Backchanneling in the classroom-

This post is inspired by some reading I was doing of Edna Sackson’s blog post here. Sometimes as teachers we can spend hours planning great lessons and other times those ideas that just ‘work’ literally pop into our heads at the last minute or even on the spot. This is an example of the latter.

So the context for me using backchannelling came about one very tired Friday afternoon. As part of the PYP Sharing the Planet Unit, students had been working hard on their summative tasks: making ad campaigns on environmental issues encouraging people to take action and make a difference. We had 9 ads to watch, each about 2-3 minutes and give each feedback; it was to be our mini film festival.

Unfortunately, it had been a week full of interruptions: cross country, rehearsals for a performance, a few students ill- you know what I mean! It got to Friday afternoon and we simply had to get the ads watched. So we sat down for an exciting afternoon of ad watching. The students were particularly excited to share their learning and ads as they had used a green screen app, Green Screen by do ink, for the first time. As we started to watch the videos, the students asked, “Are we going to be giving and receiving feedback?”. (They love it!) “Of course!” I replied while thinking that we were never going to get through them all in the amount of time we had. I had also wanted to record the feedback given by the students to use in reports but annecdotal notes on a Friday afternoon-no way!

So, How could we ensure each student received feedback? How could we ensure all students gave feedback? How could we record the feedback? How could we ensure all students remained engaged? How could I record students’ feedback? My idea: use a Todays Meet.

I wrote 3 ‘comment types’ on the board:

1) What issue was shown in the video and what action was proposed (easiest to answer)

2) What were some effective digital skills used to make the video?

3) What persuasive techniques were used in the video? (hardest to answer)

Students had worked in groups of 3 for this. As we went through each group’s video, another group of 3 students were individually given one of the comments from above to use as a basis for their comment in the backchannel. To keep track of who was saying what to whom, students had to use the @ symbol and the first letter of each students name (e.g. Michael, James, Charlotte would be @MJC).

Examples of feedback from the TodaysMeet

Examples of feedback from the TodaysMeet


I had explored using TodaysMeet in the past with some mixed success. More often than not I found it more of a distraction than a help with students using losing focus quickly and writing silly things. However, the way it was used here worked really effectively. Students were really focussed as listeners, particularly as they all had individual accountability to make a comment. Everyone was really respectful- I think because they were all in the same boat of putting themselves out there. Once students had presented they quietly checked their feedback.

I think the key here was that it had an authentic purpose. I’m not saying it should replace verbal feedback but in this instance it really worked. It is also really useful having the comments recorded so I can gauge student comprehension of the videos (and their ability to provide useful feedback.)

So this was one of those ideas that just popped into my head- I’m glad I went with it and I’m keen to find new and authentic ways to use backchannelling in the classroom.

Here are the students watching the ads (not their screens!)

Here are the students watching the ads (not their screens!)




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