IS THERE anything harder than getting a child to write? According to most parents, it’s trying to grade that writing!
Your mind swirls as you worry, “How can I possibly grade objectively?”
- I’m no writer. Who am I to judge my child’s writing?
- I can’t get past the spelling and punctuation errors.
- I don’t know have a clue what I’m looking for.
- How do I offer suggestions?
- How can I be both honest and merciful?
- How can I justify the grade?
Often, in light of these worries, you avoid giving important feedback. Or worse, you cut back on writing altogether.
Edit First, Grade Later
Writing is a process. Though younger children aren’t ready to put their stories through a massive overhaul, they can certainly work beside you as they learn to edit and make simple changes.
Older students with more skills and confidence should revise their compositions several times.
Self-editing gives them a chance to review their own paper (ideally using an objective checklist) and make some improvements. Once they have self-edited and written a revised draft, it’s time for a second pair of eyes—yours—to review the paper.
Trying some of these editing tips will help you feel more equipped for the task.
1. Get the big picture
First, hide the red pen! Read the whole paper all the way through. Don’t stop to fuss over run-on sentences or misspelled words. Just read. Take in the main ideas.
2. Use an objective rubric
This keeps you from making guesses about the paper or imposing unrealistic expectations on your child’s writing.
3. Look for one thing at a time
Read through the paper several times.
- The first time, look at the content. Does the story or report make sense? Are there enough details, facts, or examples? Is there a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end?
- Next, you might inspect your child’s word choices. Are there repeated words that could be replaced by appropriate synonyms? Vague or weak words that could be exchanged for stronger, more concrete ones?
- Finally, examine the writing for mechanics, including correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
4. Make some positive comments
Encouragement is the goal, so don’t just attack the errors. Instead, also seek out and comment on things your child did well.
- Did she spell some difficult words correctly?
- Did she write a completely error-free sentence?
- Did she make some great vocabulary choices?
- Did you appreciate a particular descriptive detail or well-defined point?
Change Your Focus
1. Do you have stinkin’ thinkin’?
Before you get totally overwhelmed by the stress of it all, shifting your perspective can make a huge difference!
Instead of worrying about how to become the perfect, impartial, encouraging grader, admit that you really do know more than your child and—with a few tools under your belt—you’re capable of rising to the task.
A renewed dose of confidence will remove the millstone of perfection that’s hanging around your neck.
Did you know you don’t have to grade every piece of writing?
- Some writing, such as daily journals, may need nothing more than a checkmark or happy face to say “Done!”
- Other pieces may only need a plus (+) for a good effort, a minus (-) for an unsatisfactory effort, or a simple checkmark if it’s okay.
Then you can turn your concentration toward grading those papers that need the most attention.
3. Adopt a positive outlook
When grading a paper, you may find yourself just as inclined to find fault as you did during editing. Remembering these key points will keep you optimistic about your kids’ writing efforts.
- Identify areas of growth. During the grading stage, continue to offer positive and encouraging comments that bless your child’s efforts. Point out places that her writing has improved since the first draft.
- Consider your child’s ability and level of competence. Take care not to heap high-school level expectations on your sixth grader. Though older and younger students might complete the same writing assignment, the high schooler will typically use stronger vocabulary, better sentence structure, and more mature content.
- Don’t compare your kids’ papers. Instead, hold them to an impartial standard that gives each one a chance to shine. Susie’s vocabulary and writing style may be more developed than Johnny’s, but if both meet the assignment’s requirements, they can each receive a top grade.
Following these tips will help you take a more positive approach as you learn to edit and grade more objectively. By doing so, you’ll also encourage your children’s success as they grow in their writing abilities.
Need more help in this area? Check out these past posts!
- Intro to Editing and Evaluating Writing
- Editing Tips for the Faint of Heart
- Taking the Tears out of Editing
- Putting a Positive Spin on Editing
What are some of your favorite tips for grading your kids’ writing assignments?