It’s Saturday morning. I’ve been up since before the sun, working my way through three sections of essays on “The Scarlet Ibis,” a gut-wrenchingly sad short story by James Hurst. For the 22nd time this morning, I read clumsy attempts of freshman brains trying to symbolically connect the crushed red body of a tropical bird to the broken body of our narrator’s beloved little brother, Doodle. For the 22nd time this morning, I furrow my brow and scribble my thoughts in the margins. Finishing the essay, I drain the remains of my coffee cup, sigh deeply, and glance at Essay #23, glaring from the top of the pile.

10-1I glare back, thinking there are many other things that need to be done on this weekend morning. Laundry is piled in the hamper, the dishwasher needs to be emptied, and the bathroom could certainly use some attention. That’s when I decide, Yes, I’ll go clean the bathroom.

Then it hits me. I would rather scrub a toilet than grade another essay.

Toilets over essays? Whoa. This is a problem. I set down my grading pen and start thinking. There has to be a better way. Now, I know there is.

Before I created this system, it took me 15-to-20 minutes to grade an essay. Today, with the use of a detailed coding system and a content rubric that’s laser-focused on the writing issues that matter most, I’m able to mark an essay in just under five minutes. Really.

Look, grading papers is part of the gig. We signed up to be English teachers; there’s no getting around the fact that we’re going to have to spend some time with the grading pen. The amount of time we spend on those papers, though, needs to provide a fruitful yield of learning for our students without breaking our spines.

Want to give your students meaningful feedback on their papers and watch them grow as writers? Want to have time to recharge on weekends and holidays without the burden of endless essay stacks hanging over your head? Click here for the solution.

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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. I have purchased your e-book and am excited about using your coding system. I have a question about kids who won’t complete the essay corrections. Ideally, I would send it home with them to finish as homework; I have some students, though, who will lose the essay or who—for legitimate or non legitimate reasons!—won’t do the homework assignment. Do you withhold the essay grade until you receive the corrections? Do you assign points to the corrections to motivate students to finish them? (It won’t be a big enough problem to make everyone finish the corrections in class, but it will affect a handful of students who struggle with organization/time management/homework.) Any advice would be appreciated!

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  2. Great questions, Kim! So glad you’re thinking through how to best make this work for your kids. If I had a population that refused to complete homework or just couldn’t get homework done for whatever reason, I’d just have students do the corrections in class. Those with few errors would be able to finish on the first day I hand back the essays. Those with more errors would need to continue during our next SSR Friday reading session. And, yes, I would put a zero in gradebook for their essay grade until they finished those corrections – they’re that important! 🙂

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