Yes, I can do it madam!

Indu Srinivasan

“Inspire and bring joy to all those you touch.” – Rod Williams

The bell rang. It was the eighth period. “Madam,” I heard a group of students calling me as I crossed one of the classrooms. “Madam, have you checked our notebooks?”, the students came out of the classroom and enquired. I told them that they will get their notebooks the next day. “Why didn’t you check our notebooks, madam? We were waiting eagerly,” they said. They looked unhappy. I didn’t understand the reason behind their eagerness.

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The next day when I handed over their notebooks, I realized why they were excited to receive them. I saw my students quickly turn over the pages and count – one…two…three…four – and comment, “You know, next time I will get more stars than you!” Yes! To my surprise they were counting the number of stars and smilies and reading my comments. One of my students shouted in happiness. “Madam, I got three stars, a smiley face and you have also given me very good remarks. Thank you.” Another said, “Madam, I got four stars! Can I read my remarks?” Before I could say “yes”, he began reading “I am extremely happy with your work. Keep it up, Vishwa!”

Excited, Vishal shouted, “Madam, thanks for giving me so many stars and good remarks. I had promised you that I would improve my handwriting, and look, I have done it.” “Yes! You did it, Vishal. Can you read out the comment loudly?” He read, “Vishal, you have really put in your sincere efforts and worked hard to improve your handwriting. I’m very happy. Keep it up.” Immediately I asked the class to give him a round of applause. Just then, I heard another student saying, “Madam you had asked me to rewrite the three answers using the key points and I wrote them all and you have drawn a star and a smiley.”

My students were happy and I was contented. I appreciated all the students for showing good work.

Children love to be appreciated and recognized for the efforts that they put in to work on their assignments. They feel happy when they are appreciated by their teachers. With just a few words of praise, encouragement, drawing simple symbols for their good work, I realized that I had created an interest and a willingness amongst the students to perform to the best of their abilities.

It gives us immense pleasure and happiness to correct notebooks that are maintained well and when work is done as per our instructions. It’s quite natural to get disappointed to find unfinished and untidy work in the notebooks and worksheets.

Let us analyze and find out what we really do when we correct the work of students besides ticking and crossing or writing comments like ‘incomplete work’? Do we provide adequate feedback or elaborate comments to students about their work and follow them up? Do we recognize and appreciate students who perform well? How do we recognize our students for their good work? What do we do if we find incorrect answers, spelling errors and untidy work in notebooks? Do we provide corrective measures to improve their work?

thermometer The class work and home assignments done by students give feedback to the teacher on areas which need to be taught better. While checking notebooks a teacher should pay attention to the type of mistakes a child is repeating; is it a mistake related to misunderstanding a particular concept in science or knowledge of grammar? This gives feedback to the teacher on areas which need to be taught better. The lesson plan can then be modified suitably for future.

Writing a comment is a very important task for a teacher in the teaching process. Simple symbols like stars, smilies, candies, butterflies, sunshine, etc., added along with comments in notebooks motivates and helps learners to correct and improve. Writing comments is not easy as it requires much work and is time consuming. However, it is certainly valuable and motivates students to do better. What should we keep in our mind while writing comments? Comments should be comprehensible and clear to the students. Appreciation notes for good work and suggestions for further improvement in particular areas should be given by the teacher. Feedback that guides students to think about the content of their work and gives suggestions on how to improve is a productive instructional strategy. Some general feedback comments include
• Please write the steps of …..
• Include an example to support your ideas
• It’s a long answer question! Please include more detail about…
• Write few more examples of ….
• Show…..in the diagram…
• Don’t copy from the textbook. Please write the method in your own words.
• Use these key points and rewrite the answer…
• Draw the diagram also along with the explanation…

Instead of writing ‘Incomplete work’, a teacher may write motivating remarks like “Dear…. the first four answers are written very well. Please write answers for the last few questions as well.”

When students realize that their work will be carefully corrected, they will take this work more seriously. If they realize that correction of their work is done without adequate care or attention they will in turn react accordingly. I would like all teachers to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes or even more with students to analyzes mistakes and errors when notebooks, worksheets, or assessment sheets are distributed to them after correction so that the students can recognize their mistakes and consider corrections.

The author is a science teacher at K.D. Ambani Vidyamandir, Jamnagar, Gujarat. She can be reached at indu.srini@rediffmail.com.