How do you come up with a formula for how to grade poetry?
Poetry isn’t like math. I mean, it is like math, in the sense that it involves numbers and patterns. But it’s not like math in that it also involves attributes you can’t really quantify. How do you give a grade on vocabulary choice? On descriptive power? On the ability to challenge a person in their Christian walk?
And yet, as every homeschooling mom teaching a poetry course is well aware, poetry assignments still have to be graded!
A Good and Great Formula for How to Grade Poetry
At SAW Publishing we have a two-fold need for a poetry grading standard. We offer the free 10 Weeks to Good and Great Poetry course, walking high school students through the process of developing poetic talents. Obviously, the homeschooling teachers of those students are benefited by a concrete method for grading the assignments from this course.
SAW Publishing also highlights good and great poetry that is available as a supplement for general English courses. Although we have not provided any standardized analysis of the poems offered in this context, we recognise that some form of grading for these poems could be helpful to our readers.
As those of you who have been with us for a while already know, SAW Publishing is dedicated to promoting good and great literature. In light of this mission, the idea occurred: why not develop a tool for grading poetry based on these two criteria?
The SAW Publishing Poetry Grading Worksheet
Sheep Among Wolves’ new method for grading poetry is based on a 100 point system, in order to make it easy to translate results for either a percentage or a letter-based grade.
50 points are assigned to great qualities (i.e. qualities reflecting literary excellence), and 50 points are assigned to good qualities (i.e. qualities reflecting spiritual excellence). This ratio obviously places significant emphasis on the religious impact of a poem, but we feel that the spiritual side of poetry really is that important. It is not necessary for a poem to be on a directly religious theme in order to receive a high grade—but it is necessary for it to be wise unto that which is good, simple concerning evil, and a help rather than a hinderance to the Christian life (Romans 16:19).
The worksheet contains ten questions (each worth a maximum of 10 points), evaluating key aspects of good and great poetry on a scale of 1 to 10.
How to Use the Poetry Grading Worksheet
The Good and Great Poetry Grading Worksheet is fairly straightforward to use. You will find ten questions (the first five dealing with attributes of literary greatness, the last five covering attributes of spiritual goodness). Each question is followed by a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being very poor and 10 outstandingly excellent.
Each point in this scale transfers directly to a point in the final score.
This grading system can be used for marking student assignments, as well as for evaluating the poetry of published authors. Obviously, a slightly different standard is appropriate in each case. For instance, question four in the worksheet asks how original the ideas embodied in the poem are. In grading a schoolchild’s work, a teacher might fairly feel that their student has grasped an idea that is original considering their age and level of experience, even though it might not be an original thought for an adult with a much wider outlook on life.
With the exception of the first two questions (dealing with rhyme and metre), the worksheet is largely subjective. Obviously, it would be inappropriate to dock the grade on a student’s sincere effort, simply because it does not compare favourably to Cowper or Longfellow.
Grading Poetry Doesn’t Need to be a Nightmare!
Grading arts and literature can be an overwhelming job. Without some kind of system, the teacher is left making stabs in the dark, hoping to come up with a fair and accurate grade, but with absolutely no guide for making that grade consistent from one assignment to another.
SAW Publishing is endeavouring to create a reliable working system for grading poetry from a position of literary and spiritual excellence. We recognize that any new system will need a bit of experiment and fine-tuning, so we are committing to using this worksheet as our poetry evaluation tool for the coming year, and welcoming feedback and suggestions during that time.
You can download the Good and Great Poetry Grading Worksheet below.
Join us next week for a step-by-step walkthrough of the worksheet questions. We hope you will find this a useful tool for effectively grading good and great poetry.
Looking for a source of quality poems for Christian English courses?
- What If My Student Hates Math?
- How to Grade Poetry: Part Two