Timely Grading Student Writing by Candy Carter

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Sep 8th, 2013
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Cuckoo clockTimely assessment and grading of student writing is essential if students are to improve their written work. Teachers know this, but living with a continual stream of papers to grade can result in feelings of real helplessness, which then turn into procrastination.

  1. Before creating a longer or more complex writing assignment, have a vision for what the better papers will look like and develop a rubric or scoring guide to use.
  2. Share that scoring guide with your students, and if possible, write “samples” of your own to give to students in advance as a model.
  3. If a writing assignment or project is a quick-write or journal assignment done in a single sitting, give yourself permission to grade it holistically or on a pass-fail basis.
  4. Expect different types of writing under different conditions and evaluate it accordingly. (For example, in-class writing in response to prompts or exam questions will have more errors.) Communicate the scoring guide for these in-class writings to students in advance so that they know what you will be assessing, and use the scoring guide for grading with a minimum of comments.
  5. For longer papers requiring comments, determine how many papers you will have to grade and how long you want to take to do it. Then come up with a “quota” of papers to read and respond to per day and stick to it.
  6. If you type faster than you write by hand, consider typing comments.
  7. Recognize that writing is recursive. Students will make the mistakes no matter how often you teach the skills, and doing worksheets on writing skills will probably not transfer to student writing.
  8. Share better papers with students after returning graded work. Tell students why their peers’ work was effective.
  9. Keep good examples of assignments to share with students the following year so they have models.
  10. If your students make so many errors in their writing that you feel like you do not even know where to start, focus on no more than five things in your grading (and tell students what those five things are in advance). Examples might be: good introductions, end punctuation, homonyms, use of quotations for supporting detail, etc.  Then just grade those five things.

© Candy Carter, McQueen High School, Reno NV

And if you want to get your current semester organized or prepare for the next, I highly recommend If You Do Nothing Else This Semester. With the strategies I present you will get the strategies you need to not only have a successful semester, but a successful year.

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