A True Confession about Grading Student Writing

Here’s a BIG FIRST…I created a vlog! I hope you enjoy it. Let me know in the comments one of your grading nightmares, I mean stories, or  your current status when it comes to grading student writing.

Also, I’m putting together a free mini-training called QUICK & MEANINGFUL WRITING ASSESSMENT for my Email Pals. If you don’t get notes from me delivered to your inbox, sign up with the form below. Plus you can check out a lot other awesome resources I’ve created to help make teaching writers manageable and enjoyable. Don’t worry, you’ll only be added to the email list once, no matter how many great resources you grab.

Don’t forget to comment with a grading story of your own!

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  1. A couple of years ago, my family decided to go away for Christmas break. I had 75 papers to grade and I was determined to get them graded. As everyone was running around getting their last belongings for the trip, I was seated on the couch grading papers. My daughter was giving me a hard time about it. I told he to leave me alone. I continued grading the papers on the way to the airport. I did draw the line not to bring them with me to Puerto Rico. I did get them all graded before the break was over. Now I am looking at 60 papers to be graded by this week because the marking period is coming to an end. The “joy” of being a writing teacher.

  2. I love your honesty; however I feel like you left with a cliffhanger I can't wait to learn the tips for grading writing 🙂 My grading story is similar; however I only had 25 narratives and I was overwhelmed. I found that as I read them, I fluctuated because each piece of writing was so different and I knew my students as writers, so I knew for some 6 complete sentences was difficult. I had other students who could write a high school essay. I created rubrics and they didn't help too much. Finally I stumbled on my students helping me create the rubric after looking at several pieces of writing. My other trick is break grading of writing in smaller parts. Quick check ins weekly break grading down to smaller manageable parts. I'm sitting on pins and needles waiting to learn along with you Ruth 😉

  3. Haha! I did read about 15 on the way to NCTE, but the pile grows! It was so nice meeting you at the Don Graves breakfast. I enjoyed your vlog.

  4. I love that you're back and tantalizing us all with this question about grading and keeping it manageable! Such a real-life issue to which all teachers of writing can relate!
    A procedural question – on the link to your resources, do you need a new email for each resource that may interest us? Thanks for clarifying!

  5. Hi Karen! Thanks for your sweet words.

    Nope you don't need different email addresses…use the same email. You'll get access to the resource & my email service provider (the tech behind Email Pals) keeps it all straight and won't send you duplicate emails to the same address. It's all pretty sweet. 😉

  6. I have not “graded” work for the past 20 years, inspired by the writing of Alfie Kohn and the research that supports the idea that grades AND comments means the comments are ALWAYS ignored. Instead, I first began using ideas from Linda Rief and Nancie Atwell – I used Linda's ideas of Process Papers with the understanding that RUBRICS DON'T WORK (lots of research there). Instead we would construct criteria for “What Makes a Great . . .”. Then after years of having kids do written Process Papers, I've now evolved to what I've found works best. Prior to our reporting period, I meet with kids individually. They have their “portfolio” of writing – I then ask them a series of questions which allows them to demonstrate how well they understand AND apply the key writing lessons we've studied. Just looking at how professional critics can't agree on various art forms, I now rely not on my opinion of the writing, but my students' expressed understanding. A five minute interview provides more information than I ever had before. Now I am “retired” and mentor a group of teachers – I'm in classrooms every day, and the same results. Not only do students learn to self-assess, but as a result we are able to set goals for the next term very easily. This has worked effectively in classrooms from 5th to 12th grade.

  7. I got my hands on an Alfie Kohn book when I was a sophomore in college. He has influenced much of my thinking! I agree that self-assessment is critical to helping teachers tailor their feedback. I admire your system of assessment. Thanks for sharing!