trusses for gutters
Trusses for roof rain gutters and soffets

When I bought my 1917 bungalow in historic downtown, the necessity for a new roof was apparent.  What was not so obvious, until I delved into the matter with my contractor, was that the new rain gutters could not be applied nor the rotten soffets repaired until the perimeter of the roof was trussed.  So we know when students are failing.

What does this have to do with writing?  Today I’ve been looking broadly and deeply at school data for ELA, monitoring those struggling students who arrived in the next grade level far below basic in performance.  What we don’t know is how to design our classroom for effective brain performance, instead of around textbooks and worksheet examples. The photo shows several of the 50 trusses made to finish the roof renewal.

A great deal of what I believe and try to do as an intervention teacher comes down to those trusses.  Kids need feedback.  Right away. We know from research that the best learning happens in one-on-one tutoring, even on a computer.  Giving the feedback for each response…item by item.  And student brains figure it out!  Additionally, sometimes writing is the best formative assessment, costing little to administer and yielding abundant information for the teacher, yet the least often trusted and selected.

Our students experience a windstorm of new information and the ELL’s a hailstorm of language demands with little attention to accurate, helpful feedback along the way.  Saying “You got a 65.” on a multiple choice test does not qualify as feedback.  Students take a district benchmark and either seldom hear how they did or merely see a score on a report card.  The state standards assessments are even less timely.  Sometime in the summer they get a cut score ranking in the mail.

Do we believe anymore that the human brain can learn from having its correct answers confirmed and its mistakes pointed out?

Some students are fortunate to be with teachers who are listening, assessing and giving the maximum immediate individual feedback humanly possible in a classroom full of young people. However, some are just going on, talking and introducing more and more, like a rainstorm without gutters. An obvious problem is that, as the grade levels progress, the sheer amount of content increases so much that it is difficult to give students specific feedback and teach.  Then that enemy of excellence creeps in, “Coverage.”

But those moments when teachers slow down and give real feedback are applying trusses.  Each will hold up the next bit of learning.  Feedback and feedback and feedback is like a row of trusses, fifty of them going all around the perimeter.  Then my roof could support rain gutters and soffets.  So I’m going into my next cycle of intervention with a contractor’s eye and doing some carpentry on my lesson delivery that will create trusses.



13 responses to “F E E D B A C K”

  1. The roof project was fascinating to read about and the result lovely…thanks for the pictures.

    The analogy is a helpful way of thinking. There are several points to keep thinking about and working into my teaching.


  2. Wow! I will get the book and thanks for the encouraging feedback. 🙂


  3. So glad to have found another Interventionist! 🙂 Have you seen this book? Feedback, by J. Pollock… http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/feedback-jane-e-pollock/1110865673?ean=9781412997430

    I have found it super helpful because it is a quick and easy read, so I can go back to it quickly whenever I need to have my ideas refreshed, and when I need a reminder of what REALLY matters in giving feedback.

    I love your analogy. I struggle with the same things, and am always looking for the best ways to make learning real, to “fit it all in” in my little blocks of time, and to honor the journey that each of my students is on.


  4. This is spot on, and you touch on something else: the need to bring qualitative data into our “data driven” conversations. Big data tells us a little about what might be going on….you’re getting at the why with writing and other forms….and feedback drives intervention that works. Fantastic piece!


  5. Wow, a TED Talk….thank you. Will devour soon.


  6. Yes, a perfect example of what teachers need to think about. Creating an environment too where you aren’t trying to trick them into making a mistake, but guide them into making a correct response is also important. It would be nice for each new year’s teacher to know that they are starting out with a student who has been built on solid ground or has strong trusses before adding the chandelier!


  7. I love your analogy. In the instance of your bungalow, feedback was given and received–it looks lovely. You are right, feedback for students is so important. The Ted Talk linked below also discusses critical feedback in a way aligned to your post. I often use this with my teachers and graduate students and thought you might enjoy. Thanks for this really wonderful piece of wriitng.


  8. This is so important. And well said. I hope it’s okay if I share it with some teachers I am working with today.


  9. So many important things to think about in this post. Feedback is so vital for all of us. Too often we don’t give enough of it.


  10. Your analogy is wonderful and supports what we KNOW about learning. More testing, more low grades does not support more learning just as adding gutters does not always add to the value of your home. You need to shore up the trusses and strenghten the foundation so that kids can learn. Thanks for a wonderful analogy.


  11. I was actually thinking this same thing today when I worked one-on-one with a student who has made little to no progress this year. I went through the parts of the assessment he did well on and the ones that needed improvement, specifying what exactly needed improvement. He seemed receptive. We’ll see how it goes as we continue our work together later this week.


  12. Wow—what a great analogy. Like a rainstorm without gutters…over 100 students, little time to do it all well–we must be creative–I will be looking for my trusses. Thanks for the food for thought. I am going to think about what I need to do as a builder…


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