Teacher Q&A - Grading Essays 10x Faster

First off, if you haven't watched the original video, do that now. Unless, of course, your favorite weekends are the ones you spend grading papers ... in that case, as you were.
The 12th installment in our series: How to Leave on Time & NEVER Take Papers Home Again ... Today, we show how to grade student essays 10x faster & watch their writing quality skyrocket. For real...40 hrs down to 4 hrs.
Then, if you haven't seen or used our super practical Essay Revision Checklist for learners to use with their essays, you can purchase the rubric/checklist here (and get the video for free).
Now today, we're answering teachers' questions about the process of Grading Essays 10x Faster. We really want to illuminate this for you and make your lives easier. 
Now today, we're answering teachers' questions about the process of Grading Essays 10x Faster. We really want to illuminate this for you and make your lives easier. So here are 3 video answers to teachers' questions and we'll be answering more almost every day going forward, so join the community!
Today's Grade Essays 10x Faster Q&A ... "When you read the drafts and give a letter grade, how do you determine the fairest mark? What use do rubrics have in this process?   We're answering teachers' questions about the process of Grading Essays 10x Faster. We really want to illuminate this for you and make your lives easier.
 Today's Grade Essays 10x Faster Q&A ... "What do you do in the rare case when the grade the student gives herself doesn't match the grade you gave them?"  We're answering teachers' questions about the process of Grading Essays 10x Faster. We really want to illuminate this for you and make your lives easier.
 Today's Grade Essays 10x Faster Q&A ... "Hello! I just watched your video about grading essays 10x faster, and I wanted to ask you one question of concern. I'm a little worried that students would panic (and possibly cry) if they saw a certain letter grade. Did you actually count the letter grade or was it more of a hypothetical grade if they did not make any changes?"  We're answering teachers' questions about the process of Grading Essays 10x Faster. We really want to illuminate this for you and make your lives easier.
If you have any questions of your own that you'd like us to answer, please leave a comment below, and we'll get working on it. Thanks for being a vital part of our community. Keep on being awesome!



What the Ditto is a Worksheet? (Episode 64)

      Today, we’re gonna talk about the wonderful world of worksheets and why some teachers think they’re the devil. Oh, the warmth of fresh copied papers ... And the glorious smell of the ditto papers…

       Watch the YouTube video here >>> https://youtu.be/3yRpU1uqPwY
Today, we talk about the wonderful world of worksheets and why some teachers think they’re the devil. We probably all know the concept of the “worksheet and video teacher.” You know, that teacher we imagine never engages his classroom and sits behind his desk organizing his fantasy football team or shopping for her new season wardrobe. But what exactly do we mean by "worksheet" and how do we rise above being a "worksheet and video" teacher?
        Oh, if I had a papercut for every time I heard someone talk down about “worksheet teachers...” We probably all know the concept of the “worksheet and video teacher.” You know, that teacher we imagine never engages his classroom and sits behind his desk organizing his fantasy football team or shopping for her new season wardrobe.
        There’s something about this term “worksheet” that carries a negative connotation nowadays. We recently saw a discourse on Facebook where teachers were discussing worksheets and lots of shame was being heaped on people. Oh, the online shame-heaping.

Here are some quotes from this conversation:
  • “Teachers that use lots of worksheets are crappy teachers.”
  • “If you are dependent on worksheets and workbooks to get learning to stick, it’s a problem.”
  • “Worksheets do not challenge students to think, but rather to replicate.”
  • “Worksheets are for lazy teachers who can’t teach.”
  • “Worksheets = drone work.”
  • “How about just STOP it with the worksheets!”
        It’s all pretty negative, but I think part of this is because we’re functioning under different ideas of what a worksheet is. So what do we mean by “worksheet”?
        Do we mean anything that is photocopied or printed? So are we supposed to live in a world without photocopiers because everything on paper is a worksheet and therefore terrible?
        Do we mean a boring assignment on paper?
        Do we mean a graphic organizer?
        Do we mean “shut up sheets”?
        If it’s in Google Drive, is it no longer a worksheet?
        What if it’s in an interactive notebook with scissors and glue?
        Do we mean anything that is busy work?

        Because we never define this, I have a hunch this is shame language for something much more complex than we’re giving it credit for. Especially with all the data coming out about how we learn better when we physically write things out as compared to typing. By being against worksheets are we really saying we’re against students writing their thoughts down on paper with a pen?
        I think what we’re really talking about is depth and complexity. Critical thinking. Does the assignment actually get students thinking or not? I think we’re talking about what Benjamin Bloom put in his graphic organizer we call “Bloom’s Taxonomy.”Knowledge > Remember previously learned information
  • Comprehension > Demonstrate understanding of the facts
  • Application > Apply knowledge to actual situations
  • Analysis > Break down objects or ideas into simpler parts and find evidence to support generalizations
  • Synthesis > Compile component ideas into a new whole or propose alternative solutions
  • Evaluation > Make and defend judgments based on internal evidence or external criteria
        So when we’re talking bad about worksheets, which level of Bloom’s Taxonomy and higher order thinking skills are we saying these bad worksheets accomplish?
  • Are we saying we’re against knowledge worksheets?
  • Comprehension worksheets?
  • Application worksheets?
  • Analysis worksheets?
  • Synthesis worksheets?
  • Evaluation worksheets?
I imagine we’re talking about knowledge and comprehension level stuff. Aren’t we also talking about some of the really ineffective “teaching” methods or classroom management methods connected with teachers who hand out knowledge and comprehension worksheets a lot? And aren’t we also talking about how boring and out-of-date those worksheets look most of the time?
        So if we were using paper assignments where students were applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating their world, their novels, or whatever they’re studying, we’d be okay with that, right?
        Someone else in the conversation says, “There’s an art to utilizing a worksheet.” And I totally agree with this. There’s an art to utilizing anything in the classroom. Teaching is an art. It doesn’t matter which classroom tool we’re using at whatever level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, it takes artful teaching to engage the students and make the learning stick.
        Another factor here is the large teacher conversation right now about student-driven learning, giving students the reins to their learning instead of the teacher being the deliverer of all information. And in with that conversation in mind, I find it hard to imagine a worksheet that does very well at student-driven learning.
        Worksheets (no matter how good they are at applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating) are more difficult to make student-directed. They required students to go independently practice and come back and the teacher has to do this artful dance of making the discussion about what they wrote down on their worksheet interesting and helpful the second time around.
        Do you think worksheets have a more negative connotation in elementary or secondary?
        Ultimately, our goal today was to hopefully release some of us from the shame of using worksheets. And we wanted to focus the conversation to where we think it really matters, which is: “Do our current worksheets challenge our students to think, or just to replicate?” And how can we adjust them or find new ones that really encourage deeper thinking.
        We think we’ve created many deep-thinking resources over in our teaching store, so if you’re looking for grammar, writing, and novel study resources, head on over there.
Conversation of the Day: How long have you been teaching? And what subject or grade level do you teach?
       Hop on over to watch the video and share your thoughts in the conversation.
Today, we talk about the wonderful world of worksheets and why some teachers think they’re the devil. We probably all know the concept of the “worksheet and video teacher.” You know, that teacher we imagine never engages his classroom and sits behind his desk organizing his fantasy football team or shopping for her new season wardrobe. But what exactly do we mean by "worksheet" and how do we rise above being a "worksheet and video" teacher?

Get ALL Your Students to Do Their Homework over the Holidays (Episode 63)

      Ever have trouble getting your students to do their homework over holiday? Today, we’re gonna share the magical secret to get EVERY STUDENT to do their homework over the holidays.

       Watch the YouTube video here >>> https://youtu.be/ItQBp7Jpvz0
Ever have trouble getting your students to do their homework over holiday? Today, we’re gonna share the magical secret to get EVERY STUDENT to do their homework over the holidays.
        Whether you’re in Australia with 4 holidays (I love year round schedule) or Britain with 6 or the United States with a bunch of various length holidays, the holidays are coming and so is your decision … Do I give them homework over the break? And if I assign any, is there a snowman’s hope in hell of them actually doing it?
       We assign them projects. Essays. Reading assignments. Group projects. Bundles of practice work. So the question is … Why? Why do we assign them the homework?
       We feel guilty that we’re behind in our lesson plans and need them to catch up, so we feel better. And we might even be blaming them for our plans being behind.
       We want them to keep progressing along.
       We feel some unseen pressure from someone to keep our kids doing stuff all the time or we’re a bad teacher. Is this an imaginary pressure?
       We just know they’re going to waste all that time watching movies and playing video games, so we need to give them something worthwhile to do with their time.
       Whatever the reasons are, the day after we return from break has the same result every time. The smart, responsible kids did their homework. And they feel good about themselves because they know there’s a good 40% of the students who didn’t do anything and are feeling like failures, so they get to feel good. They also likely hate you, teacher, just a little bit for making them feel guilty enough over break to do their work so they wouldn’t have to feel like those losers over there.
       The reality for those responsible kids is that they are always responsible like that, so they needed a break. And with honors kids, we needed to force them to shut off and take a break because they won’t do it on their own.
       And for the usually “not responsible” kids, if we’re honest we knew they weren’t going to do their homework. They’re just not. And we’re either hoping they’ll do the right thing for once or that they’ll feel bad about not doing the right thing so they’ll do the right thing next time.
       Well, and then there are all the complexities of our students’ home lives, the possibilities are too many to list, but maybe the “not responsible” kids have enough stress to handle at home without homework being added. Often the students that struggle with or don’t understand homework, don’t have support at home that would make the homework valuable practice anyways. This isn’t said to shame the families, juggling family life responsibilities can just be chaotic.
       Now, as parents, we’ll be blunt, we don’t like the responsibility looming of making sure there is time for our kids to do their homework. We’re planning festivities, traveling to see family, trying to remember to do memorable traditions with the kids, juggling childcare and work, encouraging a heart of thinking of others, and practicing parenting shame resiliency . . . the last thing I want to do is make my kid complete homework.  
       So are you ready for the magical secret to get your every student to do their homework over the holidays? Here it is …
DON’T ASSIGN ANY HOMEWORK.
       Every kid will do it. They’ll survive. Heck, they might thrive. They’ll come back refreshed. They’ll come back not feeling guilty. They’ll come back loving you because other teachers gave them homework. You won’t have a pile of busy work to grade. You won’t have to dive right into project presentations. You won’t have to have those tough phone calls with parents about why their kid didn’t do homework over break.
       So we give you permission, in case no one has given you permission before or you’ve been feeling that unseen, unspoken pressure … You can assign ZERO homework over break and still be a good teacher! In fact, you should leave all your papers at school too. No homework for you either! Leave them all at school, and you’ll still be a good teacher. Make sure you’ve got things planned for those 1st two days back after holiday, then walk out with NOTHING.
       Or if you’re going to assign anything at all, maybe just a little reading. But even then we’re going to feel like we need to assign a whole book or 5 chapters of the novel we’re studying in class. Then we have to deal with the 40% of them who don’t read the chapters and now what do we do because we’re not all in the same spot in the novel.
       So we give you permission to fight the urge … don’t assign any homework … for the rest of your teaching career you can make sure your learners always do their homework over holiday.
Conversation of the Day: What is getting in your way from assigning ZERO homework over holidays?
       Hop on over to watch the video and share your thoughts in the conversation.
Ever have trouble getting your students to do their homework over holiday? Today, we’re gonna share the magical secret to get EVERY STUDENT to do their homework over the holidays.

When a Student Yells "Santa is Satan" ... Other Holiday Fun (Episode 62)

      Today, we’re gonna talk about When Your Student Yells, “Santa is Satan!” and Other Holiday Respect Conversations.

       Watch the YouTube video here >>> https://youtu.be/MBUodyYaCG0
Today, we’re gonna talk about When Your Student Yells, “Santa is Satan!” and Other Holiday Respect Conversations. How do we teachers successfully and sanely navigate the complex holiday environment with all the various religions and holiday traditions?
       Christmas time! Yay!
       No … it’s Happy Holiday time.
       But what if it isn’t “happy” for me?
       What’s not happy about snow days?
       I grew up in California where there isn’t really “winter” and we never got any of your stupid snow days.”
       Oh, as teachers how do we handle this?! We are going to share some of our thoughts and experiences from holidays in the classroom. The hope with this is not to tell you what you should be doing in the classroom but to get you thinking about how you handle the holidays and the effect it has on your students and the classroom environment as a whole.
       This topic can get heated because there are some strong beliefs involved with the “Holiday Season” and when it comes down to it causes us to question our own personal truth about our existence. If we let it.
       Let’s not get that deep right now. Let’s just focus on some basics. We as teachers get to decide how we want to direct our classroom environment to be.
       The decision is affected by whether you teach at a public or private school. If you teach at a religious private school the decision may be easier for you. If you are at a public school that doesn’t have administrative restrictions, you get to decide if you are going to try to represent all holiday traditions in your classroom or are you going to avoid teaching about any holiday themes. 
       In elementary school we are often with the same group of kids so you might have time to integrate themes into your classroom more extensively.
       With secondary I had lots of students for a shorter periods of time.
       I’m the type of person that tends to be hyper-sensitive to the complexities of situations or possible complexities. So for my peace of mind and attempt to decrease my stress, I chose not to teach holiday traditions.
       So what complexities do you identify with the holiday season?
       Identifying all the holiday traditions that my students could possibly celebrate while not unintentionally offending anyone with how they are represented.
       I can think of: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christian Christmas with Jesus, secular Christmas with Santa, a mixture of both, people that don’t celebrate anything, and people that don’t celebrate things, like Jehovah’s Witnesses.
       I avoided all that stress on myself and just kept my classroom winter-themed with snowmen and snowflakes. I like snowmen.
       Snowmen or snowpeople?
       Ok, snowpeople.

       Anyway, I taught first and second grade and even though I just integrated fun winter themes into our classroom activities, holiday always came up when kids talked about life. So during casual student discourse things always came up:
  • there was always some variation of a conversation about Santa not being real, that is often debated in the lower grades,
  • or even if a child believed in Santa, another student told them, “You’re going to Hell!” . . . yes, more than once that was said.
  • Talks about Jesus being real
  • Whatever the variation of the conversation, these were distressing to the students involved in the conversation.
       Usually I only needed to address it with the small group of students that were involved in the discussions. I think one year I needed to address it as a whole class because there was a particularly passionate and vocal student about their personal worldview being right.
       I would love to hear other teachers’ stories of how they handle these situations. I tried to model listening that showed people were heard and respected.
       Don’t take sides! You are the mediator.
       You are the teacher, you are neutral (unless you are at a private school where your beliefs are accepted as the dominant belief).
       In this world lots of people believe different things and celebrate differently. It’s interesting to learn about each other and how we live life. We want to remember to always show respect to each other. I would ask them if they wanted the other student to make them feel bad for what they believe, they would say no. So I reminded them to treat each other the way they wanted to be treated.
       The possibly more distressing example, “Santa is Satan!” (In secondary grades, this morphs to “Santa anagrams to Satan … they have all the same letters” to which I would answer, “Yes, and Britney Spears anagrams to Presbyterian! Is that supposed to mean something?”) To which they reply, “Who’s that?” “Wait, is she that crazy old mom lady who shaved her hair?”
       I’d leave the Santa is Satan situation to a one-on-one conversation with the student.
       When I was asked bluntly by students during school hours, I tried to switch to questions about their beliefs. I used redirection. Example: Is Santa real? Me: Do you celebrate Santa? Does Santa bring you gifts? Etc. Most students didn’t realize I didn’t answer. Or I would just say those are conversations they can have with their parents.
  • Identify that they have different views or experiences.
  • Tell them it is important to show kindness and respect.
       Basically I taught them to either respectfully ask each other about what they believe OR agree to disagree and change the subject.
       Always remember there are most likely parents or guardians represented by each of these students and imagine they are hearing what you are saying to their children and whether they will approve. I often told students to talk to their parents about whatever topic distressed the student.
       Can you defend your approach to how you addressed the disagreement in a way that will be acceptable to the parents and your administration?
       If you need a quick out, you can redirect students to what they should be focused on but log the disagreement in your mind because things can brew from strong feelings from opposing views that aren’t talked through.
Conversation of the Day: Share a funny or cute or difficult holiday story that you had to work through.
       Hop on over to watch the video and share your thoughts in the conversation.
Today, we’re gonna talk about When Your Student Yells, “Santa is Satan!” and Other Holiday Respect Conversations. How do we teachers successfully and sanely navigate the complex holiday environment with all the various religions and holiday traditions?

Should Students Use Wikipedia? (Episode 61)

      Today, we’re gonna discuss whether students should use Wikipedia and what teachers should do about it. Consider the can of worms opened...
       Watch the YouTube video here >>> https://youtu.be/3sfPCHcvrlY
Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?
       Just Google “Teachers + Wikipedia,” and you’ll find plenty of comical graphs showing how much teachers hate Wikipedia more than ...
  • Bad behavior
  • Sloppy handwriting
  • Spelling errors
  • Cheating
  • Late work
  • Tardiness
  • People who don’t try

Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?

Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?

Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?

       Ask teachers, and you’ll hear reasons like ...
  1. It’s unreliable.
  2. Anybody can edit it.

       Ask students, and they’ll say teachers don’t like Wikipedia because ...
  • It makes our work too easy.”

       So should teachers hate Wikipedia? And should students be allowed to use it? Or both? Or neither? Let’s dive in and talk about this juicy controversy.
       Wikipedia was founded in January of 2001 with the vision of being a completely crowd-created, collaborative encyclopedia. In in its first 15 years of existence, it has become the largest encyclopedia in world history, currently home to over 16 million articles in many languages. Currently the 6th most trafficked website on the Internet, it is one of the most successful crowd-sourcing projects in history. It has put many of the long-time encyclopedias out of business and has changed the world of learning.
       I don’t think the question is whether Wikipedia is large and making an impact … it’s whether students should use it. 
       So let’s tackle the big reasons teachers give.
(REASON #1) It’s unreliable.
Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?       The claim is that while Wikipedia has good information on it, there is lots of incorrect info too. Which is true. Let’s start there. (List of Wikipedia hoaxes) It’s also no different than the alternative. Are we going to send students to the library to find accurate information in those 20 year old encyclopedia sets? Does our school have a paid subscription to a formal encyclopedia like Britannica?
Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?       Isn’t this one of the reasons we complain about our textbooks: they’re too old and out-of-date? It’s kind of contradictory to then turn around and take a stance in favor of old encyclopedias, right?
       It’s a balancing act. Would we rather have students using a 20-year-old inaccurate encyclopedia or an up-to-date inaccurate one? 
       We’ve gotta remember the role of encyclopedias in research. They are a starting point. They are tertiary research. Whether using Britannica or Wikipedia, students are only supposed to start with them to know what to research further. And if that’s the role, then shouldn’t we use the one that has the most current research?
Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?
       Some examples: 
       At my last school, I had a comical feud going with a couple of teachers about Wikipedia. So during their research projects on diseases, I threw the gauntlet down. I found out one of their diseases from the list and decided to compare the research. My school library had 2 encyclopedia sets. I found the disease in each. Both had the same common info and 2 bibliography sources. On Wikipedia, I found a lot more information, much of it much more recent. And then at the bottom, I found 67 links to academic research articles. Many were recent, even in the past couple of weeks, and the 2 from the other encyclopedias were there in the list. So Wikipedia had everything the others did + 65 more academic links.
       When our daughter was born, she was diagnosed with a metabolic disorder that we’d never heard anything about -- Carnitine palmitoyltransferase II deficiency (CPT-II). There were only a few doctors in the U.S. who specialized in it, and one was in our Kaiser network. Besides talking with the doctor, Wikipedia was an amazing resource. 7 pages of scientific information with genetic graphs and 20 scientific study articles for us to start our research. No book in the world or encyclopedia anywhere would have had the information we needed.
       So is Wikipedia unreliable? VERDICT: Not any more than any other encyclopedia.(REASON #2) Anybody can edit it.
       This is also true. Read more by the BBC. 
       Just before filming this, I made an edit to the page on “Student.” And it’s still there. It’s a good edit that should probably stay included.
       Many ago, I made an edit to the page for the town of Ferndale, CA, because my grandma was a local painter who sold her paintings in that town. That edit was up for a week, then was removed, probably because it broke the self-promotion rule.
       Though, instead of it being viewed as a negative, Wikipedia holds that as its cornerstone value. This is what makes it so amazing. Instead of being limited to a few paid geek researchers whose research is out-of-date the moment they send it to their publishing editors for review, Wikipedia relies on a multitude of free geek editors who are avid about informational accuracy. Let’s be honest, if you’ve volunteered your time as a Wikipedia curator of any info area, then you care deeply and probably know your stuff. Sure, there are the occasional vandalizer adults or punk kids, and at any random moment in time you could access a page that has just been defaced.
       But let me quote Wikipedia here:
       Wikipedia's primary editorial control, that ensures the bulk of its quality, is simply the sheer volume of well-intentioned editors who regularly and constantly watch over its articles. At any given time, a large number of the thousands of active Wikipedians will be using, checking, or editing the articles held. Each of these has their own watchlist, a special page that lists changes to the articles they have worked on or are otherwise choosing to watch. Hundreds of Wikipedians use automated software tools (described below) to watch edits en masse. On average, only a few minutes lie between a blatantly bad or harmful edit, and some editor noticing and acting on it. Repeated edits tend to lead rapidly to escalation of the process, further safeguards and actions, and the involvement of others, including possible use of administrator powers or dispute resolution depending on the situation.
       The reality is that the Wikipedia leaders care deeply about the accuracy of the information found there, and so do all the volunteer geeks who curate their info kingdoms. (Wikipedia Editorial Oversight and Control article) 
       THE BIG QUESTION IS: “SHOULD STUDENTS BE ALLOWED TO USE IT?”
       Let’s start with what they should NOT DO.
NOT Quote from it in their papers. Not giant paragraphs. Not single sentences. No quoting. No copying.
       Again, encyclopedias are starting points. They should treated as such … hubs of information from which to do more research. And as far as hubs of information go … Wikipedia is, hands down and unquestionably, better than any print encyclopedia. 
NOT Use it in their Works Cited or Bibliographies. Because … you know … they shouldn’t be quoting from it in their papers. :)


So what SHOULD THEY USE it for?
Initial Learning
       If you don’t know anything about a topic or need a refresher, it’s a superb source to learn what you need to learn.
Research
       Unlike print encyclopedias, Wikipedia articles have hyperlinks embedded in the articles that allow you to do research on any term in the article that you don’t know what it means. This research method is how today’s students’ brains work, and they’re way more likely to look something up that they don’t know.
Further Research
       At the bottom of each Wikipedia article, you’ll find a list of academic sources to do further research. Direct your students to use this list. These are the sources they should read, study, and cite in their essays. This are the gold mines of info. And other people collected them all in one spot for you. I’ve never heard a teacher give any reason why a student shouldn’t use this list.
       So should students be allowed to use Wikipedia? 
       VERDICT: We think … absolutely.
       But only if these things happen first:
  • You stop being a fuddy duddy. For a long time, common teacher opinion has been to shun and ban Wikipedia, and your feelings are very wrapped up in this.
  • You train your students how to use it. No wonder our students have been using it incorrectly, we’ve refused to train them. As with any powerful tool, users should be trained. So train them. Stop being afraid of it, and teach them how to use it. Teach them where it fits within the process of researching and learning. Include it in your discussions about how to find reputable sources online that you can trust.
  • Inform them of the consequences for incorrect use of the site in their essays.
  • Protect your reputation. We wouldn’t say this out loud, but for those of us who have been very vocal against Wikipedia, we probably need a game plan to save face. How do you shift over to using Wikipedia in front of your students if you’ve been against it for so long? It’s easy … you ready? … You admit you were wrong. Like any good learner, you did some more research into it, and you learned some things you didn’t know before, and now you’re going to teach them how to use it the right way. Tada!!! :)
Conversation of the Day: What other drawbacks do you see to teaching students to use Wikipedia?
       Hop on over to watch the video and share your thoughts in the conversation.
Should Students Use Wikipedia and What Should Teachers Do About It?
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