Tips for Faster Grading

Put up your hand if you love nothing more than spending your Sunday afternoon grading a pile of student papers. 

What? No takers?

Of course not. As much as we know the importance of assessment in the learning process, we all want to spend less time doing it, right? So, in the hopes of helping you all out with that grading beast, we thought we'd compile some of our best tips.

As a first-year teacher, I spent tons of time writing meticulous notes on each student’s paper. I didn’t mark all of the grammar errors - I’d definitely learned not to waste my time on that! - but I did make tons of suggestions for improvement. Then, when I handed the papers back to students, they immediately stuffed them in their backpacks without a second glance. Sigh.

You can make your comments digestible by sticking to two positive notes and one focus for improvement. (That good ol’ “compliment sandwich”!) Write these notes directly on the rubric. You’ll have to focus your commentary, which means less time writing for you and fewer notes to overwhelm your students. And, since all of your students will receive three comments, there’s no dreading tons of ‘red ink’ all over the paper! Read more about how I use rubrics to make grading more efficient. -
My greatest tools for faster grading are checklists and highlighters. First, I do not grade everything. I decide on my focus areas and then I create a checklist that has all of the comments I would usually make on that type of assignment. That way, I can just put a checkmark beside what I want to say, rather than writing or typing it all out. Then, I will choose a couple of places to highlight to show students what they did well and what they could improve upon.

Another thing I've added to my grading toolkit is that I ask the students to highlight where they have met certain criteria. So, if we were working on embedding and citing quotes, they will highlight where they did it well. If I wanted them to use multiple techniques to develop an idea, they would highlight each technique in a different colour. That way, I can quickly find what I'm looking for, plus it puts more responsibility in the students' hands. You can read more about how I use highlighters for grading on this post and get more tips for grading faster on this one.
When I first started teaching, I would leave school with a bag full of papers to grade that haunted my weekends. I spent entirely too much time outside of school hours grading papers, and the grading often wasn’t efficient because it felt like such an imposition on my free time. My tip is to set up the systems in place to do as much of the marking at school as you can. When you are marking “on the clock,” it’s often far more efficient as you are in work mode. Although bringing marking home may not be something you can avoid altogether, you can make it far less by doing the following:
1.  Plan out your major assessments strategically so that due dates line up with a less busy times in your schedule (if you run the drama club, for example, don’t make major assessments due when the school play is happening).
2. Make major assessments for your classes due at different times.  It’s far easier to mark 25 papers than it is 90.
3. Avoid the interruptions from chatty co-workers. You are more likely to be interrupted before school or after school, so use your prep period (or part of it) to grade instead, but find a place where you can hide so no one will interrupt.
4. If you have your students read silently each day for a few minutes, consider changing that up and giving them a good chunk of time each week to do it and use that time to grade.
~Presto Plans
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that not everything needs to be graded. Yes, I admit, it’s easier to motivate students if they know they are getting graded for an assignment. However, there’s no reason not to give completion grades for assignments that are practicing skills. I do not “grade” journal entries, bell ringers/exit slips, silent reading, rough drafts, or even homework assignments. For those, students get a completion grade: as long as they completed it, they earn the maximum number of points. It’s much easier to skim those assignments to make sure they are grasping the concepts. Then I have much more time to put into grading their assessments: quizzes, tests, and final drafts of essays. Students learn quickly that if they put little effort into the completion assignments, it will show in their assessment score. I make the assessments worth a lot more points, so they learn this early in the year. That helps with motivating them to put forth effort in the daily work.
~Tracee Orman

Whenever I grade larger writing assignments, I don’t spend excessive time copyediting my students’ work. Instead, I only focus on a few writing elements to assess. Further-more, when I grade, I keep a notebook handy. Over the several days that it takes me to comb through dozens of essays, I keep notes about common writing mistakes and weaknesses that I found. When I pass back their work, we review these in a quick reflection mini-unit. When it’s time to grade the next major writing assignment, I’ll use the elements from our writing reflection as my areas of focus. This not only helps cut down my grading time by eliminating excessive marks on student papers, but it also helps drive my instruction.
~The Daring English Teacher

As English teachers, it is easy to get buried under endless piles of marking. One strategy I use is to have students work with a portfolio (I use folders in my classroom). They can work on several pieces of writing, edit, do peer editing, and then submit the work that they feel best represents their skills or learning. This way, I am not marking everything they are working on, and students appreciate that they have some choice in the work that I assess.
~Addie Williams

Yes! There is such a thing. I discovered this grading stamp a little over a year ago and it has saved my life in so many ways. While I personally use a rubric for the final assessment piece, the stamp is perfect when making quick edits to papers and I also use this for peer editing. Just type in "essay grading stamp" on eBay and you will see a bunch of different options come up! 
 ~The Classroom Sparrow
So there you have it. All of us have found ways to lessen our load and to make the process more efficient. Hopefully you've found something to make your grading process more manageable.

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