Do you find yourself writing the same comments on student papers? For any given assignment, are you finding patterns of errors that you comment on? Probably a mix of 5-10 different comments, but everything you write is a variation of the same set of comments, right?
Here’s how to get that base set of comments that will make the rest of your grading easier (at least for that one assignment). For me, this is a new way to grade papers thoroughly, but quickly. I did this with the first batch of paragraphs I collected and it worked well enough that I’ll try it again on another piece of writing.
You have to read. There’s no way around that, so don’t think this is going to cure all that ails you. You have to read. Here’s the good news: you don’t have to read all papers with the same amount of focus.
I have 4 periods of juniors. I split the collected papers in half. One half, I read very thoroughly, writing a 2-4 sentence comment on each one and putting a grade on it. Then, like I’ve suggested before, I catalog each comment. Just use a 3-column table in Word. The far right column is for the comments I write. The middle column is for the score each paper earns. Sort the table by that middle column so all those with the same score are close together, then simply number that far left column. Each comment/score is now numbered so that when I write 4 on a paper, I know the comment it deserves and the score it receives.
The remaining half of the papers, I read those just closely enough to determine which comment I’ve already written would be appropriate. I write the comment number(s) in the upper left corner. This not only helps me write good comments on students’ papers, but it helps me grade consistently. All papers that exhibit the same troubles get the same scores. And since I’m just copying an existing comment onto the page, it’s much faster than creating the comment on the spot.