Updated: Jan 20, 2019
It's that time of year again - the end of the grading period is near! For secondary teachers, like myself, this means that midterms or finals are around the corner. For elementary teachers, this means that parent conferences are quickly approaching. No matter what grade you teach, this undoubtedly means you will be grading. A lot. #gradeallthethings
Over the years I have used quite a few different systems and tactics to try and expedite grading. I will never forget the following scene - I am 24 years old, in my first year of teaching and living at home with my parents to save money. I sit in the middle of the living room with 20+ piles of various homework assignments, projects, and essays surrounding me, and a loooooong To-Do list on a clipboard in front of me. I am equipped with several highlighters, pens, and Post-It notes, and I dig in. This was how I spent my entire Winter Break...
I wish it was only when I was a brand new teacher that I made the mistake of letting grading go until it piled up and nearly choked me to death, but sadly I've done this time and time again. Sometimes I get distracted by other things that I prioritize higher than grading papers, and sometimes I just plain don't want to do it. (Anyone else??)
Luckily, there are ways to make grading less painful - systems that can be put into place and, when utilized correctly, can even make grading somewhat enjoyable (gasp!) as it will show you student learning in real time.
Here are my TOP 3 TIPS for keeping grading under control in an ELA classroom:
Designate specific days and times for grading so that it becomes part of the routine...
Right now, I grade and record grades in my online grade book on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Students and parents also know to expect grade updates on these days, which keeps me motivated to stick to the schedule.
Grade the PROCESS, not just the final product...
Especially when I am teaching any sort of writing, I make sure to create benchmarks along the way where students MUST pass a certain part of the assignment before they are allowed to move on. As recently as this past week, this meant that some of my 10th grade English students spent FOUR ENTIRE DAYS writing a formulaic thesis statement until I would let them move on to outlining the rest of the essay. FOUR DAYS! But ya know what? I am now familiar with the topic of each and every student's essay, plus I know that at least the main claim will be solid for all of them.
Encourage self-grading and evaluation...
For every piece of formal writing I assign ("formal" meaning revised in some way), I make sure to provide and review the grading rubric during the revision process. When it comes time to revise essays before final submission, my students are required to grade and mark up their own essays using the same rubric I will use when I grade them. Along with their final draft, students turn in all previous drafts along with this marked rubric so that I am able to see what changes they have made along the way. This way there are no surprises and many silly mistakes are caught by students when they look at their own work through my eyes.
As I write this, my students are in the revision and editing phase for literary analysis mini-essays on William Golding's Lord of the Flies. While the dread of a stack of essays still sits in the back of my mind (well, a proverbial "stack," at least, since they will be digital submissions), I know that I have set myself up for quick grading that will really illustrate student learning.
What are your top grading tips from you ELA classroom? Please share in the comments below!!!