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September 24, 2015
by: Janelle Bane

Trash Talk: Learning to Give (and Receive) Feedback

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The second and third graders in Mrs. Pekarek’s class are going to be editors, at least for this hour of class.

This trimester they have been exploring the question: How can we understand where we live through historical and geographical perspectives? Earlier in the week, the class walked down to the Pigeon River to make observations about this wooded area around the school. They composed sentences as a class about what they saw, using descriptive words. Today, Mrs. Pekarek assembled these sentences into a paragraph and put it up on the projector. The class read the paragraph aloud and wondered if it could be even more descriptive.

Together, they decide what makes a good sentence: subject and object, ending marks, capital letters, spacing and descriptive words. This list becomes the criteria they will use for their feedback. Feedback is given in the form of one “I like…” and “I wonder…” each written anonymously on a piece of paper. For example:

“I like that you used the word humongous.”

“I wonder why you wrote that the leaves were beautiful and disgusting. It’s confusing.”

After a few minutes to think and record their edits, everyone crumples up their papers and one by one attempt to score a basket, tossing it into a bin on the floor. Mrs. Pekarek empties the bin and reads the classes’ feedback about the Pigeon River paragraph.

Another important aspect to peer editing is how to respond to criticism. While she is reading her feedback, Mrs. Pekarek asks the class, “Should I get mad or should my feelings be hurt when someone gives me feedback?” The class responds,“No!”  She continues, "I agree. Feedback is something that will help me and my writing.” When someone asks if they can keep the feedback they gave her, she graciously declines. “This feedback is now mine, and it’s very valuable to me because it will help me learn. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with me.”

With this, the class seems genuinely excited for the prospect of peer editing. In a future class, they will use their own observations to construct a descriptive paragraph that they will submit for peer review.

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