Day 20: Covert Feedback

This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my teaching day every day with Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge.

Feedback. We writers thrive on it and we fear it.

I want feedback to lead to the next step. But in the writing workshop, sometimes it has to be covert. Something that feels like it germinates from the writer and not from me.

A asks me to read something right now.  A is in a fragile writer moment.  She wants her work to be blessed. If I have my wits about me, I suppress my need to improve and save my “next thing” for the next day. Limiting myself to compliments and questions.

B says he doesn’t know what to write.
This is when my full-scale teacher mode threatens to kick in pulling out all the ways writers grow ideas. But honestly,
those strategies weren’t good enough for B the first million  (that what it feels like) times he heard them. He needs something else.
What exactly, I’m not sure of. So I ask questions…
Is it about the genre?
Is it his writing history?
Is there something going on at home, on the playground?
I ask questions and don’t “teach” B. I listen, and he talks.
Then I leave.
I let B simmer, stare out the window, at his notebook, at mentor texts.
I write a note to myself to check in later.

C is reading a book during writer’s workshop.I’m done she says.
Gasp! When you’re done, you’ve just begun rings in my ears.
My urge is to look at her writing and dig into all of the possible things she could/should do.
But, if I put myself in her shoes,
I congratulate her. Yes!
Why not? She s accomplished something, and that’s a great feeling.
Why should I tear that from her?
Why not just venture into the best writing tool in the world, a few good mentor texts.
Why not take this opportunity to play with them. To try to write a beginning or an ending like the mentor.
Who knows what might filter into this writer’s mind. If nothing else the study of beginnings and endings.

on the best of writing workshop days,
I hear.
I think I need to look my beginning.
I think I want to change this.
what if I…

Indirect, covert feedback.
The kind that pushes the writer from their insides to see what they can do next.




14 thoughts on “Day 20: Covert Feedback

  1. I’m with Terje about wanting to learn to write with you. Loved these lines, which is the essence of great teaching:
    “Indirect, covert feedback.
    The kind that pushes the writer from their insides to see what they can do next.”

  2. Yes, there you are surely finding the times to make an original response tailored to that child. Instead of working automatically (when we’re done…) They might not start writing when you leave them but you served the greater purpose of developing authentic writers.

  3. So much about knowing our students and knowing the process. I imagine that the more you write the better you get at all of this. This was very evident with this piece.

  4. Too funny! I copied the exact same lines as Tara . . . Being sneaky about feedback . . . that just right amount. . . You said, “Indirect, covert feedback.
    The kind that pushes the writer from their insides to see what they can do next.”

    Providing JUST what the student NEEDS.



    And I agree! I would come have a writing workshop with you as well! What great thinking!

  5. I know that my needs vary, and I know that about my grown children and the grandchildren. I know that about those who exercise with me or talk about books in our group. So why not find the varies needs of our students? In your teacherly way, that’s what you’re teaching us, Julieanne, a grand message!

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