One of the most important things you do as a teacher is communicating your students’ progress through their grades and specific feedback. There are many ways to let students know how they are doing in your class. You can even simplify things to be more efficient when grading and involve students in the process. Here are five areas to keep it simple when looking over student work and even rethink what it means to grade.
As often as you can, decide ahead of time which things will go in the grade book. If there are one or two standards that are more important than others, opt to put those assignments into the grade book rather than those not connected to the priority standards. Another thing experienced teachers do is limit what they are actually putting in the grade book. Attention new teachers: You don’t have to grade everything, and you shouldn’t! Choose which activities or tasks are most deserving of feedback and go from there. For instance, a multiple choice quiz requires much less explanation than an essay or open-ended question. Get empowered when it comes to your grading! You’re the boss of your classroom!
If you want to increase your productivity and be more efficient with grading, consider using a comment bank. Many grading programs allow you to create your own. You can do this with academic work as well as feedback at the end of the grading period on student behavior and citizenship. You can even find comment banks online and modify them as you need to. Second, using a rubric is a huge time saver. Students will be able to get much more specific feedback by looking at the rubric descriptors, and you can move on to the next thing much faster. If you are a language teacher wanting to grade student writing, we strongly recommend choosing just one aspect of a student’s writing to evaluate. For example, perhaps you decide to grade the students’ content rather than their mechanics or vice versa. Lastly, provide general feedback to the class on what you noticed in terms of growth areas versus strengths. Providing feedback once to the entire group can alleviate unnecessary grading.
Think outside the box when it comes to evaluating student work. There are many apps and websites that will provide instant feedback to students without you lifting a finger. Online quizzes and games can take out the grading altogether, so take advantage of tools like those. In addition, think about using underutilized grade book features to your benefit. Most grading software allows teachers to write comments, type up an assignment description, flag an assignment for review, and mark it as “collected” as well as “incomplete.” All of these are ways of communicating with students about their work in your class. Some teachers will use the “collected” flag or icon to show students that work has been collected but not graded yet. You can avoid parent and student emails about missing assignments if you use tools like this and flag work as “missing.”
Keep It Old School
A classic way to grade is to use the clipboard and checklist method. Walk around the room and tell students, “Today, I am looking for ______.” At the end of the class, you can report back, “Twenty-one students showed proficiency today with ____.” You can even show them individually how they did by covering up all other student names. Give verbal feedback as you walk around and observe. Tell the class what you are noticing and how they can improve. Praise them for the areas they are showing strength. Another modification of the clipboard method is to keep it at your teaching station and check off particular objectives as students meet them. For example, a first-grade teacher might be going over a group of sight words with the whole group and notice two students are having difficulty reading the sight word “the.” She may want to note that by writing down “the” next to those students’ names on the clipboard to revisit it next time and see if they’ve improved.
Involve Your Students
Students want to know how they did faster than ever these days. In our culture of instant gratification, the faster the turn-around on your classwork, the better! Get students involved in the process and kill two birds with one stone. Use the old “trade-trade-grade” and have students swap papers with another, swap again, then grade a multiple choice quiz, for example. When complete, each student will have specific feedback on the correct answer, and you can enter scores into the grade book without having to grade them yourself. Another way to allow students the opportunity to self-evaluate is by having a grading station in your classroom. This method works best for simple things like multiple choice questions or one-word or sentence answers. Print out an answer key ahead of time and place it at the grading station. Teach students how to cover up the answer key when it is not in use and use a pen to correct their work.
We know you will be a grading master in no time when you utilize these five areas of providing feedback to your students. Your students will learn more in a shorter period of time and will know how to improve in their growth areas, as well as how to capitalize on their strengths.