How many different “boards” can you name?
For us students and teachers, there’s the chalkboard and whiteboard. For athletes, surfboard, skateboard, snowboard, diving board. Gamers: checkerboard, chessboard, game board. Builders/Artists: cardboard, particleboard. Chefs: cutting board. The misc.: board of directors, board book, and room and board.
Did I miss any?
The sounding board.
Which, correct me if I’m wrong, is technically for musicians – but for our current discussion – is a good description of the kind of “board” we’re striving to resemble when commenting on student papers. Well, actually, there is another definition for a sounding board. According to Wikipedia:
“The term may also be used figuratively to describe a person who listens to a speech or proposal in order that the speaker may rehearse or explore the proposition more fully. The term is also used inter-personally to describe one person listening to another, and especially to their ideas. When a person listens and responds with comments, they provide perspective that otherwise would not be available through introspection or thought alone.”
I think this definition says a lot about an effective way to respond to student papers, especially if our goal is to encourage our students to continue writing and to encourage their overall growth as a student. I’m glad Straub in “The Concept of Control in Teacher Response: Defining the Varieties of “Directive” and “Facilitative” Commentary” uses this term because although he touches on several beneficial themes, I found this one to be the most helpful. He uses the term four times in the reading. My favorite is when he says, “More than anything else, he (the Elbow example) tries to be a sounding board for the writing, one who plays back his reading of the text and subtly injects his evaluations and advice for revision within these reader responses. What ever questions or advice he provides is minimal, since his main purpose as a responder seems to be to show the writer how the writing acted on him as an individual reader and provide only enough ideas to think about that will nudge the writer to initiate certain lines of revision on her own. To a large extent, his comments are geared to the student behind the text. They are designed to engage her in making her own writing choices and developing her experiences as a writer” (24).