Grade Student Responses Quickly - Room 213

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Grade Student Responses Quickly


I think I could wager a guess that grading journals and notebooks is not your favourite teaching task. They can take a long time to wade through and can become an onerous and dreaded job.  

But it doesn't have to be that way.

First of all, I love what journal/notebook writing offers our students: responses, free-writes and writing prompts let them spread their wings and experiment with new things. They are an outlet for their thoughts and a place to build new skills.  So how do we give our students this opportunity without chaining ourselves to our desks? Read on to find out the solution I've arrived at, as well as a freebie. You can grab it here so you can try it yourself.

This is the key. It's what will allow your kids the freedom to write and you the ability to give fast feedback. I make my kiddos well aware that I will not read every word they write, but that I still expect them to do their best with each entry. 

How do I get high schoolers to do this?  I don't tell them ahead of time which entries I will grade, so they need to make sure they work hard on each one. The notebooks come in every two weeks, which usually means they have done at least ten responses. I will choose to read two or three of them, based on what I want to assess at the time.

How do I choose what I will read?








Last week we were focused squarely on word choice. I gave my students a variety of things to respond to like photo prompts, and questions about their independent novels. They also did a number of quick-writes on controversial topics. Each of these was preceded by a lesson on word choice.  We also talked a lot about ways that authors can develop their ideas. Therefore, I knew I wanted to read entries that showcased what the students had learned about language and idea development. The quick-writes would not be the best choice for the latter, as they just didn't have time to fully flesh out their points. Therefore, I chose three entries that they spent more time on and that would showcase their use of language.







Spending some time creating a rubric that helps you get through the process is time very well spent.  Part of my rubric always includes a completion grade. Even though I'm not reading everything, I want to give them credit for doing the work. I make a list of the entries that were to be in the journal, and as soon as I open one, I count to see that they are all there. If they are, the student gets full marks for completion.



Next, I'll turn to the entries that I've chosen to read. However, I don't write any comments on the page. Instead, I use a yellow highlighter to point out several words or phrases that illustrate effective use of language -- perfectly chosen diction, a metaphor, a sensory image, etc. Then, I use a pink one to highlight some words and phrases that could be stronger. Because we also worked on idea development, I underlined one or two ideas that could be pushed and wrote "MD" (for more detail needed) in the margin.


As I said, I don't write anything--no explanation as to why a phrase was highlighted and not even a note on the checklist. If you check it out, you'll see that it's blank. That's because the most important step comes after I give them back. The form lets students know which entries were read, and so they need to find the highlighted words/phrases and to try to figure out what I was doing. They write their guess on the feedback form, and then they have a conversation with the students around them to see if they are all on the same page. Finally, they need to suggest a better word or phrase to replace the ones highlighted in pink. 

Every time I've done this, they quickly figured it out and had good discussions about better word choice. The point of this little exercise is that I want them to be doing the thinking. If I spend all my time writing explanations that they may not read, it's a bit of a waste. This way, they need to figure out my color code and come up with better wording. In other words, they are doing the thinking.

I could ask them to pass in another assignment where they rewrite the phrases highlighted in pink, but it can be enough just to have them recognize that it wasn't the best word choice. Plus, I will have other assignments that require them to use what they've learned about language.

One thing I've learned in my almost thirty year journey as a teacher is that I can't read and grade everything. However, I have learned some tricks that keep the students learning and me sane. This is one of them.

Do you have any tricks for faster grading? If you do, please let us know in the comments!



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10 comments

  1. What a great post. I plan to use journals a lot so this a great...whoops word choice...phenomenal way to use journals without getting overwhelmed. Thank you!!!

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    1. You're welcome! I hope it helps : )

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  2. This is the perfect solution to having them write daily and not having to read all of it! I will definitely implement this idea. It's time for a notebook check anyway. Thanks for the tip!

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    1. You're welcome! It's definitely been a game changer for me.

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  3. Hi! Love this resource but had a question about the grading-- are you giving a completion grade AND a grade based on the quality of their responses (4, 3, 2, or 1)? Or is it more for them as feedback for next time?

    Thanks in advance :)

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    1. Yes. I give them the quality grade based on the responses I choose to read. I'm just giving them a formative mark this time (won't count in their average) and the next time it will be summative.

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  4. Awesome! Thank you for sharing this! I have tried various methods of grading journals in my 3yrs and I believe yours is so much more concise. Thank you! I will try this next month!

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  5. Thank you for a great template!

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  6. This is a very interesting approach. I happen to cross your post through Pinterest. I am a math teacher and do Interactive notebooks and this gives me some real food for thought for grading authentic Lee without doing the thinking work for my students. The simplicity of your approach is right in my wheelhouse. See we can learn things from each other even across disciplines! Thanks for great read.

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    Replies
    1. That's awesome! I love that you can use it in math :)

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