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5 Ways to Spend Less Time Grading

time savers Aug 26, 2021

Picture it.  You get home on a Friday afternoon from a long week teaching away in the classroom.  You’re met at the door by your puppy/kitty/kids/significant other/roommate/friend telling you all about the fun weekend ahead of you.  You have a ton of plans to help you disconnect from school, to relax, and to have some great “me time”.  You get started with dinner out and then a cozy movie at home.  Saturday is full of adventure, and you have a fun night out with family and/or friends.  Sunday, you have a lazy morning, you do what you need to do to recharge, you plan your meals for the week, you get some cleaning done, take a bubble bath, then head to bed early, fully ready to tackle next week in the classroom.

Sounds wonderful, right?  Truly though, how often does that EVER happen for a teacher?? Like, never.  That’s why we have to “picture it”...we don’t know what it looks like! *Cue cry laugh* Many of our Sunday afternoons consist of grading and planning...not bubble baths.

That’s all going to change though.  In the teacher world, lesson planning and grading take up an exhaustive amount of our time outside of delivering the lessons.  Last week I gave you tips on how to spend less time lesson planning and today, we are going to talk about how to reduce grading time.  Like lesson planning, you can spend less time grading papers with a few adjustments to your organization and practices.

Here are the top 5 ways to spend less time grading:

1. Keep running records

Your assessments obviously need to assess student knowledge, but you can assess that knowledge through running records instead of collecting all assignments.  Download this running record chart for your classroom.  Make notes about what they are retaining as you collaborate with or observe students.  While you can’t put this into a grade book, it will help you have a better understanding of your students’ retention level and will make grading other assignments easier.

2. Don’t grade everything you give to students

If you’ve assessed all your assignments and they truly are meaningful (do some serious reflection on everything you hand over to your students), then consider taking some just for participation.  Keep a similar record with a scale or participation.  For example, 5=great effort was put forth in completion, 4=good effort was put forth in completion, 3=some effort was put forth in completion, 2=little effort was put forth in completion, 1=incomplete.  This way, students are still getting credit for their work, but you only have to spot-check.

3. Build in time to check for understanding as you go

You don’t have to give grades for everything because you can check as you go.  Schedule specific times in your schedule where you check in with students for a quick assessment.  You can do this during independent work, during silent reading, during centers, or during possible free time.  You can redirect students as necessary so when they do hand in the assignment, you can feel confident that they are on the right path to completion.  This is especially helpful when completing a project, paper, or other long-term project that usually takes longer to grade. 

4. Only grade for your targeted objective

As teachers, it can be hard to let some things go.  For your grading sanity though, only grade for the assignment objective.  For example, if you are grading a paper and your focus was on persuasive techniques, no matter how badly you want to grade for every typo or missed comma and to write a novel about varying sentence structure, don’t.  You can include those things on the rubric, but only as much as you can spot check them.  Spend your time grading for the objective only.

5. Utilize rubrics and template grading

If there are comments you routinely make on student work, consistently and clearly put these on a rubric where you can easily circle and go.  If the feedback needs to be more detailed like reminding of varying sentence types for a writing piece or that your student is identifying a thematic topic instead of a theme, write out this feedback on a template that students can easily access (like in their notebook or Google Classroom).  Then, when grading, just indicate the template response they need to review.  You go from writing a paragraph for each response to a quick reference.

With these time saving grading hacks, you will actually be living the fun weekend life instead of just picturing it!

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