Wednesday, September 3, 2014

30 Day Reflection: Observation Focus

Day 3: Discuss one "observation" area that you would like to improve for your evaluation?

This is the 3rd day of the 30 Day Challenge from Teach Thought.

One area that I really want to improve this year is getting feedback to students quickly on lengthier pieces of writing (Domain 3: Instruction -Feedback). This is a goal for me every year and each year I improve, but I still believe I can do better.

As a high school English teacher who generally has 150+ students each year, it is often difficult to pass back drafts with comments on them in a few days. At my fastest, I can read and comment on a student's writing piece in 30 minutes. If I grade 10 pieces a day, it will take me five hours a day. At that pace, I can grade 150 pieces in 75 hours. I promise this isn't hyperbole.

I have tried several strategies over the years including staggering turn-in times for my six classes, only providing comments on first drafts, and using holistic rubrics. Of course, each year my students offer a much simpler strategy: stop assigning essays. Well, that isn't going to happen.

The last few years I have experimented with different technology platforms (Edmodo, Wikis, Comment feature in Word, etc.) to help me give feedback to students quicker.  I have experimented with giving feedback orally and through stock comments.

Through each of these experiments, I find a technique or two that helps me get writing back to my students quicker. Yet, I still am not completely satisfied with my turn around time. So, I am experimenting again this year. Ever the optimist, maybe this is the year that I finally get it right.

What do you do to grade writing pieces quickly?


  1. I have heard about Kaizena at a tech conference. I hope to incorporate it this year. Kaizena lets you leave oral comments in a Google Doc. This might be quicker for me and more personal.

  2. Elizabeth,
    Thanks! I will check out Kaizena.

  3. I can completely relate to the amount of time it takes to give feedback (I teach 7th grade language arts). A few things that have helped me:
    - I love using Google Docs for comments - it's quicker and easier for me, and I can see a students' revision history to know just how much they changed their piece.
    - I focus my comments on 2-3 areas of improvement.
    - I do not edit, unless a student really is struggling in this area. I will make general comments about editing ("check capitalization of proper nouns") but leave it up to the student to use any resources available to make their piece "final copy quality."
    - I use a workshop approach, so not all students are completing drafts at the same time - this helps.

  4. Tim, great suggestions. I need to look into utilizing Google Docs more. I really like the workshop idea, too.