Fifteen Minute Narrative Feedback

It’s like Mad Libs meets Google Forms! Save TONS of time by hacking narrative feedback.

What if I told you that you could get something along the lines of this:

Susie is doing fantastic work! Keep up the incredible momentum. Exemplary use of Twitter for annotation homework and at-home activities. Creative reflections, with lots of strong annotation and evidence of close, critical reading! Writing skills are advanced. Continue to refine stylistic choices and analysis. Let’s strengthen blogging efforts for the coming unit with enriched multimedia like videos and continued attention to aesthetics in web design. Great work in your small group efforts, along with our daily work in teams, your Socratic Seminar performances, and your Snake Oil product pitch! Lots of creativity and incredible effort. Well done! You’re doing great! Maintain that hunger and curiosity as we round out the third quarter. Keep up the incredible momentum!

Or this:

Billy has shown some improvement, but more effort is needed. Don’t be afraid to annotate your printed text to strengthen your in-class performance! Maintain focus and feel free to contact me during study hall. More attention to detail is needed with homework and at-home activities. Improve Socratic Seminar performance by strengthening annotations to show clearer evidence of close, critical reading. Writing skills are emerging. Don’t lose sight of formatting basics! And continue to explore different ways of developing ideas and organizing material. MLA formatting with proper citations are essential moving forward. Feel free to stop by for help before or after class. Presentation skills are emerging. Work in small groups is improving, now continue working towards stronger performance in larger class dialogue by incorporating relevant text evidence. Don’t be afraid to share your point of view! Let’s keep at it and finish strong! Put your power of growth mindset to work and focus on those indicated areas for growth outlined here.

For EVERY. SINGLE STUDENT. that you teach… in about seven and a half minutes worth of work per class section?

Here’s the skinny —

I teach two sections of eleventh grade American Literature and spend the remainder of my day working as our school’s instructional coach. In the hybrid role, I’m constantly trying to juggle “best practices” for the teaching profession AND provide the optimal classroom experience for my very own students. But far too often, the task can seem insurmountable.

The instructional coach in me knows that teaching to mastery is the wave of the future, and that detailed, narrative feedback is the fastest and most efficient way to improve individual student performance over time.

BUT…

The classroom teacher in me still has to give quarterly progress reports and the traditional letter-based grading. And all that narrative stuff takes a TON of time.

Not ideal.

Further compounding the matter: most progress reports and online report card grading software programs typically offer users the chance to input a letter grade and accompany it with any one of a number of a handful of generic comments from a one-size fits all bank of blase and frequently quoted teacher aphorisms (“More effort is needed,” “Progressing satisfactorily.”). But the pro-forma approach to line item comments often feel mechanical and lacking specificity — so students don’t even bother to read them. I know that students learn best when provided with specific, actionable feedback expediently (S.A.F.E.!) — but going into detail with blow-by-blow recaps of five whole weeks worth of effort (for each student)?

That takes a TREMENDOUS amount of time. And most classroom teachers simply don’t have it.

So I decided to use Google Forms to kill two birds with one stone — offering more detailed feedback for my students, AND creating a system of lightning fast grading on my end. All told, I managed to hammer out unique and detailed paragraph’s worth of custom-tailored feedback for 43 different student progress reports in…

So I figured I’d share the love in today’s blog entry to help you do the same. Ready for the secret recipe?

Three steps to saving yourself SO. MUCH. TIME. when providing narrative comments (for projects, report cards, or progress reports) in the future:

  1. Create a Google Form that only you can fill out, and write one question each for the 4 or 5 different skills or areas of focus that you’d like to offer feedback on for this assignment / quarter / progress report.
  2. For each question, create a drop-down menu of item options with *actual human sentences* offering common points of praise or improvement.
  3. Complete the form once for each student just by clicking buttons on the drop-down menus. The unique results for each student will automatically be collected in different rows of an attached spreadsheet — which you can copy and paste right on over to your online grade book software.

Progress.jpg

(PS: my sincere apologies that I’m not able to be of more assistance by offering you an editable version of the actual Google Form template that I used for this blog entry. Funky permissions setting in Google Forms only allows folks shared EDIT access to the original — which would totally screw up anyone else’s ability to use the same form).

Author: John

John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) is an English teacher and school instructional coach at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. He began his teaching career in 2010 as a career switcher through The New Teacher Project, after spending five years working in social media and event marketing. He is a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader, and an alumnus of the 2016-2018 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In 2016, he was named one of Arlington, Virginia’s “40 Under 40” by the Leadership Center for Excellence. He is a past presenter and regular attendee at educational conferences throughout the United States, including the annual conference for National Catholic Education Association, ASCD Empower19, and the Play Like a Champion Today: Character Education Through Sports summer conference at the University of Notre Dame. He’s an avid runner who’s completed more than three dozen marathons, half marathons, long-distance road relays, mud runs, and obstacle course races. John lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with his wife, Laura, a high school music teacher and fellow graduate of The Catholic University of America, and a giant-sized Maine Coon cat named Jack.

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