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Amanda Stead: Creating Classroom Community and Buy-In for Difficult Topics

Writing, writing everywhere…

Elizabeth Tavares is an English professor, and students in her classes write–they write a lot! To ensure this writing is meaningful and leads to deep learning, Elizabeth has to provide her students with timely and constructive feedback along the way–no small task in writing-intensive courses like Medieval English Literature and World Literature and Magic Realism. To manage all of this writing, Elizabeth has had to develop efficient strategies for getting highly quality feedback to her students in the quickest ways possible. Her secret weapon? Technology.

Watch this brief interview to hear Elizabeth talk about tips, tricks, and best practices to mark student work in ways that yield real writing improvement.

Useful Marking Tools

Elizabeth has three key tools in her digital marking toolbox: Track Changes, Comment Stamps, and Targeted Rubrics.

Track Changes

By making use of this built-in feature of Microsoft Word, Elizabeth is able to make digital comments directly on the essay with all the conveniences of digital media, like text suggestions, highlighting, and hyperlinks. She recommends a focus on commenting rather than correcting to encourage students to interpret and apply your comment to their work, rather than just making the “correction” you suggested.

Comment Stamps

This strategy is all about not reinventing the wheel every time you need to give the same bit of feedback (sentence fragment, anyone?). If you save the kinds of comments you make most often, or any comment that is particularly insightful or communicates particularly well, in a common document, you can cut and paste them as ‘comment stamps’ to reuse when you’re giving feedback. Elizabeth also suggests including links to interesting outside resources, like Grammar Girl. Note that the comment stamps strategy can only work in a digital marking environment–unless, of course, you actually have a set of customized rubber stamps!

Targeted Rubrics

If expectations are clearly described in rubrics, and the language in the rubric aligns with the comments you repeatedly make on student writing, then using a rubric can help you communicate to students what the writing is doing well and what should be improved on the next draft. With a rubric, you can do that in a fraction of the time it would take to write it out on paper after paper–just select the box! Rubrics provide the additional benefit of describing to students what successful writing should look like in each criteria before they write it, which improves the likelihood that the final product will be a lot closer to what you expect. While there is no sagacious secret or magic app that will make teaching writing quick or easy (or even pretty quick or fairly easy), there are techniques that can save you keystrokes and maximize the benefit your students get from the comments you give them.

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