I know there are various good reasons why we grade papers in class. The most important reason is the opportunity it opens for deep discussions. As we talk about what the correct answer should have been, and what the very close answer could have been, we are able to address a wide range of relevant topics. (And a side range of topics which are not relevant, but may be opportunely inserted.)
Right now we are doing a chapter-by-chapter overview of the book of Mark. My seventh and eighth graders are split into boys' class and girls' class. (Opposite P.E.) Now if you have never directed a group of junior high-aged youngsters grading papers, you probably won't appreciate how long it takes to grade even the simplest of answers.
This conversation actually occurred yesterday as we graded Mark, chapter eight.
Teacher: Are you all ready to grade?
Anna: Yes, I am, I think I am, Wait, I don’t think I got the right paper.
Teacher: Remember we are grading our own papers today?
Anna: But I didn’t trade…
Teacher: Do you have your own paper?
Teacher: Then grade that one.
Anna: But I don’t have a different colored pen.
Tosha: Here’s a purple one.
Anna: Well, but I…
Jenny: Here, I have a green one
Anna: Well, OK.
Teacher: Are you ready to Grade now?
Carrie: I am.
Lily: I am too.
Teacher: Read the first question please, Reagan.
Reagan: Why were the disciples concerned about the people who had been listening to Jesus?
Teacher: Ok, read the answer, Reagan.
Reagan: Ok, but I don’t think I have it right.
Teacher: That’s fine. Read it anyway.
Reagan: They thought the people were hungry?
Teacher: Yes, can you explain it more?
Reagan: Well, they hadn’t had anything to eat.
Teacher: How long had they been there?
Joanie: Mine says, “Three days.”
Teacher: True. So your answer should say either: The people had been without food for three days, or the people were hungry.
Lily: So what if you put both?
Teacher: Your answer would be right.
Robby: So if you only put one, you take off one half right?
Teacher: No. I said “either…or”.
Lily: You have to say “either, or”?
Teacher: No, you have to say they were hungry, or else you have to say they had been without food for three days. Either one is right.
Robby: I don’t get it. How many do I take off?
Katherine: So what if you didn’t mention how many days?
Teacher: Did you say the people were hungry?
Teacher: What did you say?
Katherine: I said the people had been listening to Jesus for a long time and they hadn’t had any food.
Teacher: Then that answer would be correct.
Anna: Ok, what about mine?
Teacher: What did you put?
Anna: The disciples were afraid the people would faint on the way home if they didn’t feed them.
Teacher: That, too, would be correct.
Robby: Wait. I didn’t say anything about them fainting?
Lily: Did they faint? I don't remember them fainting. Wait. What question are we on?
Reagan: I’m lost. I’m still on the first question.
Rebecca: So what if we put, “The people had been listening to Jesus for a long time. Many of them had not brought lunches, so they were feeling rather faint. The disciples were concerned that they might not make it home unless they fed them, but the disciples knew that they didn’t have enough money to feed them, even if a store was nearby, which it wasn’t.”
Teacher: Your answer would be correct.
Reagan. My answer isn’t that long. I just put that the people were hungry. I think she should get bonus points.
Lily: So we are supposed to give bonus points if the answer is long?
Robbie: So, pretty much anything we put is right? Right?
Teacher: Wrong. You have to put the right answer.
Lily: But you said that more than one answer could be right?
Teacher: Let’s read question two, Anna?
Teacher: Would you read question two?
Anna: It’s not my turn to read. You skipped Tosha.
Tosha: It’s ok. I really don’t mind. She can read the question.
Teacher: Anna, read the question please.
Anna: How many loaves of bread and how many fish were the disciples able to find?
I put seven.
Teacher: Is that all you put?
Anna: Well, my Bible didn’t say how many fish. It just said “A few small fish”.
Teacher: Then that’s what you should have put. “A few” is how many.
Anna: Well no, it isn’t. It doesn’t say how many, see….I had the wrong translation.
Teacher: All the translations said the same thing: “a few”
Lily: I put seven and “a few”, but I didn’t say bread or fish. Is that ok?
Teacher: It’s fine.
Jenny: So If we don’t say they are small it’s ok?
Robbie: So if we only have “a few” we take off one half, right?
Teacher: Did you also put "seven loaves"?
Teacher: Then take off one half.
Robbie: How many points is that?
Teacher: Just put “minus one half” beside the question.
Reona: Ok. I just found a pen. Could we repeat the first question please?
You get the point. Sometimes it takes the whole hour to grade and discuss thirty questions. They know that they will have the next set of questions to complete for tomorrow, and they realize that any not finished in class will need to be completed at home…and yet…somehow.
As an side note, if you get a chance to study the photos of the graded questions, you might chuckle at the difference between "boys' grading" and "girls' grading".