Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Hot Date with Student Essays

Oh yes, I am the most exciting person ever. It's just after midnight and I'm spending some quality time grading. (I didn't grade anything the other night.... I had to come to terms with the task in front of me, and also realized that I hadn't printed out my grading checklists that I attach to each paper.)

Some thoughts:

1) The papers aren't as bad as they could be, but they are no picnic to read, at least so far.
2) One reason that they're not a picnic is that too many students chose one of the more difficult topics. It was listed on the assignment sheet as "topic #1" and I can only think that they chose it because they didn't bother to read the others.
3) Another reason that they're not a picnic is because more students chose this paper option (I give two) than probably should have. Option 1 is intended for non-majors/non-minors, and while it still asks them to analyze literature, the assignment is somewhat more approachable and less abstract. It involves them writing four 2-page papers. Option 2 (what I'm grading now) only requires two papers, but each is to be a fully developed, traditional 3-5 page literary analysis essay from an assigned topic. This is a more difficult enterprise for many students, but I think that a fair number this semester chose this option because they thought "two papers will be easier than four." This is not true. (Note: it's not that Option 1 is actually easier - I really don't think it is in a lot of ways - but it does allow for them only to consider one text at a time, where these papers do ask for them to write comparatively in Option 2).
4) MLA style. Why do they ignore it?
5) Titles. All papers need them. Really.
6) Thank god for checklists. No need to write repetitive final comments, and the checklist is far less scary as the top page than the first page of their papers, which now bleed ink. Incidentally, these are not a conventional "rubric" that gives them "points" for each thing. That way madness lies.
7) Tea is lovely. Especially Twinings Decaf Earl Grey.
8) I have so much shit to do that does not involve this grading, but the thought of facing it makes me very unhappy indeed.
9) I wish that I felt sleepy. I did feel sleepy earlier, but now I don't. This has been a bit of a recurring problem lately. I think I'm more stressed out than I'm letting myself admit. Similar thing happened with the sleeping my junior year of college.
10) Time to stop with this break and to return to the scintillating prose of student papers. (Some of which actually does have moments of insight, though, so I should be nicer.)


BikeProf said...

On point #5: Why, oh why, do so many students think that "Paper #1" is a tile? Why do they continue to think this even after I yell and scream about how it isn't a title?

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Funnily enough, I could actually care less about titles, but that's probably because I personally suck at them.

What I really want to know is: what is this checklist that is not a rubric, o great goddess of grading?

Hilaire said...

I even put a thing in my syllabi now telling them to title their essays, dammit! Be creative, I command them!