Track Description Essay Rubric

Thought I’d share how I started using computers to grade essays and offer fellow teachers a great resource to provide better essay response and cut grading time by half. Years ago I played around with the Insert Comments feature of Microsoft Word® and learned how to put in and format the bubble comments. I started using these comments to respond to and grade student writing submitted by email. At first, I only assigned a holistic rubric score, made a few comments, and patted myself on the back for learning how to insert audio files for brief summary responses. Students loved this paperless process.

Later, our school got networked and our computer teacher taught me how to create a simple dropbox where students could submit their essays. Now, going to the computer lab made sense! I started responding to student papers throughout the writing process via the dropbox. Back and forth with my brief comments such as “spelling error” or “needs support evidence” and their revisions… Good work, but time-consuming and highly inefficient. I found myself making many of the same comments over and over again, so I created a document with the most frequent comments to cut and paste into the bubble comments. I started expanding my response comments beyond what is wrong to why it is wrong (the rules). Students appreciated the longer comments. After all, commenting “spelling error” for recieve doesn’t help the student much, but commenting “spelling error-i before e, except after c, or sounding like /ay/ as in neighbor or weigh” does the trick and gets the receive revision.

At the same time, I picked up a part-time job (what teacher doesn’t have one?) as an editor for a local educational publisher. I learned all about another Microsoft Word® feature called Track Changes. I know; I’m a slow learner. Track Changes allows other writers to edit the author’s text (in different colors for different editors) without deleting the author’s original writing. I shared this discovery with my students. Of course, many of them already knew about Track Changes and had probably intentionally withheld this information from me. Sly devils! Now, I could hold students accountable for addressing the issues raised in my bubble comments and clearly see their revisions and edits in Track Changes. I also began facilitating peer response groups, using Track Changes. Yes, it’s true students will fight over which color text they get to use as peer response partners.

One day I started thinking about how the computer replaces some of my spelling mistakes as I type, but not others. How does that work? I found out about Microsoft Word® Autocorrects. Through trial and error, I learned how to put in my own short-cuts and get the full text of what I wanted to say automatically. Wow! Never to have to type out “Seventh Grade English-language Arts” again! That got me to thinking about all of my cut and paste writing comments.

I developed a simple alphanumeric code for each of my writing comments and figured out how to add them on to the Autocorrects function. Now I could just type in “e1″ and press ENTER to get the full text to appear in a bubble comment. I organized my growing list of e-comments, found out about the limitations of each comment (255 characters), and found out how to format the Autocorrect text to add boldface, italics, color, and hyperlinks. Now we were getting something very useful. I expanded the e-comments with concise definitions, explanations, and clear examples and wrote a Quick Reference Guide to include the alphanumeric insert codes and the 438 e-comments into these categories: Essay Organization and Development (Introduction, Body, and Conclusion), Coherence, Word Choice, Sentence Variety, Writing Style, Format and Citations, Parts of Speech, Grammatical Forms, Usage, Sentence Structure, Types of Sentences, Mechanics, and Conventional Spelling Rules. I also decided to put all of these e-comments into a style manual to share with my students on my class website. The Pennington Manual of Style allows us to share the same language of instruction and serves as a handy writer’s reference guide.

By then, the online community had caught on to the value of the social context of writing. Sites like Google Docs®, Turnitin®, Moodle Docs®, Viper®, and Screencast® made it easier for students to submit their writing outside of the computer lab, get peer response, and have me respond with my e-comments and grade from anywhere that has the Internet. The only problem was that the Autocorrects comments worked only on the one computer. I used a bunch of computers in the computer lab, at home… and now my colleagues wanted to use my e-comments. Who wouldn’t want them? After all, students loved them and they saved significant time “grading” essays. Plus, teachers could add on their own text to personalize my comments. Even teachers who did not grade on the computer found the value of using my e-comments (they don’t have to be inserted in bubble comments) and typing up their own writing response summaries, then printing and attaching these to paper submissions. Including the rubric on the printed response sheet makes sense, by the way.

But, it took hours to cut and paste the 438 e-comments into each computer. I whined about this once too often until my computer-savvy son found a way to insert the entire 438 e-comment bank into any computer with Microsoft Word® 2003, 2007, 2010, and 2013 (Windows XP, Vista, and Win 7/8/10 all work fine). He developed a simple download.

I would love to have every teacher get this download and use these 438 Essay e-Comments. I’ve placed the download instructions in my 47-page The Pennington Manual of Style and included the definitions, rules, examples, and writing hints found in my comprehensive essay writing curriculum: Teaching Essay Strategies.

Here are some examples of the 438 e-comments found in The Pennington Manual of Style

Introductory Paragraphs

Thesis statement does not respond to writing prompt. Re-read the writing prompt and dissect according to the WHO (the audience and role of the writer), the WHAT (the context of the writing topic), the HOW (the resource text title and author), and the DO (the key writing direction word).

Body Paragraphs: Argument, Analysis, Types of Evidence

Add support evidence. More evidence is needed to adequately support the major detail. Add evidence in major detail or minor detail sentences such as Fact, Example, Statistic, Comparison, Quote from an Authority, Logic, Experience, or Counter-Argument/Refutation. FE SCALE CR

Red Herring Errors An unconnected reference distracts the reader from the argument. Example: Poverty is the most important problem; however, the world has always had poor people. Explanation: The second clause distracts the reader from the issue of poverty as the most important problem.

Coherence, Word Choice, Sentence Variety, and Writing Style

Revise: Too Many “to-be” Verbs Consider limiting use of is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been to one per paragraph. To replace “to be verbs” 1. Substitute a more active verb 2. Begin the sentence with another word from the sentence 3. Change one of the words in the sentence into a verb form.


MLA Works Cited (Print Encyclopedia) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” Encyclopedia of Writing. 1st ed. 1. El Dorado Hills, CA: Pennington Publishing, 2010. Print. In-Text Citation:(Pennington 212-213)

Grammatical Forms

Gerund Phrases A gerund phrase is an ____ing verb, connected to related words, and is used as a noun. Examples: Driving a car has become a necessary skill these days.

Sentence Problems

Sentence Fragments A sentence fragment is only part of a complete sentence. To fix a sentence fragment, remove any subordinating conjunctions. Example: Although she found out where the boys were. Revision: She found out where the boys were.


Commas with Introductory Word(s) Use commas after introductory words, phrases, or clauses. Drop the comma if the sentence is very short and there is no necessary pause. Examples: First, listen to me. First of all, listen to me. After you first sit up, listen to me. Then I went home.


The i before e Spelling Rule Usually spell i before e(believe), but spell e before i after a c(receive) and when the letters are pronounced as a long /a/ sound (neighbor). Exceptions to the i before e rule include the following: neithereitherweirdforfeitcaffeineheight, to name a few.

Find 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to the Common Core

Teaching Essay Strategies

State Standards,the Essay e-Comments download of 438 writing response comments, 8on-demandwriting fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 Common Core informative/explanatory and 4 Common Core persuasive), 64  sentence revisionand 64 rhetorical stance“openers,”remedial writing lessons, writing posters, andediting resourcesto differentiate essay writing instruction inthe comprehensive writing curriculum,Teaching Essay Strategies.And, now, get The Pennington Manual of Styleand the same bank of 438 Essay e-Comments (PCs only) found inTeaching Essay Strategies.Save time and do a better job responding to student writing with this practical writing reference guide.

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Потные ладони скользили по гладкой поверхности. Он вытер их о брюки и попробовал. На этот раз створки двери чуть-чуть разошлись.


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