In a previous post, I emphasized that students need an abundance of positive comments before they really believe that what they have done is good.
Likewise, when we examine our comments to students in the margins and at the end of their papers, we may discover that the messages that we think are positive or neutral appear to the students as negative ones. For example, in “Good topic sentence. Follow it up with more evidence” the message seems to us to be a positive; however, the second sentence deflats the praise. The previous examples strikes students as a “set up and slap down” comment.
Students may see our statements or questions as direct commands rather than suggestions. “Can you think of other possibilities?” can easily be translated as “You dummy, why can’t you get a good answer?”
When we write on students’ papers, we have to promote a positive tone since many students will read any non-positive statement as a negative one.
If you are interested in implementing formative assessment in the classroom, my book,
Formative Assessment: Responding to Students is available through Eye-on-Education.