Shaking Up Feedback

Working in General English for Adults? Teaching Young Learners over the summer. Moving into English for Academic Purposes? Wherever you teach, whoever you teach, you will always have to give content feedback on a productive task. time feedback

The usual way of giving such feedback is to incorporate it into the linguistic feedback stage. Alternatively, you could opt for a delayed approach – providing feedback in written or spoken form in a follow-up lesson.

Whatever approach you use, maybe there is always the issue that content feedback increases Teacher Talking Time, moves the focus away from the learners and has no true linguistic value.

Perhaps there is a more integrated approach to content feedback?

Recently on a Pre-Sessional Programme at INTO Newcastle University I had to give a group of students feedback on their presentations. These were individually given and focused on their research project.

Across the group of 16, I found there were a number of common issues. In an attempt to provide feedback on the delivery of the presentations, I wrote a text with the students’ problems in mind. The text was exactly 16 sentences long and contained sentences such as the following:

  • Your presentations yesterday went well and I was very pleased with a number of areas.
  • However, there were a number of key areas, which I think need to be worked on.
  • Firstly, most of you have issues with your supporting arguments, your counter-arguments and your rebuttals.
  • Secondly, I feel most of you have incorporated too much detail into your arguments.
  • Reading aloud is not acceptable – it makes the presentation sound unnatural.

This lesson began with a revision of the previous lesson, which had focused on connected speech, in particular on elision between consonants and vowels, and the use of schwa in unstressed vowels.

After having elicited the rules from the learners and gotten them to come up with a few examples, they were given a sentence each from my 16-sentenced content feedback. They were asked to do the following:

  • To analyse the sentence for connected speech
  • To practice saying the sentence out loud
  • To memorise the sentence and get their partner to test them.

After having supported the learners throughout these tasks, I then instructed them to all stand for the fun part: without using their pieces of paper, they had to move themselves around the room, repeating their sentences to their classmates until they successfully identified the order of the sentences should go together in order to make a coherent text.

I must admit that I hadn’t forewarned them that the sentences made a coherent text; however, I felt this added an element of surprise. Furthermore, it meant they had to exercise their knowledge of Discourse Analysis to put the text back together, using cohesive devices to signal connections between sentences. Finally, it offered them an opportunity to flex their memory muscles.

The learners seemed to focus primarily on putting the text back together, which at first raised a slight cause of concern for me. However, in the end it turned out to be a God-send, because when they read the text ‘aloud’ to check the order was correct, the penny dropped and they realised there was a message hidden in the bottle for them!

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