Constructive Criticism Activities

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany is a certified Special Education and Elementary teacher with 11 years experience teaching Special Education from grades PK through 5. She has a Bachelor's degree in Special Education, Elementary Education, and English from Gordon College and a Master’s degree in Special Education from Salem State University.

Constructive criticism is a necessary part of both school and work. These activities help students of all ages practice giving constructive criticism, receiving constructive criticism, and self-evaluation.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

Students of all ages benefit from learning activities that teach emotional intelligence. These activities encourage students to develop words and strategies for dealing with myriads of situations they will encounter along the way. One key skill in emotional intelligence is constructive criticism. Students need to learn how to both give and accept constructive criticism as a means of growth and a tool for conflict resolution. These activities are appropriate for a variety of age groups.

Activity: Reporting Behavior (Elementary/Middle School)

Objective: Describe and respond to another person's behavior.

Materials: Incident scripts

  • Preparation: Write a number of scripts for incidents that are relevant to the age and needs of your students. For example, a student is rude to a teacher or a person cuts in line.
  • Teach the class two steps to follow when something happens:
    1. Describe what happened using objective language without exaggeration.
    2. Respond in an appropriate fashion to the situation. For example: I was frustrated by this because. . .
  • Have two student volunteers act out one of the pre-written scenarios.
  • Have a third student attempt to describe what happened. Then have the student tell either their own response or how they think one of the actors felt (John seemed to be afraid when Sam took his lunchbox).
  • Then have the class evaluate the student's description using these questions:
    • Did they describe the situation accurately?
    • Did they state how they felt calmly and clearly?

Activity: Evaluating Work (Elementary/Middle/High School)

Objective: Practice appropriate ways to correct a peer's academic errors.

Materials: Work samples relevant to your current study

  • Preparation: Prepare a number of work samples that are relevant to your current areas of study, and include an obvious error in each one - for example, a math problem with an error or a writing sample with spelling or grammar errors.
  • Put students in pairs. Give each pair one work sample.
  • After identifying the error, pairs should develop two scenarios. In one, a student has made the error, and the other student corrects them inappropriately. In the other scenario, a student has made the error and the other student lets them know in a constructive fashion.
  • As each pair presents their scenarios, the class discusses their strategies. Make two lists on the board - one of good constructive criticism techniques and one of poor criticism techniques.
  • At the end of the activity, talk about the lists of techniques. Ask students:
    • Which techniques do you use most often to correct someone's work?
    • Which techniques would you like someone to use with you?
    • Which technique will you try next time you need to correct someone's work?

Activity: Self-Evaluation Circle (Elementary/Middle/High School)

Objective: Practice constructive criticism using your own work.

Materials: A work sample from each student

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