Am I making helpful comments ?

The readings this week were right on time, as I am in the middle of grading my first papers. I spent a lot of time on the first drafts offering feedback, so as I am looking at these papers, I really understand the first line of chaper 5 in The St. Martin’s Guide, “ In a sense, it is unfortunate that we have to grade student essays at all…”

On the other hand, while reading Kerry Walk’s essay I was reminded how important comments on student writing actually are and the impact these comments make on the students. It IS a personal and lasting intervention. I believe that sometimes I forget this while I am jotting down comments, albeit carefully, left and right on student papers. One of the biggest “take aways” for me from these essays was the breakdown of each part of teacher feedback that both Glenn and Goldthwaite and Walk offer. I always write terminal comments, and I prefer offering feedback that refers to the essay as a whole. This causes me as a reader to slack a little bit on the “in paper” or marginal comments. I used to use a number system, and put numbers into the paper and then on another page write comments because my comments were so ridiculously long. After the readings today, I realized that this may not be helpful at all for the students and may be really overwhelming.

I am definitely interested in using writer’s letters and reflections but I didn’t do this on my first assignment. I am wondering if it is too late to implement this? Or if I can still do this when I return the papers? In any case, reflective letters seem to be a great way for students to assess themselves and also to really focus on the structure of their own work, rather than take my comments as law (or perhaps ignore them). Ultimately, I want to know that my comments are effective and my one question for today is how do I know whether or not these comments are helpful? Can I gauge this in a way that isn’t completely time consuming?