16 Surprising Tips for Easy Grading of Narrative Writing

Does easy grading for narrative writing exist? Publishing, sharing, and grading are the final steps to every big writing assignment.  Watching students pour their hearts into writing a story, seeing how proud they are as they publish it, and feeling how nervous they get before sharing their story are some of the best parts of teaching narrative writing.  The part that isn’t so great is sitting down to grade it thinking it is going to be easy grading and then discovering after grading one paper that grading these papers could literally take the rest of the quarter.

Why I Never Experienced Easy Grading in My Classroom

Grading writing is one of the most time-consuming grading tasks that teachers have to do.  In reality, I made my grading tasks much more difficult than they needed to be.  That’s right! Grading took me so long because I expected too much of myself.  I wanted to mark every mistake and write comments for every error.   I was trying to be a super teacher and it wasn’t necessary.  It also didn’t help my students to see all of those corrections on their hard work.

Easy Grading Can Make You a Better Teacher.

I knew my grading system wasn’t working for me. Not only did I have writing to grade, but I was bogged down under huge piles of papers for other subjects too. By trying to do too much I made extra work for myself.  All of that grading made me a worse teacher because I was focused on the grading task instead of my students.  If I had released myself from grading stress and turned that energy toward my students they would have learned more.  Keeping it simple would have benefited everyone.

The Secret to Easy Grading for Narrative Writing

Grading is going to take time, but we can make it take less time, by being more efficient and effective.  The key to easy grading is to come up with a system that works well for you.  Easy grading doesn’t happen instantly, but if you work for the next few months to create a system that works for you then by next year the stress of grading will be reduced because of your customized easy grading system.

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Easy Grading Tips For Narrative Writing

After reading the rest of this article you will have some easy grading tips to try out.  I do not expect that you will adopt all of these tips.  My goal is that you find a few tips that you can incorporate into your own easy grading system that you will fine-tune over time.  If the first tips you pick out don’t work well for you then come back and pick out something else to try.  

Since every teacher has a different style, every teacher will find a different combination of tips helpful.  These are just some of my favorite tips for narrative writing.  If you need more easy grading tips you can check out my article Grading Essays Faster and Easier with These 20 Spectacular Tips.  Grading is a giant task, but thanks to the internet providing tips and advice from other teachers easy grading is possible.

Start Easy Grading Before the Final Draft

Easy grading starts before the final draft.  Here are three tips you can start using in your classroom.

  1. Grade in Writing Conferences

If you are using writer’s workshop in your classroom you are probably having writing conferences.  During your writing conferences, start checking student work.  Provide students with feedback and mark their papers.   Then when they turn in their rough draft and final draft you simply need to compare the two, at least for some of the paragraphs.   Did they make the corrections you discussed during their writing conference?  

  1. Give Students a Choice of Several Topics

One of the worst parts of grading student writing is when all the writing sounds the same. Offer your students a variety of topics.  These topics can be similar but different.  Maybe you are studying the rainforest.  Not every student needs to write about an animal. They could write about weather, tribes, deforestation, or anything else.

  1. Have Students Self-Check Their Work

I have three ways your students can self-check their work.  

Self-Graded Rubric

We often ask students to check their rubric before turning in their work and most of them say they did. But if you make them turn in a rubric as a requirement they will have to read each part and decide if they did their best work.  Don’t be surprised if students suddenly want to revise more.

Record Their Corrections

After students finish the final draft they can look back at the first draft and make a list of the corrections they made.  Did they find 27 spelling errors?  Add 8 commas? Or switch paragraphs three and five.  They don’t need to write every single error, but this helps you and them see their improvements.

Use a Highlighter

The assignment is likely working on a specific skill such as citing a source or using text evidence.  Have your students highlight this particular skill so it’s easy for you to find. It shows that they understand the skill too. 

Long-Term Planning to Create Easy Grading

I am a planner, just like most teachers.  Let’s put our planning superpowers to use.  Here are a few simple ways to use your calendar and curriculum map to make grading easier.

  1. Plan Out All Your Writing Assignments

At the beginning of the year plan out all of your writing assignments.  Decide how long students will have for each assignment.  Plan the due dates at times that work for you.  Do you celebrate holidays with movies or downtime?  Is there a special assembly once a month?  What things can you incorporate into your year to give you extra grading time?  Then plan the start date from there.  Make sure you have enough assignments in each grading period, but not too many.

  1. Plan In-Class Time for Grading

You should not have to bring home student work to grade.  More and more teachers are putting up boundaries between their home and school life.  Boundaries are great, but you need to have a plan.  Here are two ideas.

Use Movies Strategically

We just talked about planning your due dates.  What if the day after a due date was a movie day?  Of course, the movie should relate to the curriculum, but because you planned ahead it does.  Now you have some in-class time to grade.  You can tell students not to bother you.  They should grab their snacks and settle in.  If they need the bathroom then grab the pass and go.

Independent Work Time

Independent work time is good for your students.  They need to learn this skill.  Figure out a few independent work activities you want in your classroom.  Spend a week training your students on how to do it.  Now use this time for grading writing or another subject in between writing due dates.

Prepare Yourself for Easy Grading

Here is a quick list of ways to prepare yourself for easy grading.  

  1. Grade during the time of day your brain works best.
  2. Block off time to grade.
  3. Plan lessons for other subjects ahead of time during a grading week so you aren’t distracted.
  4. Remove other distractions from your vicinity – goodbye phone, watch, and Instagram.
  5. Grab a good chair and pen.
  6. Use a timer so you don’t linger on one paper too long.
  7. Make commenting easier by using a bank.  This is especially true for digital grading because you can just copy and paste.
  8. Make grading writing the first task you sit down to do. Don’t procrastinate on this task.

Easy Grading Process

Grading student writing can be painful because they are still learning how to write.  Easy grading is difficult when the writing is rough.  Here are some tips to make the process easier.

  1. Scale Up

You know those times you aren’t sure if you should mark a two or a three on the rubric?  Scale-up and give them the three.  They are trying their best and learning.  Give them credit for effort and progress.

  1. Find the Good

Find something about every piece of writing that is good.  Let your students know that you read it and loved it.  Encourage them.  If you don’t find good things about their writing it’s going to be harder to correct and encourage them to keep learning.

Finding the good can also mean that you are finding parts of their writing that are funny.  Today I was laughing through my son’s whole gymnastics class because he didn’t know how to be a snake or a crab.  He was trying to follow the teacher’s directions and line up behind her, but she kept moving.  In the same way, the funny sentences in student writing can keep us going.

Easy Grading Marking

Imagine if we only had to read our students’ writing instead of mark it up.  Writing comments and correcting errors takes so much time unless we change what we are doing.

  1. Use a Rubric, Checklist, or Keycode

We need to have some sort of system for grading and we usually use rubrics or checklists.  Both of these tools let students know what we expect of them.  Keycodes are a little bit different.  Each common error is assigned a letter or a number.  Then when you come across a comma error you write a 5.  Students look at the keycode and know they made a comma error.  

  1. Mark the Line

Some teachers mark each line that has an error with a checkmark.  They don’t go into specific details, but just let the students know there is an error and let them find it.

  1. Three of the Same Error

If your students are making the same mistakes again and again then this tip is for you.  There are actually two options here.

  • Only mark an error three times and then tell your student it occurred several times and they need to find the errors.
  • If students are making the same mistakes repeatedly then simply tell them their work is not ready to publish and give it back to them to correct.  You can give them a date to turn it in again or mark it incomplete and let them figure it out.

Easy Grading Tips By Experienced Teachers

Over time teachers develop systems that make teacher life easier including developing an easy grading system. Here are a few tips from some teachers who have done just that.  

  1. Focus Skill

Focus on teaching and grading one skill.  Usually, within lesson plans, there is a specific standard or skill that teachers are helping their students learn.  What if students were graded on this focus skill or main skill?  You wouldn’t need to mark every error.  Their grade would be mostly based on content.

  1. Don’t Grade Everything

It’s perfectly okay to have students practice writing that you are not going to grade.  Students have so many creative ideas that they would love to write and share without the pressure of it being perfect for a grade.  If you had them write three assignments you could let them choose which one you would grade or they could simply be practice writing.  

  1. Limit Length

At some point students needs to learn how to be concise writers.  They need to learn to take out the extra words and phrases, even paragraphs from their writing.  If you limit writing to a specific number of pages or paragraphs then you will have less to grade and be challenging your students to complete the assignment concisely.

  1. Grade for Content

No writer is perfect, and our students definitely won’t be either.  Let’s grade students on the content of their writing and their ideas instead of being perfect in their mechanics.  

  1. Group Work

Have your students work in groups on projects so that they benefit from working with each other and there are fewer papers to grade.

Creating Your Customized Easy Grading System

Creating your own easy grading system will take some work and time to fine-tune, but hopefully, these tips will help you get started.  Take the pressure off of yourself and finish your grading faster and easier.

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Blog 65

Blog 66

Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

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