ESL Feedback Examples: 4 Types of Feedback

Humans are great at learning by example, so if you’re an ESL teacher, it could be handy to check out some good examples of ESL feedback you can use for your class!

Your goal as a teacher is to create an environment where students can learn and succeed. This is very hard to do if they feel like every word is judged and criticized.

However, neglecting to provide adequate critiques will not help students either, because they will have no idea how to improve.

This is where constructive feedback comes in.

Here are some examples of different kinds of feedback you can use in your own classroom.


Example Feedback for Writing Assignments

Written assignments provide a great opportunity to carefully examine students’ work in a way that is not always possible with presentations or activities. To make the most of written feedback, pay attention to:

Focusing on specific skills

It’s important to focus on the specific grammatical skill set that your class is currently working on. This will help you to prioritize corrections rather than filling an entire paper with red pen! It’s not the end of the world if students aren’t correctly using tenses they never learned. But they do need to master the skills you’re actively teaching.

Instead of simply marking up a paper or worksheet, you can also provide a couple of brief takeaways at the end identifying the primary grammar concepts that should be reviewed. You could write something like:

“Great job organizing your ideas. You used the new vocabulary words very well. There are a few times where you confused the past simple tense with the past perfect. Please make the corrections where indicated and turn in your corrected paper by Friday.”

This shows students what they are doing well and gives them a specific skill to improve, along with an opportunity to practice it.

Using indirect and direct correction marks

You already know grammar, which is why you’re teaching it. It’s not a useful exercise for you to make the corrections for students.

But you can empower students to learn by having them correct their own errors. When students are responsible for their own mistakes, they’re more likely to learn from them and not repeat them, thereby saving themselves from making the same corrections in the future.

It’s helpful to have direct marks such as consistent abbreviations that tell students what kind of corrections they need to make. Perhaps something like “sp” for spelling, “vt” for verb tense, “pr” for preposition, “wc” for word choice and “ar” for article.

But don’t be afraid to use indirect marks like underlining and highlighting to help guide students to make their own corrections without telling them exactly what to do.

Not only does this technique clue students into the changes they need to make, but it also helps train their eyes to pick out errors in written texts.

Example One-on-one Feedback

Sitting down with a student one-on-one is a great chance to discuss that student’s specific goals, challenges, and learning style.

Discussing strategies based on student priorities

A one-on-one conversation is a smart time to look at some of the bigger goals students might have for the class. Perhaps they want to master conversational English because they are planning to study abroad in England and want to be able to communicate effectively. Highlighting what students want out of the class is a good first step, and then you can discuss strategies for getting there.

Discuss with students how they are studying and what they spend less time on. This will help quickly identify problem areas and how to address them.

Maybe a student excels in written work but never speaks during class. They could find a conversation partner to practice speaking with a couple of times a week or join an English club to practice conversing with other students.

Maybe a student always turns in homework but struggles to remember vocabulary words on tests. They might need to adjust test preparation to involve more flashcards or practice using vocabulary in writing.

Outlining steps for improvement based on learning styles

In any given class, you will have some visual learners who need to associate new vocabulary with images, conceptual learners who rely on mnemonics and creative learners who need to apply lessons in their own way. Speak one-on-one with your students to identify their learning styles and discuss whether they’re studying in a way that matches them.

Sometimes quality feedback goes beyond helping a student with a specific skill. Instead, you might need to help students change their learning approaches, whether they are prioritizing the wrong things or prone to cramming rather than consistently studying. 

Example Feedback for Group Work

Save this one for your group work, classroom activities and post-test games. These informal settings provide a great opportunity to give real-time feedback on the nuances of English, especially pronunciation.

Real-time pronunciation work

Getting down the correct pronunciation of a new language can be challenging even for those who have studied it for years. Taking every opportunity to improve pronunciation as early as possible will help students succeed and eliminate some of the uncertainty of, “Am I saying this right?”

When your class is split up for group work, take the opportunity to drill pronunciation. Go around to each group and work on correctly pronouncing the English phrases they are using. Have them repeat after you a few times until they are saying it correctly. You can also explain how it sounds when they say a given word or phrase compared to how it sounds when you say it so that they can hear the difference.

Topical cultural insight

Use your real-time feedback to impart some cultural insight. There are some cultural phenomena that students will need more feedback to understand. For example, if your students are from Spain, they might struggle to understand American punctuality.

If your topic is time and a student mentions showing up 20 minutes late to lunch, you have the chance to introduce them to a different culture’s perspective. Then you can have them make a sentence that is culturally accurate as well as grammatically correct.

Remember to keep your real-time feedback specific to the topic you are currently teaching. Chime in when students misuse key vocabulary or get tripped up on a relevant concept, rather than interrupting and possibly confusing students by correcting every single mistake.

Examples of Student-driven Feedback

Sometimes, giving students the opportunity to play teacher can be quite rewarding. After all, we sure learn a lot while teaching! Student-directed feedback can include:

Students assessing themselves

It is always important for students to take responsibility for their own learning. As teachers, we can facilitate the process, but ultimately, students will learn as much as they choose.

  • Have students grade themselves. Whether as a written assignment or in a one-on-one conversation with you, ask students how they think they are doing, whether they feel they are getting the grades they deserve and what they would like to improve.

    Having students grade themselves can play an important role in changing their outlook on learning. They might have realizations about their own role in the class.

  • Have students “play teacher” for a few minutes and write what feedback they would give themselves. Have them come up with three areas they think they can improve, along with a step to take for each area.

    They could also draw up some questions for you regarding skills they are struggling with to further their learning.

While a self-assessment is not a good idea for every class, at least once a quarter it is a good opportunity to put students in the driver’s seat of their own education.

Students exchanging papers

Likewise, it can be a useful activity to have students critique one another. It is important to keep it positive because students might be apprehensive about criticizing their peers.

Have students exchange papers with one another. They could write a couple of things they think their classmate does well, a couple of things they think their classmate could improve and a couple of overall suggestions for how they might make the paper even better.

This type of feedback encourages students to think critically while helping one another to improve. They do not necessarily need to grade one another’s papers; it is more important for them to analyze a student’s work to see what makes it good and what could make it better.

This is a useful skill that they can use when doing their own work as well. When students are able to give themselves feedback on their own work, they will continually improve. Feedback will be an integral part of their learning.

Why Is Constructive Feedback So Important?

It creates a positive classroom environment

Giving students encouraging, forward-focused feedback motivates them by making the “next level” much more tangible to them.

When progress is rewarded, goals are explicit and concrete steps are laid out for improvement, the result is a learning-friendly classroom environment.

It accelerates learning

Providing constructive feedback allows students essentially to compete with themselves and to strive to be better every day.

If a student is failing a course, a reasonable expectation is not for him or her to simply ace the next exam. But by setting attainable goals based on specific skills, you can help students gradually and consistently improve.

It is this mindset of improvement that ultimately empowers students to succeed. If a student gets a low mark on a paper, they might feel deflated or question their intelligence. But by showing them how to do better in the future, you will empower them to move forward and take clear steps toward improvement.

It goes beyond grades

Students’ skills will eventually be judged. There is always a quiz or exam lurking around the corner. But helping them succeed at these assessments requires a lot more than just grading.

A grade on a worksheet or activity might help students see where they are at present, but it does not show them how to grow. Constructive feedback goes beyond evaluation and gives useful information for improvement. It also makes class about learning rather than just getting results.

This encourages students to become lifelong learners who value continual improvement over momentary “perfection.”


Good feedback helps to set up ESL students for lifelong success, so try these four feedback strategies and see how they can help your students achieve their potential!

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