"Writing Comments on Students’ Papers" by John C. Bean

     I wanted to spend some time discussing how the last eight weeks have already made me a better teacher. This isn't meant to be brown-nosing post; just a sincere declaration of the appreciation for the ideas I've been exposed to since the semester started. If I hadn't read the articles for this class, I'd be conducting my classes the same way I always did.

     Each article gives ideas on best practices while highlighting what could be ineffective. As I read through each piece, I see just how much of the ineffective practices were present in my class. The same goes for a lot of my colleagues (I'll refer to us as "we" from now on). We viewed each class as if we were casting pearls before swine; the kids weren't good enough for what we were giving them. It was lost on them because they refused to do the necessary work.

     We approach each paper thinking only of ourselves and the knowledge we bring. We don't consider that a student may legitimately not understand the content, or (God forbid) we didn't cover it thoroughly enough. "Writing Comments on Students' Papers" made me think of how we practice this form of communication.

     What struck me the most is the idea of dehumanizing the writer and insulting his/her dignity. I think back to how teachers talk about students as they grade papers. Personal insults, assumptions that the student wasn't paying attention, and even remarking about the lack of hope for the student's future are common comments that I hear when colleagues grade papers. Notice how I've dropped the use of "we"? I like to think I wouldn't speak about my students this way. I don't now but I can't be certain about ten years ago.

     This year I started writing what Bean refers to as mitigated criticism. While I can't say that I notice an increase in production (these are different kids), I feel better about the way that I'm treating their ideas. My students have never really questioned grades or comments on papers, but the idea of them having thoughts like the students in the Spandel and Stiggins study is upsetting. I think most teachers assume the students look at the comments and shrug it off.

     So I'll finish this part off by saying that of all the articles we've read so far, this is the first one that really made me question my effectiveness up to this point.

     In terms of the tools we can use for the project, I was toying with the idea of choosing a movie clip as my moment of what can be possible when all the elements of a movie come together perfectly. Obviously embedding a video is as simple as clicking the mouse, so I was thinking of annotating the video. Thinglink looks interesting in that regard.

"Writing Comments on Students’ Papers" by John C. Bean

     I wanted to spend some time discussing how the last eight weeks have already made me a better teacher. This isn't meant to be brown-nosing post; just a sincere declaration of the appreciation for the ideas I've been exposed to since the semester started. If I hadn't read the articles for this class, I'd be conducting my classes the same way I always did.

     Each article gives ideas on best practices while highlighting what could be ineffective. As I read through each piece, I see just how much of the ineffective practices were present in my class. The same goes for a lot of my colleagues (I'll refer to us as "we" from now on). We viewed each class as if we were casting pearls before swine; the kids weren't good enough for what we were giving them. It was lost on them because they refused to do the necessary work.

     We approach each paper thinking only of ourselves and the knowledge we bring. We don't consider that a student may legitimately not understand the content, or (God forbid) we didn't cover it thoroughly enough. "Writing Comments on Students' Papers" made me think of how we practice this form of communication.

     What struck me the most is the idea of dehumanizing the writer and insulting his/her dignity. I think back to how teachers talk about students as they grade papers. Personal insults, assumptions that the student wasn't paying attention, and even remarking about the lack of hope for the student's future are common comments that I hear when colleagues grade papers. Notice how I've dropped the use of "we"? I like to think I wouldn't speak about my students this way. I don't now but I can't be certain about ten years ago.

     This year I started writing what Bean refers to as mitigated criticism. While I can't say that I notice an increase in production (these are different kids), I feel better about the way that I'm treating their ideas. My students have never really questioned grades or comments on papers, but the idea of them having thoughts like the students in the Spandel and Stiggins study is upsetting. I think most teachers assume the students look at the comments and shrug it off.

     So I'll finish this part off by saying that of all the articles we've read so far, this is the first one that really made me question my effectiveness up to this point.

     In terms of the tools we can use for the project, I was toying with the idea of choosing a movie clip as my moment of what can be possible when all the elements of a movie come together perfectly. Obviously embedding a video is as simple as clicking the mouse, so I was thinking of annotating the video. Thinglink looks interesting in that regard.

Three Exceptional Pieces on Writing Comments for Students

John C. Bean’s “Writing Comments on Student Papers” is a very straightforward piece which addresses the immeasurable importance of sensitivity and constructive criticism when in the position of “paper­-grader.” This positive reinforcement of students can only serve as a tool for improved skills as well as incentive for success. I especially enjoyed the section on “mitigated criticism” which is explained quite thoroughly. The combination of both positive and negative elements, presented in an encouraging yet succinct manner, seems a very honest and productive method for this task. Students are praised for their strong choices while being reminded of their weaker areas that need attention. The approach clarifies, for the student, where revision is needed while praising the sections that exhibit strength. I also was impressed by the concept of teacher as coach (instruct and encourage) and later judge.
The strategy for teachers ­­placing the comments on a later draft as opposed to each rough copy ­­makes sense as does the hope this will prompt revision. The list of possible marginal comments, and sample paragraphs included, I found very helpful. The author runs workshops on this process of grading/ commenting on student writing, so these examples are worthwhile tools. It does appear that grammar truly is considered far less important than one would think when it is referred to as a “lower-­order concern.” Because grammar does seem to be a recurring situation in many cases. “student-driven” corrections demanded by teachers is completely acceptable. Also, the refusal to grade papers until said student has cleaned up these errors, is fully within the scope of reason. Stylistic problems, however, are not so easily dismissed.
Wordiness is another problem, and one I can relate to far too easily. I generally have to eliminate a great deal of my original writing to create anything free of excessive language. Choppy sentences are hard for readers to follow and need to be avoided--­­students have to try and smooth their writing for their intended audience. The review of all these marvelous skills, organized and clarified by the author, is an invaluable reference I may turn to ­­hopefully ­­one day as I grade papers. I rather enjoyed this useful and informative essay.
“Response to Writing” written by Richard Beach and John Friedrich, is a very similar piece which also supplies vast amounts of research, innovative methods, and outcomes. A somewhat older work geared towards a larger range of students, this essay is filled with statistics from various research projects on the same topic. These studies found that:”...the nature and quality of the teacher’s feedback during the composing process is critical to whether students revise” (223). This research shows how essential it is for students to understand a teacher’s feedback in order to utilize the recommendations in a positive manner. The revision process can then be a source of substantive change towards a higher quality of writing.
The section on teachers misjudging a student’s writing is reflective of Peter Elbow’s piece and his suggestions to know students as people in an effort to objectively and constructively read their works without bias. Also, the stress in this discussion on knowing one’s audience reminded me of our discussion last week, and Martha’s knowledgeable reply. The techniques for feedback in this study are consistent with the other piece--most teacher’s comments are deemed too vague, inconsistent and just not very helpful. Elbow’s “reader-­based feedback” (226) is referenced as a method of positive reinforcement; I felt that concept is the equivalent of the “Mitigated Criticism” discussed by Bean in the previous essay.
The majority of students:”... prefer comments that explain why something is good or bad about their writing” (226). As for peer review, the point made in regard to student’s effectiveness is quite true; I often am uncertain how much is proper to say when in this position. Training for this task would probably be productive as well. I found the trend towards teacher conferences to discuss writing issues more personal and a wise choice as well as the online conferencing tools. In retrospect, both essays offered many excellent processes that have been proven effective as per research. Hopefully one day soon I will find myself in a position to utilize my new-found knowledge!
The final essay: ”One Approach to Guiding Peer Response” by Kim Jaxon, is an answer to my suggestion for student training for this task! The author is quite thorough with her instructions for successful peer responses, and the process makes a lot of sense.  I especially liked the clarity of this author and her inclusion of both questions and an example feedback statement. The only drawback to this process is that it involves a great deal of extra writing for both parties.

Assuming that all students in the class have the same assignment, both the initial essay (with its accompanying research) and the requirements listed for a successful peer review would be the first matter of business. Then, before submission, carefully writing a memo for the teacher as well as peer reviewer, AND proofreading the original assignment, both memos andrequirements for the student reviewer. Wow! That is thorough but requires a lot more preparation time. It does sounds wonderful but only if all class members share this enthusiasm, and will treat the peer review with sensitivity and respect. If so, I think it’s a terrific process to implement in all writing classes.

Three Exceptional Pieces on Writing Comments for Students

John C. Bean’s “Writing Comments on Student Papers” is a very straightforward piece which addresses the immeasurable importance of sensitivity and constructive criticism when in the position of “paper­-grader.” This positive reinforcement of students can only serve as a tool for improved skills as well as incentive for success. I especially enjoyed the section on “mitigated criticism” which is explained quite thoroughly. The combination of both positive and negative elements, presented in an encouraging yet succinct manner, seems a very honest and productive method for this task. Students are praised for their strong choices while being reminded of their weaker areas that need attention. The approach clarifies, for the student, where revision is needed while praising the sections that exhibit strength. I also was impressed by the concept of teacher as coach (instruct and encourage) and later judge.
The strategy for teachers ­­placing the comments on a later draft as opposed to each rough copy ­­makes sense as does the hope this will prompt revision. The list of possible marginal comments, and sample paragraphs included, I found very helpful. The author runs workshops on this process of grading/ commenting on student writing, so these examples are worthwhile tools. It does appear that grammar truly is considered far less important than one would think when it is referred to as a “lower-­order concern.” Because grammar does seem to be a recurring situation in many cases. “student-driven” corrections demanded by teachers is completely acceptable. Also, the refusal to grade papers until said student has cleaned up these errors, is fully within the scope of reason. Stylistic problems, however, are not so easily dismissed.
Wordiness is another problem, and one I can relate to far too easily. I generally have to eliminate a great deal of my original writing to create anything free of excessive language. Choppy sentences are hard for readers to follow and need to be avoided--­­students have to try and smooth their writing for their intended audience. The review of all these marvelous skills, organized and clarified by the author, is an invaluable reference I may turn to ­­hopefully ­­one day as I grade papers. I rather enjoyed this useful and informative essay.
“Response to Writing” written by Richard Beach and John Friedrich, is a very similar piece which also supplies vast amounts of research, innovative methods, and outcomes. A somewhat older work geared towards a larger range of students, this essay is filled with statistics from various research projects on the same topic. These studies found that:”...the nature and quality of the teacher’s feedback during the composing process is critical to whether students revise” (223). This research shows how essential it is for students to understand a teacher’s feedback in order to utilize the recommendations in a positive manner. The revision process can then be a source of substantive change towards a higher quality of writing.
The section on teachers misjudging a student’s writing is reflective of Peter Elbow’s piece and his suggestions to know students as people in an effort to objectively and constructively read their works without bias. Also, the stress in this discussion on knowing one’s audience reminded me of our discussion last week, and Martha’s knowledgeable reply. The techniques for feedback in this study are consistent with the other piece--most teacher’s comments are deemed too vague, inconsistent and just not very helpful. Elbow’s “reader-­based feedback” (226) is referenced as a method of positive reinforcement; I felt that concept is the equivalent of the “Mitigated Criticism” discussed by Bean in the previous essay.
The majority of students:”... prefer comments that explain why something is good or bad about their writing” (226). As for peer review, the point made in regard to student’s effectiveness is quite true; I often am uncertain how much is proper to say when in this position. Training for this task would probably be productive as well. I found the trend towards teacher conferences to discuss writing issues more personal and a wise choice as well as the online conferencing tools. In retrospect, both essays offered many excellent processes that have been proven effective as per research. Hopefully one day soon I will find myself in a position to utilize my new-found knowledge!
The final essay: ”One Approach to Guiding Peer Response” by Kim Jaxon, is an answer to my suggestion for student training for this task! The author is quite thorough with her instructions for successful peer responses, and the process makes a lot of sense.  I especially liked the clarity of this author and her inclusion of both questions and an example feedback statement. The only drawback to this process is that it involves a great deal of extra writing for both parties.

Assuming that all students in the class have the same assignment, both the initial essay (with its accompanying research) and the requirements listed for a successful peer review would be the first matter of business. Then, before submission, carefully writing a memo for the teacher as well as peer reviewer, AND proofreading the original assignment, both memos andrequirements for the student reviewer. Wow! That is thorough but requires a lot more preparation time. It does sounds wonderful but only if all class members share this enthusiasm, and will treat the peer review with sensitivity and respect. If so, I think it’s a terrific process to implement in all writing classes.