Posted by: jeannineatkins | September 18, 2008

Reading and Writing to Make Life Bigger

I agreed to help oversee an honors thesis of a former student, and I’m excited that Ashley, who plans to start teaching high school English next year, is passionate about teaching writing. Another professor and I will meet with Ashley at UMass from time to time, but she came up with the brilliant, I think, idea of starting a blog as a way to record some of her thinking as she prepares for the classroom. The focus of her thesis is on ways to grade writing fairly and helpfully– and without going crazy. A good goal.

I recently met with a group of instructors, and we were asked to grade a short paper. The grades were tallied, and ranged all over the place. Really I could see some justification for most of the grades, for so many things might be taken into account. My classes are small enough that one way I cope with my uneasiness about grading writing is by offering to accept revisions. This way, any student can get an A, and any student can improve, which is of course the goal. We read and write to expand our worlds, not make fences.

But teaching high school, Ashley may have eighty or more students she sees every single day. She wants them to write; how can she keep up? Here is the link to Ashley Winn’s Blog: A future English teacher’s concerns, reflections, and research about grading student writing. It’s a subject inclined to sprawl, as the subjects that matter do. Ashley is both hopeful and realistic, smart and funny and kind. I hope some of you will check it out and say Hello!



  1. Very cool — and I love your approach to grading! How many writers and would-be writers have been put off by those red marks on their writing at impressionable ages?

  2. Kathy, Thank you for this comment. I know I was one of those writers who’d been put off by the red pen, so your comment made me shoot off an encouraging email to another student who I worried might be feeling stymied by another prof’s comment which I’d been privy to overhear. We all need some balance of standards and cheerleading. As a teacher, I tend to be on the cheerleading end of the spectrum.

  3. How fun for you to get to follow along with this–and I love that your student wants to figure out a good way to do this. The blog sounds fun!

  4. Yes, she’s a smart student who cares deeply and wants to do well, but sees the importance of balance, and wants to have some fun, too! Thanks for reading.

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