English Teachers! How do you grade papers quickly?

Discussion in 'High School' started by MizDubya, Sep 25, 2008.

  1. MizDubya

    MizDubya Rookie

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    Sep 25, 2008

    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! :help:
     
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  3. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    Sep 25, 2008

    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.
     
  4. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 25, 2008

    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.
     
  5. Mrs. R.

    Mrs. R. Connoisseur

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    Sep 25, 2008

    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.
     
  6. ELA 11 12

    ELA 11 12 Companion

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    Sep 25, 2008

    Quick and painless--the students do all the work



    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? :thumb:
     
  7. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Sep 26, 2008

    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.
     
  8. wunderwhy

    wunderwhy Comrade

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    Sep 28, 2008

    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. :rolleyes:

    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.
     
  9. mshutchinson

    mshutchinson Comrade

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    Oct 2, 2008

    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.
     
  10. dtrim

    dtrim Rookie

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    Oct 3, 2008

    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.

    Next!

    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,

    Diane
     
  11. Ms.H

    Ms.H Companion

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    Oct 6, 2008

    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!
     
  12. Charlie

    Charlie New Member

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    Nov 9, 2008

    Auto D Policy

    In my school we have an auto-D policy. I start grading and when I get to 7 mistakes, I stop. Student gets an automatic "D". The essay is handed back to student to fix. I then compare it to the original and grade it, giving an average between the new grade and the D. I find that I really only have to do it for the first essay, and after that they know what's expected!
     
  13. dsrt16

    dsrt16 New Member

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    Feb 4, 2010

    What? Are you superman? I have a very detailed rubric allowing me to circle areas of weakness, I mark comma common errors with codes, and I write 2-3 positive points.

    I use the tips I have read in this forum: rubric and shorthand comments, and it takes me roughly 10 minutes per paper. This is only 6 papers in an hour.

    Lucky for me, I am teaching at a K-8 school (actually I hate that model) and I only have a 100 students instead of the 242 I had when I taught at a junior high.

    3 minutes or less? How?? How?? I want to learn!!!!
     
  14. sbb35

    sbb35 Rookie

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    Feb 8, 2010

    What about peer reviews before final submission? I like the expert suggestion above. Students could be experts on certain grammar rules, changing their areas of expertise over the year.
     
  15. Mr. A

    Mr. A Rookie

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    Feb 9, 2010

    It's hard enough to find teachers who are truly expert in grammar. I wouldn't let any kid grade for anything more than the most rudimentary usage issues (and even then it would have to be a top AP kid).
     
  16. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Feb 9, 2010

    It seems likely that sbb35 didn't intend that a student grade the essays, but rather that the student be charged with finding and noting a particular issue in the course of peer review.

    There's something to be said for kid X being, say, the March expert in semicolons: it means that, at least for the month of March, kid X has to learn semicolons to begin with.
     
  17. Mr. A

    Mr. A Rookie

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    Feb 9, 2010

    That's what I meant.

    Not to be a killjoy---and I like the "March expert" idea---but that's what we were hired to do.

    Kids can and should ask questions (only the right kind) but like I said I'd be leery of letting any except the absolute sharpest AP kids "noting" any complex---or, for that matter, simple---problems in syntax or punctuation (and experience has taught me that even those kids mess up when doing this).
     
  18. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Feb 9, 2010

    What's the harm in peer editing?
     
  19. Mr. A

    Mr. A Rookie

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    Feb 9, 2010

    It leads to misteaching.

    Peer responding---kids leading each other to new ideas---is fine.
     
  20. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Feb 9, 2010

    My Freshman Honors students, write two outside papers per term. For these papers, I have them peer edit and revise one day, the following day they are expected to turn in a revised first draft to me. I firmly believe that my students have a sophisticated enough grasp of Grammar and Usage to edit at least the minor mistakes. Anything more complicated and they know they can ask me. If I am not sure I ask the English Department Chair because even though I try to write using correct grammar, I am a History guy. Grammar and Conventions, however, are never more than 10% total of my total essay rubrics. I do realize the importance of using correct grammar, however my standards do not emphasize it.
     
  21. bookwormada

    bookwormada Rookie

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    Feb 16, 2010

    I find that students tend to ignore many comments made on papers. They almost always check the grade first - if they got a good grade, they feel that they don't need to improve and therefore don't need to read the comments. If they got a bad grade, they often feel dejected and would rather put the paper away than read comments about the mistakes they made.
    Because many comments get ignored, I definitely think that the most important comment is the summary at the end of the paper. Place it physically close to the letter grade, address the big issues in the paper, and try to explain why the student got the grade he/she got.
     
  22. Mr. A

    Mr. A Rookie

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    Feb 22, 2010

    Don't put a letter grade on it initially.
     
  23. looneyteachr

    looneyteachr Companion

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    Mar 27, 2010

    take the time to teach kids a few editing strategies - then have kids trade papers and "grade" each others every now and then - also - use WRITE TRAITS - choose only one strand to look at in essays - it's really hard at first not to comment on everything you see wrong - but it forces you to concentrate on one thing and makes grading faster
     
  24. Still Teaching

    Still Teaching New Member

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    Aug 22, 2010

    I am a high school English teacher and have started using a program called DiGIMS Online to help me speed things up. It has seriously cut my grading time -- but still provides a lot of feedback to my students and record keeping for me.
     
  25. Unbeknownst

    Unbeknownst Cohort

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    Aug 22, 2010

    Thanks for the bump! This was the one thread I always wished I had printed but forgot the name.

    Thanks to you, it's printed and ready to go :)
     
  26. eddygirl

    eddygirl Companion

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    Aug 22, 2010

    I have students create a typed rough draft first that is peer-edited with a green pen (not as intimidating as red!) They each have a copy of my "Top 10" list of grammar and usage errors to check for the most common errors (i.e. spelling, contractions, their vs. there, etc.). They also have their rubric on hand to check for everything I am looking for (supporting details, format, etc.). They are encouraged to write comments; my favorite is when they write, "She's going to EEK! you on this!" (I write "EEK!" on the paper if they write something like "In this paper, I will be telling you about ..."). I then give them time to discuss with the writer to point out any inconsistencies.

    Most of the kids use the suggestions and revise their papers. I have them turn in the rough and final drafts stapled together so I can see their revisions. I grade the final copy up to a certain point for grammar and usage errors. If the student exceeds the maximum errors quickly or did not follow the essay format, I write "RE-DO" on the top and give it back. They then have a choice: re-do for full points or accept a D-, the highest passing grade. Most re-do the paper, but it is their choice. As far as my grading time, each 2-page paper takes me about 5 minutes; I underline "Top 10" errors, write TH for thesis or TS for topic sentence errors, and comment briefly at the end for inconsistences or good work.

    I am a strong believer of peer-editing. I think kids learn to improve their own work by reading each other's work; I also believe that sometimes we miss our own errors because we don't "see" them as we re-read our own writing. A "fresh" eye can catch obvious errors we might miss ourselves. I do this myself; I send out a lot of memos and often ask a colleague to read over what I wrote to make sure it is clear and concise. I also have a few of our "non-English teachers" who e-mail me their writing (for brochures, our website, etc.) to proof for them. Everyone wants to put out the best product possible; peer-editing helps immensely.
     
  27. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    Aug 23, 2010

    1. I don't grade every writing assignment.

    2. I work with them so much during the writing process that there is no point in giving them a grade for every paper.

    3. About once every three weeks, I give an assessment that is a "hands-off" paper--meaning I'm not helping you revise or edit on this one, then there are four grades that go on the top of the paper! I draw four dashes, then skim quickly for grammatical errors. That's actually the last dash. I put a one, two or three. Bam! Done. If the student gets a 1 or a 2, I'll write a quick note in the margin about what they need to do to improve and what they've done that's better than the last time we conferenced.

    4. The next one is easy, too. It's the second dash--organization.
    It's pretty easy to skim for a hook, a conclusion, a reflection, transition words. Not very many 5th graders are putting sentences out of order now. I might read a paper a bit more carefully if I know that a child has had that kind of problem. Bam! That grade is done.

    5. The first dash--ideas and the third dash--style, require that I scan the paper a bit better than before. I read it quickly and slap that 1,2, or 3 up there. A few comments, and Bam! I'm done.

    6. And I don't assign a "hands-off" paper to every class at the same time. I hate seeing a stack of 50-60 papers in front of me. I can handle around 20 at a time.
     
  28. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Sep 8, 2010

    Not grade -- just check and help revise. I used peer editing when I taught middle school Language Arts. Students had to get at least three other students to read their papers and sign off. I taught them the basic editing marks. Then, they would bring me the marked-up draft for a brief conference where I would look at what the other students marked, and check for what they missed. In my experience, kids WERE able to catch most errors -- but YOU have to teach THEM how, first. We practiced that every single day, and it helped. (These were almost 100% ELL students, btw).

    Then, when I would get the final draft, I would have them attach the rough draft, and I would look to see if they had corrected the mistakes we had previously noted. You can get through papers really, really quickly when it's your second time reading them, and you are looking for specific things -- and if you've got a good rubric that the kids were writing toward.
     
  29. justible

    justible New Member

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    Mar 2, 2012

    I use a program that is an add-on for Microsoft Word called Semi-Automatic Grader. It adds a new tab full of icons that you click when you spot an error, so much of the redundant feedback can be spat out rather quickly, with links to extra help. Errors that are relatively unique you can address with your own comments, as needed.

    It's nice to use the computer to help without turning it over to the computer entirely, a la computerized essay grading.
     
  30. mistermitchell3

    mistermitchell3 Rookie

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    Mar 10, 2012

    Yes, sometimes you have to scan for important concepts. Kids can learn a great deal from their graded essays if you hone in on a few specific things they can correct.
     

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