Testing… Testing… Is this thing on?!?
I don’t even know what day of the week it is (I’m not kidding), but let’s pretend it’s Tuesday, ok? Teaching Tuesday. Because you teachers deserve a blog post about how to make your life easier… Right?
If you are a teacher and you aren’t looking for a way to make your life easier right now, I’m going to need you to email me. (firstname.lastname@example.org) Seriously, send me all your secrets.
For all the rest of you, I’m popping in randomly to tell you about this great (I think?) new thing I’m doing to help me save some time *but still be as effective as possible* when it comes to grading student essays — everyone’s favorite activity!
Are you ready?
Here it is:
I write the class a letter after grading each set of papers.
Before you think I’ve officially lost it, let me explain…
Basically, you know how when you are grading a class set of essays you find yourself writing the SAME BLASTED COMMENTS on every.single.paper!?! (Just me? I didn’t think so.) Well, recently, I’ve quit (mostly) writing “italicize book titles” (seriously though, why is this so hard for them?) or “avoid first and second person in formal essays” ten million times, and just make a little mark – like an I for italicize or circling the word “you” – on the actual essay. THEN, I simply write a letter *to the whole class* that outlines and comments on all the most frequent mistakes. Then, I copy it and distribute it when I return the papers.
Need a visual?
You get the idea?
So far, it has worked really well to go over it point by point with the whole class, then ask students to actually go back through/re-read their own essay and look for places where they, personally, “committed these crimes.” (I tell them to star the points on the letter that specifically apply to their writing for reference/reminder later.) When we are done, they can staple the letter to their paper or just put it in their binder with it and use it as a reminder of what NOT to do on their next assignment.
Logistically, I’ve been able to implement this really easily. Most of the time, the key “areas for concern” are pretty easy to pick out as I’m grading, but I also keep a little post-it note with me to make notes/ jot down examples as I go. Then, right when I finish, while it is all still fresh in my mind, I write my letter and print/post it.
Of course this doesn’t fully take the place of marking on students’ papers — I still use a rubric to score each essay and make some marginal comments etc., but I really do think it cuts down on the amount of time it takes me to score each individual paper since I’m not writing the same little reminder over and over (and over and over) again.
I also really think this makes the experience of writing a paper (and getting it back) much more meaningful for my students. (Is it bad if I say that’s second to saving me time right now?) I had been noticing recently that when I returned a paper they immediately flipped to the back to see their grade and then barely glanced at my comments – super frustrating when I’d just given up HOURS of my life to write said comments. Then, to make matters even worse, they were making the same mistakes on every single assignment. Now, I can point them back to this letter as a sort of “checklist” before they turn in their next assignment.
It’s a win win.
I hope it helps someone out there today — goodness knows we need all the help we can get this time of year! 😉
If you do something similar to this, I’d love to hear about it? Or, if you give this a shot, let me know how it goes!
In the meantime, stay strong sister!