Faster grading for teachers can turn essay grading from dread to celebration. It should be a celebration. We get to see our students grow as writers after all the time and effort we spent. We should be able to enjoy reading their work, rather than freighting over the grade we have to give them. The last time I was grading essays I felt like the judge with all the power and my students were at my mercy. I think with a few tweaks to the grading process we can change grading for teachers so it’s more enjoyable and less work.
Essay Grading for Teachers
I have never met a teacher who got a stack of essays to grade and was excited about it. Even some of the best teachers I have worked with knew that grading was going to take them massive amounts of time. A particular teacher I am thinking of would read the essay one time just to read it and then again to grade it. She wouldn’t even mark every error. She would mark it a couple of times on the page and then skip that error for the rest of the essay. She knew it would be devastating for students to see too many marks on their papers.
Easier Grading for Teachers
Over your teaching career, I’m sure you’ve come up with a few hacks for grading that have made it faster, easier, and more enjoyable. What are some of the things you’ve done while grading essays to improve the process? I’d love to hear your ideas and story in the comments.
What is the Key to Persuasive Writing Grading for Teachers?
Persuasive writing is one of the most fun types of writing to teach because there are so many conversations and activities to go with it. Hopefully, we can make it one of the most fun types of writing to grade too. Having a great grading system is a great way to improve persuasive writing grading for teachers. A teacher’s grading system can speed up the process and make it more enjoyable.
My goal is to help you start to formulate a system that works for you. Pick the tips that you like the best from everything I share here and try them out. Some you’ll love and some just won’t work for you. I have narrowed these tips down to the ones that I think will work best for persuasive writing.
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Easier Persuasive Writing Grading for Teachers
I have categorized these tips to try to lessen the overwhelm of ideas and help you find what you need. Making grading for teachers easier and faster is possible. Before you read these tips think about what systems you already have in place. What’s working well for you and what’s not? What parts of grading are just too much and what do you enjoy a bit more? Write down everything you can think of to help you analyze it. Once you know a little bit about what you are already doing in your classroom you will be able to try new things and make changes more easily.
Persuasive Essay Grading for Teachers Before the Final Draft
You can start the grading process before your students turn in their final draft. With a little bit of strategy, you can get ahead of the grading game. Let’s talk about how you can get ahead of grading.
- Offer Choices
Offer your students choices about what topics, projects, or partners they work with. When you let students have some choice about their work they can choose things they are passionate about and tend to work harder. Passion is especially important in persuasive writing.
- Grade a Few Paragraphs While Students are Editing
Most teachers conduct writing conferences while their students write. When you are having conferences mark up your students’ papers with comments, or have them mark them up. Then when it’s time to correct compare their drafts to the final draft. If they’ve made changes then they deserve some credit for fixing their work. And since you already read some of the paragraphs and provided comments you don’t have to spend as much time correcting them. If you see the same mistakes as their drafts you can call them out on it by reminding them you talked about it in the draft but the same mistakes are there.
- Have Students Write a List of Corrections
Before your students turn in their final draft, have them make a list of the corrections they made between the first draft and the final draft. I wouldn’t ask them to get super specific. I wouldn’t want my students to tell me about every spelling error they fix, but I would want them to tell me they fixed 23 spelling errors. When your students write a correction list near the end of the assignment you can also ask them individually if it’s still ready to turn in. If some of your students say it’s not ready give them one more night. You won’t be able to correct them all that day anyway.
I constantly explain to my gymnasts how to fix a skill. I don’t just say straight legs have more power. I give them details about getting their hips flat, lifting their feet all the way, and making sure their ankles get to the bars not their knees. At first, they don’t understand. Then they start to see their errors. It’s when they can pick out and fix their own errors that they make progress and get skills. Writing is the same.
- Students Grade Themselves
If you handed out a rubric to your students have them grade themselves using the rubric. I would be sure to have them do it in black pen so you can mark it in a brighter color. When students evaluate their own work they might notice they didn’t complete the assignment fully. Again, I would ask my students if it is still ready to turn in. If it’s not then I would give them one more night to finish their work. So much learning can happen in this process if you let go and let it.
Planning for Grading for Teachers
Grading persuasive writing or any writing takes time. In order to create that time it’s going to take some planning. These planning tips can help you find more time for grading that isn’t your personal time.
- Use Movies Strategically for Grading Essays
If you ever show movies in your classroom then pull out your calendar ahead of time. Plan your movie day the day after their big essay is due. Taking time to plan like this will leave you with extra hours to get the grading done at school.
- Plan Essay Due Dates
Pull out your calendar at the beginning of the year and plan your essays and due dates. I have a whole article about becoming a curriculum mapper if you need some advice. Knowing that you want your students to write one essay and two poems a month lets you know how much grading you have to do. If you plan ahead and make sure you aren’t planning too much or too little because the just right amount will make you happier. Of course, you might adjust this plan to fit your student’s needs, but knowing what’s coming will help.
- Grading Essays in Batches
Batching is one of the best secrets of productive businesses. It simply means that you do like tasks together so that your brain doesn’t have to shift gears. Persuasive essays are pretty straightforward, but make sure you aren’t mixing in grading other assignments too. If you have your students choices then you may want to grade the projects together and the essays together.
- Plan When You Will Turn Back Work
Students always want to know when they will get their essays back. Tell your students they will get their papers back in about a week. Don’t say you will try to get it to them in two days. A week gives you time to grade a little bit each day without a lot of pressure, but it also gives you a deadline to keep you going. Give yourself time to grade without going crazy.
- Don’t Accept Late Work
Don’t accept late work from students without good reason. There are sicknesses, family emergencies, and students who have IEPs that include extra time from whom you will need to accept late work. But for the average student who didn’t finish their work on time, don’t accept late work. At my last school students who turned in late work started with a 50% and they knew it. If they talked to me BEFORE the due date we might make another plan, but this was the policy. Parents and students knew it and put in more effort to get their work in on time.
Easier Grading for Teachers Through Self-Preparation
Have you ever sat down to work on lesson plans and grading, but when you look at the clock you realize an hour has gone by and you’ve gotten practically nothing done? If you are not fully prepared then you will not be able to grade quickly or effectively. Get yourself in order so you are ready to grade. Here are some short and sweet tips to help you out.
- What to Write With
What kind of pen do you like to grade with? Make sure you have the one you prefer before you sit down to grade.
- When to Grade
What time of day works best for you to grade? Probably not super late at night when your brain isn’t working.
- Comments Bank
Do you have a bank of comments? This is especially helpful for digital grading. A comments bank can speed up the grading process.
- Limit Distractions
Limit the distractions around you. Take off your Apple Watch, turn off your phone, and don’t sit near the tv.
- Set a Timer
Think realistically about how much time you should need per paper. Set a timer and don’t linger on every essay. Try to beat the clock.
- Grade Essays First
Let grading essays be the first thing you grade. We only have so much willpower each day. Don’t start with grading spelling and use up your willpower. Grade essays first and then the other stuff.
Faster Grading for Teachers
Marking essays takes a long time but if you adopt one of these systems then marking your students’ essays will be faster. These systems ask you to stop and write less on each paper.
- KeyCode or Comment Code
Have you heard of a key code or comment code? It’s a paper of the common marks you make on an essay. Each item might be represented by a letter or number. When you come across a run-on sentence you write 3 instead of run-on sentence. You will be writing fewer comments on each paper. Some teachers like to use highlighters to help them mark parts more noticeably too.
- Grade Digitally
Grade in Google docs or online. You can copy and paste comments into essays so you are writing less. Typing is faster than handwriting too.
- Mark it Three Times
Don’t repeat the same comment throughout the whole paper. Mark the first few and then tell the student to check the rest of the paper. Some teachers have a rule of three. But pick a number that works for you and stick to it.
- A Check Marks the Line
Write a check next to the lines that have a problem and let your students find the problem themselves. This puts the responsibility on them and makes less work for you.
- Use Rubrics Effectively
If you use a rubric or checklist then just circle or underline the errors you see rather than write a comment.
- Not Ready to Publish
Return papers that are not ready for publication. If students hand you a paper that is just a mess return it. Don’t spend time fixing every error for them. Tell them it’s not ready for publication and it will be a zero until they fix and resubmit it. This method will make your grading life easier and give your students more responsibility.
The Best Grading for Teachers
It can take teachers their whole careers to find grading methods that work for them. Fortunately, teachers can share their incredible grading systems online to make it easier for other teachers. As you try out some of these systems you are going to need to let go of expectations, perfection, marking everything, and what other teachers might think of you. Let go and grade easily.
- Group Projects
Group projects are a great way to reduce the grading load. If you have students working together in groups you might only need to grade five projects. On top of that, it’s always quicker to grade projects than it is essays. Often students learn most of the same skills that they would in essays by creating projects. In persuasive writing, students will still learn how to research, make a claim, and address counterpoints.
- Grade for Content
Persuasive writing is all about the content of what students write more than the mechanics, so let’s grade that. Students need to connect with the reader, discuss counterpoints, elevate emotions, and convince the reader that they are correct by using logic and addressing counterpoints. If your students can do these things there is no reason for them to lose more than 10 points for all the spelling and grammar mistakes. The content is the most important part so grade that part.
- Corner Rubric
Having a one-page quick write paper with a rubric in the corner is a great idea. It helps your students write concisely and reduces grading for you. Your corner rubric should focus on just a few areas to be graded.
- Limit Length
Have you ever had a student who writes on and on assuming that they will get a better grade because they write more pages? I have. Their papers tend to be repetitive and boring.
They are reducing their chance for a better grade because with a longer paper there will likely be more mistakes. I like to think of it in terms of gymnastics routines. Often lower level gymnastics will fulfill the requirements of a routine and that’s it. Every time they add extra tumbling passes they could lower their score because of form errors. Writing is very similar.
Limit your students’ essay length so they have to use their space well. This can reduce droning on and increase thoughtful writing.
- Don’t Grade Everything
I hope that the marking tips gave you some ideas about how to make grading easier by marking fewer things. Let’s take that one step further. You can completely skip grading some of their practice papers. Part of learning persuasive writing is practicing a lot. Let your students practice their persuasive writing without a big grade attached.
I like the idea of writing five practice papers and if the students complete all five practices then they get a 100 for a homework, participation, or practice grade in the grade book. Doesn’t that sound great? It helps their grades a little by recognizing their effort and reduces your workload.
- Grade One Skill
Just because you have an entire essay in front of you it doesn’t mean you have to grade every single part of it. Focus on one skill. For persuasive writing, I like the idea of grading structure, counterarguments, (and content from tip 2). Imagine if your students wrote a strong paper with these three things done well. I could manage to let go of a few spelling or commas errors if the rest of their paper was well done.
Final Grading for Teachers
Now take your favorite tips and make a system that works for you. Having a clear system that you don’t have to think about is going to save you tons of time in the long run. Create the system now and reap the rewards in a few months or years. Grading can be a time to celebrate what your students accomplished, rather than a time to dread the work you have to do.
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.