April 7, 2011


I am a frequent reader of Teaching College English.  Recently she posted an historical overview of tips that teachers have given to get around the odious task of grading.  (This caused me to think of some things I've tried to do to help with this task, rather than sinking to GA--Grading Avoidance.)

I am trying to get the grading down to a more minimal level as well.  While I am more streamlined that my earlier self, I still wish I could be quicker.  Here's what I do now:
  • Minimal Marking: At the beginning of the semester I pass out a sheet with my grading symbols and codes.  Some of them are standard editing symbols and some are my inventions.  In the margins of their 1st essay, they get an X with the code beside it, and I either underline or circle the error.  Essay #2, no circling or underlining, but still the X's and codes.  Essay #3, gets them an X in the margin only, with an occasional code.
  • Error Log: After each essay the student is required to make a list of their errors, and where in the handbook they can find the answers for fixing them.  They have to compile all the essays onto one sheet; hopefully they'll see their progression and "own their errors."
  • Rubric: I make a rubric, adjusting it slightly for each essay.  This keeps me honest and helps the student know that while I did mark off for POV switches, they overall only lost 3 points (thereby helping with the whining).  The bulk of the grading is not in the "mechanical section" but in structure and content, and the rubric keeps me focused.
Problems with marking a lot are, a) it takes too much time, b) it's usually a waste of our time, and c) it's discouraging to the student to see their paper filled with our ink.  On some of the more recent essays, I heavily marked and coded the first page and a half of student's essays that contained multiple errors.  I then drew a line across with my ruler and wrote that while the errors persisted, I would not be marking them.  However, the student was under obligation to locate and fix the errors if they were to do a re-write.

I have to say that the rest of the essay was far less tedious to grade, and I could focus on the more significant problems of structure and cohesiveness, content and support.


  1. Almost any time it is harder for us to do our work than it is for the student, I think we are working too hard at it. Looks like you found a pretty effective way to cut down on your work and let the student pick up the slack!

  2. Hey, I have to say I agree with you! I also have a rubric and I try to stick with the items I teach on each unit but I am progressive and the students know that they will be responsible for more each time they write. I don't mark papers anymore. You are correct, it takes more time,and it doesn't help! Two reasons, not to do it! Thanks for some of your other ideas.