I taught English and creative writing for 35 years, and I don’t even want to calculate how many hours of my life were spent with pen in hand grading papers such as essays, practice assignments, journal entries, short stories, articles, and tests.
I once piled a huge stack of spiral notebooks on top of my car while I unlocked the car door and then drove off accidentally leaving a trail of spiral notebooks all over the parking lot. Oops!
Although I was never able to escape the grading process, I did learn a few things along the way that made life easier for me. Here are a few hints that might help.
1) Always prepare a rubric to give to the students along with a composition assignment. A thoughtfully prepared rubric will clarify exactly what you are expecting the students to write, and the papers will be better and easier to grade.
2) You don’t have to grade everything. Sometimes, practice papers should be just for practice and not for a grade. Verify that the student did indeed complete the assignment, but don’t grade it. If you wish to assign a grade because the student turned in the completed assignment on time, great! I would often assign a plus sign (if the paper appeared to be complete), a minus sign (if the paper was a half-hearted attempt), or a zero if the paper was not turned in at all.
3) You don’t have to evaluate every element of every paper. If, for example, your students have been working on how to write a thesis statement, just grade the thesis statement and not the whole paper.
4) Have your students peer edit each other’s papers and then revise their compositions before they turn them in to you.
5) Let your students grade each other’s papers whenever the assignment requires short answers or multiple choices. If the students trade and grade while you go over the answers with the entire class, you are providing another chance for students to learn. Immediate feedback is always a good idea.
6) Although you can always use a calculator to determine a student’s numerical grade, it is so much easier to use a grading chart. Laminate one or two and keep a copy wherever you might be likely to grade papers: your desk, your car, your home.
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Good luck with grading your stack of papers.
All the best,
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