Today, three weeks after my last day of teaching, I'm finally finishing up on grading the portfolios for writing workshop. I'm lucky to be done with the actual teaching, or else I wouldn't have been able to do it.
It's made me think a little about how we give students feedback. To many students, our opinion can be so important - or damaging - to them. I have (or had) one student who wants to be a writer when she grows up. All my criticism better be constructive, and I have to be clear in my comments.
For these portfolios, I stole an idea from my wife's sister-in-law's mother (maybe I'll post the geneology chart later) Shirley Whaley, who teaches at Pomona High School in Arvada, CO. When my wife was her student, she had students bring tapes and she read their essays aloud and interjected comments when she felt compelled. The result is a look inside an audience member's mind.
I feared it would take too much time when I started doing it for my classes, but instead it really helped me move faster. I was able to formulate my thoughts and the assessment much better reading the piece out loud, and since students can hear my inflection and thoughts, they don't get confused by comments scralled in the corner. In fact, I don't mark on their papers at all, which is a nice way to get a finished piece of work back, without anything that could be percieved as a defacement.
Of course, I had to record on the computer and burn to CD, and in coming years I bet I'll be posting the files online with access through some sort of password so students can sync the audio to their iPods.
But it's worked for me. I'd definitely recommend it.