Sunday, 17 February 2013

Drowning in essays!

Finally! My 300th essay was graded! I should be experiencing some sort of euphoria but relieved is the more apt word to describe my feelings at present. It was OVERWHELMING. Sorry (5 Shafie and 5 Bukhari) for the delay. I've been pressed for time lately, what with the non-stop meetings we've been having in school. We had meetings almost every week before the CNY break, I wonder if anything sinks...teacher look tired and forlorn and the one-way traffic in meetings is no help either. How much can one listen to anyway?

Grading students' work (on time) is my weakest point I know. When you have 300 essays it's no joke. (Siapa suruh bagi banyak homework? Ha ha!) Well, I've been carrying these essays in my bag back and forth between school and home for weeks and I'm just glad they're finally done! Hooray! How do you deal with grading students essays by the way? Do you mark every single detail? Do you correct every single error until it is bloody? I basically look at how much time I have and how many essays. 

Some of the things I've been doing are to:
  • focus on one aspect of the language for example tense. At another time I would be looking at development of ideas (ability to expand and elaborate) or you can devote the bulk of your grading to a combination of some language elements. From experience, you can't possibly look at all the errors. Just mark the glaring ones.
  • give positive feedback (margin comments, inline comments and summary at the end) to students work whenever you can because this takes a lot of time too and you wonder if the students read them at all :)
  •  use rubrics as in the SPM rubric
  •  write "See me' notes for those students who didn't do so well. Calling them individually and showing their errors are useful and motivating.

Some teachers believe in giving a lot of practice without necessarily grading every single paper. They believe that learning a language requires a lot of practice hence a lot of writing in this case. Learning a language is not the same as learning Mathematics for instance. It takes years to develop the skills. Yes I subscribe to giving lots of practice on writing although the burden of grading is enormous. It's a question of balance really- with other language skills and the literature component that we need to deal with. To a certain degree we language teachers must be resigned to spending a lot of time grading essays because essay grading is something that you can pare down only so much. Do you agree?

The Thinking Teacher


  1. Every now and then I pick an essay with typical errors and have it photostated for everyone in class to study and suggest improvements; tenses, choice of words, connectors, clauses and so on, depending on the level of the pupils' skill. After a few times no one would feel embarrassed when errors in others' essays are equally shared.

    I do not know whether above is an accepted practice. But I do what I find beneficial, unorthodox it may be.

  2. Thanks for sharing pakcik. I think what you have done is useful and as a matter of fact I do the same thing too. I agree about 'no one would feel embarrassed' because the problem with our learners is sometimes they are too shy about making mistakes. They fear that people will laugh at them and by showing their friends' mistakes, they too realise that mistakes are all part and parcel of learning.

  3. Assalamualaikum..I believe every language teacher has the same problem..I love marking my students' essays and I always give them lots of essays..but sometimes I didnt have enough time to marking bcause of workload as a teacher..anyway,thanx a lot..u really inspire me to be a better teacher.. ;)

  4. wassallam farah,thanks for visiting :) what you said is absolutely true. grading students' work is a big problem but we still have to do it. we need to find ways on how we can do it best without sacrificing quality of marking. thanks i hope to inspire more :)


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