Grading can be a daunting task. Whether you solely use online programs that automate scores and percentages, or manually record points and comments and then transfer over your information to a system, chances are, your grading process takes a lot of time and effort. However, there are ways to make this process easier!
Here are ten of the best tips and tricks for student grading to help lower your stress levels while increasing overall productivity.
This may seem like the most obvious trick, but sometimes grading programs don’t always alphabetize, or, if you’re used to recording by seating chart or some other strategy that’s comfortable for you, your students might be all out of order.
Whether you’re looking through a 5-point quiz or a major essay, having those papers/assignments in order before you begin will keep everything organized, easy to record, and ensure the correct value is attributed to the correct person.
2. Stack by 5’s or 10’s.
Let’s say you’re grading a larger essay, draft, or longer project. Depending on your classroom size (and how many classes you have of this specific subject area!) your stack of things to grade may be giant.
In order to conquer more and make the process less daunting, divide the papers into stacks of 5 or 10 (obviously making sure that they are only for one class at a time, and alphabetized—see #1—for your convenience). This will make you feel accomplished, as well as make the task more manageable overall.
3. Use colorful pens.
Maybe this isn’t a necessary tip/trick, but it’s something I’ve found to be very useful in my grading process. When you use a bright or colored pen (and pen, not marker / Sharpie / dry erase / highlighter / colored pencil etc.) you’re not only making your corrections more readable for your students, but you’re making the process slightly more fun!
Grading isn’t always a great time, but if you can do something as simple as adding color to keep you engaged, it will quicken the task—not to mention help you with color-coding for specific classes, (a great organization tool!).
4. Find a comfortable place.
If you’re planning on grading for a longer period of time, find a place that makes you feel comfortable (but not too sleepy, either!). I’ve found that I work best when I can find a quiet, quaint coffee shop—I love the ambiance, the sounds, and the fact that I’m around people but not necessarily distracted by them or required to socialize with them. I’ve also found that sitting outside, at a park, or outside on the grass helps me too because I enjoying being outdoors! A couch/bed doesn’t really fit with me, though, because I tend to get too tired.
Find a space that works for you and remember that being comfortable is good because it will ultimately make you more productive rather than stifled, frustrated, or cramped in an uninviting area.
5. Take breaks.
I can’t stress this enough—take breaks. Not only is this crucial for your energy and focus, but it will help you to enjoy the grading process rather than dread it, as you know you won’t be sitting in one place doing the same thing for too long.
6. Use a rewards system.
Tying right into the breaks, using a rewards system is a great way to keep you encouraged when your drive lags or your energy falls short. Whether that’s social time, a snack, plans, or even a change of scenery, giving yourself a reward after a certain number of completed assignments can motivate you to finish.
7. Turn off distractions.
There is nothing worse than getting a text or phone call in the middle of grading a long paper, then having to start over from the beginning because your thoughts were interrupted. If you want to make the most of your grading time, turn off or mute your distractions.
That way you can keep your attention and focus on a task for a certain time, get it done, then reward yourself. *Tip: There are apps that can help you with this!
8. Use intervals for multiple assignments.
This is similar to the ‘take breaks’ idea in #5 but here you’re taking a break from a specific item or content rather than stopping overall.
Instead of quitting after grading X amount of essays, finish the X amount of essays and then switch to something else, for example, a short quiz. This will keep you grading for a longer time overall, but still keep your mind engaged by the switching of topics.
9. Create self-imposed deadlines.
Sometimes putting a little pressure on yourself can help you to get things done quicker and more efficiently. Perhaps there’s something you want to do by a certain time? Set an alarm or tell yourself that you must complete a certain amount by that event. This will push you forward.
10. Jot down notes as you go.
As you read through a piece or assignment for the first time, either record your thoughts on a separate piece of paper, or straight on the document. This can be a reference if you go back later, if you start over at the beginning, or if you want to give an overall grade based upon your reactions/thoughts throughout.