English 1A and 5 Essay grading criteria

English 1A and English 5 writing competencies are identified below. In English 1A we work on proofreading issues (grammar) with the folder and check mark/exercises system, but in English 5 you should have already solved most if not all of your grammar needs in previous English classes. If you feel you need additional help learning to overcome any surface grammar issues listed below, see me immediately so that I can see you get the support you need in order to pass the class. As I grade your papers, I will make every effort to let you know how you are progressing in each of these areas. If you are unclear about where you need to improve, I urge you to speak with me about your work. Don’t hesitate to ask questions!

Assignment Fulfillment

An essay should fulfill all the elements specified in the writing assignment.

Purpose and Central Idea

An explicitly stated and clear thesis statement or central idea creates the focus for what you say in the body of the essay.

Organization

A well-organized essay “makes sense” because it creates a logical, smooth, clear argument in which parts “go together” and ideas are easy to follow. You should follow the PIE paragraph organization with topic sentences that support your thesis statement, appropriate and ample support from the reading, and your argument drawn down through the paragraphs especially at the beginning and ending of your paragraphs. Paragraphs and sentences within each paragraph are sequenced and grouped so it’s easy for a reader to track your ideas.

Focus and Cohesion

“Focus” refers to the clarity of what we write; “cohesion” refers to the way elements are woven together—tightly or loosely. In a well-focused piece of writing, all words and sentences are relevant to the overall purpose or point of the essay: body paragraphs have recognizable and consistent main ideas that are logically related to the thesis and are generally expressed in topic sentences, while sentences within each paragraph relate to their respective topic sentences. The writing as a whole is coherent, using concrete nouns and strong verbs (the ones that name actions), even when the topic is complex. The writing is also cohesive—that is, the writer makes a point of using words and phrases or clauses that create a relationship between ideas or units of the text.

Development

Main ideas are illustrated or supported by use of relevant facts, details, examples or anecdotes (short narratives), data, discussion. Ideas and information are analyzed and explained, and connections between ideas and between main points and supporting detail are made clear. The reader is left with no questions about what you want him/her to understand, even if she or he disagrees with you, and has learned something from the essay.

Voice

The writing sounds as if it were produced by a real person (you) rather than someone trying to imitate someone else’s approach or style, or to duplicate “academic” writing. It sounds “real,” or “natural,” not pretentious.

Sentence Structure/Fluency

“Fluent” writing is smooth and shows good use of both words (not necessarily big words!) and different structures. A fluent writer uses a variety of structures seen in “mature” writing—apposition, verbal phrases, adjective clauses, other modifiers, parallel constructions, and so on—and uses them appropriately. Sentences are focused, word choices are concrete where possible, and appropriate to the context (purpose and audience).

Surface Issues (Grammar, Usage, Punctuation, Spelling)

These “product quality” matters, although important, are only one aspect of strong writing. If there are lots of surface problems a reader may have problems paying attention to the content or misunderstand what you are trying to say. Careful proofreading can help you spot and correct most if not all of the surface errors in a paper. Surface errors include: verb tense, subject-verb agreement, fragments, RTS (run-together or “run on” sentences), pronoun agreement, plural forms, homophones (whether and weather), spelling, word usage, typographical errors.

NOTE: Essays with more than an average of 3 surface errors per page will receive a lowered grade. Surface errors are usually the result of insufficient proofreading; I will grade your essay only after you’ve proofread it carefully. Essays with more than an average of 5 surface errors per page will be returned to you ungraded and unmarked. If an essay is returned to you for proofreading, you may forfeit any possible opportunities for revising that particular essay.

Textual Evidence: Writing about Written Material (Both Non-fiction and Fiction)

In writing about or drawing on a published text, you need to be sure you can justify what you say about it: use textual evidence (direct quotation or paraphrase) to support your own ideas, interpretation or analysis, and make sure that you can support any claim you make by citing or referring to the work you are writing about or commenting on. In using textual evidence, paraphrasing is usually preferable to quotes; both paraphrases and quotes are integrated smoothly into the text and appropriately cited using in-text citations and works cited lists. Never let a quote just “hang around.” It must be integrated into your writing and you must fully explain why and how it relates to the points and ideas you are expressing.

How the Criteria are Translated into Grades

The D or F (Not Passing) Paper

Some students are astounded when they receive their first “NP” in a college writing class. This grade does not mean that you have made no effort, are ignorant or are a hopeless writer. It does not mean your essay is impossible to understand or says little of interest—though in rare cases these problems may be present.

In other words, the NP paper can be the result of a “good faith” effort by the writer, which for many possible reasons may have gone astray and so is not yet eligible for a passing grade of A, B, or C. For example, the writer may have picked a topic that did not leave her or him any room to develop a position. Or she or he may have tried tackling an ambitious subject, and in the process of writing, has been unable to evolve a clear and central idea. For whatever reason, the NP paper has one or more of the following characteristics:

Assignment Fulfillment..................... One or more assignment criterion is/are not fulfilled.

Central Idea/Thesis.......................... Thesis statement and central idea are not clearly defined.

Organization .................................... Organization are not clearly defined or apparent.

Focus and Cohesion....................... Paragraphs and sentences are unfocused or incoherent.

Development................................... Support is inappropriate or inadequate (e.g., vague)

Sentence Structure/Fluency............ Sentences are choppy, simplistic or awkward-sounding.

Surface Issues.................................. Lots of surface errors.

Textual Evidence............................. Inadequate.

These writing problems may occur even in papers that demonstrate “content knowledge” about a topic, which is why many students may get strong grades in their other classes but do poorly in composition classes. They are also fixable problems.

It is common for students to get very weak grades on the first papers of the semester in 122, even to discover that their work falls into the NP range. Most people in this situation will learn so much in the class that they are doing passing work by the time the semester ends. In other words, don’t panic if you see NP on the first couple of papers.

The C (Sound) paper

The C paper adequately fulfills its purpose. It has many commendable features, certainly including a central idea and a recognizable organizational structure. It provides support of its thesis through specific examples and elaboration. It contains, at most, only isolated errors in grammar and punctuation, with only occasional misspellings. The sense of audience and purpose is there, and the authorial voice may show engagement with the topic.

Thus, some bottom line skills you have clearly mastered are:

Assignment Fulfillment..................... All assignment criteria are fulfilled.

Central Idea/Thesis.......................... You engage the topic/assignment appropriately.

Organization .................................... Your reader gets your main point.

Focus and Cohesion....................... Paragraphs and sentences are adequately focused.

Development................................... There’s enough detail and discussion so that your reader isn’t left with many confusing questions.

Sentence Structure/Fluency............ You use a clear style that conveys your meaning,connecting ideas when appropriate.

Surface Issues.................................. Less than an average of 4 surface errors per page.

Textual Evidence............................. Adequate.

The B (Excellent) Paper

The B paper is more than “just okay” and may be outstanding except for one or two noticeable problems or patterns in sentences. It is similar to the A paper, except that it lacks some of its distinguishing characteristics. For example, the central idea, although defined and appropriate, lacks the insight of the A paper; the organization may be clear but predictable; the support, although relatively full and specific, may be less extensive and varied.

Assignment Fulfillment..................... All assignment criteria fulfilled.

Central Idea/Thesis.......................... You’ve been bold enough to extend your thinking beyond the basics of the ideas you’re writing about; you’ve offered your readers some fresh, entertaining or compelling observations and insights.

Organization                                       Your reader easily grasps your main point, generally has an easy journey through your essay, and rarely feels lost. You probably provide good signposts, like topic sentences and transitions between paragraphs.

Focus and Cohesion....................... Paragraphs and sentences are well focused.

Development................................... Your essay offers several good points or raises several thoughtful questions in your discussion of the topic.

Sentence Structure/Fluency............ Your writing reads smoothly, and though you may have a few errors, they are rare.

Surface Issues.................................. Less than an average of 4 surface errors per page.

Textual Evidence............................. Adequate.

The A (Outstanding) Paper

An A paper is strong in each of the grading criteria—although it may have a few minor surface errors, it stands out because of its handling of both content and language. It sounds as if the writer were interested in and in control of her or his material; it is well-organized, reflecting a clear, logical and smooth development of the central idea; its focus is clear, and its development strong and interesting, providing full and clear explanation of ideas supported with relevant and specific detail and analysis; its. The content is insightful, probing, thoughtful, maybe critical or witty.

Assignment Fulfillment..................... All assignment criteria fulfilled.

Central Idea/Thesis.......................... The thesis is clearly defined, insightful and appropriate for audience and purpose. You may have taken some risks, tried something difficult and worthwhile, taught your reader how to see things in a new way, and entertained your reader.

Organization .................................... Clear, logical, and smooth development of the central

idea.

Focus and Cohesion....................... Paragraphs and sentences are well focused.

Development................................... Development is strong and interesting, providing full and clear explanation of ideas supported with relevant and specific detail, analysis, and commentary (i.e., your interpretation or discussion of the details or illustrations you use).

Sentence Structure/Fluency............ Sentences show the competencies a university graduate should have.

Surface Issues.................................. Only rare and isolated errors.

Textual Evidence............................. Adequate.

Note:

A “C” is an average grade for a student in this English course. It shows that a writer has completed successfully all of the assigned steps in constructing each essay: done all of the prepatory reading and pre-writing; participated in group discussion; worked through and prepared at least one rough draft; received response from a peer group in class and/or from me in conference; revised the essay as necessary; and submitted the essay in final form for evaluation. (Failure to complete any of these steps will result in a significant grade reduction.)

Your growth as a writer will occur only through writing practice as well as the feedback you get from workshops, conferences, and written comments. A grade of C in this class requires a good deal of work; this is an honorable grade and must be earned through serious effort.