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Streamline Your Essay Grading with Writing Improvement Tools for Students

🎧 Listen to the podcast version here.

As educators, we strive to foster not only knowledge but also skills that will serve our students throughout their lives. Among these skills, the ability to communicate effectively through writing stands as a cornerstone of critical thinking and self-expression.

However, we often find ourselves buried beneath stacks of essays, searching for ways to provide timely and meaningful feedback. Is there a way to make the writing and feedback process more efficient while also enhancing the quality of our students' work? The answer just might lie in leveraging technology. Today, we'll explore four remarkable and FREE tech tools—Feedback Fruits, PaperRater, Hemingway Editor, and AcaWriter—and how they can transform both student writing and the way teachers approach grading.

Many students like to think that they're all done once they hit the first draft phase of the writing process, but that is only the first stepping stone to a great piece of writing. Let's use tech to be our extra hands during the revision and editing phases to help students polish their own works and train them to be intrinsically motivated to continually improve.


1. Feedback Fruits: Automated Feedback Revolution

Let's start with Feedback Fruits, a tool that's making great strides toward automating the feedback process. At its core, Feedback Fruits focuses on providing automated writing feedback to students, saving teachers valuable time and ensuring prompt responses. This isn't just about pointing out errors; it's about guiding students to improve their writing.

Here's the real magic: Feedback Fruits goes beyond basic grammar checks. It uses AI algorithms to identify complex issues in students' essays, offering detailed insights and suggestions for improvement. It's like having a crew of advanced writing assistants in your classroom who can provide instant feedback on various aspects of writing, from sentence structure to argument clarity.

Additionally, Feedback Fruits offers engagement analytics, allowing teachers to monitor how students interact with the automated feedback. It's like having a window into the learning process, helping you tailor your support to meet individual needs.

How to Use Feedback Fruits:

- Automated Feedback Mastery: Encourage students to actively engage with the automated feedback provided by Feedback Fruits. It's like having a personal writing assistant available 24/7. Really hit on how it can help them improve BEFORE the grades are logged in the books. Have them run their essays through this tool before submitting, perhaps even requiring a screenshot of their report to prove their submission and up the ante of accountability, making it more "tangible" for them. The immediacy is great for the students, too, because we all know that as soon as a paper is handed in, their minds instantly drift to the next thing, and even if we were able to give feedback on 150 essays in three days, they are already over it. It might as well have been last year that they wrote that paper. Leveraging tech tools helps to keep it alive in their minds, striking while the iron is hot, so to speak.

In summary, Feedback Fruits isn't just a tool; it's a transformative force in automating the feedback loop. It transforms the writing process by providing instant, AI-powered feedback that helps students grow as writers while lightening the grading workload for teachers. With Feedback Fruits, your classroom becomes an efficient ecosystem of writers, each receiving personalized guidance on their writing journey. Just remember that it's a tool and not a replacement for the teacher. Encourage students to still be critical thinkers with the feedback provided by AI and reach out to the experts--a.k.a. us teachers--with questions.

Website: Feedback Fruits


2. PaperRater: Your Writing Ally

Now, let's dive into PaperRater, a trusty sidekick in the quest for better writing. Picture your students, armed with essays, ready to conquer the writing world. But before they hit that submit button, they have a secret weapon in their pockets - PaperRater. I started implementing PaperRater in my classroom back in 2018, and it has just gotten better with age (and updates). Did I use it as a replacement for teacher grading? No. Did I have students run their essays through it to catch the easy stuff for corrections, thereby making my life easier come grading time? You betcha.

In the grammar and spelling department, PaperRater is your vigilant guardian, like a gatekeeper that says "You cannot pass!" to sloppy essays. Why should we have to spend our time marking papers for simple fixes? It's better for the students and better for us. It catches those sneaky typos and misplaced commas that can mar a perfect essay. But it doesn't stop there. PaperRater takes a step further into the realm of writing style. It dissects sentences, highlights complex structures, and offers suggestions to enhance clarity and coherence. It's like having an AI mentor who guides students in shaping their ideas into well-crafted prose. Again, encourage your students to be active participants in their writing and bring questionable recommendations to you for guidance.

Now, let's talk about plagiarism - the ultimate writing sin. PaperRater has your back here too. It's equipped with a built-in plagiarism checker that ensures your students' work is original and properly cited. This encourages academic integrity and teaches students the importance of giving credit where it's due. Does it catch AI-generated essays? Well, sometimes. Not always. But it is certainly a start and may deter those who are tempted by the AI sirens, and is a good alternative to those of us who are not lucky enough to have our school districts pay for TurnItIn.

PaperRater even offers vocabulary suggestions, nudging students to diversify their word choices and become wordsmiths in the making. If you know anything about me, you know I live for vocabulary. Why limit yourself to only a few colors on your palette? PaperRater is an easy upgrade for this skill.

If students enter their grade level and writing genre, PaperRater will even give them a ballpark grade, allowing students to self-regulate and adjust their writing accordingly without shock hitting them when they check the grades.

How to Use PaperRater:

- Pre-Submission Check: Encourage students to run their essays through PaperRater before hitting the submit button. It's like giving their work a final polish.

- Learn from Feedback: Remind them that feedback is a learning opportunity. Encourage students to dive into the suggestions provided by PaperRater. Understanding why a correction is needed is a valuable lesson.

Website: PaperRater


3. Hemingway Editor: The Clarity Crusader

Now, let's talk about Hemingway Editor, a digital writing companion that focuses on simplicity and clarity. Have you ever read a sentence so convoluted that you needed a translator to decipher its meaning? Hemingway Editor ensures that students avoid that pitfall. It's excellent at highlighting complex and hard-to-read sentences, like a friendly red flag that says, "Simplify, please!" Students can identify areas that might confuse their readers and make the necessary adjustments, resulting in prose that shines with clarity.

Another superpower of Hemingway Editor is its ability to spot passive voice constructions. It nudges students to favor the active voice, which not only makes writing more engaging but also clarifies who is doing the action. And to top it off, Hemingway Editor provides readability scores. Students can gauge how easy or challenging their writing might be for readers and adjust accordingly. It's like having a readability compass to guide them in the right direction.

In essence, Hemingway Editor is not just about grammar; it's about ensuring that students' ideas flow smoothly, their sentences are easy to understand, and their writing is a joy to read. It equips them with the skills to convey their thoughts with clarity, a skill that transcends the classroom and benefits them in all aspects of life.

How to Use Hemingway Editor:

- Refining Writing Style: In the heart of the writing process, before the final draft, students can use Hemingway Editor for a last-minute polish. It ensures their essays are not just grammatically correct but also engaging. While it does catch smaller grammatical and spelling errors, the real power of this tool is its ability to take their writing style to the next level.

Website: Hemingway Editor


4. AcaWriter: Elevating Academic Excellence

Let's venture into the world of academic writing, a realm filled with research papers, citations, and the pursuit of scholarly excellence. In this academic battlefield, AcaWriter emerges as a formidable ally for advanced students and teachers alike.

AcaWriter doesn't just skim the surface; it dives deep into the art of academic composition. It guides students in constructing robust rhetorical arguments and provides a helping hand in finding and citing evidence. Think of it as a GPS for academic writing, ensuring that students navigate the complex and sometimes confusing landscape of scholarly work with confidence.

For teachers, AcaWriter is like having an assistant who ensures that your students' essays are structured logically and backed by solid evidence. It aligns with the principles of academic writing, fostering clarity and coherence. With AcaWriter, students embark on a journey of academic excellence, honing their skills in research, argumentation, and citation. It's not just a tool; it's a companion for the academic voyage, designed for your higher-level learners.

How AcaWriter Fits In:

- Academic Essay Support: As students venture into the world of research papers and academic essays, introduce them to AcaWriter. It's like having an academic writing mentor by their side. It goes far deeper than the others listed above and is perfect for juniors or seniors on the college path who need to hone their rhetorical and research skills.

Website: AcaWriter


In conclusion, these four tech tools—Feedback Fruits, PaperRater, Hemingway Editor, and AcaWriter—are transformative forces in the world of education. They empower students to become better writers, streamline the grading process for teachers, and foster a community of learners who support each other's growth. As we continue to embrace technology in education, let's harness its power to elevate student writing and usher in a new era of communication and critical thinking. After all, a significant aspect of our role as 21st-century educators is to offer our students invaluable guidance in the judicious and beneficial utilization of technological tools--tools and concepts that will follow them into their working careers and the future ahead.

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