Don’t Correct Composition Papers; Don’t Grade Them. Read Them!

Correcting Papers

When composition teachers complain they have a pile of papers to correct, they are invoking out-dated assumptions about composition, namely that there is something wrong with our students’ papers, and our primary job is to seek out those errors and eliminate them. Such teachers count fragments like a judge bound by the Three-Strikes-and-You’re-Out Law, condemning a paper that has too many fragments.

Even if the argument is persuasive and the evidence convincing.

Image from Red Ink in the Classroom?

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“You’re Sick!” Says the Diagnostic Essay

“You’re sick!” says the diagnostic essay, and students hear the message plainly enough. In classes on connotation, I ask students what the associations of “diagnostic” are. Normally, I don’t need to prod students, but if I do two questions will suffice: “What is a diagnosis?” “Who gives a diagnosis?” A doctor diagnoses a patientĀ with anĀ illness, so a “diagnostic” essay turns students into unhealthy patients and teachers into medical practitioners whose primary job it is to determine what is wrong with the student.

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