I can write all I want about how much I dislike traditional worksheets and multiple-choice questions, but we have to admit they’ve got something going for them: they’re easy to grade. Do you ever feel like there’s a battle between wanting to do more communicative assessments and dreading how long it’s going to take you to grade them? I have definitely been there.
Here are some tips I’ve learned to make grading communicative assessments faster and easier without compromising validity.
- Whenever you can, grade presentational speaking at the time of delivery.
Especially if you have large classes, Google Voice and videocameras are great tools to be able to get speaking assessments from all students without taking days to do them individually. But consider doing as many presentational speaking assessments in class so you can mark as you listen. For me, it’s just so easy to keep thinking yeah, I have those Voice messages to grade, but they’ll wait. It feels a whole lot better when students (or at least half of them) have done it in class and I already have the grade done.
- Resist correction.
I know, we’re grammar lovers, and we want to mark every wrong verb ending and every incorrect vowel. Resist, my friend! You will find yourself drowning in grading writing. Remind yourself what your objectives were with the assignment and stick to that. If you’ve been working on a pattern of errors lately, or you’ve recognized a widespread pattern of errors in class, mark a few of those and make a note to highlight it in class, but otherwise, put down the red pen unless you can give some useful proficiency-based feedback.
- Speaking of which, note patterns of error and discuss in class.
You give feedback that’s helpful to everyone instead of spending so much time targeting individual students.
- Make sure you put specifics on your rubric.
If you’ve told your students that you’re looking for certain things in an assessment, put those specifics on your rubric to keep yourself from getting distracted.
- Assign fewer, better written deliverables.
Many schools require you to have a certain number of grades per week or per quarter, but in my experience, that requirement, even when it’s there, isn’t terribly excessive. Don’t fall into the trap I often do – grading more assignments just so there will be more grades in my grade book. Think through a few very robust written assignments, the most time-consuming ones to grade, and limit the number you have.
And along the same lines…
- Limit open-ended questions and make them count.
One of my most popular blog posts is about using Spanish commercials on YouTube for cloze quizzes. Several dozen Spanish teachers have signed on to this project and scripted commercials for anyone to use. This type of quiz helps train the brain to separate words correctly. But you shouldn’t leave it at the cloze. At the end, ask a few well-chosen, communicative questions. How are these two commercials different? What kind of food are you like and why? What two interesting ingredients would you like to see on a fast-food salad? Don’t get too carried away; just ask a couple of these. That way, you’re getting easy-to-grade output with the cloze, and a few higher-level thinking questions as well.
You can do this with any quiz. Quizzes don’t need to be long to be effective. Make your questions better instead of asking more of the same.
- Have students grade.
Oldest time-saving trick in the book – when you are asking questions like cloze quizzes or with set recall answers, have students trade and grade, if this is allowed where you teach.
- Trust your system.
You’ve committed to a communicative, proficiency-based classroom. Trust what research and experience have borne out: those activities will improve your students’ communicative competence without you spending a lot of unnecessary time over-grading everything.
Foto: Drew Olanoff