January 29, 2013

Overwhelmed by Grading

Even while I was a substitute (while in grad school to get my teaching license), I loathed grading papers. When I became a classroom teacher (after student teaching, when I didn't have as much of a say), the first thing I did was omit reading logs. You can read more about my decision here, but a big reason was because of the time spent grading fake work. 

Years ago, I attended an amazing reading and writing conference by Kelly Gallagher (seriously, he completely changed the way I teach. I can't say enough good things about him. If you can, attend one of his sessions!!!) Something he said that really resonated with me is that students should be creating exponentially more work than I can humanly grade. The learning, he says, is in the doing, not in the earning the grade. And it's better for students to have more practice than for me to worry about trying to keep up with grading their work. Since the conference, I've pretty much adopted this mantra; I try to give my students much more reading and writing experience than I actually grade. I tend to give a lot of completion grades so students earn credit for trying their work. I still read things, but I'm not as worried about giving specific feedback on every single assignment. 

In my current classroom, my students are (mostly) very motivated by grades. With the implementation of my daily centers, I've learned quickly that I have to grade all of their work to hold them accountable. This means, I can have up to 4 assignments per day for my grade book. 

Keeping up with all the paperwork is overwhelming! I'm not complaining about disorganization. My classroom is 100% organized. It's just the number of papers that's making my head spin.

When possible, we grade things in class. BUT... with the number of special education students I have (who, per their IEPs must receive extra time), I'm stuck collecting the same assignment for weeks, if not an entire quarter. I guess that's also part of my frustration; in years past, I was able to set a deadline and give everyone else a zero. I no longer have that luxury.

I swear that tracking missing assignments could be a full time job! I've given every student an assignment tracker, which they've stapled into their file folders. Every time I hand back papers, I remind them to enter their grades on their trackers, and still, on a daily basis, I have students asking me for their grades. For every assignment, I now make a list of students who have not submitted it, and I post it on the wall in the back of my room. As students submit the work, they're supposed to cross off their names... but, of course, this just becomes one more thing for me to manage.

My saving grace has been my early finishers who can help me with some of the grading. The writing assignments still take forever, but at least it frees me up from some of the grammar and reading exercises. If I had more time, I would train even more students in how to enter grades into our online system because it makes a huge difference!

I know I can't be the only teacher out there who feels overwhelmed by grading. Do you have any suggestions for how to make this process easier?

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