A Less Stressful and More Efficient Way to Evaluate Student Writing and Provide Meaningful Feedback

Let’s face it–grading student writing is often the bane of a teacher’s existence.

For years I spent many hours, burnt through many-a red pen and endured some serious hand cramps handwriting commentary on each of my student’s writing assignments.

Recently I asked, “Is there a better way? Is there a way to provide students with meaningful, authentic feedback without spending hours writing comments on their papers?”

So for the last few weeks I’ve been tinkering with a new approach to providing students with feedback.

My New Approach

  • As I read through student assignments, I mark down notes on a legal tablet. Most of these notes are abbreviations and only understood by me. I typically write two comments for each student. If a student struggled with the assignment I circle their name.
  • The next day in class, while the class is working on an independent activity, I hand deliver the previous work. I stop at each student’s desk, take a knee or seat (less menacing then standing) and have a quick conference where I verbalize my notes. As I do this, I instruct the student to write down my feedback in their own words on the assignment itself.
  • Before I move to the next student, I instruct the student to find and mark evidence that supports my feedback.(This is big. I want them to identify their weaknesses so they know what areas to focus on for the next assignments.)
  • After I’ve met with every student (and if time permits), I will check-in with of the circled (struggling) students, asking them if they found the evidence and if they have any additional questions.


  • Time efficient (I try to keep my conferences around 30 seconds long)
  • Provides face-time with each student
  • The legal tablet serves as a living document for monitoring student progress
  • Is very adaptable and can be done with any writing assignment


  • Some students require more feedback
  • Some student require longer conferences
  • Some students are intimidated with one on one conferences
  • Takes time to figure out your own system

Call to Action

My way is not the highway! But if you’re a writing teacher overwhelmed with grading (and who isn’t?) I encourage you to give this informal conferencing method a try. It’s a fast, effective way to provide all students individualized writing feedback.