We know that effective feedback is vital for student growth. It’s a skill we teachers endlessly hone.
And the biggest roadblock to giving effective feedback? Time.
Luckily there are tricks to this that will help you give effective feedback in record time so that your kids learn and you, love, go home on time.
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Fast is better
One thing most educators agree on is that effective feedback needs to happen quickly. In general, twenty-four to forty-eight hours is a good rule of thumb. When possible, though, students should get feedback even sooner than that.
“Wait,” you’re saying. “That’s all well and good, but if I add up all my daily assignments for every subject, it’s not possible to do this. I’m not a machine!” You’re right. It’s not possible to do it all. The amount of work we could potentially correct could reach the moon.
You can’t give effective feedback on everything. And you’d be bonkers to try it. So what’s a stellar teacher to do?
The following nine hacks will save you time and boost your kids’ achievement. And amazingly? It’s going to take work off your plate!
#1 | Create an expert
The students themselves are an unused resource for giving effective feedback. And I don’t mean your all-star kids, either. Too often, the high achievers get stuck with the task of assistant teacher and many of them understandably resent that role.
Instead, find a kid who is normally not seen as an expert.
Let’s say you’re reviewing metaphors and similes and you notice that many kids are confusing them. Meet with a struggling student, writing down examples and mnemonic devices to help them. Then casually ask, “Since you’re understanding this so well, would you mind if I sent some other kids your way for help?” You’ll make them squirm with delight.
When someone needs help, casually say, “—– is our classroom expert on that. Go see them — they’ll teach you.” It’s a win-win-win. The first student builds a skill and their confidence and cements that learning with practice. The second student gets the help they need. And you? You get to use your time for helping kids with other skills. (Plus? Other kids get to see the struggling student in a leadership role.)
This doesn’t work flawlessly 100% of the time. Sometimes, the student might forget a key piece of information, so keep your ears open. But the saved time and confidence boosting’s worth it.
#2 | Homework — clean and fast
Homework is a tricky monster. There’re many variables to consider, but for our purposes here — and assuming that your homework already serves your students’ needs and levels — ask yourself, “Will this be easy to correct?” Make a habit of choosing easy-to-correct homework that has answer keys ready to go.
A couple of top-notch free sites are Worksheet Works, Common Core Sheets, and Readworks. Simply print the sheet and its corresponding answer key and correct homework in very short order. (And both allow you to focus in on a key skill you want your kids to practice. It’s also very easy to differentiate.)
To save even more time? Give a student the job of collecting and organizing the homework. Consider a student who needs practice in organization but who’s also kind to peers.
Last year I tried this and wished I’d done it from day 1. What a timesaver!
I used weekly packets so we only dealt with homework on Fridays. Students passed it in as part of their morning routine. Then my helper student did the following:
- put homework in order according to a student list and checked off their names
- followed up with students who’d forgotten to pass it in
- stamped it for me (I’ll talk about stamping another day. Another monumental timesaver.)
- put it together with a binder clip on my table where I’d spot check it later in the day
#3 | Fast assessments
Complicated tests take more time to correct.
Sometimes our districts mandate certain exams, leaving us no choice. But often we will have some autonomy. Pick things that are easy and fast to correct.
In our district, fourth grade goes over United States geography, including states and capitals. The tests I originally had took a long time to correct. So I designed these differentiated ones, and now I can quickly correct their tests and get them back to the kids by the end of the day. Little tweaks like this add up to a lot of saved time and energy.
Later, I shaved off a good hour every Friday when I created self-correcting tests on Google. Now my students get to take practice tests and real tests and they not only get immediate effective feedback, and I don’t even lift a finger!
Of course, one of the fastest ways of correcting is having the kids do it! These Multiplication Tests for Growth Mindset let kids correct their own tests. (Plus it includes pre- and post-tests, bar graphs so they can chart their progress, and mnemonic posters.) Prior to creating these, I spent a good hour every Friday correcting multiplication tests. No more!
#4 | Use games to buy you time for effective feedback
After your minilesson and student work, have kids play a game to develop a skill. As they play, correct their practice work and call them up to give them effective feedback. Whether it’s “You seem to have these skill down. Do you have any questions?” or “Look at number 4 and see if you can spot the error.” For the latter, I’ll often tell the student, “If you figure it out, put it in your folder to take home. If you’re not sure, come see me and we’ll go over it together.” Saved time. Plus they get ownership over their learning.
#5 | Commercial Breaks (or Breaking News)
You know those days when you’re circling the room and you see that your students are having the same challenges? This is the ideal time to have a commercial break.
Commercial breaks are SHORT, just like television commercials. They shouldn’t go further than one minute. Set up your routines so that when you announce, “Drop everything! Commercial break!” your kids know to leave all their materials where they are and come to your meeting area immediately. To make it more fun, search YouTube for “Breaking News Music” and play that as a cue.
Then review the skill or idea they need to brush up on. You could even throw in a little flair in to make it seem like a commercial/breaking news.
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Boom. The kids go back to work having had a one-minute refresher lesson and now you won’t waste time correcting the same mistake. And because it’s so short (and entertaining) they don’t grumble about coming over. In fact, they’ll be excited to see what you have up your sleeve!
#6 | Always have your pen
As students get to work on an assignment, such as grammar or math, for example, circle around the room and spot-correct their problems. This serves three purposes.
- It gives FAST effective feedback to the kids who are on track: “Yes. This is exactly how you should be doing this.”
- It gives FAST effective feedback to the kids who don’t have it yet (AND saves them time from doing a whole page incorrectly)
- It saves you time in the long run, with less correcting later. AND it give you effective feedback on how your lesson worked and what you might need to revisit later.
So what does this look like? Let’s say you have four students at the red table. The first one has done problems 1-3. You correct those. The second student has done only one problem. You correct that. The third has done 8 problems — correct those. And so on.
Or you might just choose five key problems on one page to correct and let the rest slide. So instead of correcting 1-20, you spot-check 1, 5, 7, 10, and 15.
#7 | Stickers!
Oh what won’t kids do for stickers? Scratch-n-sniff ones, particularly.
There are multiple ways of using them:
- Give each student a sticker and ask them to put it next to the problem they want you to correct as you do your walk-around.
- Tell kids that if they remembered to label an answer with units, you’ll put a sticker next to that problem.
- Once a page or section is complete and correct, students will receive a sticker. (It’s important to do this so that it’s achievable for everyone. In other words, it’s okay if they make mistakes — they simply have to correct them before they get a sticker.)
- Instruct students to place the sticker on their page and write the word “odd” or “even” next to it. If they write “odd” you’ll only correct the odd answers, for example.
- Have them put a sticker next to a sentence they’re really proud of. Or next to one they’re struggling with.
#8 | Have them correct
Students love correcting their own work.
You can have them correct their homework all at once, saving you hours of work. Once my helper student has my pile of homework ready, I’ll do a very quick flip-through to see that everyone’s done it.
There’s usually a couple of kids you’ll consistently look closer at, but in general, you’re just looking to see they did it.
Then, pick a ten-minute slot in your day to correct their work. The best part? They don’t have to correct every problem. When going over a Worksheetworks math page, for example, you might say, “We’re correcting numbers 8-16!” Display the answers and read them off quickly.
My kids love this time of day and adore correcting their own work. It’s fast, so they have to be ready to go with a colored marker of their choice. No dilly-dallying. (Or have a stash of special correcting pens. Maybe the gel kind? With sparkles? Or scented?)
If they have questions on some of the problems they got wrong or didn’t get, they can pass it back to you with their questions written on the front. Otherwise, they take it home.
If you’re doing morning work, practice work, or independent challenges, place the answer keys somewhere in your room so they kids can check their answers as they work. While this doesn’t give you data on their progress, it gives immediate feedback to them, so it’s great for those looser times.
#9 | Exit Tickets
Exit tickets are my favorite form of effective feedback. Give the kids one or two key (and fast) questions to answer. This can be on an notecard, fun post-its (these ones are adorable, and extra sticky!), or scrap paper. Or you can use the Ask-a-question feature on Google Classroom.
- Write a 3-digit number minus a 3-digit number that makes you use the trade-first method of subtraction. Then solve it.
- Read the sentence on the board and make an inference about what Ivan is feeling.
- Draw three moon phases and label them.
Make the question match your daily objective and then put the work into two piles: “Got it” and “RTI.” There. Now today’s RTI group is created, lickety-split.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Tell us in the comments below:
- Which strategy will you try this week?
- OR … Do you have a time-saving tip for effective feedback?
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