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On Grading and Final Exams and Being Awesome

So today I learned that I'm awesome.

Just kidding, but only kind of. I was in a lecture/seminar/presentation/workshop all day with other teachers of AP Language & Composition and it was led by a fellow teacher who also serves as a reader for the AP Exam and who has become something of an expert on the exam and thus, the course. When I say that I learned that I'm awesome, what I mean is that everything I'm making you do was affirmed today and reinforced and even promulgated if I may dare say so. I already knew that I was assigning exercises and running lessons that would help you, but this guy, this expert, gave me the the professional equivalent of a high-five/pat-on-the-back/fist-bump. What does this mean? Why am I sharing this with you? So that you know that I wasn't "taking a day off" to grade your papers or something and so that you know how much we think about and care about the assignments we give. "We" can be interpreted in many different ways, I know, but here I'm using it to mean we, the AP Lang & Comp teachers at WHS.

Now, we also discussed paper grading and since my desk sort of looks like this right now...

...and you're eager dying to get your papers back as soon as possible, I wanted to spend a moment reminding you of a few things that we touched on before, when the Rhetorical Analysis Paper assignment was unveiled, and even before that, when you were first getting the hang of things in this class.

Thing 1: Rhetorical analysis = (you know this, I know you know this) investigation and explanation of how an author uses language to some end (to strengthen/support his argument). This is the primary component of your paper that I am looking for.

Thing 2: At this level of an English course, the expectations for your written work are high. If you were in 10th grade or Honors 10th grade last year, you've essentially jumped three grades ahead to lucky 13. That's why it's hard. So these standards? Consistent and accurate formatting, and clear, controlled, grammatically and punctuationally correct prose (I just made punctuation an adverb. It really isn't one.) that is interesting and lively. This is the second component of your paper I am looking for.

Basically, that's it.

Well, maybe not.

Thing 3: Teachers are actually not robots, though we sometimes go by the moniker "grading machines," and grading your work takes A MILLION YEARS! a while, so do be patient and do know that I try to get your work back to you as soon as I possibly can.

Thing 4: You already know that I do not use rubrics. I have many reasons for not using rubrics, but the short version is that they are too often misunderstood and misused and are generally inadequate. Instead, I read your work several times and comment where and how appropriate to your work and I evaluate where your finished product falls on the standard A-F scale. I've talked about what the levels on that scale mean before, and while you may think the process goes something like this, it doesn't. Here is the guideline my colleagues and I adhere to when determining A-F. Yes, it's from Harvard. No, I don't think Wayzata is Harvard. We use it because it is clear, and it accurately captures the distinctions between those symbolic letters.

Your grade as it stands is pretty much 1/3 of the way complete. The paper will be factored into the 85% category (2/3) and then the final on Friday will make up the rest (3/3). So about that final.

DO NOT RE-READ EVERYTHING. Re-visit key ideas and terms. Re-familiarize yourself with the main arguments or strategies of the essays we've read. Review vocab. Review quizzes. Review everything, but don't create some artificial "I need to study x" mentality. The final contains, rightly, a little of everything. It is not designed to trap you, but to evaluate how well you have learned the course material thus far. This is what exams do. You know this and I think you know what to expect. Don't freak out; focus.

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