Grading Self Deceptions

I always take too long to grade, and I’m always coming up with new ways to supposedly trick myself into grading faster. This right here, this is my latest trick. Sweet Jesus, I hope it works.

So here’s what I want to do: I’m about to start grading a new assignment, and rather than dive in and start grading and not be able to resist the urge to comment on everything, I instead want to take a moment to reflect on what my grading goals are. A review of the grading rubric might be helpful, so let me see if I can paste it in.

Paper 1 Grading Rubric: Rhetorical Analysis

Analyzes the rhetoric of a text, making original claims about its effectiveness Yes     No — paper must be rewritten
Paper Elements – each area worth 1.0 (all numeric scores x .25 and added together)







Uses an organizational method appropriate for the topic.
Has an original, debatable, narrowly defined thesis and forecast statement.
Paragraphs are united around a central idea expressed in a topic sentence.
Transitions show how various points are related to each other and the thesis.
Makes claims about how rhetoric is used and evaluates its success.
Identifies the speech’s rhetorical situation (author, purpose, audience, and context).
Analyzes rhetorical appeals and strategies used and uses vocabulary words like rhetoric, rhetorical appeals, rhetorical strategies, logos, pathos, and ethos correctly.
Analyzes the author’s language and style choices.
Correctly uses templates drawn from They Say / I Say, signal phrases, quotation marks when necessary, and citations pointing to works cited entries.            
Demonstrates a mastery of sentence and punctuation mechanics.            
MLA paper format, .1 to .3 letter grade. See “Formatting Papers the MLA Way.”            
Plagiarism, one letter grade for each sentence, failure for a whole paragraph.            
Insufficient length, one letter grade for each page short. Minimum of four full pages of text + Works Cited Page            
QEP Outcomes            
Effectively uses critical thinking, organizational patterns, standard English mechanics. (R&W)            

A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0. + = add .3 – = subtract .3. Slash (/) grades fall exactly between the two grades. E.g., A- = 3.7, A/B = 3.5, B+ = 3.3.

Okay, that sort of worked. So obviously this thing is long—I have an unfortunate habit of trying to anticipate every concern and address them in writing, both in my assignments and my personal correspondence. I, too, am annoyed by this.

But there’s a clear limit of the things I’m looking for: organization, content, quotations & documentation, and mechanics.

It’s this last item that bogs me down. I’ve already programmed a couple hundred macros or auto-correct entries so I can type things like “cs” and “Comma splice. S-3.” spits out. Or type “rhetpgh” to get “You need 1) topic sentence stating claim about author’s use of specific rhetorical strategy, 2) supporting example or quotation, 3) explanation of how example or quotation supports claim, 4) repeat 2 and 3 as needed, 5) concluding sentence evaluating success of specific rhetorical strategy.”

Of course, these are useful, but what is not useful is my inability to leave an error unmarked. Okay, I leave plenty unmarked, but I feel compelled to mark at least one of each kind of error. Holy baloney, that’s a lot. It must be intimidating for my students to see all those electronic marks on their papers, and it sure as hell takes time, even to highlight, hit ALT-C for comment, and enter my coded keystrokes. More importantly, when my mind is in proofread mode, I’m not focusing on content. And even though I eventually address content, it must seem like an afterthought when it comes later in the paper or as a final comment at the end.

So my new plan: At the end of the first page—not as I go—list no more than five of the most common types of errors. Hopefully, that will be that, but should I feel compelled to note more, I’ll also mark those in a single comment only at the end of a page. Otherwise, I should spend my energy just absorbing what the student is saying, commenting on content, and perhaps no more than once or twice a page making observations about the student’s larger writing issues—organization, topic sentences, explanations of how evidence supports topic sentence claims and so on.

My goal is to offer helpful, not overwhelming advice and to be able to move through a virtual stack of papers quickly. Incidentally, I’ve finally stopped taking up hard copies all together for first drafts. I can’t imagine, however, grading an entire virtual portfolio. I think I’ll still need hard copies at the end of the semester.

Okay, Jesseca, there’s your pep talk! You know what to do. Now, get in there and get to work.

Right after  you take a shower.

And let me know how it works out. I’m curious about this new experiment of yours.


Good day.

I gave my intro to lit students their final exam question to prepare for today, and it went surprisingly well. I introduced the concept of binary oppositions and how the space between such binaries is often taboo. They’re going to write an in-class essay exam that traces one or more thematic binary oppositions that run through Natasha Trethewey’s Thrall. I was nervous that they might not take to binary oppositions, but they did. They even seemed excited. It was kind of awesome. Plus, one student declared that she’s not taking her next English class until I teach it, and another told me he nominated me for some teaching award. Of course, I was silly and hammed it up: “Oh, my! It’s an honor just to be nominated.” They were a fun bunch. Oh, oh, oh!!!! And I successfully convinced my brilliant Puerto Rican baseball player to minor in English!!! My first success in Operation Recruit an English Major/Minor.