I think I'll begin with a photo story...
... and I'll begin with a bold statement.
No one knows the pain of grading like an English teacher.
Ok, that might be harsh. I’ll revise to say no one knows the pain of grading like a teacher with a writing focus. If you’ve assigned any writing assignment from a paragraph to a multi-page essay, you know the intimidation and dread that comes with the due date – when a stack of 100+ assignments ends up in your To Grade pile.
My own pattern of denial looks like this:
Then, as I read (and complain some more), I question if the assignment was even worth it. Or rather, my significant other says something like, “Then stop assigning it!” His logic is funny to any seasoned English teacher, but as I observe the operations of my colleagues, I have noticed that some have adopted the same mentality. I even find myself considering it!
The danger in this is that we start using grading as an excuse to assign less writing. My best work pal has struggled with this all year. Her PLC, Professional Learning Community, is prone to this kind of thinking. Instead of having kids write an essay, they’ll write a paragraph. Instead of checking student progress during the research paper process, they’ll just do one big grade at the end. Being responsible for the Pre-AP version of their course (and tragically micro-managed by me, the AP teacher), she has found herself fighting throughout the year for more rigorous writing instruction. The response has usually been the same – they don’t have time to grade it.
And I get that! One paragraph - let alone an essay - multiplied by even 60 (or heaven forbid, 120) can be hours of work. Especially troublesome is that idea that you would read all those paragraphs and there is no grade to show for it, or rather, it’ll just be graded again in the summative assessment. Very quickly the excuses pile up, and it’s easy to see how they shift our thinking and move our practice away from writing.
But it can’t.
Being an AP teacher, I have been confronted with a heightened need for writing practice, especially when I compared my own practice to that of my peers. Some of them were assigning a Free Response Question essay every week! This year, that was 95 essays to grade every week. Sometimes, I managed to pull it off, especially leading up to the test, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I read 2000+ essays this year. However, the amount of writing I needed to get from students required me to push myself, and more importantly, find grading solutions that helped me keep grading manageable.
Knowing the struggle I hear in PD, in department meetings, in PLC, I want to share out some of those solutions. To do it right, I’ll post a series over the next few days with step-by-step structures and tools I use in my classroom to re-prioritize and streamline the amount of grading I do. (Like I said, 95+ essays a week!). Come back for posts on 1) holistic grading, 2) collaborative writing, 3) self-assessment, 4) feedback methodologies, and 6) process grading.
My intention is simple – to get kids writing more, but not at the cost of the amazing teachers out there. More writing. Less stress. No more sad grading pictures. Let’s do it!