Series Getting Better at Personalized Learning : Making Feedback Meaningful


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • W:  Writing Standards 6-12
  • 9-10:  9th & 10th Grades
  • 2a: 
    Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas,
    concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective
    selection, organization, and analysis of content.

    a. Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to
    make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g.,
    headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to
    aiding comprehension.

    b. Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended
    definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples
    appropriate to the audience'\x80\x99s knowledge of the topic.

    c. Use appropriate and varied transitions to link the major sections of the text,
    create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and

    d. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the
    complexity of the topic.

    e. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to
    the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.

    f. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports
    the information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or
    the significance of the topic).

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • W:  Writing Standards 6-12
  • 9-10:  9th & 10th Grades
  • 5: 
    Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing,
    rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most
    significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should
    demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grades
    9-10 on page 54.)

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • W:  Writing Standards 6-\x80\x9312
  • 9-10:  9th & 10th Grades
  • 8: 
    Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital
    sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each
    source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text
    selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a
    standard format for citation.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Making Feedback Meaningful

Lesson Objective: Provide personalized and customized feedback
Grades 6-12 / All Subjects / Feedback
10 MIN
ELA.W.9-10.2a | ELA.W.9-10.5 | ELA.W.9-10.8


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does this feedback strategy help students become more independent learners?
  2. What structures does Mr. McComb have in place to keep all students engaged and productive?
  3. How does Mr. McComb use small group instruction to help students make progress towards the standards?


  • Private message to alex jauregui

He reminds me a lot of Carl Anderson - If you want to check out effective feedback or "conferring" with K-8 grade students, check out his book "A Teacher's Guide to Writing Conferences." I just finished a 4 part webinar with him on and it was amazing. Mr. McComb was just as amazing too!

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  • Private message to Dana Williams

1. Effective feedback needs to be individualized that meets the needs of a particular student.  Using small group instruction for remediation is a good idea.  It allows students to work with a mentor in order to better complete assignments.  Individualized feedback allows students to understand where improvement is needed.  Students will be more receptive to feedback if they feel that they have the opportunity to have their questions answered individually.

2.Mr. McComb effectively uses small group instruction and offers differentiated instructions for all students.   He supports peer to peer instruction and provides outlets for independent learning.

3. Mr. McComb uses small group instruction to allow students who are struggling individual time in which he is able to provide feedback to them.  His small group instruction also allows for scaffolding of each student.

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  • Private message to Elizabeth Owonikoko

Effective feedback is important to students because it provides information on what they did well and needs to improve on. The teacher gives students guided feedback using shared Google Docs and blogging. Giving feedback helps students worked individually to meet their learning goals and usually go back and correct their mistakes.

The feedback strategy allowed the students time and to think and to work individually to enhance their performance. To keep the students engaged and on task, Mr. McComb told the students to read the handout on diverse opening sentence before coming to class. This is to prepare and engage the students more during the lesson.

All students learn differently. Mr. McComb realized that fact and used small group instruction to help students who need intervention to work on identified skills. The students get explanation and feedback on their writing so they can improve to reach their learning goals.

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  • Private message to Lan Pham
  1. How does this feedback strategy help students become more independent learners?

Effective feedback is vital to students as it provides them with information on what they did well and what they need to improve. In the video, the teacher provides students with directional feedback using Google Docs shared and blogging. This feedback strategy helps students become more independent learners. The students are given an opportunity to go back and correct the mistakes or errors in their work. Moreover, this gives students more time and space to think and continue working independently to improve their performance. 

2. What structures does Mr. McComb have in place to keep all students engaged and productive?

In order to keep all students engaged and productive, Mr. McComb requires the students to read the handout on different opening sentence techniques prior to coming to class. By doing this, all the students are prepared and engage more in the lesson. They recognize what technique they often use, identify what they like, and what they want to integrate into their writing. Moreover, the discussion with their partner helps their learning more productive and enhances their understanding and performance.

3. How does Mr. McComb use small group instruction to help students make progress towards the standards?

We always have diversity in students' learning. Mr. McComb uses small group instruction to help students who need some intervention to work on targetted skills. These students get the explanation, analysis, and feedback on their drafts so that they can improve their writing to reach the desired outcomes. 

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  • Private message to PITTA ASHA KIRAN


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External Resource Materials


  • Making Feedback Meaningful Transcript

    Sean: I'm Sean McComb, Teacher Laureate at Teaching Channel. I teach students English here at Patapsco High

    Making Feedback Meaningful Transcript

    Sean: I'm Sean McComb, Teacher Laureate at Teaching Channel. I teach students English here at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts.

    Today my goal is to move toward more personalized and customized learning for students by giving them targeted feedback and differentiated feedback based on the needs that they've demonstrated. All right. Rock it.

    These students are going to be juniors in high school and soon, one day, in college, and they're not going to have the same kind of hands-on direction. I feel it's my responsibility to help prepare them to be more independent learners.

    Our focus is to continue to think about what we're learning about justice, what you're learning about your inquiry question and how we can share that.

    Right now, students are revising blogs. These blogs are based on an inquiry project that they're initiating into social justice, and they're getting different feedback from me based on what their blog drafts showed me.

    Where's the author trying to hook us with something? Then ...

    When I set up this, I was thinking that I wanted to have new learning at the front so that even my highest-achieving students with their first drafts were able to continue to make growth and continue to improve their writing. I set up that mini lesson around opening sentence techniques.

    Pause and think about it. What's happening in these first few sentences?

    Speaker 2: [inaudible 00:01:29]

    Sean: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    Speaker 2: They give their opinion right here.

    Speaker 3: I bracketed that little section of dialogue.

    Sean: Students' openings have been pretty repetitive, so I wanted to give them a chance to see some different techniques and try to integrate that.

    Let's do our degree of thumb. All right. It looks like we're feeling pretty good. Alissa is wavering, but we can have a chat. Okay.

    Then I'll be working with students to revise their first drafts of their blog entries.

    What's going to happen next is I'm going to pull a few folks who had similar ways to grow or improve their work over to these side tables here and work with you a little bit more closely. For the rest of you, you have ways to get better without me bopping around to everyone. Use each other's resources, and then I'll check back in.

    With that new learning in place for everyone, I also wanted to look back at what the previous work had shown me were some deficits and think about, "How can I target some of those deficits that were greatest?"

    Let's look, if we could, look at the template together.

    That's why I chose to pull that group of students to the side and looked at that trend across all of their work and said, "Can I provide some resources to really target that and make a difference?" We used a strategy called a "Three-part source integration," where I introduce the quote.

    Who said it, where they said it, what they said, and then make sure that it's clear to the reader why it matters.

    Speaker 4: What if I use a speech, Martin Luther King in his speech said ...

    Sean: Okay. Then you would say what he said, and then what would we say afterwards?

    Speaker 4: It's important to consider the following ...

    Sean: Right, and it wouldn't have to be word for word, but it's about you connecting, why you're citing that speech to your more general issue. First step in our blog [inaudible 00:03:13] is to try to do that so that I have a chance to check it and make sure you're on the right step, and then we can do the rest.

    All of the students who walked in the door today, not having demonstrated that learning, before they left had closed that gap.

    While that's happening, the students who I'm not with need to be able to make progress as well. That's where I structured giving them some highlighting in their work to think about where they might need to get some attention. It's like managing the traffic, so we're red, yellow and green, and a way to draw their attention to their writing and what needs the most attention first.

    As a reader, and you'll see in the comments, as I'm looking at these two paragraphs, students who gave me work through Google docs, I can add voice notes using Google Read and Write. Students who used Word Online, I can highlight and integrate comments. Students who gave me their work in paper form, I take out the colored highlighters and give that to them.

    Does that make sense why I asked you, was it creative writing, a little bit?

    Speaker 5: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I tried doing anecdote, but it just ... It was a drag.

    Sean: The anecdote just kept going.

    Speaker 5: Yeah.

    Sean: I'm also trying to not give them too much. It's really a tenuous balance between just wanting to hand them the better language or the better answer versus really trying to help them own their learning and become more independent.

    On the right margin, that's a comment. Please click on that and make sure you see the comments.

    Speaker 6: Oh.

    Sean: Trying to put out the bread crumbs that will lead them down the path to better writing but have to put them frequently enough that they stay on the path.

    Hopefully, in the next few minutes, you guys will have integration to show me.

    You do not, Craig? Perfect.

    Did you listen to the comment?

    Speaker 7: I did.

    Sean: What did that tell you in your words?

    Speaker 7: I needed to tie the book to the events of the Hungarian people.

    Sean: Right. Right.

    Speaker 7: I'm kind of at a loss.

    Sean: Let's step back and think about, what did these two situations have in common?

    Speaker 7: [inaudible 00:05:07]

    Sean: You can maybe think about it or tell me, what do you think?

    Speaker 7: All the people are being persecuted for what they're trying to do for themselves.

    Sean: Then is that a commonality between the two that you can get to and then transition from?

    Speaker 7: Yeah.

    Sean: Are you saying "Yeah" just because I said something [crosstalk 00:05:27]?

    Speaker 7: Yeah. I got it.

    Sean: Okay.

    Speaker 7: I think I got it this time.

    Sean: Okay. Call me over if you need me.

    Speaker 7: Thank you.

    Sean: I'm really trying to help students become more independent learners. It feels great as a teacher when I can swoop in and show them exactly what they should be doing, but that's not helping them become more independent.

    I want you to read one of the student models on the [inaudible 00:05:48]. Can you get to that?

    Speaker 7: Yes.

    Sean: Then let's have a chat.

    Speaker 7: Okay.

    Sean: Okay.

    Instead, I'm focusing on trying to make sure students are aware of and use their resources with my direction to improve their work.

    Speaker 9: I just didn't know how to get to your Website.

    Sean: Did you ask?

    Sometimes that means that, if a student raises their hand, I'll ask if they've asked a couple of peers at their table that question first. Sometimes it means asking them have they used the model or have they looked at the comment. If they're stuck, I don't want them to stay stuck and get frustrated.

    Speaker 11: He was already fleeing from violence.

    Sean: What is he fleeing? Can you make it more descriptive?

    I also am trying to hold back handing over answers and instead, posing more questions.

    Speaker 11: Should I keep it in there or would it just be like a long anecdote?

    Sean: The question is how much detail do you need to go into?

    The questions are leading questions, but making sure that I give students the space and the time to arrive at their own learning.

    Speaker 12: Yeah, I changed that.

    Sean: How does that read to you now?

    Speaker 12: It's more general. It doesn't single someone out.

    Sean: Yeah. Yeah.

    I want to be trying to cue their thinking with questioning, which is really what I want to have start happening for themselves within their own mind.

    Talk to me about how this project is going for you.

    One aspect that's built into this model is the opportunity to confer one on one with students during class. It's an opportunity for students to really advocate for themselves, to say that they're stuck.

    Speaker 13: I'm having trouble finding things [inaudible 00:07:24] my question is how [inaudible 00:07:25] into what I don't really know? Like what the topic is supposed to be based on.

    Sean: There's a great instance of that today when a student was frustrated, and it was really over a misconception about the assignment, and she was seeing a limitation on her that wasn't truly there, but I hadn't communicated clearly enough. This is a student who is a high-flying student so isn't used to hitting these barriers. I think they were probably compounding frustrations.

    Speaker 13: I didn't find a lot of things, so I couldn't really continue on with my blog.

    Sean: Have you looked at the online museum exhibit about these?

    Speaker 13: [crosstalk [inaudible 00:07:58] started looking.

    Sean: Because we have this process in place, we had this moment and this opportunity to confer.

    Does that seem like ... Am I bringing you in the right direction?

    Speaker 13: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    Sean: Okay.

    In that first moment, the frustration was still so prevalent with her.

    Can you help me understand why you're feeling constricted by it?

    I could so clearly see in the second conversation we had, as she had processed that there might be a way forward, that I'm not going to be stuck here forever, that this is going to be a dead end, she was able to change.

    Speaker 13: Tell me to write a speech. I got you. Tell me to write a essay. Done. Blog? I don't even know blog. It's tripping me out.

    Sean: I would say that the line between blog and essay, we can blur a lot more than you're thinking. Let's talk about how we can erase those borderlines for you a little bit more and set you free.

    By the end of that second conversation, I saw someone who was really starting to change the way that they saw their work and once again, just supported for me the importance of having a structure that is flexible, that allows students to make their needs known and to address them in short cycles.

    Please give me some information about what went well ...

    One way that I'll know how students felt about today's learning is to see the reflections in their workshop blog. I want to hear what's going well and where they made progress and then, what's next or where their challenge is right now. We could have that back and forth.

    Is this the opening sentence technique you want to use, a quotation?

    It would be great if I could give all the students the comments that I wish I could give them all the time, but that's just not a realistic possibility. How can we lure them in?

    I'm searching for life balance as a high school English teacher, so I think as we move through this model and as I make expectations clearer, give them more exemplars, I can maybe still dedicate the same amount of time but I can provide much more feedback on much more work to students and try to find that work/life balance that is so difficult to find in this particular content area.

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School Details

Patapsco High & Center For Arts
8100 Wise Avenue
Dundalk MD 21222
Population: 1463

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Sean McComb
English Language Arts / 9 10 11 12 / Teacher


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