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Writing Feedback

I’ve noticed a new and developing interest in writing style and I don’t think it’s a nostalgic homage to Strunk and White’s The Elements of StyleIndeed, our collective writing craft has diminished over the years, but when I see twenty-something teachers driving a return to grammar handbooks and style manuals I see more than a glimpse of hope. The bright and talented ELA teachers who have recently joined our English staff at the middle school I recently left are looking for new ways to directly and indirectly (traditional lessons and in the writing context through writing feedback) teach all the elements of writing style:

Specifically, teachers wishing to return to some common ground of teaching writing focus on these categories of writing style for direct instruction and writing feedback:

  • Essay Organization and Development (Introduction, Body, and Conclusion)
  • Coherence
  • Word Choice
  • Sentence Variety
  • Format and Citations
  • Parts of Speech
  • Grammatical Forms
  • Usage
  • Sentence Structure
  • Types of Sentences
  • Mechanics
  • Conventional Spelling Rules.

    Writer Response

    Writing Feedback

As the author of the Teaching Essay Strategies program, I decided to include a writing style handbook within the program. And to keep up with the millennials, it’s a Chrome extension to insert hundreds of customizable comments into Google docs and slides and a Microsoft Word® add-in, as well.  Check out the introductory video and the e-Comments Chrome Extension on the Chrome Web Store.

Using e-Comments Makes Sense for Writing Feedback     

*Manually responding to essays in red ink can be time-consuming and frustrating. Teachers find themselves using the same comments over and over again, while most students barely glance at their final grade or rubric score and maybe skim the comments before cramming their papers into the depths of their backpacks. Using the computer to respond to student writing solves these problems.

*Having students submit their essays on the computer allows the teacher to insert comprehensive and prescriptive comments in half the time. Students can be held accountable to respond to these comments through revisions and edits.

*Using the insertable e-comments enhances the interactive writing process. The teacher-student interaction changes from static summative evaluation to dynamic formative assessment. This is not an “automatic” grading program. Teachers choose which comments to insert, according to the needs of their students.

*Teachers can edit the e-comments and add in their own personalized comments with text, video, speech-to-text or audio files. Imagine… inserting a quick audio or video  comment to summarize relative strengths and weaknesses of the paper. Unlike other e-grading programs, teachers can save their custom comments.

*Teachers can link to resource sites to provide additional practice or reference.

*Teachers can require their students to address each comment by using Microsoft Word® “Track Changes” or use the back-and-forth “Reply” comment boxes in Google Docs. Students then re-submit revisions and edits for peer and/or teacher review. Just like real professional writers do with their editors! Or simply have students revise in red to show they’ve applied each side-by-side comment.

*Essay e-Comments can be synced to all teacher devices and comments save to the cloud.”

The Pennington Manual of Style is included in the comprehensive Teaching Essay Strategiesprogram. Purchase includes the download (into Microsoft Word for any Windows Version) and the teacher short-cuts.

It’s simple and safe to use. You can even back-up and import your customized and added comments on your computer.

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:

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10 Reasons to Use the e-Comments Extension

e-Comments Chrome Extension

e-Comments Extension

Good teachers know that students need detailed, instructional, and personalized comments on their stories, essays, and reports throughout the writing process to make significant improvement. However, the process can be time-consuming and frustrating. Most teachers spend at least 10 minutes red-marking and writing comments on a five-paragraph essay. Even with that significant amount of time, the teacher would have to rely on circling, diacritical marks, and abbreviations. The comments would have to be minimal and concise. The focus has to be limited to identifying what is wrong, not explaining why it is wrong or how to revise. No time for examples or suggestions as to how to improve the writing. Maybe a quick positive comment. Exhausting!

 

The teacher has to write the same comments over and over again throughout a stack of student papers. Upon receiving their graded work, students simply glance at their final grades before cramming the essay into the bottom of their backpacks. There has got to be a better way…

 

10 Reasons to Use the Free e-Comments Chrome Extension

 

1. The free e-Comments program has more user options and functionality than any other comments insert program, yet is easy to learn and user-friendly. I’m the English teacher who wrote the comments. I’ve taught at the elementary, middle school, high school, and college levels. I am not technologically advanced by any means. I searched far and wide to find a developer who could talk non-techie and code the e-Comments extension so that any teacher will be able to use each program feature. Unlike other complicated and time-consuming programs, the e-Comments extension allows you to insert comments into students’ Google docs and slides with just one click.

After installing the extension from the Chrome Web Store, click the e-Comments icon added to your Chrome toolbar and turn on the program. Watch the ten-minute video tutorial; then use the one-page Quick Start User Guide to master the program. Or just start using the program (it’s quite intuitive) and you’ll figure it out on your own.

2. Sharing essays via Google Drive is environmentally responsible, saves money, and provides an automatic portfolio of student work. The e-Comments extension syncs to the cloud and works with multiple devices. Your students don’t all have to have their own computers, Chromebooks, or tablets to use this program. Unlike other comment insert programs, only the teacher needs the free e-Comments extension. Even if you still require paper submissions, you can still save time and provide better writing feedback by printing off a comments page for each student.

3. The Common Core-aligned e-Comments provide a common language of writing instruction and discourse for teachers and students. When department, grade-level teams, or a whole school uses the same terminology, students benefit from the and cross-curricular instructional continuity. English, social studies, math, and science teachers using the same lingo? That’s powerful. The comments identify, explain, and show students how to revise their writing issues. You will significantly improve the quality of your writing feedback with the e-Comments extension. More importantly, your students will significantly improve their writing.

4. Teachers can provide comprehensive writing feedback using e-Comments in much less time than if grading manually. Using essay e-Comments cuts grading time in half. If it takes 10 minutes to red-mark, write comments, and grade a five-paragraph essay, it will take only 5 minutes to insert comments using essay e-comments. With a batch of 120 essays, this means a times-saving of 6 hours (120 x 5 minutes = 6 hours). Now that’s a grading hack that works!

5. Easily switch among four comment banks if teaching or tutoring multiple grade levels: Grades 3‒6, Grades 6‒9, 9‒12, College and Workplace. Even if teaching one grade level, you never know when you’ll need to add a remedial or advanced comment or two.

These instructional comments will help your students learn!

6. Customize! Teachers can edit and save the comments with their own words, formatting, and links. Because the comments are comprehensive, teachers will often choose to narrow the instructional focus by deleting portions of comments for individuals or all of their students. Or add to a comment with a personalized remark. The program lets you export (back-up) and import any changes to your computer or restore default comments.

 

7. Teachers can add, format, and save their own comments and writing categories to the e-Comments menu. Type, use speech-to-text, copy and paste, or record audio and video. This e-Comments feature is perfect for adding on custom comment categories for different writing assignments. For example, say your students are writing a response to literature essay on a class novel. Having a separate category and your own set of canned comments on that novel will allow specific writing feedback and nicely complement the other comment banks. Or a unit on poetry. Or a specific research report on ecosystems. Or?

 

8. Teachers appreciate not having to write the same comments on each essay. For repeated errors, teachers simply highlight the text. Quick and easy.

9. Teachers can easily check whether their students apply the advice given in each comment and incentivize student revisions. Our video tutorial demonstrates a quick and easy accountability management system to ensure that your students are reading, understanding, and applying the comments to their writing.

10. Using e-comments prior to the student’s final draft changes teacher response from mere summative assessment to a dynamic and interactive coaching experience. Students can ask questions about the comments in the “Reply” text box under each comment and teachers can respond. So can peers! The e-Comments are formative assessment… assessment for, not of, learning. Of course, teachers can use any means of evaluation, such as rubrics, and management systems, such as Google Classroom, in conjunction with the e-Comments Chrome Extension.

*****

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.

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Writing Feedback Research

Since the burden (and privilege) of teaching writing falls so exclusively on the teacher or workplace supervisor, it makes sense to learn what works from the research on writing feedback. Let’s take a look at the decades of research and add some practical tips based upon those research implications to help you improve your writing feedback skill-set. Also, at the end of the article, I’ll share an approach to writing feedback that will alleviate some weight from that burden. Yes, you can save time grading or editing stories, essays, and reports, while improving the quality of your writing feedback.

Let’s get on the page about what we mean by writing feedbackFeedback is a form of response focused on helping someone meet a goal. It is communication which helps someone understand something more fully or practice more effectively.

Writer Response

Writing Feedback

What Kind of Feedback is Effective?

1. Specific, Not General

According to Hattie and Timperley, “Feedback is often lost on students because it’s too vague. Comments like “great job,” “good writing,” or even “needs better organization” fall flat with students because they’re not tied to specific words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs in writing.”

and

“…studies which demonstrated the most impact on student learning involved students receiving information about a task and how to do it more effectively. Much lower impacts were related to praise, rewards, and punishment–forms of response that don’t have the characteristics and focus of feedback.”

Use focused, not unfocused feedback. “Focused corrective feedback was more useful and effective than unfocused corrective feedback” (Sheen, Wright, and Moldawa 2009).

2. Immediate, Not Postponed

Writing feedback is most effective when students “have an immediate opportunity to try out the suggestions in their writing, allowing for meaningful application of what they have learned from the feedback. Focusing on individual students’ immediate writing needs, this ongoing feedback is a form of differentiated instruction that complements the teaching of mini-lessons to small groups or to the whole class” (Peterson, S.S. 2008).

When writing feedback is postponed, little is acquired, retained, and transferred to the next writing assignment. Accordingly, summative feedback is of little value. Relying solely upon rubric scoring for writing feedback produces no statistically significant correlation with improved writing skills.

3. Routine Revision

Writing instruction “routinely engaging in revision is associated with better writing performance. Students who were required to routinely revise scored highest on the National Association of Educational Progress. Those who were never asked to revise scored poorly.

The power of feedback is its value in facilitating revision, such as revising an essay or revising one’s understanding of a concept. Revision is one of the key differences between expert and inexpert writers. Expert writers revise. Beginning and inexpert writers don’t revise much. Or at all” (Jeff Grabel Michigan State University).

4. Formative, Not Summative

Good writing instruction often requires students to complete multiple drafts. Writing feedback research has universally concluded that writing guidance on initial drafts is superior to comments upon final drafts, in terms of facilitating writing improvement. Comments on drafts of writing provide students with timely information about the clarity and impact of their writing. When students receive feedback while they are writing, “they are more inclined to use it to revise and edit their drafts than they would be if they received the suggestions on a graded, polished copy” (Nicol, D.J., & Macfarlane-Dick, D. 2006).

Simply put, revision is how students learn how to write–not the 1–5 scores on an ending holistic rubric.

5. The Earlier the Better

“Give feedback on the content, organization and style features of the writing in early drafts.  If students focus on writing conventions early in the writing process, their flow of ideas may be curtailed. – In addition, students may edit sentences that will later be cut during revisions.  Give feedback on adherence to writing conventions when the writing is almost complete” (Peterson, S.S. 2008).

Teachers should not accept sloppy copies. Students must be taught how to use grammar and spell check (Google Docs has a brand new tool which identifies issues and suggests revisions). Students need to share their best efforts at each stage of the writing process. Establishing high expectations and writing standards improves student performance and lightens the editing load of teachers. Teachers should spend writing feedback time on writing advice, not editing.

6. Error Explanation

Simply circling errors or using diacritical marks produces ineffective revision. Writers do not know what they don’t know. Simply writing FRAG does not explain why the sentence is incomplete or how to fix it. Other than typos, writers rarely make mistakes when they know better. When errors are simply marked without explanation, students will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

A focus on error analysis is essential. “Students who receive feedback on their written errors will be more likely to self-correct them during revision than those who receive no feedback—and this demonstrated uptake may be a necessary step in developing longer term linguistic competence.

Students are likely to attend to and appreciate feedback on their errors, and this may motivate them both to make corrections and to work harder on improving their writing. The lack of such feedback may lead to anxiety or resentment, which could decrease motivation and lower confidence in their teachers” (Ferris, D. R. 2004).

7. The Right Amount

Too many comments can overwhelm and dishearten developing writers. Instead of marking and explaining every writing error, Peterson suggests “… identifying patterns of convention errors, rather than every error in the paper. Students are more likely to learn how to use a convention correctly if they attend exclusively to that type of error when editing their writing” (2008).

8. The Right Ones

Not all writing issues are created equal. Clearly, some are more important to focus upon than others. Maxine Hairston (1981) suggests that certain errors are perceived as higher status than others. This researcher found that these errors were seen to be more egregious by most teachers: nonstandard verb forms, lack of subject-verb agreement, double negatives, objective pronoun as subject. Other errors are perceived as low status and may not warrant marking: unnecessary or inaccurate modifiers, use of a singular verb with data, use of a colon after a linking verb” (https://teaching.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/not_all_errors_are_created_equal.pdf)

Additionally, it makes sense to focus upon teachable writing issues. Writing issues which are generalizable have great need for writing feedback than once in a blue moon issues.

Plus, subject-verb agreement issues can be remedied (despite exceptions, there are rules); however, writing tone and style are tougher to teacher. Hence, provide writing feedback that will get the greatest bang for the buck.

Teachers tend to mark errors and comment on content or process. Instead, writing researchers suggest that teachers should comment on both. Choosing to concentrate on errors that can be easily explained to the student with the greater likelihood of producing positive transfer to subsequent writing assignments just makes sense. For example, errors in speaker tag commas can be easily remediated because the rules are relatively unambiguous; errors in commas isolating dependent clauses are harder to remediate because the rules are more ambiguous and context dependent.

9. Variety of Communication Modes

The same format of writing feedback can bore students and diminish attention to what has been said. In an interesting study regarding using audio comments with a control group of written comments, Dr. Martha Marie Bless found a statistically significant difference in the amount and quality of student revisions and skill acquisition in favor of the audio comments (Walden University 2017).

10. Accountability

All too often, students glance at writing feedback and do little or nothing to revise or learn from teacher comments. Teachers who incentivize writing revision with points, praise, privileges, etc. tend to get better results.

Technology helps hold students accountable for their revisions. Microsoft Word® provides Track Changes and Google Docs offers Revision History to check whether or not students have worked to improve writing from draft to draft. Using different color font or pens, writing, achieves the same end.

Sources Cited

  1. The Power of Feedback by John Hattie and Helen Timperley, in Review of Educational Research 77 (March 2007): 81-112.
  2. Seven Keys to Effective Feedback by Grant Wiggins in Educational Leadership 70.1 (September 2012): 10-16.
  3. Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers by Nancy Sommers in College Composition and Communication 31.4 (December 1980): 378-388.
  4. Training Advanced Writing Skills: The Case for Deliberate Practice by Ronald T. Kellogg and Alison P. Whiteford in Educational Psychologist 44.9 (2009).
  5. The effects of word processing on the revision strategies of freshmen by Gail Hawisher in Research in the Teaching of English 21 (May 1987): 145-159.
  6. A Multimodal Task-Based Framework for Composing by Jody Shipka in College Composition and Communication 57.2 (December 2005): 277-306.
  7. Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter Johnston, Stenhouse Publishers (2012)
  8. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2007 writing report card  Findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics

    Google e-Comments

    Google Add-ons

Here’s a freebie that just might 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.

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Insertable Canned Comments

Canned e-Comments

Insertable e-Comments

Like many of you, I have a love−hate relationship with grading or editing stories, essays, and reports. I know how important detailed writing feedback is to developing writers, and most of them have appreciated my efforts. However, marking papers remains heart-wrenching, repetitious, and time-consuming work.

Yes, I’ve tried and still use many of the grading hacks out there. However, let’s face it; many of the short-cuts reduce the quality and quantity of written feedback.

Yes, I’ve written and used a multitude of holistic and analytical rubrics.  However, I never bought into the just score the rubric mentality, and students uniformly find rubrics to be of little help in developing their writing skills.

Yes, I’ve been trained in the National Writing Project, Power Writing, Writers Workshop, 6+1 Traits, and Jane Shaffer programs, and I’ve learned plenty from each of these approaches. I’ve also authored a book which quite a few teachers have found to be helpful: Teaching Essay StrategiesHowever, the more you know, the more you tend to want to do, not less, and none of the programs helped me deal with the always-present stack of papers to grade.

Yes, I’ve more than dabbled with computer-assisted grading. I abandoned the red pen years ago and figured how to use the Autocorrect feature in Microsoft Word® and the Google Docs Tools−Preferences option to save canned comments with my own alphanumeric codes, but these ad hoc add-ins required too much memorization. A few of the newer Chrome extensions seemed promising, but their minimal and simplistic comment banks and their countless clicks and multiple menus took just as much time as red-marking papers with diacritical marks. Plus, they didn’t have all the bells and whistles I wanted, such as audio and video comment capabilities.

Simply put, I never found any method or program that would both save grading time and improve the quality of writing feedback.

Until now.

I recently retired to devote my attention and time to my small Pennington Publishing business. With the help of a patient and creative web developer, I’ve put together the e-Comments Chrome Extension with Grades 3−6, Grades 6−9, Grades 9−12, and College and Workplace comment sets. And, yes, it’s free. Consider it my retirement gift to dedicated elementary teachers, middle and high school ELA teachers, college English professors, and supervisors who edit workplace writing.

How do the e-Comments programs help you grade faster and better?

Each of the e-Comments extensions includes about 200 customizable comments which can be inserted into Google docs and slides with just one click from the pop-up e-Comments menu. Each comment identifies, explains, and shows how to revise a specific writing issue. Plus, you can add and save your own comments. Perfect for specific writing assignments. Plus, you’ll find out how to record audio, video, and speech to text comments to make the job of personalized feedback easier and more effective. And, most importantly, you don’t have to be a tech genius to use this program. It’s intuitive and user-friendly.

e-Comments Dropdown Menu

e-Comments Menu

Key Features of the e-Comments Program

Clicking the e-Comments icon in your extension toolbar opens a dropdown menu with an off−on slider. The extension remains available to use with any Google doc or slide until you switch to the off position. The program syncs to other Google apps upon start-up and indicates the sync status below the slider.

That same dropdown menu also includes a video tutorial, a one-page Quick Start User Guide, and the PDF comment banks for all four e-Comments extension levels. You never know when you’ll need to copy and paste a remedial or advanced comment to the extension level you’ve selected.

e-Comments Options

e-Comments Menu

Upon opening a student’s doc or slide, the full e-comments menu (all 200 or so, depending upon extension level) pops up in the right margin, away from the student’s text. You can scroll up and down or drag the menu to any screen position. Don’t worry. It won’t disappear on you. The menu is organized by writing categories:

  • Writing Format and Standards
  • Essay Structure and Content
  • Story Structure and Content
  • Sentence Formation and Writing Style
  • Word Choice
  • Nouns, Pronouns, Adjectives
  • Verbs
  • Modifiers, Adverbs, Prepositions, Conjunctions
  • Punctuation, Capitalization, Quotation Rules,
  • Spelling Rules
  • End Comments

To insert a comment, highlight the relevant section of the writer’s text, scan the writing comment categories to narrow your search, and hover over the abbreviated comment buttons. You’ll notice that the menu darkens, and the full comment appears in a pop-up. Simply click the button which responds to the writing issue and the entire comment appears in the margin of the writer’s document. So cool! Don’t worry; it’s saved.

More Bells and Whistles

Want to edit the comment for just one writer? Click on the three-dot button on the right side of the comment to add, delete, or substitute wording. You’ll notice that many of the e-Comments are quite comprehensive, and you may wish to narrow the instructional focus for individual writers.

Text to Speech

Type Text to Speech

Want to customize the comment for all your writers? Right click on the comment button, edit, and save. Use the speech to text function if you wish. Want to restore the default comments? No problem. Right click on the writing comment category and click “Restore Default Settings.”

Want to add and save your own writing comments to the e-comments menu? It’s easy to do. Click the “+” button and type in a comment abbreviation to create your own comment button. To enter the comment, you can type, copy and paste, or use the speech to text function. Add links if you wish. Don’t forget to save.

Audio or Video Comments

Record Audio or Video Comments

Want to insert an audio or video comment? Click on the microphone or video icon next to the “+” button to record. Make sure your mic or camera is on before recording. Make sure your hair is in place:) A pop-up window provides the record and playback functions. You can insert a personalized comment for one writer or save the audio or video file to the e-Comments menu to use for all your writers. Your writers will definitely pay attention to these comments!

Want to add and save a new writing comment category to the e-Comments menu for a specific writing assignment? Say for a response to literature essay on a class novel for teachers. Or for a business plan proposal for working professionals. Click the “Add Category” button at the bottom of the e-Comments menu, type the name of the category and click “Add.” Then add as many of your own comments as you wish to the new writing comments category.

Want to remove this category and its, but save them to your computer to add back in at another time? Right click the writing comments category button and click the trash icon. You can choose to permanently delete or click “Copy to Clipboard” and save the writing category and its comments to your computer.

Why the e-Comments Writing Feedback Works

Simply identifying writing issues is not enough, and writing feedback research is clear that circling a sentence fragment, red-marking FRAG, or using a grammar-checker to highlight the error has no measurable effect upon learning. Writers will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

The e-Comments do identify writing issues, but they also explain why they are issues with reasons, rules, and examples, and they show writers how to revise their writing. The four extensions are aligned to the Common Core Anchor Standards for Language and Writing. You will make a significant impact on developing writers by using the e-Comments Chrome Extension.

Example:

Revise Gender Pronoun Issue: Make both the pronoun and its antecedent (the word or group of words to which a pronoun refers) plural when gender (male or female) does not need to be identified. Example: Everyone needs his rest. Revision: All need their rest.

*****

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.

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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 Much and What to Mark on Essays

Writing Feedback Comments

Writing Comments

Many teachers and professors take pride in red-inking student essays: the more ink the better. Some shift the burden of marking grammar and mechanics errors onto readers or grad students, while retaining the job of marking and grading content, argument, and evidence. Some “grade” essays without comments by using holistic or analytical rubrics, but do not mark papers. Others latch onto familiar excuses: the subjective nature of essay grading, the lack of time, the lack of student writing skills and conveniently avoid the work altogether by giving objective exams.

For those who still assign writing process essays and/or essay exams and believe that students can and do benefit from comments, the question of How Much and What to Mark on Essays is relevant. Working smarter, not harder and focusing on efficiency and outcomes over pedagogical purity are worthy mantras for effective writing instruction.

How Much to Mark on Essays

…………

  • There is no significant statistical difference in the overall quality of student writing between teachers who mark all mistakes and teachers who mark only a few of the mistakes (Arnold 1964).
  • Both Harris (1978) and Lamberg (1980) found that voluminous essay comments do not improve student writing.
  • Shuman (1979) found that most students respond effectively to no more than five error corrections per paper.
  • Dudenhyer (1976), Beach (1979), Harris (1978), Thompson (1981), and Moore (1992) found that marks on final drafts have little impact on subsequent writing.

In sum, less is better than more, especially on final drafts or essay exams. Moreover, focusing on reader response is essential. In other words, how much the student will absorb and apply.

What to Mark on Essays

…………

1. Concentrate on Status Errors

Maxine Hairston (1981) suggests that certain errors are perceived as higher status than others. Hairston found that these errors were seen to be more egregious by most teachers: nonstandard verb forms, lack of subject-verb agreement, double negatives, objective pronoun as subject. Other errors are perceived as low status and may not warrant marking: unnecessary or inaccurate modifiers, use of a singular verb with data, use of a colon after a linking verb.

2. Used Focused, Specific Feedback

Use focused, not unfocused feedback. “Focused corrective feedback was more useful and effective than unfocused corrective feedback” (Sheen, Wright, and Moldawa 2009).

When students receive feedback while they are writing, “they are more inclined to use it to revise and edit their drafts than they would be if they received the suggestions on a graded, polished copy” (Nicol, D.J., & Macfarlane-Dick, D. 2006).

3. Use a Variety of Writing Feedback Modes

Not every student responds the same to writing feedback. Some prefer written feedback; others auditory, and still others respond best to visual feedback, such as video conferencing. Adding a variety of writing feedback modes will address learning preferences.

Dr. Martha Marie Bless found a statistically significant difference in the amount and quality of student revisions and skill acquisition in favor of the audio comments (Walden University 2017).

4. Do Mark Writing Errors; However

Instead of marking and explaining every writing error, Peterson suggests “… identifying patterns of convention errors, rather than every error in the paper. Students are more likely to learn how to use a convention correctly if they attend exclusively to that type of error when editing their writing” (2008).

5. Mark and Explain Teachable Errors

Teachers tend to mark errors and comment on content or process. Instead, writing researchers suggest that teachers should comment on both. Choosing to concentrate on errors that can be easily explained to the student with the greater likelihood of producing positive transfer to subsequent writing assignments just makes sense. For example, errors in speaker tag commas can be easily remediated because the rules are relatively unambiguous; errors in commas isolating dependent clauses are harder to remediate because the rules are more ambiguous and context dependent.

Students are likely to attend to and appreciate feedback on their errors, and this may motivate them both to make corrections and to work harder on improving their writing. The lack of such feedback may lead to anxiety or resentment, which could decrease motivation and lower confidence in their teachers” (Ferris, D. R. 2004).

6. Maintain a Balance between Error Correction and Writing Analysis

Writing researchers suggest striking a balance in essay response between error correction and writing content/evidence/argument analysis.

Following are key elements of writing discourse for writing teachers to keep in mind to strike this balance:

  • 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
  • Conventional Spelling Rules.

7. Differentiate and Individualize Assessment-based Instruction

Writing feedback catered to the needs of the individual students is highly effective. Knowing the relative strengths and weaknesses of individual student writers should guide the teacher’s comments. Two data sources are integral to effective writing instruction: diagnostic assessments and frequent student writing. The former affords the teacher quantitative data, while the latter provides qualitative data. Each is useful.

For Further Study

  1. The Power of Feedback by John Hattie and Helen Timperley, in Review of Educational Research 77 (March 2007): 81-112.
  2. Seven Keys to Effective Feedback by Grant Wiggins in Educational Leadership 70.1 (September 2012): 10-16.

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:

Here’s a freebie that just might make life a bit easier for teachers this fall… I just released a new free comment insert program

e-Comments Chrome Extension

e-Comments Extension

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.

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