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Students value screencasts as feedback

favicon Last week, I did a little experiment: Instead of offering written feedback on my students’ essay drafts, I recorded screencasts.

It was fun and took about the same amount of time — five to eight minutes — as typing comments in Google Docs.

Here’s an example. Note: The screencast is five minutes long, but you’ll get the gist within the first minute. Don’t feel like you need to watch the whole thing. It’s not particularly scintillating! Also, the volume is a little low.

I made sure to ask my students what they thought of the screencast idea. All but two students preferred getting oral comments. They liked that I was thinking through their paper, trying to make sense of their ideas.

On the other hand, students noted that screencasts — especially short ones — cannot offer specific, targeted feedback. If my purpose is to give general comments about a paper’s focus and organization, then the screencast is perfect. If my goal is to talk grammar, it’s best to go the written route.

One of my students said, “Why don’t you do both?” Very funny. He doesn’t understand the English teacher’s paper load.

But it does get me thinking. It makes sense that I read a student’s essay three times: once for content (screencast), once for grammar (written comments), and once to grade (highlighting a rubric). When combined with a student’s peer editor and online writing mentor, that’s sufficient support in a typical two-week essay window.

Plus, the screencasts are more human. They give students the feeling that a real person — not just an English teacher — is reading their work. I think it’s a great way to communicate care. favicon


  1. Megan

    I have been looking forward to your thoughts on this! I have stopped giving grammar feedback on final drafts (unless I’m requesting the student rewrite for a higher grade), and have moved toward more holistic commenting. I like the idea of doing line-by-line feedback in Google Docs for the rough draft, then screencast/rubric feedback for the final. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Mark Isero

    Thank you, Megan, for your comment! I agree with you that a screencast for the final essay is a good idea. After all, at that point, we want to acknowledge students’ growth and thank them for their hard work (as well as suggest next steps, of course).

    But I also think a screencast (or a real-life writing conference) is best at the beginning, too, if a student is way off on her thesis or organization.

    Next year, I might have my students record a screencast back to me (or to their peer editor) to talk about their revisions and writing growth.

    • Megan

      I like that idea too! I’m working with 7th graders, so the feedback is probably not as in-depth as you are giving with your AP students, but they still want to improve and respond SO well to both specific and holistic feedback. Gives me a lot to think about as I plan my writing program for next year!

      By the way, I heard about your blog from Jessica Gammell, who ran some National Equity Program training in my district. It has been a great resource – thank you!

  3. Mark Isero

    Megan, it’s great that you heard about Iserotope through Jessica. She’s wonderful. Let me know if you want to think through some of your ideas for next year. I’m always looking for thoughtful colleagues.

Please share your brilliant insights!