An Engaging Critique That Taps Into Your Students’ Love of Quick Communication

21st-century students tend to be excellent communicators. Wait…let me rephrase that. 21st-century students tend to be excellent communicators when the communication is taking place through the aid of technology. Texting, Instagramming, Snapchatting (and whatever else is the latest fad) are immediate and gratifying ways of communicating for today’s tweens and teens. They are quick and to-the-point. You might be thinking that this current shift of such direct, sometimes impersonal communication is negative, but it can be used for good.

TAG1

Take, for instance, peer feedback activities.

What is the goal of these types of tasks? We want students to give meaningful feedback to peers with direct suggestions to help improve their work or simply to facilitate the process of working. Many times we want these activities to move quickly and efficiently. With all of their lightning-speed tweeting, posting, and commenting, 21st-century students should be phenomenal at leaving succinct feedback for their peers. And the truth is, they can be. We as teachers just need to provide the right avenue to direct that communication in a clear path.

One of the best ways I have been able to lead students in leaving meaningful and effective peer feedback is to use the TAG method. This method has been around for a while, most typically used in Language Arts classes for peer editing. I have found it’s a simple, quick way for my students to leave feedback for one another. The direct nature and simplicity of this activity lends itself easily to the strengths of 21st-century students.

The TAG process is outlined below.

1. Have students start the process by writing the word “TAG” down the left side of a sticky note. If needed, students should write their names on the
backs of the sticky notes to ensure positive interactions.
2. Have students place their in-progress artwork on their work areas.
3. Have students pick up their pencils and sticky notes and leave their artwork at their seats.
4. Play music as students walk around the room, viewing the artwork as they pass by.
5. When the music stops, students should sit down at the closest artwork, being sure to not choose their own.
6. Students should then respond to the three letter prompts on their sticky notes according to the artwork that is in front of them (see prompts below).

TAG is short for:
T – Tell the artist something you like.
A – Ask the artist a question.
G – Give the artist a suggestion.

TAG 2

The next time you conduct a peer feedback activity in your art room, consider the communication strengths of your students. The TAG method is a quick and efficient way for students to communicate meaningful suggestions, all at the speed of a text.

If you’d like to try the TAG method in your classroom, click here to download a helpful guide.

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How do you promote constructive peer communication in your class?
What methods do you find work best for peer feedback?

Tracy Hare

Tracy is a middle school art teacher from central MN who strives to create rich, meaningful content and resources through her Content Specialist role at AOE.

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  • Mr. Post

    I run a similar critique every now and then with my elementary students.
    They have to answer three questions about another student’s art work.

    1. What is visually working in the art work?
    2. What is not working in the art work?
    3. What advice would you give this artist to make the art work better?

    For many lessons it helps to have the goals of the lesson written on the dry erase board so students can refer to these as they discuss the art work.

    I also advise students in a formal critique it is not important to like or dislike the art work. I tell them that you can understand the work of the artist even if you don’t like the imagery. I tell them that a constructive critique is not about making value judgments about whether or not you like the art work. I tell them that are plenty of artworks that I personally do not like at all, but I can appreciate their place and significance in art history. I prefer to conduct critiques aloud as a class as I like to hear what the kids have to say and it helps them learn how to discuss an art work.

    • Mel

      I appreciate your last paragraph. When I introduce TAG today I am going to show some examples by Picasso (Weeping Woman) and Tracy Emin (My Bed).. which are both works of art I dislike, but can appreciate the statement the artist is making. We’ll use them to do a TAG as a class before I set them loose onto their classmates projects.

  • Mel

    What a great idea. I’m going to try it today with my 5th grade, as they are on the last full day for this current project. I always get the same few students making comments during our more formal group critiques, and when we do ‘art walks’ their comments aren’t normally shared with the artist themselves.

    • Lisa Conkle

      Mel,
      I was wondering if this per review should be done while kids are still working or completely done on their lesson?
      Thanks
      Lisa

  • Breanne Kanak

    I used this critique with my 9th graders last week! It’s a particularly tricky group – very cliquey – but everyone received positive feedback, help, or just a nod in their direction to say someone else was on the same page. It’s a good way to bring down walls between students – especially when the work is personal.

    • Alecia Eggers

      That’s great to hear Breanne! :)

  • I’m going to try this with my Third Graders. Yes, I’m gonna brave it! They have a hard time with receiving feedback from me, and I wonder if something like this could help them. I think I’m going to have them tackle doing one ‘section’ at a time and then add another component for them to comment on. So, at the end of the year, maybe we would get to all of them! Thanks for sharing this!

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  • drawtogether

    THANKS! I really like this and feel my students will love it! A great way to get students up and looking and thinking.

  • Rachel Binkerd

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/703b037f242961977c88df219658ff7bef32f6c536c2411646a536c07448ca5a.jpg Tracy I love this idea. I use it in my classroom high school art classroom all the time. I actually use it as one of the steps during each of my projects. I created a template in Excel that I print off with instructions on how to use it. I make each student find three peers to critique their work then they have to come to me and I do the final critique with the student before he or she is allowed to turn it in. Here’s a copy of the template I created for my students.