Grading Writing Papers

As a thirty year veteran language arts teacher, I found two things that turned me off about teaching writing.

First was and is the amount of grading. I know this is the bane of all writing teachers, especially if you teach middle and high school.  With four or five classes of 25 to 35 students in each you could face an average of 140 papers a week just for one assignment and more if you gave more than one writing assignment.  That is a mountain no teacher wants to climb.

Second was and is the subjectivity of grading writing.  Each teacher develops and uses his or her own rules and biases due to their own capabilities, strengths and weaknesses  when grading papers.  This is true even when there’s specified criteria, because of individual interpretation.

I decided if I was going to continue as a writing teacher I had to change the way papers were graded.  I wanted it to be non biased, student directed, and be an even playing field for all students regardless of ability.  With this in mind, and much trial and error, I developed a rubric that would do just that.  What I came up with was a tool that allowed students to know what the expectations were before they started their assignments, how the paper was going to be evaluated, and to be able to work for the grade they wanted.

A major break through in the process came the first time I asked a class to grade their own papers before turning them in to me.  A student came up to me and said, “I learned so much when I had to grade my own paper, because I knew what the expectations were, how it was going to be graded, and best of all I had control of what the outcome would be.”  That one comment was life changing for me.

My student directed lessons with grading rubrics drastically reduced the amount of grading I had to do, thus allowing me to have weekends free to spend however I wanted, and it took the subjectivity out of grading.  Finally I had achieved an even playing field for grading all of my students regardless of level, age, or ability.

Happy Writing!





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