How to Use a Writer’s Handbook for Instructive Evaluation
Parents often wonder how to grade students on writing. Unlike subjects where there is an answer key, writing can seem much harder to evaluate and grade fairly. However, evaluating writing doesn’t have to be hard. I’ve outlined the basic process in How to Evaluate Writing, but I also wanted to offer an example of what it looks to use a writer’s handbook to provide constructive feedback.
A good writer’s handbook makes it easy to grade papers and offer specific, helpful feedback. In a handbook such as the Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers, information is categorized into numbered paragraphs. These numbers allow you to direct the student to exactly the instruction he or she needs to fix an error or improve a skill.
Example: Learning about Subject/Verb Agreement
As you evaluate your student’s papers, you will notice If your student is having difficulty with subject/verb agreement. To provide constructive feedback, look in the table of contents of the Handbook for Writers. In the “Phrases, Clauses, Sentences” section of the table of contents. you will see that information on subject/verb agreement appears in section 1.8, page 242.
On the student’s paper or the evaluation rubric, note the section number so that the student can visit the handbook, read the paragraph, look at the examples, and see how to correct the error. It is quick and efficient, and best of all, much more helpful than just telling the student to be sure that the subject and verb agree.
Here’s what you’ll see in the handbook:
Notice that the issue is clearly defined: “the subject must agree with the verb;” but that’s not all. There is additional explanation, a caution about a common error, and two examples. This is useful, not just for the student, but also for the evaluating parent. Many adults don’t remember quite how to explain things briefly and clearly, so having the writer’s handbook explanation and examples can jog your memory or clear up confusion.
Remember, a good evaluation will be constructive and consistent, and the writer’s handbook can help you make it happen.
Evaluating writing is so much more than just “correcting papers.” It can affect your student’s feelings about writing, his or her chance of academic success, and even the relationship you share. In this simple, approachable little book (just 32 pages!), you’ll learn how to become a better writing evaluator.