Revision Memo Feedback

I have been giving my ninth grade students listening tasks recently. After each task, I measure a component of student learning, either the amount of notes they took from the lecture, the number of questions they can write about that content, the number of quiz questions they can answer correctly, the number of words they can write on the subject, the number of facts they include from the podcast, and etc. I have found my students respond well to  goal-setting strategies and look forward to seeing how their performance as an individual and as a whole class compares to their peers. For one task, 153 students listened to this excellent description of Russia’s February 1917 Revolution and scored 6.8 questions correct out of 10 question quiz immediately after. Next, 153 students listened to another lecture on Russia’s October 1917 Revolution, yet answered only half the questions correctly. After several of these tasks and a mini-lesson on how to make parenthetical (in-text) citations, I assigned the following writing assignment to measure their knowledge of the Russian Revolution as well as test their skills in making citations.

Russ Rev

There were a total of five documents to use during this task, two were audio lectures, one was an interactive video lecture, and two were traditional texts. Students were given two class periods to write this essay, as I anticipated adding the citation requirements would slow down their writing speed. On average, students reported writing 383 words, using 2.16 documents, and making 7.97 parenthetical citations.   The next day, students conducted a peer review protocol and advised each other on how they could improve their drafts. One of the elements that jumped out as a raging success was the number of students who took the time to come up with interesting titles. A selection of clever ones follows below:

Positives – Creative Titles

  • You Shall Not Fight
  • The Comings & Goings of the Russian Revolution
  • Peasant Revolution
  • The Bloody Revolution
  • What Sparked The Russian Revolution?
  • Recreation of Russia
  • Russia Has Just Begun
  • Russia In Danger
  • Rise, Revolt, Russia, Results

Negatives – Failure to Meet the Deadline

The final component of this project was designed to give me some insight as to how students would plan a revision. Students were given 6 days to complete the following assignment.

Run your work through at least one of the following robo-readers: Grammarly claims to find and correct ten times more mistakes than a word processor. The Hemmingway App makes writing bold and clear. PaperRater offers feedback by comparing a writer’s work to others at their grade level. Explain how the comments from these programs and the comments from your peers helped improve your writing.

Revision Memo

Remember to document how you are improving the quality of your claims and explanations in a 1-2 page revision memo. Here is an example of a revision memo that you may use to guide your reflections. When you have finished, you will email the revision memo to me.

Unfortunately, only 8% of my students completed this task by the deadline, another 12%  turned in something for partial credit, and 80% turned in nothing. Teaching 9th graders often leads to these moments, when faced with ambiguity, students do not ask for help, they merely do nothing.  What should a teacher do when that many students fail to complete a task?  Try, try again, I say. My next post will offer clarification on what makes a good revision memo.

Revision Memo Examples

There was great variation among the few revision memos that were turned in on time. The purpose of this post is to demonstrate how I distinguish between a good memo and one that needs improvement.

Well Below Standard


This did not come close to the specified 1-2 page length requirement. Further, it lacks any concrete details that would suggest this person even wrote an essay in the first place. Be specific. Quote from first draft. Quote from second draft. Explain improvements. Meet page length requirements.

Below Standard

Below Average

This student has not used the appropriate format, nor did they share the memo via Google Docs/Drive, so they could see my comments. Since this essay has no specific quotes, I don’t believe this student wrote a first draft, let alone spent time thinking about how to bring their writing up to grade level standards. More specifics. More quotes. Less of the author’s opinion.

Approaching Standard


This one comes closer to the page length requirements. Although they did not use the correct format, the memo is easy to read and contains some specifics about vocabulary, citations, and quotes. Remember, the more details you provide, the more insight you provide as to what excellent writing means to you. If I can only guess at what you mean by “fixing things” or “funky wording” than you have not done your job. I do not think you know how to take the advice of a peer or a robo-reader and improve your writing.

Meets Standard


Yay! Very specific, concrete details here. This student has given himself a To Do list of things to fix. He reflects more on the advice from the Hemmingway App than his peer review. I’d like to see something about both, because that tells me you are really interested in making your writing understandable to a reader. You should always write for a greater audience than just your teacher.

Exceeds Standard


I hope these examples clarify the expectations I have for revision memos. The students who turned one in and got full credit do not have to write a revision memo for the Treaty of Versailles essay. The bad news is for the 80% of my students that didn’t turn in a revision memo is that they now owe me two. Get in the habit of writing down due dates, working diligently every day, and turning assignments in on time. It will make your upper division course work so much easier.

Rarely Assessed Standards

My UCLA Social Studies Methods professor Dr. Emma Hipolito is simply god’s gift to History teachers. I can honestly say that I probably would have quit teaching within my first two years if it weren’t for Emma’s nurturing and kindness. She gave me my first chance to present my work to academics. In short, she helped me find my strengths. Anyone who went through UCLA’s Center X teaching credential program can attest to how dedicated she is to the success of her students. Dr. Hipolito finished her dissertation Social Studies Teachers and The Common Core: A Study of Instructional Practices last year. It is a fantastic read and deserves a wider audience. My biggest takeaway is that Emma has quantified how the teaching of speaking and listening skills is severely neglected in most classrooms.


Hippolito (2015) found a majority of Social Studies teachers struggled to explain how they helped students develop speaking and listening skills. While these teachers regularly reported using small and whole-group discussions, their students were rarely assessed on their participation. Only 15% of teachers surveyed spoke confidently about their speaking & listening instruction.

This mixed methods study surveyed 217 California Social Studies teachers and conducted interviews with 20 High School teachers in order to assess how teachers are shifting their instructional practices in response to the CCSS standards. The survey data resulted in three key findings.

First, teachers – particularly those working in low-income schools − are concerned about the academic preparedness of students to engage in the Common Core. Nearly two-thirds of all teacher participants agreed or strongly agreed that students “are not academically prepared to engage in these types of activities.” However, a statistically significant 85% of the teachers in 101 low-SES schools agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, as compared with 48% of teachers in affluent communities.

A second finding was that high school social studies teachers are implementing some of the practices associated with the CCSS. These include the use of primary sources, the consideration of the origins and purpose of a source as an aspect of reading in history/social studies, and the use of critical thinking question to promote reasoning. However, teachers less frequently focused on critical reading practices that examined perspective, bias, and analysis of multiple sources on a similar topic. Relatedly, the development of speaking and listening skills is an area that is currently neglected in classrooms in California.

A third finding is that many social studies teachers in California report that neither they nor their colleagues are prepared to teach the CCSS. Only 30.8% of all survey respondents reported that they were “very” prepared to teach the Standards to students. Despite over 60% of teachers participating in four or more days of professional development, only 15% reported that the CCSS were “very” integrated into the practices of teachers in their departments.

Three other findings emerged from the interviews: (1) Teachers believe that a CCSS’s skill-based approach means less coverage and more in-depth work with fewer historical topics. (2) Interviewees at low-income schools had more tools and strategies to support literacy development than did teachers at high-SES schools. (3) Educators want more time to plan, more time to work in content-alike groupings, and more instructional resources provided for them in order to implement the CCSS.

I am interested in learning how schools and districts are re-shaping their professional development offerings in response to CCSS. I have yet to find any well-articulated courses on how to teach speaking and listening to adolescents. Have you found any gems I should be familiar with? If so, please add them in the comments section. Congratulations to Dr. Hipolito. I hope you influence a few thousand more Social Studies teachers.