As a high school English instructor, I’ve found that creative writing projects provide students with an enjoyable way to practice English language skills, but grading these subjective assignments can be tricky. Unlike formal essays and nonfiction compositions, creative writing assignments contain greater variations in style, subject, tone and voice which cause grading fairness challenges. Tackle these subjectivity obstacles with ease by establishing solid writing standards and employing a little academic flexibility.
Set the Standard
Creative writing assignments encourage students to get inventive with their word and story choices, but even the most innovative story becomes better with structure and good grammar. While a “sky is the limit” assignment might sound like fun to students, solid guidelines regarding style, voice and word choice actually inspire students to work harder to write their stories to fit the provided standards. Set specific requirements that address objective elements such as page length, story structure and sentence variety, which are easier to assess without subjectivity. Encourage students to view these academic standards as a solid foundation to support and improve their stories rather than a cage designed to hamper their creativity.
Points for Perfection
While some students may be gifted storytellers capable of churning out exciting page-turners with ease, others may struggle with imaginative writing. Assure these students that they won’t be penalized for their creativity deficiencies as long as they turn in work that’s well written in regards to grammar, punctuation and story structure. However, students without a natural talent for creative writing shouldn’t be let off the hook entirely when it comes to using their imagination. Augment their assignments with writing prompts designed to kick start their creative juices. For example, provide them with the first and last sentences to a story, then require them to craft a tale with a clear beginning, middle and end to fit within those sentences.
The Creativity Curve
For naturally gifted writers, earning top marks on an assignment is almost guaranteed. Once these students have proven their abilities to earn As, there’s no reason to restrict them to the confines of the assignment if they are willing to put in the extra work. For example, allow these kids to combine multiple short papers into a longer piece if they’re developing a series of short stories or a novella. If others complain about the assignment flexibility allowed for some students, remind them that they are more than welcome to enjoy a similar freedom once they’ve proven their ability to do write well consistently.
Every good writer knows that editing and rewriting are an important part of the writing process if they want to produce great creative work. Since creative writing assignments include a certain element of subjectivity, these projects are tailor-made to give students a chance to improve their grade with a rewrite. While some students may be happy to settle with their original grade, others students will take the advantage of the rewrite process to improve their grades and become better writers in the process. This may require extra grading time for teachers, but the rewards are worth it.