Tips to Cut Writing Assignment Grading Time

By Melissa Kelly

1. Use Peer Evaluation

Distribute rubrics to students asking each to read and score three of his or her peers’ essays in a specific amount of time. After grading an essay, they should staple the rubric to the back of it so as not to influence the next evaluator. If necessary, check off students who have completed the required number of evaluations; however, I have found that students do this willingly. Collect the essays, check off that they were completed on time, and return them to be revised.

Cheryl: I tried. Initially, my students were a bit reluctant to engage in peer evaluation. 
i) They felt that it was the teacher’s responsibility to mark students’ work.
ii) They felt inadequate to do the marking.
Thus, it is important to first explain to the students the rationale of getting them to do peer evaluation. They need to understand that …
i) the teacher is not merely trying to shirk his or her duty.
ii) it can help them to improve (i.e. know what the examiner looks for, become aware of common errors, etc)

It is also crucial for the teacher to go through the rubric with the class beforehand and clarify any doubts. 
In order to carry out peer evaluation successfully, the teacher has to invest time and energy but it is definitely worth the effort. It pays off in the end! 

*This method requires the students to have a certain level of proficiency in the language; it might not work well with weaker students.

2. Grade Holistically

Use a single letter or number based on a rubric such as the one used with The Florida Writes Program. To do this, put your pen down and simply read and sort assignments into piles according to score. When finished with a class, check each pile to see if they are consistent in quality, then write the score at the top. This allows you to grade a large number of papers quickly. It is best used with final drafts after students have used a rubric to grade one another’s writing and made improvements.

Cheryl: This might not go well with some parents/students/school authorities!

3. Use Portfolios

Have students create a portfolio of checked-off writing assignments from which they select the best to be graded. An alternative approach is to have the student select one of three consecutive essay assignments to be graded.

4. Grade Only a Few from a Class Set – Roll the Die!

Use a roll of a die to match numbers selected by students in order to select from eight to ten essays that you will be grading in-depth, checking off the others.

5. Grade Only a Few from a Class Set – Keep them Guessing!

Tell students you will make an in-depth evaluation of a few essays from each class set and check off the others. Students will not know when theirs will be graded in-depth.

6. Grade Only Part of the Assignment

Grade only one paragraph of each essay in depth. Don’t tell students ahead of time which paragraph it will be though.

Cheryl: I know of one teacher who does that..  I think it is a good idea. I’ll give it a try~

7. Grade Only One or Two Elements

Have students write at the top of their papers, “Evaluation for (element) ” followed by a line for your grade for that element. It is helpful to also write “My estimate _____” and fill in their estimate their grade for that element.

Cheryl: I’ve heard of this method before but I find it hard to only focus on one element and ignore all other errors. I tend to correct every single error which is not a good thing, of course, as…
i) it is very time consuming.
ii) students find it very demotivating to see their essays covered with red ink.
iii) students tend to make the same errors again.

Perhaps, it is high time I consider this method and not “torture” myself poring over essays.

8. Have Students Write in Journals Which Are Not Graded

Require only that they write either for a specified amount of time, that they fill a specified amount of space, or that they write a specified number of words.

Cheryl: i LOVE this!! I enjoy responding to students’ journals (i.e. the content) and not having to worry about correcting their spelling, tenses etc. From my experience, students enjoy journal writing too because they get to write about things that matter to them and express their feelings.

9. Use Two Highlighters

Grade writing assignments using only two colored highlighters with one color for strengths, and the other for errors. If a paper has many errors, mark only a couple you think the student should work on first so that you don’t cause the student to give up.

Cheryl: Worth considering~


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