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Giving Feedback

I find it is important to give honest feedback to children.  
I won't tell a child he's doing a good job, unless I honestly feel it is a good job.  
I tell the truth.

How do you give feedback? This post explains the importance of giving honest feedback, and how it can be done quickly and easily.

I choose to be honest with children.They know how they're doing. If they're not putting in much effort, and you tell them they're doing a good job, isn't that giving them the wrong message? Isn't that telling them they don't need to try?

I've often found the best way to build self esteem is to give opportunities for the child to work. I'm sure most people, after completing a very difficult project, are beaming with pride. I remember caressing the cover of certain reports in college, simply because it was the result of a whole lot of hard work, and I felt proud that it was completed.

In every day work, I use a simple system. Since I work with young ones, they need feedback within a day if possible.  Since many are non readers or beginning readers, I need to make it simple to understand. I use highlighters and a traffic light system.

How do you give feedback? This post explains the importance of giving honest feedback, and how it can be done quickly and easily.
I'll highlight the child's name in one of these colors:

Green: Go! You're doing just what's expected of a second grader.

Yellow: Caution: There are some things you need to be careful about

Red: Stop! There's a problem here.

There is one more color I use: purple. Purple means "above and beyond the expectations of a second grader." Purple means they are royalty.

I'm very stingy with purple. They really have to go "above and beyond" to get it. And they should be extremely proud when they earn it.

These are the papers I usually show off to the whole class.  Not only do they get the feedback they need, they are now role models for the others. (Of course, it doesn't hurt that I bow to them, and refer to them as "kings and queens".)

And what about the kids who gets yellow or red?  Does this destroy their self esteem? Of course not! They know that if they didn't put in any effort, they won't get much in return.  They also know if they don't like what they got, they have the power to change that. I often remind them:  when the going gets tough, the tough get going!

Once in a while, I have to give myself a "red." 

If a good portion of the class aren't giving me what I want, that's a teacher problem! I tell them honestly that I goofed, apologize for not getting the ideas to them properly, and I promise to do better. (Being a role model matters!) 

I have another post about giving feedback here:

Quick, Easy, Honest Feedback: Here's an idea that will make your life easier, and give the kiddos the information they need to grow!

How do you give feedback?

How do you give feedback? This post explains the importance of giving honest feedback, and how it can be done quickly and easily.


  1. Finally someone else who doesn't believe in FALSE praise! I so agree with you! I too work with young students (in small groups). Feedback is so important to them! Because of my small groups I use phrases: Well done(green), Good try(yellow), Try again (red). When I say "Awesome dude" they know they've got it (purple).

  2. I like what you are saying Sally. I'm teaching 4th grade this year, and while I like to give positive reinforcement whenever I can, I'm not about to tell a kid they've done a good job if they haven't.

    However, if there is an aspect of their work that is good, such as the thoughtfulness that is shown, then I'll focus on that. Since all except two of my students are ESL, and some are also learning Khmer at the same time, I do sometimes "overlook" grammatical and spelling errors in the interest of having students express their ideas in English. It's hard to do that at times, as a perfectionist myself, but it is worth it.

    When the kids do well, I often use either smiley face stamps, or stickers. They love it when they get a sticke on their "Write Rights", but they have to get it all right first time (we've usually done a bit of preteaching first, so it's not an unachievable goal).

    I also like to tell kids "almost there" so they know that they can do it. Usually the issues is not one of ability, but of failure to read questions or directions.

    Finally, rather than put crosses on their work, I'll circle the incorrect item and tell them to try again. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries, and other times they read the question and BINGO!

    I definitely agree that the feedback needs to be timely, although sometimes I'm not so good at doing that. I'll keep working on that one though!

  3. Sandy,
    I'm sure I'll be posting again about honest praise vs false praise. Thanks for your input!


  4. Karen,
    I totally agree! Positive reinforcement is needed, and sometimes it's hard to find some positive things to say! But they'll remember it and appreciate it as long as it's honest.

    I've heard it said, more than 3 errors is too much to correct. I usually try to highlight the most important corrections in yellow. (Yellow means "be careful") Otherwise they're not growing, just getting discouraged.

    Thanks for the great input!


  5. Thanks Sally, this is a great idea!! Even though I have older kids, I think this would work really well for them. Maybe I could highlight the 'errors' or final result on their papers. HHMMM. Now I have something else to think about!
    Great Blog!


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