Reshaping the Value of Grammatical Feedback on Writing Using Colors

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This presentation introduces a new approach to error correction that features the use of colors as a code. Using colors to highlight patterns in students’ errors allows them to readily notice their strengths and weaknesses in grammar. This enhanced awareness focuses attention and motivates students to develop their grammatical accuracy.

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  • Hi! I am a postgraduate student pursuing my Master's Degree in Linguistics. I came across your presentation and I have chosen to make this topic as my thesis proposal. I was wondering if you have had written any papers/books on this topic because I really need more references to complete my research. By the way, thank you for such an inspiring idea. - Eve
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  • Hi Sue,
    Sorry for the delayed reply. I hope the idea was useful in some way in your new class! :)

    Dan
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  • Hi Dan
    I am a newly trained teacher and am about to teach English at a local community house. When doing my studies early last year (GCTESOL), I saw your presentation and am now inspired to use it with my new class. Thanks for the show. Sue
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Reshaping the Value of Grammatical Feedback on Writing Using Colors

  1. 1. Reshaping the Value of Grammatical Feedback on Writing Using University of Montana/ Toyo University, Japan Dan Brown TESOL Convention, Boston March 25, 2010 C o l o r s
  2. 2. Goals of this presentation <ul><li>Introduce a new technique in giving corrective feedback on student writing </li></ul><ul><li>Illustrate why and how this technique can be effective, and in which contexts </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage creativity in responding to student errors in more beneficial ways </li></ul>
  3. 3. Do you spend a lot of time giving students feedback on their writing? Is this one of your most time-consuming roles as an English language teacher?
  4. 4. How do you respond to grammatical errors in your students’ writing? Discuss with a neighbor…… (2 minutes) <ul><li>Describe the context of your teaching (age, level, needs) </li></ul><ul><li>What approach(es) do you use or have you used for corrective feedback on writing and why ? </li></ul>
  5. 5. Popular Approaches to Corrective Feedback <ul><li>Correct all errors for students </li></ul><ul><li>Guide students to self-correct: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Show exact location of errors (circling or underlining), students self-correct </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Indicate in margin that there is/are error(s) in a particular line, students locate and self-correct </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Show location and error type using a code of symbols to represent different categories (such as “SV” for subect-verb agreement), students self-correct </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Focused Feedback: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus on one type of error in each writing assignment, often as a follow-up to classroom instruction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus negotiated with students (students request) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Holistic: Comment generally on student weaknesses </li></ul><ul><li>None: Don’t waste time on error correction! </li></ul>
  6. 6. Research on error correction in second language writing <ul><li>Defining “effectiveness” </li></ul><ul><li> (i.e. Improved accuracy in new writings over time) </li></ul><ul><li>Research challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Inconclusive (the debate remains open!!) </li></ul><ul><li>Focused feedback has shown more substantial evidence towards improved accuracy </li></ul><ul><li>Students tend to prefer having the opportunity to self-correct </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>More research is needed that looks at learners and how they react to and engage with feedback (not just looking at the writings) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Using a code with colors, rather than symbols or abbreviations
  9. 9. The idea of using colors as a code
  10. 10. Group work (peer help in responding to teacher’s feedback) became successful with colors <ul><li>My hypothesis  It made students more confident to request/receive help from classmates to correct their grammar errors together. </li></ul><ul><li>Students could see easily whether their partner could help them with a particular color/category (“she seems to understand green and I don’t”) </li></ul><ul><li>It became a game (?) </li></ul>
  11. 11. A bit fanatical about color-coding
  12. 12. Why were the Thai students more active with colors, and what other benefits might there be from using a color code? My questions:
  13. 13. <ul><li>YOUR TASK : </li></ul><ul><li>Review the handout, </li></ul><ul><li>“ Sample Color Grammar Key” </li></ul><ul><li>2. Have a glance through student A ’s writing portfolio that follows. </li></ul><ul><li>3. What do you notice about her grammar? </li></ul>
  14. 14. Student t A Writing 1
  15. 15. Student A Writing 2
  16. 16. Student t A Writing 3
  17. 17. Student t A Writing 4
  18. 18. Student t A Writing 5
  19. 19. Student t A Writing 6
  20. 20. Student t A Writing 7
  21. 21. How can you describe this student’s strengths/weaknesses in her written grammar?
  22. 22. Same student’s writings, different teacher’s feedback
  23. 23. Student t A Writing 1
  24. 24. Student t A Writing 2
  25. 25. Student t A Writing 3
  26. 26. Student t A Writing 4
  27. 27. Student t A Writing 5
  28. 28. Student t A Writing 6
  29. 29. Student t A Writing 7
  30. 30. What can you say about her grammar this time?
  31. 31. Writing 1 Student t B
  32. 32. How can you describe this student’s strengths/weaknesses in written grammar?
  33. 33. One purpose of colors: Raising students’ awareness “… .so compared to other feedback it was easier to understand my weak points. For example, pink was a weakness in my writing.”
  34. 34. Supported by current theory in second language learning Noticing and awareness are necessary for language acquisition. Schmidt, 2001 Nabei & Swain, 2002
  35. 35. Action research study <ul><li>Exploring students’ reactions to color-coded feedback </li></ul>
  36. 36. The Class <ul><li>Content-Based ESL course, University of Hawaii : </li></ul><ul><li>8 week semester </li></ul><ul><li>Writing focus, 1 writing per week </li></ul><ul><li>Diverse group of 15 adult learners </li></ul><ul><li>English needs mostly for academic purposes </li></ul><ul><li>Most students expressed strong interest in improving </li></ul><ul><li>accuracy in writing </li></ul>
  37. 37. The Writing Assignment <ul><li>Students must submit re-writes </li></ul><ul><li>(a 2nd draft, self-corrected) </li></ul><ul><li>Grading based on content/organization (not grammar). </li></ul><ul><li>Students encouraged not to be scared of errors (stressing usefulness for learning!) </li></ul>
  38. 38. Students’ reactions to the feedback <ul><li>Quotes from focus-group interviews conducted in the students’ native languages: </li></ul>
  39. 39. Awareness = MOTIVATION “ It reminds me, so then I feel challenged. Every time I saw the blue one, I thought, ‘Oh, maybe my weakness is in agreement, so maybe next time I won’t make such mistakes again’…to make the blues disappear. Before this, I didn’t realize about agreement—so many blues!” -Indonesian graduate student
  40. 40. Motivation = Monitoring & Focused EFFORT “ I noticed that my weakness is in ‘green’, so I can only correct green parts…so I can reinforce that.” -Japanese adults, business purposes “… I have made many careless mistakes such as singular/plural agreement. I can focus on those points and I can correct them predominantly…”
  41. 41. Motivation, “ I knew there were certain grammar points which were not marked. I didn’t know which points were my strengths before. Noticing it this time has raised my confidence.” CONFIDENCE
  42. 42. Follow-up study To what extent does color-coded feedback help raise students’ awareness of their strengths & weaknesses in written grammar? How commonly do you make errors in writing for each of the grammar categories below? Not Very Common Common Subject/Verb Agreement 1 2 3 4 5 6 Singular/Plural Agreement 1 2 3 4 5 6 Verb Tenses 1 2 3 4 5 6 Articles 1 2 3 4 5 6 Prepositions 1 2 3 4 5 6
  43. 43. Follow-up study To what extent does color-coded feedback help raise students’ awareness of their strengths & weaknesses in written grammar? How commonly do you make errors in writing for each of the grammar categories below? Not Very Common Common Subject/Verb Agreement 1 2 3 4 5 6 Singular/Plural Agreement 1 2 3 4 5 6 Verb Tenses 1 2 3 4 5 6 Articles 1 2 3 4 5 6 Prepositions 1 2 3 4 5 6
  44. 44. Japanese Univ. undergraduate students 2 classes, 50 students Voluntary English course (motivated) Upper-intermediate level Only 3 writings over the semester Surveys of strength/weaknesses in grammar given before and after receiving feedback. Control group given coded feedback (without colors)
  45. 45. Student A Writing 1
  46. 46. Student A Writing 2
  47. 47. Student A Writing 3
  48. 48. A Student Perception of Strengths/Weaknesses Weakness Strength
  49. 49. Student B Writing 1
  50. 50. Student B Writing 2
  51. 51. Student B Writing 3
  52. 52. Student Perception of Strengths/Weaknesses Weakness Strength B
  53. 53. Student C Writing 1
  54. 54. Student C Writing 2
  55. 55. Student C Writing 3
  56. 56. C Student Perception of Strengths/Weaknesses Weakness Strength
  57. 57. Student D Writing 1
  58. 58. Student D Writing 2
  59. 59. Student D Writing 3
  60. 60. D Student Perception of Strengths/Weaknesses Weakness Strength
  61. 61. Shift from ‘How many errors?’ to noticing ‘What kind of errors?’ Focus on Quantity Quality
  62. 65. This would not be motivating!!!
  63. 66. Will this technique work for all classrooms, all teachers, and all students? Discuss with your neighbors possible challenges or difficulties in using color-coded feedback. (3 min.)
  64. 67. When, where, and for which students might color feedback be effective? <ul><li>Factors to consider in your own unique teaching context: </li></ul><ul><li>Proficiency level </li></ul><ul><li>Educational setting, Future needs </li></ul><ul><li>Student Motivation </li></ul><ul><li>Importance of Accuracy </li></ul><ul><li>Age, Prior Grammar Knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Color blindness </li></ul>
  65. 68. Training students to use a code <ul><li>1 hour of class time in the first week </li></ul><ul><li>Depending on their prior grammar knowledge, use examples/exercises to introduce the categories </li></ul><ul><li>Students work in pairs to make corrections on an example writing that has received color feedback </li></ul><ul><li>Give time for students to ask questions and get comfortable with the system </li></ul>
  66. 69. Suggestions for adapting this technique to your classroom <ul><li>It may only takes a few writings for students to become aware of strengths/ weaknesses </li></ul><ul><li>After weaknesses are identified, it could save time in knowing how to give less, but more focused feedback </li></ul><ul><li>Could use only a few colors at a time, possibly to reinforce grammar that is being taught at particular times </li></ul>
  67. 70. In Conclusion <ul><li>Be creative </li></ul><ul><li>Put yourself in your students’ shoes. </li></ul><ul><li>Make sure it’s worth both your time and your students’ time to respond to errors in writing. </li></ul><ul><li>What do students actually do with the feedback you give? And how can you imagine them learning from it? </li></ul>
  68. 71. Sharpie (Accent) Retractable Highlighters These save time and make it manageable-- No need for removing caps
  69. 72. Thank you for coming! Questions or comments? [email_address]
  70. 73. Please cite as: <ul><li>Brown, D. (2010). Reshaping the value of grammatical feedback on writing using colors. Presentation delivered at the 44 th Annual TESOL convention. Boston, MA, March 24-27. </li></ul>

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