Grading Your Child's Essay

Before I start describing this process, I want to say that I have only graded my children's papers and a few papers by other people's children, but as a general rule, I do not accept papers to critique. I do not have vast experience. Despite that, I managed to do a good job based on the improved skills of my children. The quality of my son's first research paper as a freshman at a university was described by his professor as "written by one who is in graduate school." I can attest that both of my children can write very well.

The preceding relates only to myself, but what about you? Grading paragraphs, essays, and research papers seems to present a few little problems that we all have to sort out.
One- Are we being objective?
Two- Is this part that seems wrong or awkwardly worded, wrong or awkwardly worded?
Three- This is wrong but can I explain why and assign a reference to study?

Objectiveness might not be completely achieved, however, there are some mostly objective components to evaluate in a paper. Use the check sheets. Jensen has provided check sheets for you to use in scoring your student's work. He also explained how to use the check sheets. If you missed his comments, they start on page 8 and go through page 10. Read them, they are helpful.

The process is simple. Read the paper silently, then read it again. Look for anything that seems off. Of course look for anything that you have disallowed such as contractions and slang. If you are having trouble, read the paper out loud. Some "errors" do not stand out until you hear them. Trust your instincts. You have been reading all of your life and if a sentence sounds awkward, then there could be something wrong with it.

grading can be hard, but not impossiblePlease do not ask me to help you grade paragraphs, essays, or well - anything.

The hard part is explaining the errors to your student. You can't tell him, "this sounds wrong." You need to tell him what is wrong and give him a reference in a grammar book or a style book where he can learn more about the error. You will need to have one or two grammar handbooks. I used several books for my reference when grading. I have listed them on this page.

A Brief List of Common Errors

  • Incorrectly using which in place of that
  • Alot is two words! ---> a lot
  • Using the word as in place of because.
    example-NO! "We are leaving early as we have to go to the store first."
    example--YES! "We are leaving early because we have to go to the store first."
  • "Almost always" is usually better expressed with the word "usually."
  • "Lots of" is conversational. In an expository paper use the word "many" or some other fitting word.
  • Don't use contractions after I have told you not to use them.
  • Number shifts. One does not become They in the same way that I will not grow another head.
  • Subject shifts: One does not become his. One's foot is at the end of one's leg, not his leg.
  • Writing "one of the most" is overused and weak. I will mark it as an error.
  • Using can instead of may or may instead of can.

Reference Books That I Used

  • Jensen's Format Writing, Revised
  • Christian content English Handbook for Christian Schools
  • Hodges' Harbrace Handbook 14th Edition
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

english handbookChristian contentEnglish Handbook for Christian Schools

For high school, I used two copies of this book, one for me and one for my student. This book is out of print, but used copies are still available and cheaply priced (as of this writing- 2/2010.)

I like this book because it is organized, it has problems sets, and the answers are in the back of the book.

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