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Consider the Frequency of Grading Writing

may 14, 2008

FAQ: How often should you finish and grade writing assignments? Right now my students have several assignments going that I haven’t collected or graded. Is this normal?

ANSWER: Okay, first, for the short answer–consider requiring 1-2 finished (revised/edited) pieces a quarter. That would be 4-8 final drafts a school year. Now, for a less traditional approach, consider this:

You could collect multiple grades in a week, if you consider assessing partial pieces. For example, if you had spent time teaching students about writing stronger beginnings, then maybe 2-3 days into the mini-lesson series you collect 3 beginnings from each student and grade them, say 10 points each. Or you could wait and grade a complete piece that of course includes a beginning and middle and end. It depends on what you want to do.

Consider taking numerous smaller grades on first-drafts and partial pieces. This allows students to spend more time on dabbling and experimenting with writing than on finishing (revising, editing) whole pieces. Provide students with lots of opportunities to experiment with skills before telling them to “bring it all together” in a bigger piece 2-3 weeks later. Of course these bigger pieces are worth more points than the little dabblings and partial pieces.

Remember, it’s not always about “finishing the piece” (taking it all the way through the writing process every time). It’s more about learning skills to apply to next new pieces. Keep in mind, also, that state writing assessments don’t honor revisions or final drafts. Work to give students more first-draft writing opportunities rather than beat a single piece to death making it perfect. It takes too long and often makes the struggling, unmotivated student feel like writing is “too hard.”

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