The English Classroom

A GUIDE TO IMPROVING STUDENT LITERACY

The Situation

You need to give written feedback on a short story or essay.

The Solution

When giving feedback to students on their writing, their is always a tendency to pull everything apart.

Of course, you could analyse the quality of students writing until the sun goes down, however, depending on the year group students really need a handful of things to focus on in the future. It is not healthy for students to be given a half page of notes on how to improve. They need to understand that improvement incremental and they will need to steadily build their skillset.

For example if you are marking short stories, you can do the following to provide feedback.

  1. Read the students’ work.
  2. Correct spelling and grammar. Correct one spelling mistake, but do not correct the same mistake elsewhere.
  3. Pose questions to improve the clarity of the writing. For example: “How can you make this clearer?”
  4. Mark the marking rubric. What grade will the student be assigned?
  5. Now, you are ready to make a comment on the writing.

Your comment should cover the following:

  1. Thank the student for handing in their work.
  2. State something you like about their work. Be genuine!
  3. State three things they can do to improve (I normally write this as I am marking the work. Do this to ensure that you are being very specific with the feedback).

Take the following comment for example:


Thank you [student name] for submitting your work, [insert the name of the story or essay etc]. I really enjoyed the way that you brought the setting at the beginning of the story. It sets the reader up with a clear image of the setting and the mood is captured perfectly. To improve, I would like you to work on the following:

  1. Please revise your use of there/their/they’re.
  2. For the most part you did well, but please avoid telling instead of showing. Very important!
  3. Some of your paragraphs are a little too long. Try to cut them down.

Check the marking rubric to ensure that your comments line up with the expectations outlined.


In this comment, students are given 3 dot points for how to improve. Sure, there could be many more things that they could focus on, but for now these three things would be helpful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: