Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Friday, September 12, 2008


Correcting essays is one of the most odious tasks English teachers have. The pedagogy of the task is correct, it is the doing of it, the manual part that is the hard part. I have used the guidelines I picked up from NCTE many many years ago which was we should spend about 15-20 minutes per essay. If I consider one class of 30 scholars that could be 7.5 hours to 10 hours per class. This seemed like an impossible task to me, so I wanted to figure out how I could do the writing assessment more efficiently and quicker.

I had to refine what I expected to assess in each writing assignment and how often I was going to interact with the writer. I decided as the weeks went on, I would select a couple of new things to concentrate on each week. We developed a rubric of what was expected in our writing. This way, each scholar would have a checklist to consult before moving on to the next step of assessment which was peer review. During the writing process, I would move among the scholars and read over their shoulders. I was able to nip things in the bud during these strolls. I would discover universal mistakes or mistakes common among many scholars. At this point I would quickly get the classes attention and do a quick grammar or writing lesson of three to five minutes. The effectiveness of this tactic was that the scholars were at a place in their learning when this knowledge would be relevant and be learned. Now I was finding I was doing informal conferencing and using the writer's work for lessons. When it came to do final assessment, I discovered because of this early work, I cut down the assessment time to more than half for each paper. I was able to work on the next steps for each scholar, write these ideas and notes on their papers and then use these notes when I conferenced with each scholar. I was slowly discovering I was getting more and more good writing from each scholar and doing less major correcting of papers because I was using class time to work with them as they were writing.

The concept of keeping it simple worked very well. I isolated lessons so as to concentrate on a few things instead of many things. I worked with the scholars through the writing process to catch the mistakes early before they repeated themselves. I had the scholars print what they had each day so I could review it again to catch things before they became habits. It may seem like it would be lots of work, but over time I discovered it saved me and the scholars time and they became much better and proficient writers.


Mrs. Gillmore said...

Thanks for the link to the rubric...I had not seen this one. I like it!

Grading essays...oh, my...although so important, this is what I dread the most! Until I sit down and begin...then I find what I need to review and am thrilled with the gains and insights many have achieved.

Unfortunately, this is the very reason many leave our curriculum area...thank goodness for rubrics!

TeachMoore said...

Thank you for this one. Your practical advice is what thoughtful writing instructors have (or should have) been doing for years. This type of workshop approach to writing seems more time-consuming on the front end, but the benefits to young writers are rich and long-lasting.

How do you and your scholars negotiate what should be in the rubric? Do you use more than one?

Ted Nellen said...

Thank you, Rene, for the kind comment. In response to your question, I use the rubrics developed by the NYState Regents since my scholars will take the English Language Arts Regents. This way they are accustomed to what is expected on this exit exam. For my classes that have passed the ELA Regents, we use the state standards as a guide to the rubrics we create.

Before these tests, the class did create its own rubric and that is very useful. When the scholars have been part of the process they buy in.