Ladder of Feedback Part Deux

So here is my write-up of what happened with the ladder of feedback homework:

4th grade students are writing geography stories: personal narratives about a specific moment in a special geographical location or a description of the location’s special qualities.

Many students have finished a first draft and revised it themselves for a checklist we created. Some students have showed their work to peers informally, but today we used the ladder of feedback to step up towards providing each other with a deeper level of feedback during the revising process.  This is a skill we practice over and over again with many different types of writing and different partners.  Students are still getting to know and trust one another as a writing community, and a formal feedback structure at this point can be helpful.

Students with complete first drafts met in pairs after hearing briefly about the 4 stages: clarify, value, concerns, suggestions. I was interested in how this age group would interpret these words.  They were familiar with the types of comments that might go in each category.

Students then reported back on the feedback they gave and received.  In these early days students said they find it hard to critique each other’s work.  Many are afraid of offending one another and found the “concerns” section the hardest to offer.  However they felt the ladder overall made giving feedback easier.   Their conversations felt more directed (knowing what to say) and less awkward.  One student said he would not have thought to say what he liked, which helped him formulate ideas about and communicate what he did not like.

This framework worked well in our initial steps to organize critical peer conversations. We can continue modeling the types of conversations that might take place at each rung, deepening student understanding of how they look at and respond to each other’s work and how they can offer meaningful advice for revising and editing.


Here is what I would do differently with more thought and better preparation:
  • Create a ladder of feedback visual 
  • Possibly change the language of the categories (clarify, value, concerns, suggestions worked)
  • Put the categories into the form of questions
  • Actually have them write down their feedback.  (The sharing could actually be done simultaneously if the stories and handwriting are in better shape. At this point it still made sense for them to read it aloud to each other since that is how they are catching their own mistakes and revisions)
  • Model a conversation (I definitely should have done this – it was a clear missing piece)
I actually think the ladder of feedback is a good tool and I would like to incorporate it more formally.  It reminds me of the compliment sandwich, but feels like a step up.  I am always game for a step up.

P.S. I just had a brainflash.  We are creating paper blogs and will begin the process of learning how to become good blog readers and commenters.  I have been wondering how to discuss the different types of comments a blog reader can make and now realize that the Ladder of Feedback is perfect for structuring the way they read and respond to each other on their blogs!  Yay! 

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