Giving and Receiving Feedback for Revision
Sharing stories is a cornerstone of the structure of Story Workshop and our approaches to literacy at Opal School. We invite children to share because having an audience gives us a purpose for writing. An engaged and attentive audience help a writer feel seen, heard, and valued and can strengthen connections and a sense of belonging within a community. Sharing your story also pushes you to look beyond yourself, to consider how you will craft your story so that other people will understand your ideas. The role of a community of authors is not only to listen but also to give feedback—to support the author who is sharing by responding with emotion, offering suggestions, and asking questions. Authors learn more about what they actually want to say by sharing and paying attention to the response they get back. It’s one of the most powerful strategies for revision.
As a teacher, I know I want to support children to play this role for one another. I also know that understanding how to offer supportive and meaningful feedback doesn’t just happen because I want it to. It is a skill that takes time to develop. It’s something we have to research and build together as a community of writers.
I saw an opportunity to begin this research into the role of feedback for revision this year when I sat down to conference with Aleeza. She said, “I think I might want to share.” I asked her to tell me more, to tell me what she was hoping for from sharing, and if there was a way she thought her community might be able to help her with her story. She said, “I’m not sure. Maybe I will just keep writing.”
Aleeza is a second-grade writer who has recently discovered that she can write; her hand is finally able to keep up with her ideas! As a writer, she is very excited about the quantity of her work and she’s continuing to grow that stamina as a writer by writing all the time. Her mom recently shared at Back to School Night that she finds scraps of paper all over the house where Aleeza has written her thoughts from the day. These notes are not necessarily written to anyone, just writing about whatever Aleeza’s thinking in that moment. Aleeza has confidence in herself as a writer and in her ideas. And she writes and writes and writes.
I was curious about Aleeza’s response when I asked her how her community might support her with her story. Her response, “I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll just keep writing,” made me wonder about her process as an author. I think writing felt really good to her. I think she feels really successful when she’s writing. I wondered if the invitation to consider how her peers might support her felt like a challenge. I wondered if she wasn’t really sure what I meant when I said that? I wondered if she had shared her writing for feedback before?
As a teacher, I wonder about my role in supporting an enthusiastic writer like Aleeza. What will support for Aleeza look like this year? Her attitude towards writing is exactly what I hope for. How can I be sure she continues to view writing as something she loves while finding the places that I can support Aleeza to grow? I wonder about what ways I might slow her down to consider the craft of her writing? I wonder about supporting Aleeza to value how she says what she wants to say as much as she values how much she says? I wonder how Aleeza will respond when she encounters challenges as a writer?
I decided to share with Aleeza what I noticed, that to me it seemed she had gotten lots and lots of ideas out, but maybe she needed help from her peers to know what they thought the most important pieces of this story were. She seemed slightly hesitant, but agreed to share and requested that her peers pay attention to that piece as they offered feedback.
During this time I was also wondering about the whole community and my role in supporting them to give and receive meaningful feedback. What experiences have they already had with offering feedback? What conditions might support this group to listen and respond in ways that support the author? What would be challenging about offering feedback? Why do they think author’s share? Do they see each other as resources? Have we developed enough shared language and experiences around how authors craft their writing for them to give feedback to Aleeza that would support her to move forward with her writing?
I wasn’t sure about what the feedback would look like or sound like. But I knew I wanted to give Aleeza the opportunity to share and I knew, if nothing else, I would at least get more information, by listening to the ways this group responded to this invitation.
Aleeza shared her story and asked her community to consider what felt like the most important pieces of her story to them.
This was the feedback she received that followed:
Jack: Maybe you could show us the picture.
August: Yeah because you like it way more than ice cream and ice cream is really good.
Ellie: It’s kind of an idea you could add on to. You could add on that you took the big splotch to the community to add on more.
Sienna: On her paper she has different colors and maybe on another paper she could add more colors.
Jack: I also like how she actually was writing about her writing. I’ve never known someone could do that. Not even the author’s in the baskets do that!
Aila: She could share ideas with other people like her friends.
Aurelia: I think Aleeza did a good job on her story. I like the detail of the color that you made and that Alistair made a big mess on your paper.
Aleeza: Umm, I think the part about the ice cream seemed really important to them, so I’m going to go back to that part.
The feedback Aleeza got from her peers showed they were interested and engaged. They asked to see the picture, thought she could add more, and gave her compliments. They were listening to her story but I didn’t see them make the connection to what Aleeza and I had asked them to consider. No one mentioned what they thought the most important part or the main idea of her story might be.
I’m not sure what Aleeza is going to do with this feedback, but I’ll be there to conference with her about next steps. Some of the things I might try during a follow-up with Aleeza include:
- Starting with asking her some more questions. What does she think the main idea of her story is? What is the most important part to her? Was it the ice cream part? Who does she want her audience to be? What does she want her readers to think, feel, or care about when they read her story?
- I might try to pull out two to three different big ideas or topics I saw within her writing. I might then ask her what she thought a story about the splotch might sound like? A story about her process as a writer? A story about how she felt the moment Ali spilled the paint on her paper?
- I might show her a few mentor texts and point out to her how I see those authors choosing one big idea that goes all the way through their story. Then imagine with her what that might sound like in her own story.
I also got some more information to help me make decisions about how I might support this community of authors during Story Congress. As we continue develop a culture of Story Workshop, particularly during Story Congress, and begin to pay attention to the role of feedback as a way to support revision, here’s what I’m considering:
- Activating prior schema and beginning to create share language for feedback through group dialogue around the role of feedback in our work as authors. Some questions that might frame that dialogue include: What does it look like and sound like to give feedback? What do we mean by feedback? How can we give specific, supportive feedback? Why do we give feedback?
- I know we are still developing a culture of Story Workshop and part of what this group needs is more opportunities to share their stories and practice giving feedback. I hope to provide opportunities for children to listen to a story and respond both with more open-ended responses (questions and compliments), and more specific requests designed with specific purposes in mind (such as the kind Aleeza asked for).
- Providing more opportunities to share in different ways. Eye-to-eye and knee-to-knee partner sharing will be one structure I’ll introduce to provide more opportunities to listen, share, and respond to one another’s stories.
- I’m wondering about the role of materials as a form of feedback for individual authors. I might invite a child to take their story to a material and pay attention: What happens when you take your story to paint? How does it change or grow? What new language or ideas come up for you?
- We’ll continue to use mentor texts to explore how other authors have crafted their stories. I might ask, what do you notice about the way this author wrote this book? What did this author do to make you laugh? What would that sound like to try it in your own writing?
I’m curious: Based on this experience with Aleeza, what might you do next?