My Favorite Formative Feedback Strategy for Teachers: StopLight Feedback With Google Forms

When I teach students to write essays, I like to be involved in all stages of the process, checking their work as we go so I can tell if they are getting the concepts or need more practice. While I love conferencing with students, timing does not always permit me to meet with them multiple times during a single unit. And though walking around peeking at their work is helpful, students work at different paces and I’m not always able to see what I need at that moment. So, what to do? One of my favorite strategies for quick feedback is Stoplight Feedback using the good old Google Form.

Let's get to it!

First, I set up my form to collect student names, class periods, and the piece of writing that I’m wanting to check. In this form, I was looking for their thesis statements. Then I post the form to our LMS.
Sample Google Form that asks for student name, class period, and thesis statement so teacher can collect formative data.

When students have completed their first thesis statement are ready for feedback, they enter their info on the Google Form.

To make this work effectively, I prepare ahead of time by organizing my form so that the student responses create a Google Sheet. Then, I hide the columns with student information (name, email, etc.).

This shows how to hide columns in a Google Form in order to protect student privacy while giving student formative feedback.

I click the SHARE button and change the access so that anyone with the link can view the sheet.

This shows how to share a Google Sheet so that students can see their thesis statement and get stoplight feedback.

Finally, I set up my form so that when students submit, they get a response that says: Thanks for submitting. “Copy the link and paste it into your browser for feedback: <link>.”

Showing how to change the submission message on a Google Form to a link that students can open for feedback.

By sharing the link this way, students who have not yet submitted can’t see the feedback sheet and won’t be able to copy someone else’s thesis statement (or whatever writing piece students are submitting). Once students do submit, all identifying information is hidden, so I don’t mind them seeing other student work.

Now, for the fun part. I am able to sit at my front table and give immediate feedback, all while being available to the whole class for questions. I have the Google Sheet open on my computer, and when responses come in, I read the statement, type suggestions, and then color-code the cell. I like to use stop-light feedback so students know immediately whether or not they are ready to move on: Green means that the thesis statement is acceptable, Yellow means that students are on the right track, but some changes are required, and Red means that the student needs to look at my suggestions and try again. Additionally, I bold any suggestions I make, so the student can see my thoughts right away. Students can submit again and again until they get Green feedback.

An example of Stoplight Formative Feedback for writing.
Notice the date - this was our first time writing thesis statements, so I was much more lenient with what I was green-lighting than I might ordinarily be.

Let me tell you, students LOVE this method, and often tell me that they’ve never had a teacher help them this way before. The fact that it’s immediate is highly motivating for students. They can look at the suggestions and try again right away. Additionally, once they’ve submitted once, they can see other student models and real-time suggestions, which helps them to improve their own writing.

A quick note, however. I have students type out their thesis statements on a Google Doc before submitting to the form. They copy and paste the statement onto the form, all while maintaining their original. Then, as they get suggestions from me, I have them copy and paste again under the original and make the updates on that one (and so on and so on). This keeps their changes visible to them right on their Doc, letting them see the progression of their thoughts and how they are working to improve each time.
An example of student progression of thesis statement writing with revisions.

I hope you try this out and love this strategy as much as I do. It’s a surefire way to see all parts of a student’s writing process early in the game while you can still help them improve rather than waiting until the essay is submitted. If you use this method, I’d love to hear how it goes for you!

Have a great day!