How to Save Time Grading Essays
I’ve found this simple idea very helpful in saving me time grading and responding to student essays. It only takes about 20 minutes to set up on your computer.
Using the editing tools of Microsoft Word®, ELA teachers can give comprehensive and prescriptive comments almost AUTOMATICALLY. Teachers can save time and be more environmentally friendly by requiring students to submit their essays online. Then, teachers respond with comments and marks online. Here’s how it works.
1. Find the “Autocorrect Options” in Microsoft Word®. For versions previous to Microsoft Word 2010®, simply open “Tools” and then “Autocorrect Options.” On Microsoft Word 2010®, go to FILE, then to HELP, then to OPTIONS, then to PROOFING, and click on the “Autocorrect Options” button.
2. Type in a two symbol alpha-numeric code, such as e1 into the “Replace” box. Then, type in your first prescriptive comment into the “With” box. I suggest you begin each comment with the common diacritical mark (abbreviation or symbol) to help your students learn these editing marks. For example:
Replace: e1 With: cs comma splice Two independent clauses cannot be joined with a comma. To fix, insert a conjunction following the comma or change the comma to a semicolon if the clauses are closely related.
3. Continue typing the alpha-numeric code, e.g. e2, e3, e4 in the “Replace” box and the diacritical marks/prescriptive comments that you tend to use ad nauseam in the “With” box. Or, don’t reinvent the wheel and cut and paste the 86 comments I’ve developed (see list below), revise as you wish, and add your own. UPDATE! I spent all last year (since this post) researching which comments teachers use most and how to format these comments into “teachable moments.” And now, I’m pleased to say, I’ve expanded these essay e-comments to 438 total and developed a simple download, so that teachers don’t have to copy and paste the comments individually. I’ve just completed my own style manual–sort of a Strunk and White for middle-high schoolers. The Pennington Manual of Style to serve as a writer’s reference guide with all of the writing tips for developing writers. This 47-page style manual also includes the download of the 438 writing, grammar, mechanics, and spelling comments teachers use most often in essay response and grading. Placed in the Autocorrects function of Microsoft Word® 2003, 2007, and 2010 (XP, Vista, and Windows 7), teachers can access each comment with a simple mouse click to insert into online student essays or print/e-mail for paper submissions. This is not automatic grading software; the teacher still has to read and respond, but it does provide many of the comments that we find ourselves making ad nauseam. I want as many teachers as possible to get this resource, so I’m offering it for only a nickel. It would be free, but my shopping cart can’t process without some sort of charge. Oh, yes… teachers are licensed to post this writing reference on their class websites.
4. Have the students email their essays, submit to a drop box on the school network, or whatever works for you and your site.
5. On the students’ Microsoft Word® essays, click the cursor where you want to make a comment. Open “Insert” and then “Comments.” Type in e1 and the comments with appear in the comment bubble. Simple. You can even design your own comment bubbles. Also, add in as many personalized comments as you wish.
6. Teach your students to use the “Track Changes” to correct or revise according to each of your comments and then re-submit, if you wish.
Why Using This Method of Essay Response Makes Sense
1. It will cut your grading time per essay by one-half. It normally takes me 10 minutes to red-mark, write comments, and grade a five-paragraph essay. It takes me 5 minutes or less to grade using the online method I describe. With a batch of 120 essays, this means a times-saving of six hours (120 x 10 minutes = 12 hours compared to 120 x 5 minutes = 6 hours).
2. I can include at least twice as many comments per essay with the online method in half the amount of time.
3. I can explain what is wrong and offer a solution to correct or revise the writing issue, not just identify problems.
4. I can link to resource sites that will provide additional practice or reference.
5. I can require students to address each of my comments by using “Track Changes” and then re-submitting for my review. With this step, the teacher’s grading changes from static summative assessment to dynamic formative assessment.
6. Unlike my red-marks, students tend to read these online comments and take them seriously.
e1. Use commas before or after speaker tags. Example: She said, “Call me at home.”
e2. Use commas to set apart appositives. Example: That man, the one with the hat, left.
e3. Use commas after each item in lists (except the last). Example: John, Jane, and Jose left early.
e4. Use commas after introductory words or phrases. Example: First of all, you should listen to me.
e5. Use commas between number dates and years. Example: It all happened on May 3, 1999.
e6. Use commas between geographical places. Example: She lived in Tampa, Florida.
e7. Use commas after greetings/closings in personal letters. Example: Dear Ralph, …Sincerely, …
e8. Use commas after nouns of direct address. Example: Kristin, leave some for your sister.
e9. Use commas before conjunctions to join two independent clauses. Example: I liked her, and she liked me.
e10. Use exclamation points for surprise or strong emotions. Example: The decision really shocked me!
e11. Use quotation marks before and after direct quotations. Example: Sue said, “I’m going to bed.”
e12. Use quotation marks before and after songs, poems, document titles, book chapters, magazine articles, and short story titles. Example: Whenever I hear “Clementine,” it reminds me of “Leaves of Grass” and “The Gettysburg Address.”
e13. Use colons after business letter greetings. Example: Dear Sirs:
e14. Use colons to introduce lists. Example: The following: shoes, pants, and…
e15. Use colons between numbers in relationship. Example: 8:52 P.M.
e16. Use semicolons to join independent clauses without conjunctions. Example: Jamal went to school; Larry met him there.
e17. Underline movie, television show, book, magazine, play, and work of art titles.
e18. Use apostrophes for contractions. Example: I can’t see what they’re doing.
e19. Use apostrophes for singular and plural possessives. Example: Tom’s and the girls’ coats were red.
e20. Use parentheses to explain or define. Example: The hombre (man) rode off alone.
e21. Capitalize proper nouns (a name that is given to special persons, places, or things). Example: Ryan visited the Holocaust Museum in Los Angeles.
e22. Capitalize holidays, dates, groups, organizations, and businesses. Example: Last Easter on March 24, 2002 the P.T.A. and McDonald’s helped out.
e23. Capitalize the first, last, and any important words in titles. Example: Prince Charles’s favorite book was Islands of Adventure.
e24. Capitalize the names of languages and peoples. Example: He spoke Spanish to the Indians.
e25. Capitalize special events and historical periods. Example: The New Year’s Day Parade celebrates the Year of the Dog.
e26. The “i” before “e” Rule—Usually spell “i” before “e” (believe), but spell “e” before “i” after a “c” (receive) and when the letters are pronounced as a long /a/ sound (neighbor).
e27. The Final “y” Rule—Keep the “y” when adding an ending if the word ends in a vowel, then a “y” (delay-delayed), or if the ending begins with an “i” (copy-copying). Change the “y” to “i” if the word ends in a consonant, then a “y” (pretty-prettiest).
e28. The Silent “e” Rule—Drop the “e” (have-having) if the ending begins with a vowel. Keep the “e” (close-closely) if the ending begins with a consonant, has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound, then an “ous” or “able,” or if it ends in “ee”, “oe”, or “ye.”
e29. The Double the Consonant Rule—Double consonants, when adding on endings if these conditions are met: 1. last syllable is accented (per/MIT) 2. last syllable ends in a vowel–consonant (permit) and 3. ending begins with a vowel (ed).
e30. The Ending “an”–“en” Rule—End words with “ance”, “ancy”, or “ant” if the root has a hard /c/ or /g/ sound or it ends with “ear” or “ure.” End words with “ence”, “ency”, or “ent” if the root has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound, after “id,” or it ends with “ere.”
e31. The “able”–“ible” Rule—End words with “able” if the root has a hard /c/ or /g/ sound, after a complete root word, or after a silent “e.” End words with “ible” if the root has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound, an “ss,” or after an incomplete root word.
e32. The Ending “ion” Rule—Spell “sion” (illusion) for the final zyun sound or the final shun sound (expulsion, compassion) if after an “l” or “s.” Spell “cian” (musician) for a person and “tion” (condition) in most all other cases.
e33. The Plurals Rule—Add an “s” even with “y” or vowel—“o” endings. Spell “es” after /s/, /x/, /z/, /ch/, or /sh/ sounds or a consonant— “o.” Change a “y” to “i” and add “es” when the word ends in a consonant—“y.” Change “fe” or “lf” ending to “ves.”
e35. vt=verb tense error
e36. ww=wrong word
e37. ¶=needs new paragraph
e38. v=Close gap
e40. ro=run-on sentence
e41. frag=sentence fragment
e42. ‘=Insert an apostrophe
e44. mm=misplaced modifier
e45. dev=inadequate development
e47. nc=not clear
e49. sup=add support evidence
e50. trans=needs transition
e51. wordy=excessively wordy
e52. //=lacks parallel structure
e53. voice—needs third person
e54. slang—informal language
e55. figure of speech—Avoid idiomatic expressions in formal writing.
e56. verb—Too many “to be” verbs
e57. Abbv—Do not use abbreviations in formal writing
e58. cont=Don’t use contractions in formal writing
e59. wc=word choice (word overused)
e60. db neg=double negative
e61. pv=passive voice unnecessary
e62. Rhetorical question in which answer is assumed
e63. Too many prepositional phrase strings
e64. Avoid (parenthetical) remarks.
e65. Don’t start sentences with coordinating conjunctions, e.g. but, and, so, or.
e66. Don’t split infinitives, e.g. “to carefully walk”
e67. Don’t end sentences with prepositions.
e68. Don’t refer to your own writing.
e69. def=Define this term.
e70. spf=Get more specific.
e71. cit=Needs citation
e72. Needs sentence variety
e73. Off topic—focus is off of central idea
e74. Overstated idea—exaggerated
e75. seq=sequence problems
e76. Inconsistent argument
e77. Needs topic sentence
e78. Needs variety of types of evidence
e79. Needs another introduction strategy
e80. Needs variety of introduction strategies
e81. Thesis is unclear—must state purpose or point of view.
e82. Re-state the thesis to introduce the conclusion.
e83. Needs another conclusion strategy
e84. Needs variety of conclusion strategies
e85. Proper Heading (Left, Top, Four Lines): John Doe–Mr. Pennington–English-language Arts–7 March, 2009 Then, have two double spaces before indenting your first paragraph one Tab space.
e86. Set one inch margins; double space; use Times New Roman 12 (no bold face); and indent each paragraph one inch–don’t skip lines between paragraphs.
1. Commas—speaker tags
4. Commas—introductory word(s)
8. Commas—direct address
9. Commas—before conjunctions
in independent clauses
10. Exclamation points
11. Quotation marks for dialog
12. Quotation marks—titles
17. Underline titles
21. Capitalize—proper nouns
22. Capitalize—holidays, dates, groups, organizations, and businesses
24. Capitalize—languages and peoples
25. Capitalize—special events and historical periods
26. The “i” before “e” Rule
27. The Final “y” Rule
28. The Silent “e” Rule
29. The Double the Consonant Rule
30. The Ending “an”–“en” Rule
31. The “able”–“ible” Rule
32. The Ending “ion” Rule—
33. The Plurals Rule—
35. vt=verb tense error
36. ww=wrong word
37. ¶=needs new paragraph
38. v=Close gap
40. ro=run-on sentence
41. frag=sentence fragment
42. ‘=Insert an apostrophe
44. mm=misplaced modifier
45. dev=inadequate development
47. nc=not clear
49. sup=add support evidence
50. trans=needs transition
51. wordy=excessively wordy
52. //=lacks parallel structure
53. voice—needs third person
54. slang—informal language
55. figure of speech
56. verb—Too many “to be” verbs
57. Abbv—Do not use abbreviations
58. cont=Don’t use contractions
59. wc=word choice (word overused)
60. db neg=double negative
61. pv=passive voice unnecessary
62. Rhetorical question
63. Too many prepositional phrase strings
64. Avoid (parenthetical) remarks.
65. Don’t start sentences with coordinating conjunctions
66. Don’t split infinitives
67. Don’t end sentences with prepositions
68. Don’t refer to your own writing.
69. def=Define this term.
70. spf=Get more specific.
71. cit=Needs citation
72. Needs sentence variety
73. Off topic
74. Overstated idea
75. seq=sequence problems
76. Inconsistent argument
77. Needs topic sentence
78. Needs variety of types of evidence
79. Needs another introduction strategy
80. Needs variety of introduction strategies
81. Thesis is unclear
82. Re-state the thesis
83. Needs another conclusion strategy
84. Needs variety of conclusion strategies
85. Needs proper MLA heading
86. MLA formatting needs work