While working at my computer, I heard my officemate, Nadya, sigh. She had a stack of homework papers that she was in the midst of marking, counting points and recording. She told me that she was starting to feel burned out from all the paper work and wondered if I felt the same.
She showed me how she was evaluating her students’ homework. They had written 10 items, and next to each one, she had written points. For example, a 2/2 meant that the student did that item correctly, a ½ meant it wasn’t completely correct, and 0/2 meant it was completely incorrect.
That morning she was in the process of (1) totaling the points, (2) writing a score at the top, and (3) recording the scores in her grade book. She said that she didn’t have time to write anything more specifically about the reason for the points on the students’ papers.
I then showed her a set of papers that I had recently marked. I don’t write points next to each item, but instead, I marked each with green or blue. Then I explained that by doing that, I’m able to specifically reinforce what they did correctly or point out what was incorrect. At the same time, I don’t need to write and record points, which saves me a tremendous amount of time.
Here are samples of our different approaches to marking assignments:
Traditionally, when evaluating students’ writing levels, the “evaluators” silently read the essays in their offices, oftentimes fill out a rubric and come up with a score. Most of us would agree that such a process is onerous and often results in students being misplaced.
The method that I’ll describe here has important benefits for teachers and the ESL program as a whole. I’ve used this in several ESL programs for two situations: (1) determining which students should be promoted to the next level at the end of a term, and (2) placement of new students. It’s especially helpful for determining the proper Writing-class level of borderline students, in other words, ones whose writing levels are not obvious.
To demonstrate how the method works, let’s look at those two situations.
This can drive a teacher crazy. You remind students to proof-read their paper before turning them in. However, after class, as you read them, you continually see basic grammar mistakes that you are sure they should have been able to have caught.
It’s quite common for ESL students to have a distorted view of their writing skills. They think that they can adequately edit their papers as they are writing, and thus, feel little need to re-read them before turning them in. Little do they realize that a plethora of simple grammar and spelling mistakes on a paper can give the reader/teacher a lower opinion of the students’ skills.
I have found that the following little requirement has greatly transformed students into much more diligent self-editors.
This posting is directed specifically to teachers in these categories:
- You have experience teaching ESL Writing, but you have been assigned to teach a new level.
- You have just been hired to teach in an ESL program and are assigned a Writing class.
- You have been teaching an ESL Writing class for a few terms, but this term you have some students who have “unusual” writing characteristics.
Imagine that it’s the third week of the term. You just picked up your students’ first writing sample (e.g. a paragraph or essay) and are starting to mark/evaluate them. (See Most Effective Technique for Marking Grammar on Essays to Develop Self-Editing Skills)
You start with Adey’s essay and soon some questions come to your mind:
Next, you read Naomi’s essay and wonder about this:
- She uses complex sentences, but sometimes her grammar breaks down, especially word forms. Would these kinds of mistakes disqualify her from passing to the next level? How “perfect” must a students’ grammar be to pass?
Another student, Dante had this characteristic:
- His ideas seemed quite simplistic; he doesn’t develop them with enough details. What is the expectation for students passing to the next level concerning idea development?
Help is on the way!