Alternatives to Grading Student Writing by Stephen Tchudi

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By Stephen Tchudi

Comparing a student's growth as a author calls for awesome a fragile stability among the student's wishes and the school's wishes. This choice of essays bargains numerous cutting edge suggestions, concluding with principles for formulating plans of motion for introducing grading choices in school rooms, faculties, and districts.

A selection of essays, assembled via the NCTE's Committee on choices to Grading pupil Writing.

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Another self-assessment piece follows the read-around. Stu­ dents go quickly down a one-page, two-column list of attitude, behav­ ior, and writing traits discussed in this essay, giving themselves a check, minus, or plus on each one (for "Appropriate," "Less Than I'm Capable of" or liMy Very Best Work"). They summarize, using the same check system with the following: Truthfulness Though tfulness Thoroughness Timeliness Participation Effort Improvement Overall Quality Because first impressions are more accurate, I allot only five minutes for this activity.

Why do they investigate insects on their own? Why are they fascinated by dinosaurs? Why do they ask why? My answer is that they do these things because learning is natural to human beings. Maybe the problem is not that we need to motivate students, but that we need to stop demotivating them. I personally come down on the side that says cooperation is bet­ ter than competition, that healthy competition is an oxymoron, but I know some people who love competition and thrive on it. So, fine, let's not do away with competition entirely.

I give more extensive response early in the term, when writers accustomed to using regular deadlines and grades to force themselves to write need to know that the teacher reads all of their work carefully. I focus first on writing processes, pointing out signs of growth in their folders and also doing so publicly, and look for symp­ toms of intellectual and creative abuse-like negative criticism or an early emphasis on structure. Responding weekly to drafts and process logs, I highlight strengths, underlining what I find interesting, power­ ful, funny, well crafted, or thought provoking.

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