The Criticism Sandwich
Perhaps the most basic rhetorical device we can use in responding to student work is a demand for more work, sandwiched between observations about what the student has done well. Positive observations need not lavish praise on a clearly incomplete draft. Indeed, the first part of the sandwich can often simply summarize what we think the student’s project is attempting. Such a “read it back to me” approach helps dignify student thought and effort, by showing that we took the time to understand what they have done. The summary-critique-praise sequence may seem patently artificial—and it is—but its purpose is to help students feel comfortable with what they have done, and accept the further work they will need to do in order to produce an effective paper.