So Kristy did a guest blog post for Cult of Pedagogy about delaying the grade. In it she expresses her frustration with students’ “intense focus on the all-important grade.” What bothers her the most is that her feedback goes ignored.
We English teachers live this every day. I, too, used to shake my head when, at the end of the day, I’d find the trash can next to the classroom door filled with graded essays with my well-thought-out comments on them. Those comments are my way of helping you become a better writer! A better thinker!!
Kristy’s solution is to delay the grade. Okay, I’m done summarizing her blog post. Go read it for yourself: https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/delayed-grade/
Here’s where I come in. I’ve been delaying the grade too!
Using GAFE to Delay the Grade
One way I do it is similar to what Kristy says. I “give” them an “incomplete” in the grade book (which calculates as a zero). The assignment is returned (in Google Classroom) with my comments, and students revise and resubmit. When they have revised enough (meaning that every point in the rubric is covered), they get the full number of points.
“But that way, can’t everyone get a 100?” Yes! You betcha!!
Another delaying tactic has me giving a grade, and the student can get a better grade. I return a marked rubric and my feedback in Google Docs/Classroom with a grade. But–because of the rubric–the grade is usually not very good (like 20%). Students can revise and resubmit for a better grade. (That’s how “real” writing is done in the “real world.”) Until they get a grade they’re happy with (and then they stop resubmitting), I comment and return.
It’s the commenting where I was getting bogged down. Not only was I spending (wasting) a lot of time making the exact same comments, but I also found myself falling into the trap of just telling them what to fix. “The first word in this sentence needs to be capitalized” and “This sentence needs a period at the end” become empty exercises in making the corrections myself without any effort (or learning) on the student’s behalf.
Avoid Writing the Same Comments & Don’t Tell Them What to Fix
So to solve the first problem (making the same exact comments over and over), I make my own Google doc with common comments that I can copy/paste into their assignment. I can add more personal notes when needed. Often, I need a new doc for each assignment, but it’s easy to make by looking at the rubric.
Click here to see one of my comment docs.*
To solve the second problem of just telling them what to fix, I scaffold my comments, getting more specific each time the assignment is resubmitted without being fixed properly (or if the student asks for more help!). My comments are a bit vague at first–“There are misspelled words in this essay”–because I want them to struggle a bit, and they don’t have to struggle if I highlight each misspelled word. With each resubmittal and return, my comments get more detailed.
With classrooms full of digital natives, I also have a Google doc with links to short YouTube videos (formatting Works Cited in Google Docs, in-text citations, thesis statement). I find they tend to watch a 1- or 2-minute video rather than read my comment, but whatever.
Click here to see my doc with links to videos.*
I have gotten some push back–mostly from parents. “Why am I giving Junior an incomplete or a 20%?” Hey, that gives me a chance to talk to them about my superior teaching methods! But, seriously, my students (and their parents) quickly learn that I’m doing this differently. And they actually improve as writers because I don’t let them get away with mediocre work. AND they step up their game on the next assignment because they know they have to (and because they’ve learned the skills).
I have had students revise and resubmit more than 6 times. Yes, it’s a little extra “grading” on my part, but I have learned to assess only certain skills on different assignments rather than giving them a bloodbath of “red ink.” I choose what I want them to work on in progressive assignments.
I also find that students are much much more willing to revise and resubmit because we use Google Classroom. They get an email alert right on their phones–and they can click right into the assignment and revise right on the phone. (I can’t say enough good things about GAFE.)
*Example docs are Google docs shared as view only. Feel free to copy and make them your own!
Christopher Miller is an English teacher at Somerset County Vocational Technical High School in Bridgewater, New Jersey. He is also one of the Teacher Leaders at the school responsible for professional development, mentoring, and so much more. Chris is kind of a techie (with a Master’s Degree in Educational Technology), but he will tell you that his tech-savviness is just because he’s “not afraid to click stuff.” But what we do isn’t about technology (which he says is just a tool). Chris offers a constructivist approach to his students with plenty of autonomy and opportunity to discover content without being spoon-fed.