December 11th, 2012
Question 2: What suggestions or tips do you have for managing editing and/or grading large numbers of students? I teach 9th and 10th ELA (have for 16 years) and struggle with getting papers back to students in a timely manner, often up to a month later for final grading.
I want to incorporate more writing into my lessons and units, but am overwhelmed with the grading and management aspects.
Jeff’s response: Many teachers out there feel your pain, Kimberly. In fact, I think this conundrum of how to grade more and more student writing often keeps writing from being assigned. First, I lean on Benjamin Britton’s quote: “If teachers read everything students write, then they are a bottleneck in the writing process.” In other words, if we are able to read everything they write, then they are most certainly not writing enough.
So, go ahead assign more writing. Students get better at writing by doing it.
Then, we may have to change the paradigm of how we give feedback on some of the students’ writing. For example, many teachers equate reading student writing with editing it. To many, if they don’t correct every error, they are doing their students a disservice. Poppycock!
In fact, I think we all know that’s not the only feedback students want or need—or even pay attention to. In some ways, we are doing their work for them. Don’t hear that you shouldn’t ever mark anything on student writing. But be judicious. Perhaps you have been showing them mentor texts for quoting information and citing it within the their own writing. Students have practiced, received corrective feedback, and then are explicitly told that these are the specific conventions you are focusing on in this particular piece of writing. And, once you assess the student writing, then those are the only errors you mark. Once you have marked three to five things, then stop. Draw a line and say you stopped correcting at that spot. Confer with the student and have them fix their own mistakes.
Keep a note card or a sheet of paper and note patterns of error you see. You can put hashmarks when you keep seeing it, and voila, you know what to address in mini-lessons. Once you’ve taught the concept again, have them correct their own writing or highlight where they’ve used the concept correctly.
So focus on certain conventions, and never be compelled to do your students editing work for them. And realize that the two-minute conversations you have with students about their writing ripple into their writing lives a lot more than a red mark with a pen ever will.
Entry Filed under: Writing