The math department at my school has done incredible work in the area of grading for mastery. For two years, I've listened to them tweak and hone their program and I've wanted to jump on board, but it is so hard to wrap my brain around how it would work in my English classroom. Here I am in the spring semester thinking and planning for next year and I think it is time to move in that direction. If you do mastery grading or standards based grading, I'd love to hear your questions, suggestions, and experiences in the comment section below!
Every school day, teachers everywhere arrive an hour before school starts and leave at least an hour after school ends, often hauling a bin or crate of grading or prep to complete. We spend hour upon hour researching the best methods to teach, to differentiate, to engage. We spend hours, creating, preparing, and tweaking lesson plans, activities, and assessments. At the elementary level, teachers spend hours decorating and cutting and laminating and stuffing little sandwich bags for new activities. At the secondary level, English teachers, for example— sift through, read, correct, and comment thoughtfully on 120 students’ 3 page papers (which totals 360 pages of material – for one assignment.
It always astounds me how much this job does NOT get any easier! 10 years in and I still find myself hopelessly in the weeds on a monthly, if not weekly basis. My grades, emails, lesson plans, meetings, and everything else seem to pile up when I am busy teaching and then all of the sudden the panic sets in. Today I want to share a couple of tips that I have picked up along the way from my own experience or from wise teachers I've worked with. Please share your tips in the comment section below!
For me, grading essays is one of the most challenging aspects of teaching high school English (see my top 10 here). I don't have a problem with deciphering handwriting or subjectively evaluating a written piece. I have a problem with the incredibly long hours I dedicate to the (sometimes thankless) sport of essay grading. I teach 1 advanced placement and 4 college prep English classes, which average 30 students per class. I know that many teachers have it far worse than I do, but I have to work very hard to keep my head above the essay-filled water! While we're talking essays, you should totally check out Simply Novel's Essay Architect Writing System. Here are some of the tips I have gathered along the way to make the essay grading a little more manageable: