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.