When student work is incomplete, it can be challenging to provide constructive feedback, but you should still try to engage the student based on what they have written. As a general rule, any student with an original thought should be given supportive feedback that helps motivate them to take their ideas further, even if that original thought only makes up one sentence.
DO try to give sincere praise.
Even if the student hasn't technically achieved the assignment's goals, is there somewhere they're on the right track? Sometimes it helps to get really specific and really objective.
Ex: You included a quote from "Alexander's Travels." This shows that you are thinking about what evidence from the text will best support your claim. [Note: Perhaps the included quote wasn't relevant to the apparent claim at all...but we're focusing on wins for now!]
Ex: Your second sentence mentions the symbol of water. This is one possible symbol from the story, so you're on your way to having a thesis that answers the question!
DO message the teacher if you think a student may need additional support.
Teachers may already be aware that some students are struggling or often struggle, but if one incomplete assignment is in stark contrast to otherwise complete assignments for the class, it can be a good idea to give the teacher a heads up so that they can work more directly with the student in question.
DO try to make your growth feedback actionable.
Sometimes it feels like there's a LOT to do in an incomplete essay, but big broad tasks won't be as helpful as more specific starting points. If there's any way to give the student more approachable next steps, do! Sometimes asking probing questions about what little the student wrote is the best thing you can do.
Ex: Sophie, right now your paper is pretty short, and this doesn't give you the chance to fully explain your claim to the reader. You mention three reasons middle schoolers should have recess: to use energy, to have exercise, and to socialize with friends. You could turn each of these into supporting body paragraphs with more explanation of why middle schoolers need these things and what impact recess would have.
DO NOT scold the student for incomplete work.
As a rule, Graiders should assume the best of students. If work was incomplete, you should assume it was because the student did not know how to approach the task, not because they were lazy or defiant (even if the truth is that they were being lazy or defiant, a scolding message from a stranger isn't going to motivate them). Approach your feedback with a positive mindset of support and encouragement.
DO NOT simply restate assignment expectations.
Simply asking the prompt question again, restating what the assignment asked of the student, noting the assignment length guidelines, or suggesting outlining a more complete essay is NOT helpful. Try to avoid really broad advice as much as you can.
Incomplete work due to an error
If you come across work that is incomplete, and this appears to be a mistake (you believe it was scanned incorrectly or that you received the wrong version of a student's work), send the teacher a message immediately, and be sure to include the student’s name and an explanation in your message. The teacher may be able to upload a completed version of the work.
See also: Missing Student Work