When Descriptive Feedback Just Happens …

This afternoon we ended our day with a special math activity. In math, we’re working on three-dimensional solids. The students started by working in small groups, going through bins of three-dimensional solids, and determining which ones had flat faces, which ones had curved faces, and which ones had both. After investigating, we came back together as a class, and we made this chart:

Students were then presented with this problem:

When I wrote this problem, my planned outcome was to have students better understand the properties of three-dimensional solids, as well as understand that the properties of certain solids make them better to build with than others: helping them with future building activities. I had absolutely no intention of making this about descriptive feedback.

As a school though, we’ve been focusing on descriptive feedback all year long. Students understand what this means, and they’re used to offering suggestions to their peers based on work samples. Up until today, students only volunteered this feedback when they were asked specifically to do so. With 15 minutes to go until March Break began, things changed!

A group of three students shared one of their building examples during our Math Congress today. Here’s a video of them sharing their learning:

Just as I stopped the recording, a student raised his hand. He said that he had some “descriptive feedback” to share. I was impressed! I couldn’t help myself. I asked him to share, and his thoughts sparked many more too. Before long, I took out the Livescribe Pen and started recording the conversation. Below is a pencast from today:

This is just a small sample of the feedback that was shared. I love that the students have become so comfortable with offering praise and providing specific next steps that they take the initiative to do so on their own. Today proved to me that when descriptive feedback is an integral part of the classroom environment, it will happen naturally. As teachers then, we can continue to encourage students to listen back to this feedback, reflect on it, and apply the suggestions in future activities.

What are some of your experiences with descriptive feedback? How do students react to receiving it? Do they need teacher prompting to provide it, or is it more student driven? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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