Grading Essays

On Saturday I graded twenty seven English 11 essays.  Twenty. Seven.  That’s a crazy high number of essays but as the year is wrapping up, I need to get a lot accomplished so I went into crazy efficient grading mode.  Anyway, here are some thoughts and questions that have been going through my head as I read these and other essays. Please let me know if you have any answers! 🙂

  • How can I help my students see how important writing is in their lives?  Their apathy toward school in general makes it hard to make anything seem relevant.  And, while this sounds like me complaining, I am really, truly interested in this.  I have several books I want to read or reread this summer to improve my writing instruction next year, two of them by my favorite English teacher authors: Kelly Gallagher and Jim Burke.  
  • I want to deepen my student’s analysis but, again, I’m not 100% sure how to do it.  I have several kids who’ve made noticeable progress in the area with their most recent paper, the synthesis essay.  I often see improvement with this essay and it’s exciting because the kids and I can both see how they’ve grown this year.  Sadly, so many of the kids who could also see this progress don’t take the assignment seriously and therefore don’t see any improvements.  This relates back to my first thought: how do I make it relevant and meaningful to them?
  • Recently I graded my Pre IB English 10 essays on my iPad using the record feature on Noteability. I wasn’t sure how the kids would respond but they really liked it.  I did too. It actually saved me time once I got the hang of it.  I’d read with my stylus in my hand and when I had a comment to make, I’d hit record.  The marks I made on the paper were synced with the recording, so when kids got their essays back they were able to hear more detailed comments than I’m able to write on their paper.  They had a better understanding of the mysterious marks and comments English teachers write on their essays.  I was happy with the reception of this process and I found it very easy to implement.  Sadly, this won’t be possible next year (I don’t think) with the switch to chromebooks.  Maybe I can find a comparable tactic.  
  • Students are really struggling with using prepositions.  I find this interesting and it’s a trend that I first noticed about two years ago (I may have written about it).  I see students using “by” ALL the time in ways that sound really awkward.  Where on earth is this coming from?  How do I “fix” that in 11th grade?  Where did it begin?  Why?  Hmmm…
So, I had to take a break from grading to eat some dinner and write this because my head hurts too bad to continue grading.  Only 9 days of school left and still a lot to do.  Tomorrow my 11’s start presentations.  I’m hoping they take them seriously, but it’s a toss up at this time of year!  Wish me luck!!! 🙂

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