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Feedback about Readers: Supporting Student Identity

Published On: January 10th, 2023 | Categories: Latest News |

By Dr. Jennifer Scoggin and Hannah Schneewind

During Independent Reading in a second-grade classroom, we noticed that one student was flipping back and forth in her book and had a puzzled look on her face. We sat next to her and invited her to tell us what she was thinking about. “I am mostly paying attention to the main character because she usually is so nice, but now she is being mean to her friend.  I was rereading the parts where she was nice. I’m confused.”

Responsive teaching involves making decisions (and avoiding assumptions) in real-time. Every time we listen to a student read aloud or talk about their thinking, we deliberate:  “What is this student doing well? What is a meaningful next step for this student? How can I best teach this next step to them? How can I express this feedback so that it is concise and clear?”  In order to make these decisions, we consider everything we already know about the reader as well as what the reader is doing in the moment.

We could give this student feedback about reading, focusing on the use of a particular strategy. We might say: “You realize that characters can be complicated. One thing you can do is mark the places where the character is acting out of character and ask yourself why is the character behaving this way?  What is motivating this change?”

Or, we could give her feedback that focused on the reader. This student is demonstrating her ability to be meta-cognitive when she reads, an important skill that supports students’ abilities to set goals and sustain complex reading work (Afflerbach, 2022). We could build on that strength and focus on nurturing her metacognition. We might say: “You are the kind of reader who knows that stories are supposed to make sense. You stop when you have a question. How can you help yourself?  What are some strategies you already know that can help you make sense of this confusion about the character?”

The ability to sort through strategies she already knows, apply one in this situation, see if it works, and try another one is related to meta-cognition. By naming that she can help herself, we develop her sense of positive attribution. We are developing her as a reader. The difference between the two types of feedback is subtle but important. Teachers tend to give feedback about reading. We are confident when it comes to strategies for decoding, fluency, and comprehension. When it comes to developing a student’s sense of self as a reader, teachers are less sure about what skillful feedback is, its importance, or what it might sound like.

Peter Afflerbach (2022) notes that “It is one thing to advocate for teaching readers, it is another to achieve it.”  To learn more about how we can use feedback to move from advocating to achieving, please come to our LitCon session titled  Trusting Feedback: Promoting Growth, Agency and Identity on Monday at 2:40 pm. Come with your insights and questions!

Register today for LitCon 2023 to hear Jennifer and Hannah in their presentation Trusting Feedback: Promoting Growth, Agency and Identity on Monday, January 30. Hannah Schneewind and Jennifer Scoggin are the co-creator of Trusting Readers, a group dedicated to collaborating with teachers to design literacy opportunities that invite all students to be engaged and to thrive as readers and writers. Together, they published Trusting Readers: Powerful Practices for Independent Reading with Heinemann in the spring of 2021.

Dr. Jennifer Scoggin
 has been a teacher, author, speaker, curriculum writer, and literacy consultant. Jen is an advocate for both teachers and students and is most happy when she is working alongside children in classrooms. Jen is also the mother of two book lovers; nothing makes her more proud than that. Jen began her career teaching first and second grades in Harlem, New York. In her current role as a literacy consultant, Jennifer collaborates with teachers to create engaging literacy opportunities for children. She holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Teachers College, Columbia University and has previously published two books about literacy instruction and life in the classroom.


Hannah Schneewind has been a teacher, staff developer, curriculum writer, keynote speaker, and national literacy consultant. She brings with her over 25 years of experience to the education world. Hannah’s interest in student and teacher agency and her belief in the power of books informs her work with schools.





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