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.
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.