“I feel proud of myself when I see these.”
“They are helpful because I feel that you are encouraging me and understand what I’m writing.”
These are two of the comments students wrote in response to my survey question: “On your essays, I underline in GREEN words, expressions, sentences, ideas, details and examples that were good. Are these GREEN underlines helpful to you?”
Most Writing instructors like to give students positive feedback on their essays in addition to indications of where they have grammar mistakes or where they have content problems. These positive comments often are in the form of a message at the end of the essay. However, there are a few problems with giving feedback in this end-of-the-essay manner.
First, it takes time and extra mental energy to write these in a style that will be meaningful to students.
Second, they are usually too general to be of much use for students to apply to future writing assignments.
And third, it requires the teacher to write with clear handwriting, something that many of us don’t have a talent for.
In one program, on their essay rubrics, they now “include a section where students can earn points for successful language use rather than being strictly penalized for only misuses.” This is admirable, but it (1) involves extra work and calculations for the teacher and (2) doesn’t specify exactly what the student did successfully in the essay.
The technique of using green underlines is very user-friendly time-wise and energy-wise for the teacher to use.