We get and give feedback all the time in class but not always effectively.
But there is one method that I think can work well on occasions and it’s one to do in small groups.
The ‘Guess Who?’ feedback activity is one that I came across in the book Working Backwards by Andy Griffith and Mark Burns and it’s worth a share. I’ve used something similar in my own classes and it works extremely well for getting pupils to zoom in and offer each other critical but constructive advice. It’s basically a matching exercise with plenty of challenge.
In terms of setting things up it is really simple and that’s what makes it very ‘doable’.
The idea is that you ‘mark’ some books with written comments but instead of writing these in children’s books, you write them on separate bits of paper. For each piece of work you write some feedback comments. The comments you write need to be on separate slips of paper – so if you write three comments per pupil don’t write them all on the same bit of paper!
When you have arranged children into groups of 3 or 4, give the books back and give the groups the feedback slips you have prepared. The groups then have to match each feedback slip to the book in front of them.
Some of the comments are harder to match than others and pupils have to read each others work and work really hard at identifying and pinpointing. This gives them the opportunity to assess the gaps in each other’s work and it makes them far more appreciative of the feedback process. Some comments might actually fit more than one piece of work.
The point of feedback is to help children close gaps and the Guess Who idea pushes a group into working together, spotting and helping each other to improve. They might also identify areas that you may have missed and add further ideas for improvement.
It’s interesting what pupils say when they do this activity. Sometimes they can be spot on but other times they can mis-match or sit on the fence. In my experience, this activity is one that children enjoy and ask to do again because they enjoy seeing what their peers have said and they like to help each other improve. It can therefore contribute toward a positive classroom climate for feedback.
You might be worried about the other side of the coin here and children seizing upon negative comments but the activity teaches humility and how to ‘take’ feedback constructively.
Griffith and Burns say that
This is a really effective activity for challenging learners to develop greater clarity about giving and receiving high quality feedback. It also encourages learners to think more deeply about the feedback offered by the teacher and to learn from each other’s feedback.
For all those workload warriors and worriers out there who see this as a crippling exercise in how not to have a life please note this is an occasional activity. Written feedback is still important and this exercise actually improves your written feedback because I have found you think far more carefully about what you are saying.