I hope my daughter never reads this post until she is a parent herself! She will uncover one of my favorite parenting techniques--offering choices. It helps diffuse tension while also creating agency. Let me explain. One of our biggest challenges at home is getting ready in the morning, specifically selecting what to wear. She loves to wear her brother’s too-big-for-her clothes or his hand-me-downs that are often stained and torn. She also has a favorite pair of holey soccer pants that, if it were up to her, she would wear every day. I am not always okay with this since it goes against our golden rule of outfit choosing-- you must look like somebody loves you. So, to follow our rule, while also supporting my daughter’s individuality and independence, I suggest some outfit choices.
Feedback in writing can take a similar approach. Unlike corrective feedback, we might offer choices to a writer so that they can hold onto their writing individuality and independence. For example, to connect back to an earlier blog post, instead of saying “Because you added dialogue you are ready to add inner thinking,” we might offer a choice. It may sound like: “Because you added dialogue you are ready to add inner thinking OR develop the heart of your story. Which would you like to learn about and try?”
By offering choices it puts the decision-making process squarely in the hands of the writer himself. Traditionally, writers have had choice in topic (if any choice at all). Choice, however, can be given throughout the writing process. We can share possible choices in structure, elaboration, and grammar. Yes, grammar. This is not to say that grammar itself is a choice, of course, we use grammar as style. However, it is the writer’s choice as to when to make different grammatical choices.
If you are used to correcting grammar, rather than offering grammar choices, the chart below will help out with punctuation and sentence structure.
Click image for a .pdf version of the Feedback Menu.
Our feedback does not have to be focused on helping students with one next step suggestion. Feedback can be offering more than one writing technique and letting that writer choose when and where to use it. Choices, in fact, grow ownership and agency in writing. Isn’t that a dream come true?
This post is the fourth in a series based on Patty's upcoming book, Feedback that Moves Writers Forward.