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How to Save Time Grading Essays

Canned e-Comments

Insertable e-Comments

Good teachers learn to work smarter not harder. We also learn how to prioritize our time, especially in terms of managing the paper load. Most of us would agree that we need to focus more of our time on planning and teaching, rather than on correcting. Here’s one resource to help you save time grading essays, while providing better essay response: the e-Comments Chrome Extension. Automatically insert hundreds of canned comments into Google docs and slides from your choice of grades 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and AP/College comment banks. Switch back-and-forth if you like. And you can edit these as you please or even add your own, including audio, video, and speech-to-text comments. Perfect for the non-techie teacher. Only one click inserts the comments from the movable e-Comments menu.

No, this is not an automatic grading program. If you’ve tried a few of these, you already have learned that while computers may do a nice job driving our cars, they don’t do as well grading student essays. Instead, the essay e-comments app is simply a “canned” comment bank which teachers use “as is” or choose to modify to stop wasting time writing the same comments over and over again. Plus, instead of just identifying the writing issue, each Essay e-Comment teaches students how to revise the problem.

No, this is not a grammar or spell checker. These are wonderful tools; however, they don’t teach your students how to avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over again. The comments are aligned to the Common Core Anchor Standards for Writing and Language. They are comprehensive and identify, explain, and show how to revise writing issues for stories, essays, and reports.

If you’re committed to providing detailed comments to help your students improve their writing, but find yourself spending more than five minutes per essay, this easy to use Chrome extension’s for you!

Let’s See Examples

Revise In-Text Citation Format:

In-text citations identify any outside source of information you use in your writing and must be included on a separate Works Cited page. After the direct quotation (using the author’s words) or an indirect quotation (using your own words, but the author’s idea), include the following within parentheses: the author’s last name (or title if none listed), followed by a space and the page number (numeral only). If the name of the author or title is used within the quotation, only the page number is included in parentheses. Place a period after the closing parenthesis.

Examples:

As the author explains, “Direct quotation” (Smith 22).

According to Amy Smith, “Direct quotation” (22).

Inconsistent Point of View:

The point of view has changed. The point of view refers to how the story is told. Most authors use one of these points of view to tell the story:

One of the characters tells the story using I. The reader only knows what the character knows and feels.

Example: I walked into the hallway, not knowing where it would lead.

The narrator, who is not involved in the story, tells the reader what one main character knows and feels.

Example: Marsha and Brad left the house together. Marta wondered if they would return.

The narrator or character telling the story knows everything about the characters’ past, present, and future.

Example: The children did not know that their parents were waiting for them at the end of the tunnel.

Revise Sentence Run-on:

This run-on incorrectly connects two independent clauses (a noun and connected verb which tells a complete thought). If connected with a comma, the run-on is known as a comma splice. To fix a sentence run-on, try these revision strategies:

Separate the run-on into two sentences.

Run-on Example: Lou told his mom he told his sister.

Revision: Lou told his mom. He told his sister.

Add a comma followed by a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) between the two complete thoughts.

Run-on Example: Lou told his mom he told his sister.

Revision: Lou told his mom, and he told his sister.

Needs Commentary:

Provide your own comments about the concrete detail. In an opinion essay, include your opinion, share your own ideas about the evidence, analyze (say what it means about the issue or topic), or evaluate (say if it’s right or wrong; good or bad). In an informative/explanatory essay, explain, analyze (say what it means), or provide a definition of a key word. Commentary does not add additional details or information. Use a transition word to begin commentary sentences.

Example: As a result, gamers learn how to optimize their games with modifications.

This freebie will make life a bit easier for teachers this fall… I just released a new free comment insert program for Google docs that will save grading time and improve writing feedback. Insert hundreds of customizable Common Core-aligned instructional comments, which identify, explain, and show how to revise writing issues, with just one click from the e-Comments menu. Add your own comments to the menu, including audio, video, and speech-to-text. Check out the introductory video and add this free extension to your Chrome toolbar: e-Comments Chrome Extension. Includes separate comment banks for grades 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and AP/College. Cheers!

*****

Why not use the same language of instruction as the e-Comments program for program instruction? Mark Pennington is the author of Teaching Essay Strategies, Teaching Grammar and Mechanics, Differentiated Spelling Instructionand the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How Many Essay Comments and What Kind

Press Release e-Comments

e-Comments Press Release

Teacher response to student writing often falls into two extremes:

1. The holistic rubric devotees who simply parrot standardized writing test grading by assigning numerical scores for “catch-all” writing categories or

2. The red-ink zealots who mark every single error and writing issue with their secret codes, a.k.a. diacritical proofreading marks and extensive writing comments.

The first approach of the holistic rubric hardly merits comment. Students merely look at the total score and continue the same errors or writing issues on the subsequent draft and next writing assignment. Intuitively, the second approach would seem to produce some benefit; however, the writing research is clear that student response to extensive marks and comments on rough drafts is minimal and the transfer of learning from such comments on final drafts to the next writing assignment is almost non-existent.

A middle ground can achieve more results. However, we have to make a distinction between rough drafts and final drafts. Researchers have found that marks on final drafts have little effect on student’s application to subsequent writing tasks (Dudenhyer 1976; Beach 1979; Thompson 1981; Harris 1978). But, conscientious teachers should make comments on rough drafts and writing research does support this practice. But how many essay comments make sense? And what kind of essay comments produce the produce the most revision and application to future writing tasks?

How Many Essay Comments

Many teachers take pride in the number of essay marks and comments they make on a paper. Some colleagues buy red pens by the truckload and spend significant time at their task. However, writing research has some disheartening news for these teachers. No significant difference in the quality of student writing was found between those teachers who marked all mistakes as compared to those teachers who made only minimal (Arnold 1964). Also, writing extensive comments does not improve student’s writing (Harris 1978; Lamberg 1980). Additionally, most students are able to respond effectively to no more than five comments per composition (Shuman 1979).

Clearly, more is not necessarily better. Knowing the student’s individual needs from frequent writing will help teachers prioritize which marks and comments will most help that student’s writing.

What Kind of Comments

Students tend to revise errors more so than issues of style, argument, structure, and content. The reason is simple: it’s easier to revise errors. Research shows that teachers tend to follow the same pattern as students: they mark and comment on errors much more often than on matters of style, argument, structure, and content (Connors and Lunsford 1988). So, teachers should keep in mind a balance between errors and writing issues when making essay comments. When a minimal credit is awarded for writing revisions, students tend to gravitate toward fixing the errors, rather than tackling the tougher chore of the writing issues. Awarding more points for writing revision and holding students accountable for addressing all marks and comments will motivate more and more meaningful revisions.

Teachers tend to mark errors with some form of diacritical mark, such as “cs” for a comma splice, and write brief comments, such as “awkward” for style or content. However, Hairston (1981) found that students tended to revise more when explanations were provided, rather than simple error identification. So, comments work better than simple diacritical marks.

So, which comments are most important to include? Clearly, issues of coherence and unity merit comments. So would issues of organization, content, and evidence. Hairston also suggested focusing comments on those issues which readers found to reflect lack of writing expertise. For example, nonstandard verb forms such as brung instead of brought are considered more egregious status indicators than a who-whom mistake. Good teachers can certainly make informed judgments about which comments to include and which comments to avoid.

So, to summarize how many essay comments and what kind, writing research would suggest the following:

  • Comment on rough drafts, not final drafts.
  • Limit the amount of comments and individualize those to the needs of the student writer.
  • Balance the types of comments between writing errors and issues of style, argument, structure, and evidence.
  • Hold students accountable for each mark or comment.
  • Comments are better than diacritical marks alone.
  • Comments should explain what is wrong or explain the writing issue.

Comments include…

  • Essay Organization and Development
  • Coherence
  • Word Choice
  • Sentence Variety
  • Writing Style
  • Format and Citations
  • Parts of Speech
  • Grammatical Forms
  • Usage
  • Sentence Structure
  • Types of Sentences
  • Mechanics
  • Conventional Spelling Rules

This freebie will make life a bit easier for teachers… I just released a new free comment insert program for Google docs that will save grading time and improve writing feedback. Insert hundreds of customizable Common Core-aligned instructional comments, which identify, explain, and show how to revise writing issues, with just one click from the e-Comments menu. Add your own comments to the menu, including audio, video, and speech-to-text. Check out the introductory video and add this free extension to your Chrome toolbar: e-Comments Chrome Extension. Includes separate comment banks for grades 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and AP/College. Cheers!

*****

Why not use the same language of instruction as the e-Comments program for program instruction? Mark Pennington is the author of Teaching Essay Strategies, Teaching Grammar and Mechanics, Differentiated Spelling Instructionand the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

Literacy Centers, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Essay Comment Excuses

e-Comments Chrome Extension

e-Comments Extension

Many teachers take a great deal of personal pride in their essay comments. A community college colleague of mine made a life-long practice and ritual of grading his freshman composition papers every morning from 6:00-8:00 a.m. He provided extensive feedback and his students appreciated his dedication to developing their writing craft.

Now, I realize that I have lost a number of my readers after that opening paragraph. When we hear about such examples, we feel a mixture of aspiration and guilt. We want to have a similar impact on our students. Teachers are idealists. We want to make a difference in the lives of our students, and we believe that reading and writing are key ingredients to living a meaningful and productive life. However, most of us fail to measure up to our own expectations. Guilt sets in. No one likes guilt, so we conjure up essay comment excuses.

Excuses to Avoid Writing Essay Comments

I would, buts.

  • I would, but I already work a 60 hour week. That community college professor described above teaches fewer classes and does not have adjunct duties such as dances, football games, etc.
  • I would, but “they” cut my teaching days/salary.
  • I would, but my colleagues don’t have the same commitment as I do, so I follow their lead. We sometimes do read-arounds, so I have to grade as they do so as not to spoil their objectivity.

Rationalizations

  • My students don’t/won’t read my essay comments anyway. They glance at the grade, skim the comments, and trash their papers.
  • I use a holistic rubric or a 6 Traits +1 matrix so my students get a general feel for what they did well and what they need to work on. More detailed comments might draw students away from the “big picture.”
  • I have to grade the way students will be tested. Their standardized test uses a four-point rubric with no comments. Teaching has become test-prep.

Working Smarter, Not Harder

Let’s face it. We’ve all used one or more of those excuses to avoid the hard work of commenting on student papers. But we know that specific comments are the keys to writing improvement. Commenting throughout the writing process is simply a necessary component of effective writing instruction. We know that essay comment excuses are just that-excuses. Please comment on this post to add on more. I’ve just given you the excuses I’ve personally used over the years.

So, how can we do a great job with essay response and still maintain some semblance of a life outside of work? Canned comments.  But… really good ones. Prescriptive ones that that identify, explain with examples, and show students how to revise… Ones that target specific writing style, grammar, usage, organization, evidence, spelling… everything. Ones that are aligned to the Common Core Anchor Standards for Writing and Language… Hundreds of comments, written for different age levels… Ones that can be automatically inserted into Google docs and slides… Ones that you choose and are not chosen for you by some automatic grading program. Ones that you can easily personalize and are truly authentic. Ones that allow you to insert links for content references or even writing practice. Ones that allow you to differentiate instruction. Ones that students will have to read and respond to… Ones that will save teachers time.

This free resources will make life a bit easier for teachers… I just released a new free comment insert program for Google docs that will save grading time and improve writing feedback. Insert hundreds of customizable Common Core-aligned instructional comments, which identify, explain, and show how to revise writing issues, with just one click from the e-Comments menu. Add your own comments to the menu, including audio, video, and speech-to-text. Check out the introductory video and add this free extension to your Chrome toolbar: e-Comments Chrome Extension. Includes separate comment banks for grades 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and AP/College. Cheers!

*****

Why not use the same language of instruction as the e-Comments program for program instruction? Mark Pennington is the author of Teaching Essay Strategies, Teaching Grammar and Mechanics, Differentiated Spelling Instructionand the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Write Effective Essay Comments

Press Release e-Comments

e-Comments Press Release

Conscientious teachers know that merely completing a holistic rubric and totaling the score for a grade is not effective essay response or writing assessment. Teachers may choose to grade and/or respond with essay comments after the rough draft and/or after the final draft. Using the types of comments that match the teacher’s instructional objectives is essential. Additionally, keeping in mind the key components of written discourse can balance responses between form and content. Finally, most writing instructors include closing comments to emphasize and summarize their responses.

Of course, the real world problem that conscientious teachers face is time. Responding to multiple drafts with effective writing feedback is time-consuming and, at times, mind-numbing.

I would like to share with you a free resource that will help get your life back… I just released a new free comment insert program for Google docs that will save grading time and improve writing feedback. Insert hundreds of customizable Common Core-aligned instructional comments, which identify, explain, and show how to revise writing issues, with just one click from the e-Comments menu. Add your own comments to the menu, including audio, video, and speech-to-text. Check out the introductory video and add this free extension to your Chrome toolbar: e-Comments Chrome Extension. Includes separate comment banks for grades 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and AP/College. Cheers!

Writing instructors classify the types of essay comments as following: corrective, directive, and facilitative responses.

Corrective responses are copy edits. Using proofreading diacritical marks, abbreviations, or short phrases, teachers identify mistakes in syntax, usage, mechanics, and spelling. Some teachers simply mark errors; others provide more prescriptive comments as to what is wrong and why it is wrong, and how to correct the writing issue.

Directive responses deal with both form and content. With directive responses, the teacher gives specific direction to the writer. The goal is to provide expert advice to the writer. For example, “Your thesis does not respond to the writing prompt. Re-read the writing assignment and re-write your thesis statement to specifically address the writing task.” Generally, directive response is used with matters of structure and writing style.

Facilitative comments also deal with both form and content. Using the Socratic model, comments are worded as thought-provoking questions. The goal is to make the writer responsible for writing decision-making. For example, “Is there a different type of evidence that would help to prove your point?” Generally, facilitative response is used to respond to the content and/or argument of the essay.

Writing instructors classify the key components of writing discourse as following: Essay Organization and Development (Introduction, Body, and Conclusion), Coherence, Word Choice, Sentence Variety, Writing Style, Format and Citations, Parts of Speech, Grammatical Forms, Usage, Sentence Structure, Types of Sentences, Mechanics, and Conventional Spelling Rules.

Many teachers use these components in holistic or analytical rubrics and provide separate evaluation for each.

Closing comments are usually used to personalize the overall writing comments. Closing comments may summarize the essay comments, emphasize a positive or negative in the writing, refer to the writer’s progress, provide brief praise or encouragement, or assign the overall grade

*****

Why not use the same language of instruction as the e-Comments program for program instruction? Mark Pennington is the author of Teaching Essay Strategies, Teaching Grammar and Mechanics, Differentiated Spelling Instructionand the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

Literacy Centers, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Add Essay e-Comments to Your Computer

Ever feel like a talking stuffed animal? Pull the cord and get one of thirty pre-recorded comments: “Needs more evidence.” “Your thesis statement does not respond to the prompt.” “Subject-verb agreement problem.” Instead of talking stuffed animals, teachers use their favorite red pens. Every teacher of writing knows what I’m talking about. The common student writing errors…

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if teachers could type and save their commonly-used “canned” writing comments to automatically insert into student essays without all the bother of copying and pasting? What a time-saver this would be! It’s easily done and you have the tools you need right on your desktop or laptop in Microsoft Word®. Plus, you don’t have to be a computer programmer to get the job done. Read more…

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What’s Wrong with Holistic Rubrics?

It’s a relatively easy task to criticize any measure of writing assessment. This is my chore in What’s Wrong with Holistic Rubrics. However, it’s a much more challenging task to advocate in favor of a specific writing measurement. That is my chore in a related article: “Analytical Rubrics.”

Let’s start with a brief definition: A holistic rubric is a criterion-referenced assessment that is often used to evaluate writing. The writing is assessed according to a set of criteria. Unlike analytic rubrics, the criteria in holistic rubrics are grouped and not separated into discreet writing tasks. Thus, multiple components are grouped by a defined category and are considered as a whole.

Holistic rubrics have two basic features: 1. the writing category 2. the numeric levels of performance.

Holistic rubrics are used to assess writing by the SAT®, ACT®, state standards tests, by many college admissions counselors, and by most teachers. If everyone is using them, they must not be that bad. Read more…

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How to Use the Computer to Grade Essays

Thought I’d share how I started using computers to grade essays and offer fellow teachers a great resource to provide better essay response and cut grading time by half. Years ago I played around with the Insert Comments feature of Microsoft Word® and learned how to put in and format the bubble comments. I started using these comments to respond to and grade student writing submitted by email. At first, I only assigned a holistic rubric score, made a few comments, and patted myself on the back for learning how to insert audio files for brief summary responses. Students loved this paperless process. Read more…

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Analytical Rubrics

Teachers use two types of rubrics to assess student writing: holistic and analytic. Of the two rubrics, the analytical rubric offers both teachers and students much more to work with to improve student writing. Holistic rubrics are fine for quick overviews and are the staples of performance-based standardized tests, such as the SAT®; however, they serve little instructional purpose. Check out What’s Wrong with Holistic Rubrics for more.

Let’s start with a brief definition: An analytical rubric is a criterion-referenced writing assessment. In other words, a student’s writing is assessed according to a pre-determined set of criteria. Unlike holistic rubrics, the criteria in analytical rubrics have been separated into discreet writing tasks.

Analytical rubrics have two basic components: 1. the specific writing tasks 2. the numeric levels of performance. For each of the Common Core State Standard essays in my Teaching Essay Strategies curriculum, I add columns for diagnostic, formative, and summative scoring, as well as one column for a response checklist and one column for a revision checklist.

 

 

 

 

Five Reasons Why Analytical Rubrics Are Helpful

1. Differentiated Instruction

As in the example above, the rubric can serve as diagnostic and formative assessment to enable the teacher to differentiate instruction. Charting these assessments on whole class recording matrices can help the teacher group students for efficient instruction, such as mini-lessons, or assign individual worksheet practice to help students master and apply writing skills.

2. Progress Monitoring

Because analytical rubrics isolate discreet writing tasks that are components of different writing assignments, performance level data can be charted on Recording Matrix from one writing assignment to the next. These data can be analyzed by class and individual performance and serve as progress monitoring.

3. Student Involvement

Analytical rubrics provide road maps for student writers to follow. Specific expectations are set at the beginning of the writing assignment. As in the example above, students can complete peer response checklists on each writing task and then use the revision checklist to respond to the teacher’s diagnostic assessment and/or the peer response.

4. Flexibility

Analytical rubrics allow the teacher to assess parts of a student writing assignment and not have to grade each writing task. Examples: A teacher might choose to assign an on-demand timed writing and then diagnostically assess and record levels of performance on variety of evidence. A teacher might choose to have a reader or parent assess and record levels of performance on spelling, punctuation, and citation format. A teacher might choose to work with colleagues in a read-a-round, with each colleague assessing a different set of writing tasks.

5. Language of Instruction and the Writing Process

Analytical rubrics provide the language of instruction for writers, peers, parents, and teachers to discuss each writing task throughout the steps of the writing process. These specific writing tasks help students and teachers plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish their writing.

Check out this complete writing process essay to see a sample of the resources provided in Teaching Essay StrategiesThe download includes writing prompt, paired reading resource, brainstorm activity, prewriting graphic organizer, rough draft directions, response-editing activity, and analytical rubric.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

Find essay strategy worksheets, on-demand writing fluencies, sentence revision and rhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in the comprehensive writing curriculum, Teaching Essay Strategies

Looking for a full set of analytical rubrics to match the Common Core State Standards essays? Find 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to the Common Core State Standards, the Essay e-Comments download of 438 writing response comments, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 Common Core informative/explanatory and 4 Common Core persuasive), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, writing posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in the comprehensive writing curriculum, Teaching Essay Strategies, at www.penningtonpublishing.com

 

 

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