as valuable feedback for me. We spend an awful lot of time self-selecting books and reading them. One way I know if the investment in time is worth it is to ask my readers. As a result, I now know how my students feel about their progress, and I have ideas on how to “modify the next action.”
“This AP English is being challenging to me. When I entered the classroom, I felt like I was about to collapse. But as I continued to take the challenge and accept it, I am now way better than the beginning of the class. I might not improve like everyone but I improve in my own way. My improvement might not reach advance level but I beat my lowest level. I used to read children’s book, fairytale with 10 pages , still it was hard for me to notice what is going on. Compare to those days, I have now understand almost all the chapter books. This class had helped me more than I could imagine, but my improvement right now isn’t enough, I still have long way to go.” ~Sui
Next action: Sui said she now understands “almost all the chapter books.” I’ll talk to Sui and find out what she thinks might help her understand all the chapter books. She may be able to tell me where she gets confused. If she does, I will be able to offer strategies and support so she will continue to improve.
“I haven’t done all the required reading in a timely manner, however, I have grown slightly as a reader. My pace has increased with some books, but also slowed down due to difficulty of certain books. That happens to everyone, hopefully, because it could just be me. I still have a focus issue with reading, but it has improved within the time frame of this year. I’m not where I should be as a junior in high school, but it could be worse.” ~ Cerin
Next action: I’m curious to know if Cerin truly believes she might be the only one who has to slow down when reading more complex books — and I didn’t know she has “a focus issue.” I need to talk with Cerin and find out what she means by this and determine how I might help. I know she’s abandoned several books this year. Maybe she’s one of those expert fake readers, or maybe she still hasn’t found any books she likes enough to finish.
“Honestly, I can say that my reading has improved since the beginning of the school year. I can say this because before I lacked motivation when it came to picking up a novel. It might have had something to do with lack of interest with the topic. Also, I found myself skimming through the text and not critically annotating the pages, but now looking forward this semester my book is tattooed with my thoughts, and each word read one after another.” ~Unity
Next action: First, I must tell this girl how much I love that “tattooed” bit! I know Unity spent a lot of time reading and annotating the non-fiction book she chose for our research mentors. She shows me here how proud she is of that, and I need to recognize and celebrate her efforts. Our next one-on-one conference may turn into a discussion on the notes she made in her book and why. I need to see her critical annotations.
“I can honestly say that I got so much better at my reading in English classroom. When I enter this year I could not tell if the book is non-fiction or fiction, but after Mrs. Rasmussen talked to me one on one I can tell which one is non-fiction and fiction. I am currently reading the book that is challenge on me but I really want to catch up with my classmate on reading skill and level. I improve so much this year and like reading now. I never like reading in my freshman year or sophomore because I thought reading is useless and it take all of my time. But now I like reading fiction book because I see myself in the book and it get into my head.” ~Siang
Next action: Siang’s challenged herself for a while now. I need to be sure she is not stuck reading a book that bogs her down too much. She’s been frustrated with reading in the past, and she finally found success with some fairly easy reads. Fluency means comprehension, and that is where the story is. By saying she likes to read fiction, Siang is really saying she likes good stories. I need to make sure she finds another one.
Were all student responses quite so encouraging? No. These are juniors in high school after all. I’ll say this for them though: they are usually brutally honest when I ask them for this kind of response.
One student wrote that he has not improved as a reader this year, and he does not think he needs to. He feels like he’s as good as he ever needs to be. (I wish this was satire — we are in the middle of that right now.) Alas, it is not. This young man does the bare bones minimum to show he’s learning anything — just keeps his head above passing, goes through the motions. But his response is valuable feedback, too.
“Hey, kid, we have about seven more weeks of school. I’m not done with you yet.”
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? They enter our rooms, and we give them our all. In my case, my all gets charged by the hope I have. I hope my students will grow as competent, confident, intelligent, and compassionate citizens. They can energize the world.
I believe reading more and reading well is the fast track to all of that.
Please share your ideas on getting — and giving feedback.