Uncovering the secrets of effective feedback (well, trying to!)

After a stellar summer travelling China, I’ve come back down to Earth with a bit of a bump, and reality rears its ugly head once more. A new school year has begun and I, like many others in teaching, have been busy beavering away with a new year group and a new classroom! It is very much back to early starts, coffee by the bucket load and, of course, all the marking. There has been so much to do without unpacking and organising the room. I can’t believe how much stuff I’ve amassed already. 

Now I’m in Year 6 (gosh, don’t they write a lot!) I’m trying to make the process of marking and feedback as quick, easy and meaningful as possible. It’s so easy to let things slip when there’s so much to mark and I want this year to encourage my children to be critical and independent learners, especially as they prepare for secondary school. 

I’m building in plenty of opportunities in lessons for pupil self and peer assessment, using success criteria checklists or other types of prompts. I’ve also found marking alongside the child very effective for helping students understand what I’m looking for. Today I tried a game of Success Criteria Bingo which was very handy for seeing how many children already grasp the features that go with our current writing genre. We will use this form to mark against under the visualiser as a class tomorrow. As I am beginning to embed AfL strategies in the classroom, I am finding some new limits to my experience! 

One problem I tend to have is coming up with feed-forward tasks when I’m marking. I feel like the ones I come up with are so uninspiring! After hours of searching online, I’ve not been able to find any examples or ideas to steal either. If only they gave us a list when I was training! So this blog post is, in part, a request for help and advice, but also an opportunity for me to start my own bank of examples to make marking that little bit quicker! 

As and when I find/dream up new feedback tasks, I’ll tack them on to this list. They can then be put into a document for your downloading pleasure, once I have enough of them. In the meantime, watch this space…

NB: These are just examples! Feel free to change numbers, unit of measurements etc. 
Feedback tasks

Maths

  • Write your own word problem that requires…to answer it. (e.g long division)
  • How many m in 5km? 
  • Why is this calculation wrong?
  • Write a sentence explaining what you have learnt in this lesson. 
  • What would you do differently tomorrow?

Literacy

  • What other words can you use here instead of ‘angry’?
  • What will you do differently tomorrow?
  • Write a sentence explaining what you have learnt in this lesson. 
  • Write a summary of what will happen next in the story. 
  • Punctuate this sentence correctly. 
  • Use the connective ‘until’ in a sentence below. 

iPads in my classroom

I love my iPad – such an obvious thing to say as a teacher, as I know so many people are using them in their daily practice. I have my own personal one, but have also been issued one by my school to use in class. I use them for everything at home; shopping, note-taking, scheduling, banking, research, planning, organisation, writing, listening, watching. But why don’t I have such a range of school uses? It’s such a great resource, so how do I use it more?

At my school we have a bank of iPads to share with other classes and they are not always readily available so I have been increasingly looking for ways I can use my own single iPad effectively in the classroom. Here are some of the ways I’m using it at the moment (beyond web browsing!):

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1) The first use, which you’ve probably all heard of, has been as a visualiser. I’ve recently found Alan Peat’s iVisualiser to be the best way of doing this. I love how you can annotate photos of children’s work easily, and I use AirServer to show this on the IWB. The highlighter tool is helpful for enforcing our pink and green marking policy. The children can also come up to the front and underline areas for improvement or of success. Before this app, I was awkwardly using the camera function, though the children loved it when they’d accidentally get caught in the crossfire and end up projected on the whiteboard!

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2) Another way is to help facilitate the writing process. Some children can find it helpful to use the app to draw their ideas before writing. Why not use paper? Using an app like ShowMe means children can draw slides of pictures, developing their sense of story structure, and these can then be shown to the class via AirServer – my trusted ally! I’ve found this is doubly effective when it has followed storyboard activities, with children arranging parts of a story and then using the iPad to sequence their own.

Apparently ShowMe also provides the opportunity to view other slideshows that people have created and uploaded. I haven’t looked through the options yet but this may be a helpful function for small group activities or extension tasks for high abilities.

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3) Another quick use of my iPad in lessons is as a dictionary or thesaurus. If a child uses a word like ‘nice’, for instance, I might hand them the iPad and ask them to look up the word and then find alternatives.  Cue AirServer again where the screen is projected on the IWB for the rest of the class to use! Likewise if we come across a word in reading that we don’t understand. We bring it up on the iPad and show the others the meaning. I often use the Dictionary.com app for this (free version, see above). We would talk first about the words that would better fit their sentence.

Before the weekend I heard Alan Peat at one of his workshops mention a website where you can use synonyms in the classroom. Visual Thesaurus is a subscription service that creates maps of synonyms for any word you search for.  Alan Peat suggests getting the child to do this, and then print it out. You can then highlight several of the most appropriate words and staple it alongside their writing. I’ll definitely see if I can start doing this in the classroom, I hear they offer a 14 day free trial!

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4) MyScript Calculator is another good app I like to use in maths for whole class discussion. If we are looking at mental maths calculations, children using this app to write a number sentence with their finger on the iPad and see it turn into typed numbers. You can then choose whether to automatically solve or reveal when you click. This app is helpful for keeping up engagement when we are going through  answers, but it would be helpful if it worked for column addition and other non-linear calculations!

This isn’t a huge list so you can see I need some inspiration! I have a few apps that I sometimes use on a 1:1 basis but nothing that is firmly embedded in my practice. I will keep scouring the Internet for ideas and trying them out. Ideas welcome!

– Miss T