Effectively Responding to Student Writing
- Make your grading criteria absolutely
clear (and numerical, if possible) on the assignment sheet. Example of grading criteria
- Use a rubric which repeats those
grading criteria (which you check off or on which you fill in appropriate
- Skim about ten papers before you start
grading in order to “norm” yourself.
- In order to make yourself efficient,
start by using a timer – don’t spend more than 15-20 minutes per paper.
Once you pick up a paper, finish grading it.
- Skim the whole essay first and decide
on the major issues to which you are going to respond – before covering
the essay with marks. Those issues should be part of your assignment sheet
– keep yourself honest! Force yourself to focus on the three or four most
- Use pencil or a bland-color pen. Never use red as if you want the paper
- Write some positive remarks in the
- For “corrections” in the margins,
respond as a thinker, asking questions and “wondering” as opposed to
telling the student that something is wrong.
- Better to highlight (literally with a
highlighter) grammar issues than to re-write the student’s essay for them.
- In your concluding note, START by
writing a short paragraph (or at least one long sentence) telling the
student all the things you LIKE about the essay.
- For the second paragraph of the
concluding note, explain no more than three ways in which the essay could
be improved. Prioritize! What will help the student the most?
Over the course of
- Always return your essays within seven
days of receiving them.
- Try to have a short (five to
fifteen-minute) meeting with each student as you hand back the diagnostic
or first paper. You can discuss
the student’s writing and also get to know the student (academic goals,
possible learning issues, time commitments).
- Choose one important essay and go over
a draft with each student. Building
in a day for doing that will truly help the students and will result in
much better essays.
- If your goals permit, try to have one
essay build upon a previous essay, so that the student can revise the
earlier one as she/ he uses it as the basis for a longer and more
complicated later essay.
On the day you hand
back the essays:
- If at all possible, try to make an
overhead on which you give examples of student work and praise each one
for some Good Writing -- Positive reinforcement!
- As a grammar exercise, take one
sentence from each paper, and group into grammar issues. In bold, put the rule, and then
underneath type in the incorrect sentences (anonymously). Use this as a one or two-day grammar
- Rules for Good Writing.