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The Red Ink Myth

The Red Ink Myth

Juila G. Thompson | Teaching

Few students have ever gone through school without the experience of laboring on an assignment only to have it returned covered in exasperated red ink. Several years ago the trend was for teachers to forgo red ink-as if those terse comments would somehow be less harsh in purple, green, or orange. Today’s educators, however, know that there are many different ways to offer feedback – the constructive criticism, advice, reinforcement, and comments that can help students learn- regardless of color.

Now that all of the desks are moved and procedures are clearly established, many of us finally have time to work on the skill and the art of delivering instructional feedback that encourages students to do their best and to learn from their mistakes. Below you will find suggestions to make the skill and the art of productive feedback one of your strengths as an educator.

The First Step: Know Your Students

Some students are more sensitive than others and can react in a negative way to even the mildest comment from a teacher or other adult. Although building trust with all students is important, it is especially so with those students whose egos are clearly fragile. One of the most important ways to begin to build trust is to get to know your students. Here are some ways that you can learn about those intriguing people who spend their school days with you.

•Speak with previous teachers, being careful to elicit a balanced, professional response instead of an emotional reaction.

•Carefully study your students’ permanent records.

•Observe your students as they work to look for specific information such as relationships with classmates, how they approach a test, or what causes off-task behavior.

•Pay attention to body language. Many emotions are telegraphed unconsciously through body language.

•Talk with parents and family members. Ask them to fill out questionnaires or write brief notes about their child.

•Give students inventories to assess their learning styles.

•Ask students to write personal responses to various topics through journals, exit slips, or learning logs.

•Notice how students relate to each other in casual settings and during group work.

•Ask students to describe themselves. You can ask for this in writing or during personal conferences.

•Offer students icebreakers and team-building exercises and then pay attention to their interactions with each other.

Continue reading on the next page: “Mistakes to Avoid”

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