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Old 09-25-2008, 04:00 PM
MizDubya MizDubya is offline
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M.S/H.S. English
English Teachers! How do you grade papers quickly?

Hi all,

I'm a new English teacher, and I find that I am drowning in essays. I take too long to grade each one--I definitely make too many margin comments & in-line corrections, and then I write a too-long comment summary at the end. I'm frustrated because I am still frantically trying to catch up on lesson planning, and I fear my stacks of waiting essays will finally do me in!

So...here's what I'm wondering: How do you speed up your grading? What do you comment on in the body of the essay, and do you include an end comment? How do you decide what is the most important to focus your comments on in an essay?

Any suggestions/advice would be most appreciated!
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Old 09-25-2008, 04:06 PM
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INteacher INteacher is offline
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High School Social Studies
I am not an English teacher but as a History teacher I do assign my fair share of essays My suggestion would be to create a rubric that covers just about every kind of comment/correction/critique you can think of. Once I created my rubric for each of types of essays grading goes very fast - I simply circle/underline on the rubric what was good, bad, missing or incomplete. I still do write short comments but the rubric takes care of many of mechanics or requirements.
"Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?"
Henry Ward Beecher
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Old 09-25-2008, 04:51 PM
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Aliceacc Aliceacc is offline
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Math teacher
I don't teach English either, but read this somewhere:

Come up with a list of abbreviations for the most common mistakes. (For example, "PE" might stand for "Punctuation Error.") Type it up, hand it out, and use those abbreviations.
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Old 09-25-2008, 06:08 PM
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Mrs. R. Mrs. R. is offline
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7th Grade LA
I am an English teacher. What I have learned over the years is not to grade every essay for every thing. I create rubrics based on what the main focus of the assignment was, for example ideas, thesis statement, persuasive arguments, etc. I don't mark every grammatical or punctuation error, just the most glaring ones. I do write comments at the ends of the papers because those are among the few things the kids look at.
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Old 09-25-2008, 06:48 PM
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ELA 11 12 ELA 11 12 is offline
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Behind your shed stealing firewood
English 11, 12, Speech and Debate
Wink Quick and painless--the students do all the work

Originally Posted by Mrs. R. View Post
I am an English teacher. What I have learned over the years is not to grade every essay for every thing. I create rubrics based on what the main focus of the assignment was, for example ideas, thesis statement, persuasive arguments, etc. I don't mark every grammatical or punctuation error, just the most glaring ones. I do write comments at the ends of the papers because those are among the few things the kids look at.

Perfect, Mrs. R.

I takes me 3 minutes or less for a typed three page, double spaced paper--usually less. BUT...if a paper is very weak, I spend plenty of time with the student in a writing conference during mutual free time. Students are strongly encouraged to conference with me before school, during my preps, lunch, or after school.

Actually all students have the opportunity to conference with me to improve their grade. If you were to see a paper I grade, you will see very few marks on the student paper as the rubrics I use "say it all". There is never a penalty for increasing the grade. If the student self-advocates, I give the grade the student earns on the second attempt.

The 6+1 Traits of writing rubrics are awesome for assessing specific skills. Also, I am tough on conventions, so if there are more than four errors in grammar, spelling or punctuation, I stop marking the errors in the paper at error four and award the lowest score on the rubric. I no longer look for those errors, I may see them, but ignore the rest. This took some discipline, but now is second nature.

Ignoring the same kinds of errors allows me more time to score the rest for ideas, organization, sentence fluency, voice, and word choice.

If you can go to a training session in the 6 Traits, MizDubya, go. The training that I attended was geared for elementary and lower middle school, but boy did it make sense. That training translated well to the high school levels.

If you can't go to a training and need to learn it on your own it will take a couple of years to become super efficient, but it's still much faster and will support "teaching on purpose" rather than "making sure you are covering the material" or "assigning enough practice"--there is a distinct difference.

I think you will find the 6 Traits rubrics are actually common sense. Google Rubistar 4 Teachers and Northwest Regional Education Lab. Rubistar is awesome for making custom rubrics and the NWREL is quite comprehensive.

I think I share much of this information in another post. Possibly to you?
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Old 09-25-2008, 11:46 PM
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Mrs. K. Mrs. K. is offline
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High School English Teacher
Read Kelly Gallagher's Teaching Adolescent Writers. You will spend more time helping them revise the first draft, but you'll get better writing and your students will learn more.
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Old 09-28-2008, 08:53 AM
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wunderwhy wunderwhy is offline
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Ironically, I'm on here procrastinating from grading essays.

I agree with the suggestions you've gotten:

--create detailed rubrics
--focus each assignment and devote the bulk of your grading to those areas
--conference with students

Schedule a few days to conference with students during which they work on something (group project maybe, or stations) independently. I prefer to have it be something where they are talking quietly so the kid in conference with me doesn't feel like s/he's on display.

As long as you understand the notes (an asterisk next to something on the rubric, or "c.s." for comma splice) and will explain the most frequent errors with maybe notes for the whole class, then you can save those other little explanations for the conference. I think one minute spent talking one-on-one is almost always more valuable than one minute spent writing, "C.S. means comma splice. You've joined two independent clauses with just a comma. Please review how to properly join two independent clauses."

We had a teacher who would turn back all her 11th grade honors essays the next class. Did they have a lot of comments or feedback? No. A detailed rubric? No. Have you ever heard kids claim that their teacher just throws the paper down the stairs and gives the ones that land at the bottom an A? I think those rumors begin with this kind of teacher.

It is SOOO important that we help our kids write well before we send them off to college, and we're really the last line of defense. To a certain degree we must be resigned to spending a lot of time grading essays. I'm trying to cut down how long it takes me to grade vocabulary quizzes and multiple choice assessments because essay grading is something that you can pare down only so much.
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Old 10-02-2008, 01:22 PM
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mshutchinson mshutchinson is offline
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Posts: 268
I'm dealign with the same thing. I have a stack of essays that are STILL ungraded after a week. I have only made it through half of them. In addition, there's the normal classwork to contend with.

I tried somethign new.
1- I found an online timer that counts down. I set it at 2 minutes, and timed myself. I moved faster under the gun and was able to get most of them done in that amount of time.
2- I used a rubric- it's the state rubric for Regents Essays that I've condensed into one column with 5 sections.
3- I used abbreviations (FE - factual error, WHAT?!? - don't ever do this again, sp- spelling, huh? - unclear, TS - topic sentence, inf - informal, whoo!- impressive ideas, wow - nice sentence...)

This year, I tried another new thing. I made "Review and Respond" the Do Now. I have the kids actually write responses to every comment I made. I also ask them to tell me the abbreviations that they don't understand. I write these on the board. I then explain what each problem is, and I ask students for ideas about how to correct it.

This took about 20(+) minutes.

I write to the kids - "Appositive. Go see Eric." They stare dumbly, and ask what I mean. Then they go see Eric. Once he shows them how to corectly use the appositive, they will likely remember next time.

I feel like this saves SOME time, and it's very thorough - almost as thorough as a conference-, but I still haven't become the master of my own time.
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Old 10-03-2008, 11:57 AM
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dtrim dtrim is offline
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Posts: 56
Madison, Wis.
education writer
I posted this in another thread a few months back (the thread is here: http://forums.atozteacherstuff.com/showthread.php?t=56106

When I taught English, I found grading papers overwhelming, too. Here's what I did: following each essay assignment, I'd be sure to assign reading for a few days. I'd give the class 30 minutes to read during our 90-minute block. While students read, I'd call a student to my desk, read his paper silently with him next to me while giving him feedback in a quiet voice. I'd say, "I'm confused here," or "I really like this support." As I went, I'd circle the grammar/spelling/usage problem that was most prevalent in the essay. At the end, I'd give him my overall impression and tell him the overall grammar/spelling/usage problem in the essay. Then I'd fill out the six traits rubric and tell him to correct the subject/verb agreement problems I'd circled or the run-on sentences to raise the conventions grade.


The whole meeting took about 3-5 minutes, the essays weren't splashed with red ink, the kid had good feedback and a real audience, and I finished that class's stack in class over a few days' time.

I developed this little trick when I took a summer journalism fellowship and I found out I really, really hated red, but I really, really liked writer's conferences and feedback.

Best wishes for success,

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Old 10-06-2008, 02:36 PM
Ms.H Ms.H is offline
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Posts: 173
MS & HS English
I am definitely struggling with the same thing in my third year. I can't help but feeling that the more I write, the more I am helping. I am beginning to see that this is not necessarily always the case. After spending hours and hours grading essays and stories this weekend, I returned them, only to have students discouraged and overwhelmed by the amounts of "helpful" suggestions I gave them. I decided to try somethign new next time: limit myself to three "good points" and the three most important "areas for improvement." That way, I am limited to a few comments, and they only have to deal with three "criticisms," as they see it. They may be more likely to actually remember them as well (is there a way to avoid a split infinitive there?). Lots of other great suggestions too!
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