No student enjoys getting a paper returned with a poor grade, especially when they worked hard on it. However disappointing, students can use the experience of earning a less than stellar grade as a learning opportunity to write stronger papers in the future. Here are a few tips.
Read (or reread) the comments in a moment of calm.
Nothing is worse than receiving a poor grade in the final moments of English or History class knowing that you are heading into a math test in five minutes. Take a pause from the paper for a day or two. Then, return to the paper to review the comments, away from school.
Study the teacher comments.
Most teachers write comments in the margins of the paper and at the end of it. Some leave audio comments through apps like Kaizena. Pay close attention to the comments and what they address: thesis statement, topic sentences, evidence, analysis, word choice, etc.
Reference your rubric.
If your teacher provides you with a writing rubric, take time to study it to see where you lost credit. Make sure to think about these challenge areas the next time you are assigned a paper.
Take note of patterns.
Are you making the same grammatical errors continually or forgetting how to cite sources properly? Perhaps it’s time for a quick refresh from your grammar textbook, Grammar Girl or The Purdue OWL. Study the rules, and, if you can’t memorize them, refer to these resources the next time you revise.
Seek out your teacher when you are ready to listen.
Your teacher may be able to give you a deeper explanation as to why you did not perform as well as you could have, but you need to be prepared to listen. For students who learn best by talking and listening, this type of feedback will enhance the written feedback. If it helps, take notes on your conversation.
Go to the Writing Center, now or next time.
Tutors in the writing center can help you understand the teacher comments on past papers and support you on the next writing assignment. Make sure to plan ahead and make an appointment at least a day or two before the next paper’s due date.
Give yourself more time next time.
Perhaps you performed poorly because your paper deadline was hours away and you didn’t have enough time to revise or proofread it. It happens to all of us. Next time, set an artificial deadline for yourself two days ahead of the actual deadline. Let your paper “cool off” and return to it to take care of those important revisions and finishing touches.