Ways to make grading writing less subjective

Teaching writing is less subjective than you think! Knowing what to look for and having clear expectations can reduce anxiety.

To most parents, the process of editing and evaluating your teen’s compositions does seem like an overwhelming, subjective effort. It’s usually pretty easy to spot spelling and grammar mistakes and other problems with mechanics. But grading for content and style is another thing altogether!

Have you ever said anything like this?

  • I can’t quite put my finger on what’s wrong.
  • I’d say this essay feels like a B+.
  • I love the story, but I don’t exactly know why. It just…sounds good.
  • I hate grading. I’m always afraid I’ll either be too easy or too hard on my child.
  • I never know what I’m supposed to be looking for.

Christy’s Story

I have a junior high boy who hated writing because he (and I) felt it was so subjective. WriteShop . . . breaks it into objective little pieces with skills to practice, examples for visual learning, and student checklists so a reluctant writer has a clear path to follow. It takes the guesswork out!

For the parent, there [are] Teacher Writing Checklists to make specific, encouraging comments to help the student revise his work. The best part is the objective scoring of each component.

My son went from being a C writer to an A writer in just one year! I thought he would never be a straight A student all because of the problems in writing. Well, he is this year thanks to WriteShop.

Finding Answers

WriteShop can help 

WriteShop Teacher's ManualHappily, as Christy and others have discovered, the process is easier and more objective than you think! Knowing what to look for and having clear expectations can take the anxiety out of this task. Since teen writers often make the same kinds of mistakes, the Teacher’s Manual for WriteShop I and II addresses these common areas. In the tabbed sections of the Teacher’s Manual you will find:

  • A step-by-step guide through the writing and editing process
  • Instructions for using the Student and Teacher Writing Skills Checklists
  • Pages of positive comments to encourage your young writer
  • A section that helps you identify and correct problems specific to each WriteShop lesson
  • A section highlighting the most common problems of mechanics
  • Edited samples of student paragraphs to serve as models (this section also contains lessons designed to help you practice and develop confidence in editing)

Learning to edit a composition is a process for both you and your student. WriteShop’s comprehensive Student and Teacher Writing Skills Checklists take the intimidation and guesswork out of editing. Because your teens know what is expected, they also respond more positively to suggestions for improvement.

Good news

The more you edit and revise, the easier it will become for you. Familiarity produces recognition. You’ll quickly become adept at spotting repeated words, “to be” words, and misplaced modifiers. Soon they’ll just jump out at you. But in the beginning, you’ll need to search for these mistakes.

It’s actually more objective than you think—especially when you have WriteShop’s detailed checklists to help you look for specific things, including:

  • Topic and closing sentences
  • Over-used or repeated words
  • Vague or weak words
  • Passive writing
  • Use of sentence variety
  • Correct use of the lesson’s content and style requirements, such as including all the elements of a narrative or using emotion words
  • Avoidance of run-on or incomplete sentences

And here’s a bit of encouragement for you: Even if you only address half of these, your student’s writing is bound to improve! So don’t worry about doing it “perfectly.” Just begin offering concrete suggestions and you will see improvement right away.

Your student’s role

But it’s not all up to you! Your teen plays a big role. Asking the following questions of your student’s composition will address his or her two biggest stumbling blocks to success:

  • Did my student follow the assignment’s specific directions? She will avoid countless problems later on by doing exactly what the lesson requires.
  • Did she correctly use her Writing Skills Checklist, including using colored pencils on the “sloppy copy” (rough draft) to underline and circle as the checklist directs? Students who diligently use their checklists to find errors and make changes, and who earnestly look for ways to improve their compositions, will be more successful writers than those who sit back and let you do all the editing for them.

WriteShop I and WriteShop II have a proven track record! Using the program will help prepare your teens for advanced high school and college writing. But don’t take my word for it! Christy and Dottie have said it better than I ever could.

Dottie’s Story

When I placed two of my daughters in WriteShop I, I had no idea how greatly it would impact them. My youngest daughter took WriteShop in 7th grade. Now in 9th grade, with little other formal writing instruction, she is still applying the techniques she learned two years ago.

Her older sister did WriteShop I in jr. high also. She is now in college and was asked by her composition teacher to work in the English lab helping other students with their writing. I attribute this honor largely to the skills she learned in WriteShop I many years ago.

. . . . .

Do you struggle with teaching, editing, and grading your teen’s writing? Are you looking for ways to make the process of teaching and grading writing less subjective? Perhaps WriteShop is the answer. Visit www.writeshop.com and poke around. About WriteShop and Parent Testimonials may be good places to begin.

Photo: Laura Dye, courtesy of Creative Commons.
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