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.

What Parents Should Know About Virtual Learning

Over the last month I have seen countless parents express their concerns for the 2020-2021 school year. Should students go back to school? Should students stay home? Should parents start to homeschool? For those parents trying to figure it out, I wanted to give you my honest thoughts as a virtual teacher and tutor in the hopes that I can shed some light on virtual learning.

  1. Virtual learning can be effective for special education students. In my opinion, this has been a hot topic over the last few months. I have worked incredibly close with schools, students and families with students with IEPs to ensure that all accommodations are met and supports provided (where I can). Just because a student is classified does not mean that he or she will not thrive in an online learning environment. With the proper guidance from teachers, case managers, tutors and parents, students can still fulfill all requirements needed to pass a course. It may take a little bit of time to figure out what works best, but virtual learning can be effective.
  2. Virtual learning requires organization. When students are in a brick and mortar school, they have a teacher in front of the class outlining the plan. With virtual learning, the information is all there too, but students may need to look at a handful of Google classrooms or web pages to find it. Some students prefer to keep an electronic planner (Google calendar, phone calendar) to record when assignments are due, while others may still prefer a paper planner. To make virtual learning effective, students need to be on top of their assignments, live lessons, teacher meetings, read alouds, etc., so keeping a calendar and being organized is imperative.
  3. Virtual learning requires discipline. Depending on the virtual program a student is enrolled in, he or she may heave to be online from 7-3 every day, or they may need to log 6 hours a day, etc. That’s a lot of time spent working on assignments, watching videos, participating in live lessons and more. It can get frustrating and overwhelming, but the work still needs to get done. Teachers are amazing at breaking down assignments for kids into manageable chunks, but kids still need to have the discipline to sit at home and get it done. This can be challenging for students of all ages. Just because the work is done online doesn’t mean it’s not time consuming.
  4. Virtual learning requires communication. This is the biggest component to virtual learning. In the classroom, I could always look at my students and know who may need a little help or clarification by the looks on their faces or interactions. This doesn’t happen in the virtual world. Even with live lessons, it may not always be easy for a teacher to see that a child needs help, which is why kids  and parents need to communicate with teachers. Depending on the school/program, kids can message their teacher in their course, send a quick text, shoot an email, meet virtually, or even call their teacher. Normally I have kids email or text me with questions because that’s what they feel most comfortable doing. Without this communication virtual learning can be difficult.
  5. Virtual learning requires screen time. In an online learning environment, kids will have everything delivered electronically. The books they read may be in PDF form or lessons may be delivered through online modules. In some cases parents can print out materials, but sometimes that’s not an option or it would be an insane amount of paper and ink. I have had parents purchase paper copies of novels, but it’s important to realize that there will be A LOT of screen time and reading on a device.
  6. Virtual learning requires a lot of reading. Most of the time, students are responsible for reading posts, lessons, directions, comments, etc. from teachers and classmates. Depending on the program or teacher, there may be audio support, but there is still quite a bit of reading that students are required to do in order to complete assignments.
  7. Virtual learning can give students more choices. This is one of my favorite aspects of virtual learning. Kids love having a say in their education, especially when it comes to the classes they take. Virtual learning allows kids to explore new classes, languages, hobbies, and topics that they may not have been able to pursue in a brick and mortar school. For instance, as a virtual teacher I have taught an elective course on Social Media, which was not offered in many high schools.
  8. Virtual learning classes are taught by passionate teachers. I have taught in public, charter, and private schools, and just like in a brick and mortar, virtual teachers have such passion for their work.  Teachers will go out of their way to create incredible supplemental activities, projects and assignments for their students at all grade levels. They are constantly communicating with parents about student progress, providing intervention services, and participating in professional development opportunities.

For more information also check out E-Learning: Setting Kids Up for Success

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

E-Learning: Setting Kids Up for Success

I spent five years in middle school classrooms and one year as a literacy coach before making the transition to being a virtual teacher. I’m currently in my third year as an online English teacher with EdOptions Academy by Edmentum, and also an online tutor with Little Reading Coach.

Making the transition from a brick and mortar classroom to a virtual one can be overwhelming in the beginning, but once a student gets the hang of things life gets much easier.

Below are ways for helping kids of all ages make the transition to e-learning environments.

Know what platforms are being used. Kids use multiple learning sites, platforms and textbooks every day in a brick and mortar school, and the same applies to the online environment. For each class, make a list of all websites, textbooks, etc. with log in information (usually a username and password). This will automatically turn into a handy cheat sheet so you can avoid the stress of looking for important information (like trying to remember 600 different passwords). Feel free to use my version here.

Make a schedule. Learning at home means a very different routine for some kids, which in itself can be stressful. If your school doesn’t have a specific schedule for your child to follow, create your own. Here are some suggestions I have given my virtual families over the last few years:

Focus on one subject a day. This works well for kids who feel very overwhelmed or struggle to work well independently without a teacher standing in front of them.

Spend 1 hour on each subject. This schedule works for kids who just need a routine in place. It helps to keep the schedule the same every day. Have it written down on a white board or piece of paper so it’s within sight while a student is working. I also suggest having the student set an alarm on their phone or computer to let them know when 1 hour is up. (I say 1 hour because it will take kids longer to do work at home depending on the subject).

Have an alternating schedule. I like this one best for elementary and early middle school kids. Mondays and Wednesdays could be Language Arts and Social Studies, Tuesdays and Thursdays could be Math and Science and Friday’s could be specials/electives.

Have a learning area. Designate a place where a student will be doing their work. This could be at a kitchen table, desk, etc. Make sure all materials are in this area (chargers, paper, pencils, books, etc.).

Make a to do list. This is by far my favorite piece of advice. Before your student starts working every day, have him or her make a to do list of all the tasks that need to be accomplished. Make it as specific as you can and encourage your learner to check things off as they go. For instance, if your student needs to watch 2 videos, answer questions and write a response, write the title of each video on the to do list. This breaks down the tasks for kids and even though it may seem like a lot, encourage them to take their time.

Communicate with teachers. Star this. Write it on the schedule you create. This is by far the the number 1 best way to be successful with online learning. If your learner has a question, email the teacher. If your student is confused about instructions, email the teacher. If your learner is falling behind on the work, email the teacher. Communication is the ultimate tool to help kids. Don’t be afraid to be the annoying parent/guardian because once your student gets into the groove they will feel more confident and capable of learning from home and the emails will lessen.

Take breaks. If you’re creating your own schedule factor in break times. Staring at a screen is physically and mentally draining. Make sure your learner is walking away from the screen frequently. Take a bathroom, drink or snack break. 

Be an actively engaged in your learner’s education. As a parent/guardian, you may need to be a more involved in the day to day assignments, depending on the age of the learner. Be in the know about what is going on with expectations from the school. I strongly suggest joining local Facebook groups, or creating a group text with other class moms to help one another stay up to date.

Breathe. The first few days are always the hardest. As an online educator, I promise things do get easier. Just remember you can always reach out to the teacher or school for any help.

 

Little Reading Coach offers online reading and writing tutoring for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.