Making Comments on Student PApers

The following suggestions offer a strategy for teaching through the comments you make on a student paper or set of papers.

  1. Read the paper through once before making any marks on it.

  2. Identify the one or two problems you will concentrate on for this draft.

    You should pick problems whose solution would vastly improve the quality of the paper.
    • When dealing with a whole class, again pick the one problem made most often that could most improve the student papers. This usually means starting with problems that, if uncorrected, will automatically ruin the rest of the paper.
    • This means focusing initially on issues of thesis, audience and purpose.
  3. Note what the student has done well

    and, when possible, tell the student why that works well.
  4. Ask open-ended questions that encourage the student

    to re-examine the paper and become self-critical.
  5. Play the role of reader, not editor.

    Instead of correcting the student’s paper (and doing his work for him), simply share your reactions as a reader.
    • “I don’t understand your meaning here.”
    • “How does this follow logically from the material above.”
    • “What is the connection?”
    •  “You sound bored.”
  6. In your final comments, be sure to :

    • give legitimate praise to at least one thing
    • identify one or two problems and explain why they make the piece hard to understand
    • set a goal for the next draft or paper
    • suggest specific strategies for reaching that goal
  7. Xerox your final comments so you can chart your students’ progress.