Feedback and Student Voices

A 4 minute video!

How Students Critiquing One Another’s Work Raises The Quality Bar from D. Bassett’s blog spot:

Too often, when students produce schoolwork, they turn it into a teacher for a grade and move on. And after the teacher spends time evaluating the student’s work, many students never look at the feedback, a cycle that frustrates both parties and isn’t the most effective way to learn.

Student to student feedback video via sMindShift  4 minutes


Oracy: Part 2

Courtesy of the Reading Sage, who is a wonderful resource for a wide range of links related to language and literacy.

Oracy: The Literacy of the Spoken Word | Edutopia
Teaching oracy is instrumental to better reading and, in particular, writing. In developmental terms, humans acquire oral language first — a …

Developing oracy skills | Class Teaching
Some simple strategies that can be tried out to develop oracy skills: … number of oracybased teaching ideas – developing dialogue toolkit.

Why teach oracy? | University of Cambridge
Through our own research and that of others, we know there are some very effective ways of teaching oracy skills, which are already used by …

Oracy Assessment Toolkit : Faculty of Education
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the need to help young people develop their abilities to use spoken language effectively. Employers …

Oral Language AND Literacy: Not either/or

Oral Language AND Literacy: Not either/or

A short excerpt from an article published in Reading Rockets ….

“Recently, Chris Lonigan and I (Timothy Shanahan) wrote a short article for Language Magazine. It’s focus is on “The Role of Early Oral Language in Literacy Development.” I think both Chris and I have bona fides in the “phonics/decoding/foundational skills” community and have the scars to show it. But we are both also advocates of the so-called “simple view” of reading — students need to know how to decode from print to language and they need to know how to understand language. This is a both, not an either/or.

Here is a link to the article. Hope you enjoy it.”

And here is a short excerpt from that article:

“Response to intervention in preschool holds promise for successful early language development but several key issues must be considered. For one, preschools often serve disproportionate numbers of children who need Tier 2 or Tier 3 services, which causes staffing concerns. Also, more research is needed on the effect of interventions for children from low-income families, children with disabilities, English language learners, and children from underrepresented ethnic groups.
The NELP report, along with other studies of children’s early language development, suggests that early oral language has a growing contribution to later reading comprehension — a contribution that is separate from the important role played by the alphabetic code. As such, improving young children’s oral language development should be a central goal during the preschool and kindergarten years.”

Chapter 2 Getting Started with Academic Conversations from Zwiers and Crawford, Academic Conversations, 2011

This chapter begins as do the other chapters with quotes from learners or teachers:

Comment from a 6th grader:  “It was weird.  When we finished talking, we had a totally new idea.” (p. 27)

In a sense, Chapter 2 is the heart of this book.  It covers two central ideas: Conversation Norms and Core Skills for Academic Conversations.

Shared Conversation Norms.  I can’t image a more critical skill (standard) than learning how to use conversation to learn, to create ideas, to negotiate, perhaps especially as we elect new leadership in our country.  Here verbatim (from pages 30-31) are the authors’ list 7 norms:

*listen to each other

*share our own ideas and explain them

*respect one another’s ideas, even if they are different

*respectfully disagree and try to see the other view

*let others finish explaining their ides without interrupting

*try to come to some agreement in the end

*take turns and share air time

The five core skills of conversation which are explained in more detail in Chapter 3 are:

Elaborate and clarify

Support ideas with examples

Build on and/or challenge a partner’s idea


Synthesize conversation points

Real strengths of this text are the number of examples the authors provide and the extent to which it is possible to generalize these ideas to written language and across content areas.


Classroom Discussion “instruction”

This is a really nice extension of Zwier’s work on Academic Conversations posted last Tuesday.

How to Scaffold Skills for Student Discussions

Academic Conversations and School Success

Academic Conversations by Jeff Zwiers and Marie Crawford,  Stenhouse, 2011

Dialogue Blog for Monday, March 21 16

This book offers an extensive treatment of classroom talk with multiple examples and suggestions for application across the content areas.  In this multi-post sequence, my focus will be on the following chapters:

1 Reasons to Converse in School (pp 7-26)

2 Getting Started with Academic Conversations

3 Lesson Activities for Developing Core Conversation Skills

4 Designing Effective Conversation Tasks

5 Training Students for Academic Conversations

8 Conversations in History

9 Conversations in Science

To begin Chapter 1, Z and C offer a comment by a 4th grader:

“Conversations not only made us sound smarter, I think they actually made us smarter.”

Zwiers and Crawford begin this chapter by talking about the need for oral academic skills in school and in the larger world, and they note the problem that “Despite their power, rich conversations in school are rare.” (p. 7)  As always in reviewing a book in-depth, I highly recommend buying it.

Advantages of Conversation

They then go on to present a long list of “advantage of conversation” across a wide range of domains: language and literacy (LL), cognitive (COG), content learning (CON), Social and cultural (SC) and psychological (PSY).

Under Language and Literacy Advantages, they note:

Conversation Builds Academic Language

Conversation Builds Vocabulary

Conversation Builds Literacy Skills

Conversation Builds Oral Language and Communication Skills

In the Cognitive Domain, they note that Conversation

Builds Critical Thinking Skills

Promotes Different Perspectives and Empathy

Fosters Creativity

Fosters Skills for Negotiating Meaning and Focusing on a Topic

In the Content Domain they say Conversation

Builds Content Understanding

Cultivates Connections

Helps Students to Co-Construct Understanding

Helps Teachers and Students Assess Learning

For the Social Cultural Domain, conversation

Builds Relationships

Builds Academic Ambience

Makes Lessons More Culturally Relevant

Fosters Equity

And, in the Psychological Domain, Conversation

Develops Inner Dialogue and Self-Talk

Fosters Engagement and Motivation

Builds Confidence and Academic Identity

Fosters Choice, Ownership, and Control Over Thinking

Builds Academic Identity

Fosters Self-Discovery

Builds Student Voice and Empowerment.




Ritchhart Part 5: The Languages of Mindfulness and Praise/Feedback

Ritchhart begins:

The Language of Mindfulness

Can language cause us to be more aware, mindful, and flexible?  A long line of research suggests that it can.  The amazing thing is that this language is subtle in its presence but powerful in its impact on our thinking.  Specifically, language that slows for the possibility of interpretation and that opens the door to even a small bit of ambiguity has the power to keep the mind in an open state, avoiding early closure, pursuing possibilities, and listening to information presented by others…..”  (p. 78)

Ritchhart then goes on to give an example of a teacher who uses “conditional” vs. “absolute” vocabulary by choosing terms such as “might” vs “is” in inviting students to consider their work as they look at a picture relevant to a history lesson.  Ritchhart continues on with a description of a series of studies on “mindfulness” conducted by Ellen Langer, himself, and others over a ten year period in which the researchers determined that the way a task was presented (as an absolute or a conditional phenomenon) determined how the learner would respond.  Learners could think of problems as  “right/wrong answer” tasks or as tasks that offered possible solutions.  Furthermore, the way problem solvers treated tasks (absolute or conditional) impacted the degree to which the participants “negotiated” solutions with others, thereby inviting others into a/the conversation.

“Now visualize yourself in a classroom, and a fellow student makes a statement with which you disagree.  His or her words might have the effect of shutting down conversation. In contrast, when someone expresses an idea in conditional language, it can be much easier to add your thoughts to the conversation.” (p. 80)

Given this perspective, if we want students to become thinkers, it is important to be sensitive not just to the specific words (or phrases or sentences) we use, but the kinds of language—absolute or conditional—that we use.  There is a whole literature that addresses this distinction that is well worth our consideration.

The Language of Praise/Feedback

Here, again, Ritchhart talks about the kind of language we, as teachers use, in this case, to provide students with guidance about the work they are doing, have already done, and/or will do.  He draws a distinction between praise and feedback (a topic getting a lot of attention lately in the education literature as it focuses on “growth mindset” and “formative and summative feedback.”) “Praise terms such as “perfect,” “good job,” “well done” are characterized as “not informative to the students; consequently, it may have no impact on the child beyond the realization that he or she got the answer right or wrong.” (p. 81) Referring to Dweck’s “Growth Mindset” work, he notes that Dweck (2007) suggests that “praise is intricately connected to how students view their intelligence” (p. 34) and therefore praise of one’s abilities may produce a burst of pride but ultimately be detrimental to learning….” (p. 81)

In contrast ”feedback” is described as being informative, task related, and potentially actionable relative to improving the task performance or guiding future learning.  Ritchhart offers suggestions on a research-based “language of feedback” illustrated by reference to Lisa’s (the featured teacher in this text) examples.    It is noted that she first points out, specifically, what they did that worked: “tried to find an explanations for what’s going on…used what you already know, things that you’ve already seen…” And then she “directs their attention to the next task, again highlighting the thinking to be done.” (p. 82)

And, again, it is not just the specific words/phrases/sentences that the teacher uses that matter, but the purpose/intention of the language choices that matters. Ideally, we don’t usually use words that don’t match our intentions.

Ritchhart ends the section by noting that there are other “kinds of language” that are relevant to the classroom and learning that we could consider: the language of trust, the language of direction, the language of responsibility, the language of framing, the language of metaphor, and the language of discourse.

And on the last page of this chapter, the author offers 7 ways to “Become proficient users of the languages of the classroom”:

*Become more aware of the language moves you are currently making.

*Listen to your students’ use of conditional and absolute language.

*In planning, list the key thinking moves.

*Practice the language of praise and feedback in writing.

*To become a better listener, try to avoid making assumptions about what others are saying or presuming you understand their intent.

*Check if you are nurturing initiative versus developing dependence…

*Make a list of the various roles you want students to step into in your classroom.


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