I’m officially staring down 137 essays that need to be graded as soon as possible. Even though my coteacher and I have definitely limited the rubric for what we are grading for (thesis statements, embedding evidence, grammar), it’s  still a time consuming process that will keep me up late several nights this week. When we went to Chicago over the summer for NTAC, we got the opportunity to see some amazing presentations filled with resources and plans and advice about how to do better. One session stands out to me as the most impactful, however, and I want to share her resources with you.

She started by asking us a question: “When you are grading your essays, do you feel like you are saying the same things over and over again? You need more evidence. You need to actually explain your evidence. This claim doesn’t make sense.”

I was nodding my head furiously at this point, as were many of the others in the room. Then she showed us her secret weapon: using the shortcut/replace cell when she is evaluating essays. Here are the directions:

For Google Documents:

  1. Open a Google Doc.
  2. Go to a) Tools, b) Preferences.
  3. Decide on a meaningful “shortcut” and add it in the “Replace” cell.
  4. In brackets (or some other way to make your remarks obvious) write out your suggestion in the “With” cell.
  5. Click “OK” to save shortcuts.

For Microsoft Word:

  1. Open a Word document.
  2. Go to a) File, b) Options
  3. Click “Proofing” in the list of options on the left side of the pop-up screen.
  4. Click the “Autocorrect Options” button
  5. Decide on a meaningful “shortcut” and add it in the “Replace” cell.
  6. In brackets (or some other way to make your remarks obvious) write out your suggestion in the “With” cell.
  7. Click “OK” to save shortcuts.

So, once  you set it up, you create the options that work for you. When I leave comments on my learner’s essays, I embed the comments directly into their writing. The green highlight is an example from my learner’s work (although it isn’t highlighted green in her essay):

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 5.25.36 AM

One of my short cuts is tr which when typed turns into [include a stronger transition here]. As you can tell, learners have to actually read through their essays and look for my feedback and comments. If there is an issue at an idea level, I can still leave real comments on her essay,  but not having to type out every time a student has a punctuation error or an incorrectly capitalized title is amazing. I’m able to read their essays and quickly type two or three letters to give them specific feedback exactly where they need it. 

The exactly where they need it part was hard for us last year when we were giving feedback. We would both give them really specific feedback, but it would be on a rubric, not on the essay where they needed to see it. I don’t know about you and how you grade essays, but this is exactly the kind of feedback that I would have liked on my essays in college. I never knew exactly what I needed to do to make my essays better. With this method, learners can see where they need to make the changes, and if they need workshops on it, then they can ask for them. Here is a list of my shortcuts:




awk [this section may confuse your reader]
ca [capitalization error]
cs [comma splice / run-on]
ct [get help capitalizing titles here: http://titlecapitalization.com/]
de [delete highlighted word/phrase]
ev [add evidence here: statistical, anecdotal, testimonial, or analogical]
ex [explain significance of the evidence in relation to proving your thesis]
fr [fragment / partial sentence]
mla [use mla format: double-spaced, heading, title, internal citations, works cited]
po [possessive error]
pu [punctuation error]
ro [run-on/fused sentence]
sp [spelling error}
sv [subject/verb agreement error]
u [usage error]
vt [verb tense error]
ww [incorrect word here]
tr [include a stronger transition to connect your ideas]


What do you think? Is this something that you could use when grading your essays?

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