How to Provide Quality Feedback on Virtual Assignments

I’m an English teacher. I grade A LOT of student writing. When I was in brick and mortar classrooms, writing assignments, process pieces and projects had rubrics with lots of comments written in cursive (it was much faster than writing in print). Unfortunately, I can’t necessarily do this quickly in the virtual classroom.

As teachers, time is precious, and grading is one aspect of our lives that takes the most time.

Today, I want to share how I provide quality feedback to my online Edmentum students in grades 6-12 .

  1. Start with a quick message. Being virtual, it’s imperative that we do our best to create relationships with students. This can even be done while grading. When a student submits an assignment to me, I always start with a quick message. For a discussion response, I say, “Thank you for your response. Please check your email for the rubric.” For activities (projects/essays/presentations), I say, “Thank you for submitting this assignment to me.” I like to set a nice tone before I dive into their performance on the task .
  2. Tell them the score. For all graded activities, I include a short line about the points they earned out of the possible points. For discussions, I say, “You have earned a ____ out of 12, which is a _____%.” For unit activities, I say for each task,” Score: __ out of 4″. This is really what students want to know and it provides for a smooth transition into the next few steps.
  3. Provide a scored rubric. To me, this has been a game changer for my students. For discussion responses, I highlight the rubric based on the response, and save it as a PDF. I email the discussion rubrics and feedback to my kids because there’s no way to attach it to the discussion in the module. For activities, in the feedback text box I copy and paste the score a student earned on the rubric and place it right under where I say the score. Doing this helps my kiddos understand why they earned the score they got and it also backs up the next step.
  4. Write a specific Oreo statement. This is by far the most effective way I have learned to provide my students with feedback. I like to think of an Oreo when writing to my kids- compliment, suggestions, end on a positive note. I start by always find something to praise the student for (word choice, answering all parts of the prompt, liking their idea, they made a good point, etc.). Then I dive into my specific reasons why they lost points and how they can improve. Just by adding these few sentences has saved me time with back and forth messages/calls/emails with students and parents, and has increased the amount re-submissions I receive. Finally, I end by saying nice, good, great or fabulous job based on the score the student earned. By doing the Oreo, I’m praising my student, providing constructive feedback and ending with a smile.

How to word constructive criticism

It’s all about the wording.

I have a tendency to repeat myself when I grade, which also helps make the process go faster. I focus on three categories (which happen to be the ones on the discussion rubric) answering all parts of the prompt, providing textual evidence/examples and explanations, and spelling and grammar.

If a student gives me a sentence or two and only focuses on the first part of a prompt with some spelling and grammar mistakes, this is what I normally write:

In the future, make sure you answer all parts of the prompt, elaborate on your ideas with specific examples and explanations and proofread your work for spelling and grammatical errors.

Then, I get down to the nitty gritty in the next few sentences.

For instance, you did not discuss what qualities the character has that you would like to have as well. Also, what did this character do in the book that showed she was brave? How does she support her friends?

I really try to be as specific with my questions to my students as possible, because I know this is how they will go back and revise their work. By asking questions, I’m giving students guidance in the direction I want them to tweak their work while also getting them to think about adding specific details to their writing.

Providing quality feedback does take time, but getting into a routine and having some solid wording, can make a big difference.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

Friendship Has No Color Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

For kids, friendships are one of the biggest aspects of their lives. Moving and making new friends can always been a scary concept, but there are always sweet kids happy to make a new student feel included.

Friendship Has No Color, by Christopher Gordon, is a realistic picture book that celebrates diversity and teaches readers the importance of treating others with respect, regardless of their race.

Christopher Gordon has created The Warrior of Good Values, a superhero that teaches children valuable life lessons. I first met this hero in Timothy’s Lesson in Good Values, so I was super excited for this latest story.

Max is an African American student who has just moved to the neighborhood. Emily, a bi-racial little girl, instantly becomes friends with Max and at school introduces him to her other friends, Timothy and Billy. During recess, Max and Emily are excluded from playing because of the color of their skin and the texture of their hair by Jason, a Caucasian boy. The Warrior of Good Values arrives just in time to help explain the importance of treating everyone fairly.

The layout of this book is very engaging. Gordon is also an incredible graphic designer and he brings his talents to the text. The pictures help support the text and aid readers in reading comprehension. They also give the book a sort of graphic novel ish feel in a way, that I think connects really well with struggling readers because the pages don’t feel overwhelmed with text. I especially liked the character page at the beginning of the text, which is an aspect I don’t see very often in books.

I found the plot to be well thought out and realistic. We know that readers can face difficult situations in their lives, and one of the toughest environments is the playground. This story explains and shows readers the importance of not only including others, but being respectful in our thoughts and actions as well.

One of my favorite pages is when all the children think about their individual differences. Every single one of us is different in our own way and it is a beautiful thing. Even though our physical appearances may differ, on the inside we all have hearts and feelings. This page does an incredible job of showing readers that there are lots of differences between all of us, and that’s okay.

The last page of the book includes a bonus to help readers reflect on what they learn in the book. There is a short writing activity with lines provided and a coloring page, making this accessible to all types of learners.

I suggest this book for children in K-3. This book would work really for lessons on diversity and bullying.

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

Incorporating Virtual Read Alouds for Grades K-12: Tips and Tricks from a Virtual Educator

Read alouds are a time when students of all ages can get immersed in different worlds, make new friends, and go on amazing adventures. As teachers, we constantly read aloud in our brick and mortar classrooms, and this can still be a possibility in virtual classrooms.

I’m a strong believer in the power of read alouds for students in grades P-12. About two years ago I shared how I conducted read alouds in the virtual world via Zoom (click here). Since then I have experimented with a few different ways of incorporating read alouds for one-on-one and classes with students in grades K-12. I share my screen via Zoom and use e-books with students, or I read aloud from a paper based novel depending on the lesson.

Read Alouds for Grades K-5

When: I dedicated my morning meeting time to a read a book of the day. Typically this time is about 15 minutes, which is just enough time to read and touch on some reading comprehension questions. However, this can also be done as a mini-lesson. Read alouds can also take place during snack time and while transitioning subjects in the virtual world.

What: For early elementary read alouds, or beginner readers, I get picture books from Kindle Unlimited since I have a subscription, but some other options include Vooks and Epic!. Since I’m also a book reviewer, I love to use books I’ve reviewed with my students as well (check out one of my favorite authors below). This activity can also be done with nonfiction texts if you’re looking to include more in the curriculum.

What is the title of the book? Rescue. What is the picture? Three dogs. What do you think this story will be about? Dogs helping people.

How: I structure my read aloud with pre-reading, during reading and after reading sections. These can be super quick, or extended a few minutes depending on the text. Pre-reading– We always start by discussing the cover a book. Where is the author’s name? What is the title of the story? What is the picture? What do we think this book will be about based on the picture? I pose these types of questions and have students verbally respond, since typing would take them too long. During reading– Every few pages I stop and ask questions about the character, plot, text to self connections, setting, etc. Some are purely comprehension based and others are geared more towards making inferences. Who is the main character? What is the problem? My questions can usually be answered by using the pictures and the text, so all of my readers are able to participate, regardless of their reading ability.

What is Phoebe’s problem? She can’t find her favorite tennis ball. How does she feel about this? She’s surprised.

After reading– Similar to pre and during reading, I pose questions to my students about theme, rating the book, explaining their thoughts on the book, etc. Students can verbally answer this or use a white board/piece of paper to rate the book. If you’re looking for a more extended after reading activity, have students draw a picture and write a sentence or two related to the book. For instance, if the book is about pets, have students draw a picture of their pet (or their dream pet) and write a sentence with the pet’s name.

Read Alouds Grades for Grades 6-12

When: I would include a read aloud during language arts time, or at the start of a language arts class. If I’m reading aloud at the beginning of every class period, I dedicate 10 minutes for me reading and 5 minutes for students to respond to the reading. If I’m doing a live lesson for my virtual students, my read alouds last between 45 minutes to an hour about once a week.

What: For daily read alouds, I prefer to use a novel with students. Over the years I’ve used the following texts: City of Ember, The Face on the Milk Carton series, Among the Hidden, Divergent (censoring certain parts), The Hunger Games, The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

How: My focus is to have students enjoy the story, so I do pre and after reading activities. My pre-reading consists of either me giving a recap from the previous days’ reading or having a student do it, and a brief “heads up” about the day’s chapter(s). I will also tell students what the after reading question is before I start reading to give them ideas to focus on during the read aloud. After reading activities can look a little different depending on how long my lesson is. One option is to have students respond to the reading question. This question can be answered in Padlet, Poll Everywhere, Google form, etc. In the past, I’ve used Padlet and I usually use one or two student examples or have a student pick their favorite response, one they disagree with, etc. to review the question. For an extended read aloud (45 minute to 1 hour) check out how I utilize chat to generate discussions here .

New Tricks

Since March, I’ve tweaked some of my instructional practices to provide additional support for reading comprehension.

*Discussions include more quote analysis to help with making inferences, drawing conclusions and other higher order thinking skills. Students are also encouraged to use to keep an eye/ear out for quotes that catch their attention.

*Audiobooks have been life savers. As an online teacher I teach English and English-based electives for grades 6-12, which includes A LOT of novels. I can’t read them all to my students, so by providing audio versions (thank you YouTube) my students can get the support they need. Also, during small groups or one-on-one sessions, I will use an audio version depending on the text. No one can read Harry Potter more perfectly than Jim Dale.

*Incorporating more connections for my students has also helped their reading comprehensions. For instance, in Divergent when Tris starts wearing eye liner and black clothing, I share a text to media connection I have with the movie Mulan. Both scenes show the girls stuck between two different identities of themselves and both help students understand the theme of identity.

To check out Rescue click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.