Posts Tagged ‘comments’

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Reading Student Work in the Paperless Writing Class

posted: 6.10.13 by archived

In their book, The Elements of Teaching Writing, Katherine Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj argue that along with the actual instructions we create to guide our students through the writing assignments we give them, the feedback we provide on their written work is among the most important kinds of writing we produce in our classes. It’s hard to disagree. In our comments to students, we construct a persona for ourselves–one that may or may not match up with our actual, face-to-face classroom persona–and we establish the terms by which we will relate to or interact with our students. In short, there is a lot riding on the ways in which we talk to students about their written work. Grading papers is never just “grading papers.” [read more]

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Categories: Michael Michaud
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A low-tech solution to canned comments?

posted: 11.16.12 by archived

In the midst of mid-semester grading, I catch myself writing the same thing over and over: what’s the main idea here? add a topic sentence to focus this paragraph, semicolon requires a full sentence on each side, in-text citation needed.  I’ve already seen these essays in rough draft form on student blogs, where end-of-post commenting helps me to keep my feedback global, but on final drafts this semester I’m marking paper copies and trying to model there the close reading I’m trying to encourage as part of their revision process. But these canned comments cost me not only time but more importantly focus, as my attention is shifted away from grappling with the deeper problems I’d like to address of logic and organization and development.

At the back of my mind are the usual questions of how useful these comments will be for students. As a writer I’d welcome someone’s careful attention to my writing, but for many of my students I fear my scribbles are only overwhelming or discouraging or superfluous to the grade I attach to the end. Ideally I’d like to be able to tailor the depth of my comments for individual students, but that seems to be impossible on a practical level with 100 students’ preferences to keep straight. [read more]

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Categories: Holly Pappas
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100 Sticky Notes, or The Simple Way to Move from Observations to Composing

posted: 9.30.09 by Traci Gardner

I have a new challenge for the next class of students I teach:

Buy one package of sticky notes. Any brand will do, but be sure that they are about 3″ square. There should be about 100 notes in the pad. They don’t need to be a name brand. Check the dollar store for cheap ones.

As you read texts for class this term, write your comments or questions on the sticky notes, along with the related page number, and add them to the book. During the term, I want you to use the entire pad of sticky notes.

Sound like busy work? It’s anything but. Take a look at “Added Bonus—Writing a Reader’s Response Journal Entry” from the Scholastic Classroom Solutions blog. I know. It’s an entry from a 3–5 teacher. Stay with me. Take a look at what she’s having students do.

Students write their reader response reflections and analysis on sticky notes and then adhere them to the page that the comment applies to. The journal questions that Victoria Jasztal, the teacher-blogger, uses could work with students at any level, with some slight changes to make the task age-appropriate, or you could use your own journal questions with this technique. Later, Jasztal shares a journal entry that a student might write after writing their sticky notes.

My hunch is that you’re asking why go through all this trouble. If students bought their own books, couldn’t they just underline and make comments in the margin? Sure, they could. But there are some real benefits that I’d like to point out for using sticky notes.

Perhaps the most obvious argument for the technique is that there are times when students can’t or don’t want to write in the books that they are using. The student might have a book from the library for a research project. Perhaps the student has borrowed a book from a roommate. Maybe the student just doesn’t like the idea of writing in books. Sticky notes seem like the perfect solution for all these situations. That’s only the beginning of why this is a great technique for the writing classroom, though.

The size of the sticky notes encourages students to focus on concise, concentrated comments. I suggest either the 3″ square notes or, at most, the 3″ by 5″ rectangular notes. Anything other than the little flags will probably work though. On a 3″ square note, most students can write at least one full sentence. The notes are for their own use, so abbreviations and shortcuts are fine. As long as they can read their notes later, spelling and mechanics don’t really matter. Compare the short comments to the kind of concentrated comments people post on Twitter and in Facebook status updates. The kind of commentary should be familiar to most students. The goal is to ask them to apply that kind of writing to the texts that they are reading in class.

Once students begin using the technique, the sticky notes can improve class discussion. Ask students to point to a passage that stood out in a reading and you often get blank stares. Who remembers that the third paragraph on page 345 was confusing? Underlined text and margin notes might help, but sticky notes poking from the edges of the book make this task easy. The same things works in reverse, of course. If you point the class to a specific passage, you can ask who has a note on the page. Depending upon your classroom set-up, you may even be able to see whose books have notes on the page.

When it comes time for students to compose, the sticky notes can help writers point to supporting details. First, have students make sure that their sticky notes include the page number they relate to, so that they can return to the passages later. You might even urge them to be more specific by pointing to a paragraph number or sentence (e.g., sentence 2 in the second paragraph). Next, have students pull all notes out of the book and arrange them based on similarities. Depending upon the project, there could be piles based on different kinds of imagery, different characters in a story, different rhetorical techniques, and so forth. After notes are sorted, students can choose a topic based on the pile that is most interesting and that gives them enough support for their argument. Students can then place the notes on notebook paper and use them as a jot outline for the evidence to include in their paper. Remind students that they don’t need to use every sticky note, only those that relate to the paper topics they choose.

After writing a paper, students can use the sticky-note technique for peer review comments. Have students write their questions and comments on sticky notes and adhere them to the peer drafts. Since they are writing for other readers, remind them to avoid any unfamiliar abbreviations or shorthand. The sticky notes will give reviewers plenty of space to make their comments without marking up the original document. They can also be removed so that a second reader can comment on the same draft without seeing what other readers have said. Perhaps most importantly, the process applies the same critical thinking process to peer drafts that students apply to the every other text in class.

The technique can take students from first observations all the way to composing the final draft. It’s definitely not busy work. It encourages students to make critical connections to their readings, and, by nature of sticking their comments down, students are literally forced to connect their thoughts to specific passages in the texts. Once they understand this technique, students can easily use it in any class or subject area (as well as in the workplace). And my hunch is that when they use up that first pad of 100 sticky notes, they’ll get another pad.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Citing Sources, Discussion, Drafting, Peer Review, Planning
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posted: 6.12.07 by Barclay Barrios

Well, I guess that by now most of you know that this past Firday we had a bit of a break in here at Bedford Bits; someone hacked the host and overwrote our index page. Aiiiii-yaa! Ironically, I was thinking of talking about security anyway, though in terms of student work and grades.

Friday I was contacted by a student from my Spring class looking for her final paper. Since I had graded electronically using the comment feature in Word, I was able to print it out and leave it for her to pick up. But that got me thinking about what we do with student work when the students are gone, how we handle archiving, and how we address questions of security (which seem more important now than ever). These questions surfaced again for me yesterday. We were reading part of Richard E. Miller’s As If Learning Mattered for class and he talked about how hard it was to find actual student work in his research, which impacted the shape and direction of his project.

Practices connected to all of these concerns have shifted dramatically since I started teaching. When I first began we could post final grades by last four digits of SSN. I remember, too, the halls of the building that housed English littered with little boxes filled with graded student papers waiting for pick up. I even used to send grades through email. As schools got serious about FERPA a lot of that changed but now there are other emergent concerns too: intellectual property rights, identity theft, network security, terrorism. I know that last one might sound crazy, but there are a lot–A LOT–of student SSNs that seem to float through our office here and (gulp) we don’t have a shredder; it wouldn’t take much for someone to poach an identity for more than credit card applications.

Schools think about archives but I’m not sure they’ve thought about security. At my previous institution, we had this dark, musty room called the crypt that stored years of leftover student work from all the people teaching in the writing program. On more than one occasion we had to excavate its dark interior for some old paper for some very late grade dispute. Here at FAU we have state-mandated policies about archiving ALL documents, including student work. I think the minimum is one year. We have a space–not as roomy as the crypt–that we use for this purpose. Oddly, neither institution has/had any policies about disposing of sensitive papers securely. Hrm.

I think what I find most curious about all this is that I have no personal policies on these matters myself. True, I don’t send grades through email (because it’s not a fully secure medium) and, true, I try to be aware of whether or not a piece of paper has SSNs on it (like a class roster), but I don’t have a reflexive understanding of my relationship to archiving student work and securing sensitive information. What I do I do because it’s what I’ve done.

Then again maybe that’s enough. Could just be that server breach got me thinking along an unproductive track. That is, maybe security and archiving are not all the important, at least not to the degree that individual teachers need articulated policies. Hrm. But perhaps I could/should spell something out for the writing program here. Something that encompasses the state requirements and goes a bit further.

Hey, that’s something I should think about….

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Categories: Classroom Challenges and Solutions, Teaching Advice, Teaching with Technology
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Shorthand Cheat Sheet

posted: 9.11.06 by Barclay Barrios

At the start of the semester, provide a cheat sheet to your students that lists the most common comments or editing marks you use in marking student errors and in commenting. For each, provide a page number for the section of the handbook students should be checking to address that error or to revise from that comment.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Proofreading/Editing, Student Success
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