Writing Comments on Students’ Papers, by John Bean
The article reads like a no-nonsense “how-to” guide for teachers. Perhaps this (used as a pronoun here--a tsk, tsk from Bean), or something similar, would be a good addition to the teacher-preparation classes we spoke about in class. Many of Bean’s ideas echo those of Sommers (Responding to Student Writing) and Elbow (Ranking, Evaluating and Liking). I appreciated Bear’s commitment to fostering a positive relationship between the student and his/he paper and/or writing in general. I connected with his discussion about the how emotions and learning are connected. It stated, “To promote meaningful learning,... teachers should build on student successes, evoking feelings of hope and confidence, rather than failure…” That’s basic psychology. People believe what you tell them and them usually rise to the occasion. I have experienced this first-hand, both as a teacher, and as a student.
The article focuses its advice around how to comment on an undergrad thesis paper. Bear had a very clearly-defined hierarchical map for navigating student papers from beginning to end. He is obviously writing from experience as a professor, and I am sure his “tips” are working for him. It all seems to make sense and I can imagine this process evolving naturally for many teachers, over time (maybe I’m being too optimistic, here?). I thought the section titled “Is the Draft Effectively Organized?” could be given to students as a checklist of revisions strategies, rather than just for teachers.
Some problems/comments/questions about the article:
- He begins by promoting the use of positive/negative comments, but puts forth a large list of marginal notes that are overwhelmingly negative/sarcastic (ex: “You bounce all over. I need a road map of where we are and where we are going.”). What???
- While I liked his strategy of identifying patterns of error in a student’s paper, he still did not offer any real solution to the ongoing grammar problems we’ve been discussing. At one point he says, “Students with severe sentence-level difficulties may even be motivated to take another writing course or to seek tutorial help.” Ummmm...What course would this be?? It seems like no class is teaching grammar and mechanics, not even the “comp 101’s perhaps?....maybe that’s a solution: create a grammar/mechanics ONLY class. interesting.
- I found the sample ending comments for student papers to be crazy long!!!! Not practical…
- I understand that teachers have their own “pet peeves” (as he called them) when it comes to writing, but I did not appreciate his comment “...you might as well make yours known to your students and note them on drafts when they start to annoy you.” That annoyed me!
Response to Writing, By Richard Beach and Tom Friedrich
I had an Aha Moment around page four of the article, when it talked about the use of “taped feedback” to students on cassettes or digital tapes (cited from a 1997 article). At first I thought, “yeah right...how impractical is that???” Then, I realized that this could be THE solution. I know google doc have make commenting on the text a more-practical solution than writing by hand on a student’s paper, but what about mini-voice recordings throughout a paper? I know the technology is capable, I just don’t think google docs has that options available yet. Imagine it. Just push a button and tell your student what you think. How to improve. That would solve a multitude of problems (student responses to unclear or too direct written response, time constraints, etc.). How ironic is it that when it comes to writing student comments, “writing” may actually get in the way of effective communication. I love it!
I found it interesting how this article contradicted some of what Bean’s article said with regard to “mitigating” comments (adding both positive/negative). “One study of Chinese and Spanish-speaking students’ perceptions of peers’ responses indicated that they preferred negative comments that identified specific problems in their drafts.”
One Approach to Guiding Peer Response By Kim Jaxon
Jaxon details her classroom practices regarding peer response. It is a thorough guide and a “what works for me” sort of piece. It prompted me to share one “approach” to peer response that I use in my class. In addition to our daily partner review work (more like every other day), once during the cycle (typically a few weeks) of a writing piece, we sit in a large circle and share out a portion of our piece that we feel needs the most work (due to time constraints). It usually takes about 2 1-hr class periods. We, as a group, offer the reader honest advice and ask questions of the writer. The most common problem we see is a lack of clarity in the writing. The students love this activity and love to have a large audience for their “works-in-progress,” and the quality of comments is quite accurate and helpful. This practice also helps the students learn from the mistakes and successes of others.