Is there anything harder than getting a child to write? According to most parents, it’s trying to grade that writing! You long for tips to help with grading writing because your mind swirls with doubt. “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.
- How do I offer suggestions?
- I don’t have a clue what I’m looking for.
- 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, because they’re usually more skilled and confident, 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.
When you try some of these editing tips, you’ll begin to 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?
- Has she made some great vocabulary choices?
- Did you appreciate a particular descriptive detail or well-defined point?
WriteShop curriculum not only teaches your child how to write, it shows you how to teach homeschool writing.
All WriteShop products offer schedules, tips, activities, lesson plans, and checklists that help you teach effectively and edit and grade your children’s work with an objective eye.
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 check mark 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 check mark if it’s okay.
- Certain writing may not need careful scrutiny. For example, you can evaluate book reports, summaries, history reports, nature observations, etc. solely on content—without stressing over grammar or mechanics.
This way, you can concentrate on grading those papers that need the most attention.
3. Adopt a positive outlook
When evaluating a paper, you may find yourself just as inclined to find fault as you did during editing. Remembering these key grading tips 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 grading tips will help you take a more positive approach as you learn to evaluate writing 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!