When handing back papers, especially among my honors students, I often run into some emotion. I tend to be a tough grader. fair but tough. My students realize this after their first writings are returned to them. For many students it’s the first time they haven’t “aced” a paper; this, of course, creates anxiety for them and they react immediately with some passion.
Sometimes I get the impression that the “smart” kids are often given their own groups to work independently of the other students. Quite a few of these students get used to having their work just passed on with an ‘A’ before they start the next independent project. Soon though, these students are placed in honors classes where they are no longer the absolute best or brightest in the class any more; this is much like all of the valedictorians around the country who attend an honors college or an Ivy League school and realize they are no longer the big fish but the small fish in the big pond.
Anyway, because of the emotional responses of my students when papers are returned, I have instituted the Rule of 24. Once I hand the papers back at the end of the class period, I will not answer questions about the papers or have conversations regarding the papers until the next class period, 24 hours away.
Plus, the students must read 6 papers from the anchor paper binder, two from the grade below what they received, two from the grade they scored, and two from the grade above what they received. I have compiled a binder full of past thesis papers organized by grade. I try to encourage the students to read a few prior to writing their own papers, but it rarely occurs. After the papers are returned, however, the students are anxious to read those anchor papers!
Once the 24 hours pass the students are calm and ready to discuss. Still, once the students read the anchor papers I virtually field no questions regarding their own papers. Almost every time their questions are answered before I speak to them because of the anchor papers.
I am also a big believer in rewriting, so the kids can then redo their papers. After all, the goal is to improve and to master the skills.