Feedback beyond the sentence
Feedback is rightly considered to be a key part of teaching. As teachers it's important for us to give feedback to students; it helps students see the reason for the task. We can give feedback on the task. That's to say how well the message was communicated. For example, was the story interesting? This is a very natural part of speech, as conversations outside the classroom feature this. If a friend tells you a story you'll respond to the information. In class we should do the same. It's important students know we actually care about what they say.
We can also give feedback on the language used to complete the task. This typically involves error correction, but can also include ways to upgrade students' language output. Recasts are when we taking a student's phrase and changing it into a more sophisticated form. Language feedback can also be positive, by highlighting the good in the students' language use. In feedback all these areas are important, so as teachers we have a lot to do in this stage.
Focusing on speaking tasks, a common way of giving feedback on content is though a class discussion. Teachers ask about the interesting things students have heard. For language feedback, common way of giving language feedback is by putting a list of errors on the board. Here's an example of a teacher's board after a speaking activity to talk about your last holiday:
• Last month I go to France.
• I go aeroplane to Paris.
• I stay in 5 stars hotel.
• It was my first time in a five stars hotel.
• I have been good holiday.
• I like very a lot.
• I hope I can go to Paris again soon.
The list above can be used to highlight good and bad language. It's useful for students to see mistakes on the board and have a chance to think about the way they spoke. Most of the sentences have a typical mistake and we're giving students the chance to analysis their language.
However, think about the language stages in lessons. We usually present language in context, rather than in individual sentences. Language might come from the reading or listening exercise in the lesson. Students refer to the context to help find the meaning. This is something we could do in feedback as well. By putting the sentences into a condensed story we can provide more complete feedback. Think about the other areas we can feedback on by showing this story:
• Last month I go to France. I go aeroplane to Paris. I stay in 5 stars hotel. It was my first time in a five stars hotel. I have been good holiday. I like very a lot. I hope I can go to Paris again soon.
In this version we can start by looking at the whole story. We can respond to the task by asking the class about Paris. For example, asking how many people have been to Paris and did they like it. This helps link the feedback to the real life reasons for speaking.
With the feedback in a paragraph we can look at how sentences are linked together. It's common for students to lack all of the cohesive devises a fluent speaker has. However, it's challenging to give feedback on this while presenting language at sentence level. With texts we can also look elicit the upgrades with linking. The repetition of Paris can be highlighted, by eliciting ways to replace it in the text. The story would also sound more sophisticated with the inclusion of phrases like 'when I was there.' For example, when I was there I stayed in a 5 star hotel.
It's harder to put feedback into a text, but it's possible by keeping it simple. The story doesn't need to be long. Just long enough to contain the basic elements of the task. By doing this we're giving feedback in a more holistic way. Students need to have feedback on their overall discourse, not just their grammar mistakes.
Do you give feedback in a different way? How do you give feedback on overall discourse?