What was I looking for when I sat down to grade papers? At the beginning, it was simple: Was there a title? An opening sentence? Details that fit the theme? A closing sentence? Then other concerns would then creep in: spelling, grammar, title, neatness. What criteria did I need to guide me? What if the opening sentence was weak?
I began with the basics. I listed more specific expectations for the writing, such as: An eye-catching opening; A solid closing; Interesting and variety of details; Variety of vocabulary; Applies punctuation regularly. Then, I posted the criteria in the classroom.
Whenever there was a minute, the students and I practiced the different criteria until they understood what was expected. Regarding spelling: During the early writing experiences, I told them how to spell a word, therefore, it was left off the criteria list. (See blog Improve That Spelling!)
Next, for each criterion, I ranked its use with a sliding scale.
5: Yes! 4: Most of the time 3: Uses somewhat 2: Doesn’t use at all
With the criteria to guide me and the ranking clear, I made a six column list.
The left column was their names.
The key words of the criteria were in the next 5 columns. Based on the above list, I used letters to indicate the word:
‘O’ opening, ‘C’ closing, ‘D’ details, ‘V’ vocabulary,’P’ punctuation.
Presto! As I read the papers, I filled in the columns for each student – ranking each student’s use of the criteria.
The grade was based on the total of their ranking numbers.
25 would mean a perfect paper ‘A’
20 meant the student was doing well ‘B’
15 was keeping up ‘C’
10 meant the student needed help ‘D’
Any totals in between were adjusted, such as ‘A-‘ or ‘C+’
The benefit? Grading was faster and more consistent. (Yes, adjust your criteria to fit your students’ grade level and the assignment.)