Monday, April 2, 2012

Selective Grading (OR: How to not correct all writing homework)

I attended TESOL International this past week and was inspired a few times.  One session that promised to give us ideas on how NOT to correct every piece of writing students do caught my eye and I attended the session.

Tips/Ideas the presenter gave:

  • Collect papers (paragraphs or essays) and don't correct them.  Hold them a few days/a week and then give them back to students, saying "I've read your papers but some of them are not so good... so I'm going to give you a second chance." By this time students have forgotten what they wrote and ask if they can use dictionaries or work together - exactly what we would have wanted them to do in a peer review partner activity.
  • Have students hold on to short writing pieces/practices done in class.  At the end of the week, select 2 to collect and correct.  Students are all scrambling to find them, hoping they have them...
  • Ask students to take something they've written and insert something into it (e.g., use 3 of the vocabulary words we've studied from our text, inserting them into your paper - grade on the words being used correctly; OR add a few citations correctly into the paper-grade on the citations being used correctly)
  • Have students work in small groups to edit sentences, form correct sentences, write thesis statements, etc. and all (7) groups write theirs on the board.  Other students can comment/make editing suggestions, then all sentences discussed (nothing to grade at home)
  • Select SOME students' work and correct in front of the class (not all Ss' work corrected)

So some of these sound like good ideas, but when our students write, they expect to get feedback and corrections on everything, I feel.  Particularly things they write on paper.  I can give global comments on the blog posts, showcase a few in class, and they comment on each others' and it is low stakes, in my class.  But students really want feedback on each paper or assignment they turn in, I feel.  Do you think these ideas would work?  How do you lessen the workload, particularly for small assignments (not essays) that are less important?



  1. I have done something similar to this in my HUC101 course and it does elimininate the "fluff." Students love, love to have another chance and editing!

  2. Totally agree, I once sent their midterm essay back for a rewrite. Every student in the class made alterations on it and NO one questioned why I was giving them an option to improve their work. I was sure one of my class stars would come back and questions my logic in doing what I did. It did not happen.