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Giving children feedback

BY: Josephine Ohenewa Bampoe
Picture credit: Shutterstock
Picture credit: Shutterstock

Children thrive on feedback to learn. It is a powerful way to teach children. Giving children accurate and specific feedback helps them to learn new things. They need to know if what they have done was what was expected or not.

In terms of speech and language and communication, they need to know if they have said a word correctly or not or followed the instruction accurately. What kind of feedback are you giving children?

Is the feedback being given helpful for them to learn and for you to teach them something new? Is the feedback accurate and specific? Do you honestly mean what you say or are you just finding something to say?

In what tone are you giving the feedback – yelling or saying it in a calm way? Remember that your voice does the talking too so the tone you use in giving the feedback is equally important as children are able to read your emotions from your voice to tell whether you are furious, angry, disappointed etc. with their response.

Unhelpful feedback

• No

• Stop

• Wrong

• You need to back up

• Shut up

• I’ll beat you

• I’ll slap you

• ‘Tiwii’, ‘Osha’ ‘Wa bon’ (Idiot)

Helpful feedback

• You did it! You spelt ‘elephant’ correctly

• That was a good jump!

• Well done! You chose the right colour!

• Nearly done! One more to go!

• Good try! Now, remember to add the remaining number!

• Good attempt! Shall we try it again but this time remember the ‘d’ sound at the end.

• That was a tricky one!

• Good talking, sitting!

• Beautiful writing!

• That word was very clear!

As adults, you need to control your emotions as well as manage your expectations when it comes to children. Children learn everyday therefore what opportunities are you giving them to learn: When a child is unable to do a certain task given to them, how can you help them get it done without yelling or without just saying ‘no’?

You do so by giving them clues to help them do it! You do not want to leave them sad thinking they are incapable of doing it but rather help them to get it done.

So, rather than telling them the answer right away, give them clues to help them get the answer. For example, when teaching your child colours and you have just asked them to choose ‘white’, you can give them clues such as “white like your school socks”, “white like baby’s cot”, “white like starch” etc. to help them find the ‘white ball’ if they are initially having difficulties to find the right colour.

So instead of yelling and saying ‘no’ because you think you have taught them the colour white severally and don’t understand why they are not getting it, using clues such as these may help them learn the colour better by associating the colour with an item they already know.

It is also helpful if our feedback is related to what the child is doing or their behaviour at that moment (specific feedback) rather than it being personal such as “Good girl” or “Good boy”.

Doing so can imply that they are ‘bad’ if they get it wrong. Most of us are guilty of this but making a conscious effort to make our feedback quite specific and related to what they are doing and not the child themselves from today will be helpful to the child.

In our bid to give feedback to children, you need to be careful not to be seen as correcting them all the time as that can be a bit intimidating and may affect their confidence.

So perhaps, you need to time when you give feedback to your child such as during homework, play time etc. Feedback is quite a helpful way to learn and a good opportunity to teach children.

The writer is a Speech & Language Therapist/Clinical Tutor, University of Ghana. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.