By Andrew Hawk
For a classroom to function properly, the teacher has to have effective systems in place to complete daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks. Long- and short-term lesson planning often get lots of attention. However, the importance of grading should not be understated. Unlike daily instruction, which is usually only observed by students, the scores and comments that go home on projects and assessments may be scrutinized by parents. Also, the data collected on students’ classroom performances is used to make a number of crucial decisions, including the direction of lesson planning, and which students will receive pull-out services or be considered for special education testing. Here are some tips I hope you will find useful in organizing your grading.
Find Your Balance
Most teachers I have worked with assigned a mixture of assignments that were either graded or were only checked for completion. I can still remember a lecture in one of my methods classes in college where the professor told us that we would never have time to grade every classroom assignment. Be that as it may, teachers should have a plan for which activities will be checked for completion and which activities will be graded. What that balance is may be different depending on the subject, grade level, or assignment.
Communicate Grading Procedures to Parents
By sending home a letter explaining your grading procedures at the beginning of the year, you can save yourself from having to address questions from parents later on. Typically, assignments for which the grading is subjective, such as writing prompts or class projects, produce the most conflict with parents. Teachers should be prepared to offer further explanation to parents if and when grades do not meet parents’ expectations.
Do Not Send Home Unmarked Work
Even if you only took a completion grade, put some sort of mark on the paper. Even if the class completed the activity together and you didn’t grade it, put some sort of mark on the paper. Parents often feel that if their student took the time to complete an assignment, the teacher should at least look at it. My advice is to put a check mark on group work and work that is done for a completion grade.
Plan a Specific Time to Do Your Grading
Personally, I do not like to grade student work at home. I find myself distracted by the television, my cell phone, family members, pets, and so on. I grade part of my daily items during my planning period and the rest after school. As with most things, you need to find a time that works for you and stick with it. Making grading a part of your regular routine will help you follow my next tip.
Do Not Let Yourself Fall Behind
This is absolutely pivotal. Never get more than a day or two behind on grading or it becomes very challenging to catch up. I learned this lesson the hard way during my second year of teaching. It was my first year teaching fifth grade, and I was completely overwhelmed. I let myself fall about a week behind on grading, and it took me half a grading period to catch up. Learn from my mistake and stay on top of daily grading.
It’s Okay to Delegate Some Grading
During my senior year of high school, I was a teacher’s assistant for one period a day. The teacher I assisted put me to work in two ways: xeroxing and grading. I did not grade every assignment his students completed, and he never let me grade anything subjective. He gave me items that could be graded with a grading key, such as multiple choice tests. Whether you use a high school helper, college teaching candidate, or paraprofessional, it is fine to delegate your cut-and-dried grading.
Trade and Grade
Having students trade their classroom work and grade it seems to have fallen out of style in some schools. People opposed to this strategy argue against students getting to see their peers’ grades. This is especially true for struggling students. However, I do not think it’s a problem if your administrator is okay with it. It is not too far away from peer editing, which is a popular strategy right now when teaching writing.
Remember Your Grade Book
Time always runs in short supply for teachers. When you are developing your grading system, remember to factor in a time to enter grades into your grade book. I complete my grading and enter the data into the online grade book simultaneously.
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for fourteen years, starting as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He has taught first, second, and fifth grade as a classroom teacher, and for the past three years, has worked as a resource room teacher, providing services for fourth and fifth graders. Working as a special education teacher has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups and exceptionalities. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.
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