Ask any teacher and they will most likely admit that grading papers can be dreaded chore. Many take assignments home to grade on their own time because there just isn’t enough time in the day to tackle instruction, centers, and grading. However, there are several strategies for spending less time grading work.
Design Assignments for Less Work
Designing assignments so there is less to grade can take a little pre-planning to ensure that students are still producing the desired work to demonstrate mastery of the skills. For instance, if essay structure is important, you might ask students to underline their topic sentence of each paragraph in one color and each supporting detail or key vocabulary in a different color. For math assignments, students may be able to demonstrate mastery by working fewer problems, and then later give extra practice for only those who need it. Fill-in-the-blank study guides can be easier to grade than short answer, so teachers can design the task to use short answer questions for a few key details.
Utilize Online Testing Platforms
Teachers can easily take advantage of a multitude of free online testing platforms such as Quizizz, Socrative, Google Forms, Kahoot, etc. These allow teachers to create the test and even individualize some tests for differentiation. Then students can take the test, which is graded instantly. Many of these sights allow teachers to create multiple choice, short answer, and true/false questions. The computer program then grades the activity, producing a quick grade. In some platforms, teachers can even see reports to identify commonly missed questions and class averages.
Grade Using a Rubric or Checklist
Writing is an important component in any subject; however, it is one of the most tedious assignments to grade. One strategy to spend less time grading writing assignments is to use a rubric. The teacher makes and shares the rubric (or the class may make it together to enhance the ownership of the task). Similar to a rubric, a checklist could be provided to let students know upfront what will be the primary focus of the grade.
For younger students, the checklist may include items such as: indents each paragraph, uses compete sentences, starts each sentence with a capital letter, and ends each sentence with punctuation. Checklists and rubrics can easily be adjusted for the age and ability of the child. It allows the one grading to stay focused on what are the key components and reduces the need to write in multiple critiquing comments throughout the paper.
Check Assignments as a Re-teaching Strategy
Most assignments are provided to help students learn the material or standard. Likewise, many students learn when they acknowledge their mistakes and are able to correct them. Teachers can use this strategy to their advantage by having each child grade and correct their own work as it is reviewed in class. When students know they are expected to correct their mistakes, the teacher can then spot check each assignment and give a completion grade. This also allows teachers to spend more time grading tests, but not be hindered by grading multiple assignments leading up to the assessment.
Use Technology to Spend Less Time Grading
As more assignments are completed and turned in online, teachers need a quick way to grade these uploaded assignments. Technology such as the Apple Pencil is making this an easier task for teachers. The pencil or similar stylus can be used to leave marks and grades on assignments turned in virtually. This greatly reduces the amount of time to grade an assignment as teachers are not having to download, print, and then upload the assignments to give them back to the students.
Allow Students to Turn in Group Work
Another strategy for spending less time grading work is to have less work turned in. When students complete assignments in cooperative groups, they may turn in one assignment rather than multiple individual assignments. Ideas for cooperative group assignments include using the Jigsaw Method, creating a group presentation, or completing a study guide or task with a partner. The key to using cooperative groups is making sure each child understands their responsibility and engages in the activity.
Check as Students Work
Some teachers prefer to grade as students work. They may walk around the room, conferencing with students as they work and placing a check next to their reviewed work. This allows the teacher to check for understanding and talk about any misconceptions before students complete the entire assignment incorrectly. This can also be accomplished in a whole group setting with students writing answers on a whiteboard and then sharing so the teacher can quickly see who needs more practice. If needed, the teacher could choose to give a participation grade or simply grade the final assessment later to record.
No matter what strategy is chosen to help the teacher spend less time grading work, it is important to know the intent behind the assignment and let that guide the task. Make sure your assignments are meaningful and allow the student to show mastery of the skill while deepening their understanding without becoming a collection of useless busywork you will have to grade later. A little preplanning can help the teacher choose the best strategy to help students learn while preventing grading fatigue!