We are always trying to simplify grading.

And we need to! As ELA teachers, we grade a lot and need to communicate with our students as they journey through the learning process.

How can we do that?

Read on for more on this!


Ready to Simplify Grading?

Are you ready to put away your red pen?  

I use a simple tool that helps me simplify grading and increase the productive time I spend with student writers.

Here’s how to do that:

Read through the student drafts. 

I always review graphic organizers, idea sheets, and prewriting.  This allows me to catch students who are running off the rails.  

There is nothing worse than reading a draft or (worse yet) a final essay and realize the student didn’t follow the directions.  I generally collect student graphic organizers or idea sheets as the students walk out of the room.  This is their “ticket out.”  

I can quickly sort through the papers to see who is ready to move on and who might be stuck.  

A colleague of mine uses a red dot on papers that aren’t ready to go forward and a green dot on papers that are.  

If you have a red dot on your paper, you need to meet with the teacher before moving on.  Brilliant.

Use a communication tool

I print up the “Notes from your Teacher” document for the mode of writing I’m using.  As I’m reading a draft, I can quickly check off the items I want the student to work on.  

There is space at the bottom and room on the back for me to write notes if I feel the student needs more.  There is also a space for “see me” if I want to have a conference with the student.

Sort drafts for conferences

As I’m reviewing papers, I stack them in groups.  

Students who are ready to move on go in one group.  Students who need to work on similar issues (a thesis statement for example), go in another group.  

The next day in our writing workshop, I can meet with groups of students, review what their next steps are, and set them to work.  

This means that all students are focused on their task for the day.

Plan your mini lesson  

This is probably the best part —

When you review your students’ drafts and daily work, you know exactly where they are in the writing process and what they need next.

Use the drafts or graphic organizers to determine what you need to reteach, clarify, or expand upon.

Your students won’t all need the same thing, but chances are, you’ll see the same errors popping up in several papers.

Using “teacher notes” will help you determine your next mini lessons.

For example, if you find yourself asking students to use sentence variety, this makes an excellent mini lesson.  

This is so helpful in stopping and correcting errors as they happen — and help you understand what your students need.

Student response

As students work during our workshop time, they respond on the right side of the “teacher notes” sheet.  

My favorite part is the little cartoon at the bottom.  It gives me instant feedback on how the student feels about the writing done that day. 

At the end of class, the “ticket out” is the writing and feedback on what the student completed that day and how he or she feels.

So even if I don’t get to conference with each student during our workshop time, I get feedback from them.

Rinse and repeat

And the cycle continues.  

 I have my students keep ALL of their graphic organizers, idea sheets, drafts, and teacher notes.  They just staple the most current work on the top.  

This is the best thing for students.  They can really see how much work writing requires.  

They look at their stack and see their little “seed” of an idea grow into a real narrative or an argument.  

They can look through drafts and point to where they revised weak sentences or used vivid details or provided supporting evidence when there was none there before!

You can see this product in my TeachersPayTeachers store.   

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