The Skidmore College
Expository Writing Network

Strategies for Effective Commenting

Comments are most effective when they are clear, consistent, and focused on the issues that you think are most important for the student to consider. If a paper contains many problems, students will not be able to weigh the significance of those problems unless you help them to do so. Is the lack of a thesis as important as incorrect punctuation? Students would like to think so since punctuation is something that can more easily be "fixed.

Comments are most helpful to students when they do the following:

Restate the paper's main point. 
Say something positive.
Focus on large (global) problems first.
Use terms that students can understand.
Invite students to re-read parts of their paper.
Offer help that may be transferable to the student's future papers.

Some teachers ask students to submit self-evaluations with their papers. The responses the students provide can then serve as a guide for the instructor's comments. These evaluations ask students to answer questions such as the following:

In one sentence, what is the main point you are trying to convey?
If you had additional time to work on this paper, how would you want to change it?
What do you like most about the paper? Why?
What do you like least about the paper? Why?
Write one question about the paper that you would like me to respond to.


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