How to Grade Efficiently with 10 Tips and Tricks

This week Ellie and Brittany are looking at how to grade efficiently and swiftly. They have a little over ten tips to share with teachers, that will get them away from the pen and back to what matters.

Grading can be a struggle. With long hours, lots of objectives, expectations, and more, grading can wear you down. It is a source of stress for many educators, and creates friction between teachers and parents. Not only that, but when grading gets in the way of family, the situation can become dire.

With these ten grading tips and tricks, plus a few bonus ones, Brittany and Ellie hope to ease teacher struggles and give them back time.



How to Grade Efficiently with 10+ Tips and Tricks


Narrator: [00:00:00] You're listening to The Teaching Toolbox with Brittany and Ellie. Join them as they talk all things middle school.

Ellie: Hello, and welcome to today's episode of the Teaching Toolbox Podcast. I'm Ellie, and I'm here with Brittany.

Brittany: Hello.

Ellie: And today we are going to unlock the secrets of swift and efficient grading, giving educators you more time for what you do best teach. Today we've got about 10 tips and strategies to help you simplify and speed up your grading, so stay tuned.

Brittany: Hey Ellie, did you enjoy grading?

Ellie: There were some things I liked about grading. You know, it was nice to see how students were doing and kind of get some feedback on what I was doing right. [00:01:00] Or not. So there were some positive things about grading, but I did not always enjoy all the time that it took, especially, you know, evenings after the kids went to bed, or taking the papers to my kids' sporting events and grading them in between innings or at halftime or, you know, during warmups and things like that. How about

Brittany: Yes. Actually every summer would miss grading about mid-July.

Ellie: Oh boy.

Brittany: And so I would start to want to go back to school,

which is very sad.

Ellie: No, that's great.

Brittany: But in the long run I did not really enjoy grading. You know, I did like to see the growth and the analytics. I love data,

Ellie: Mm-Hmm.

Brittany: but the, time it takes is so, [00:02:00] is so hard on the family and your hand

Ellie: Mm.

Brittany: So I, I just didn't enjoy that part. And in my early years, I could spend from around eight or 9:00 PM until three or four in the morning grading.

Ellie: my gosh.


Brittany: I wasn't getting a lot of sleep.

Ellie: No, you can't function that And this is one of those things that makes our teacher's jobs so difficult is trying to figure out how to, how to fit in all the grading, how to make the grading go more quickly how to decide what to grade.

Brittany: Exactly.

Ellie: So that's where we've got some good tips today.

Brittany: Yes.

Ellie: What would like to start with?

Brittany: So one thing I like to do is I would try to make assignments or make assessments that had an answer slot on the left hand side [00:03:00] so that kids would take their answer and place it in that answer slot, and then I would just line up my key next to it and just boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, down that side.

And it made it really fast.

Ellie: Mm-Hmm. . Mm-Hmm.

Brittany: You could do it on the right hand side if you're, maybe if you're left-handed, you could do it on the right hand side. Or you just don't want answers mishmash around the page. 'cause it can just, that takes a lot of time just hunting for answers.

And so you just wanna, you want to have all the answers, like in a line, ready to go in a column,

just let it, let the answers flow out and just go

Ellie: right? 'cause you could, if you spent, as you sent, as you said, if you spent 10 or 20 extra seconds searching for an answer. And then you're doing that 10 times on a page times, a couple pages, times however many [00:04:00] kids papers you're grading. That really adds up to a lot of time. And by doing it that way you're saving all of that time. So that's an excellent, excellent plan.

Brittany: Yes. Yeah. , what about you? What's something you would like to do one thing


Ellie: I liked to do, especially if I had multiple pages in an assessment, was do one page at a time. So all of page one, then all of page two, then all of page three for every single student. And that way I kind of me memorize the answers as you're going, you know what they are. And if you're only memorizing, say the 10. Questions on the first page, then doing all of the first page makes it faster. It's, it's kind of like not task switching because you're sticking with one page, one task over and over and over again.

So I did that, and then I'd also do one question at a time. So if it was language arts and [00:05:00] it was a like a short essay answer, or if it was math and it was a Lengthy word problem where they had to explain or they had to show all their work, that kind of thing. I would do all of that question over and over and over again, every single kid's page so that again, it sticks in your brain. You're not switching from one question to another and then trying to remember what your criteria were for each of those things, but instead doing the same one over and over and over again.

And it might have been, you know, maybe more. Times touching a student's paper because you're doing one question at a time, but it was ended up being more efficient for me.

Brittany: Yes, same here. And that works really well anytime we're doing an essay. Or for language arts teachers in general. I would do the same thing in history and geography with essay questions and that sort of thing, because. [00:06:00] You know, there, you can't line up answers. You can't, you know, they're writing in sentences.

So then you do have to hunt for those key points that you're looking for. And then you're also looking for like sentence structure and punctuation and spelling maybe, and you know, grammar, correct grammar and that sort of thing. And so when you're doing all that, you do wanna keep those criteria fresh in your head and so you don't wanna switch and then go back and be like, wait, what was I, did I, did I count spelling in this one?

Did I count? Yeah. And so, yeah, doing all those problems first or at one time makes a lot of sense. Yeah. Yep. Yeah,

I would do the same thing.

Ellie: When I started doing that, that really cut down.

Brittany: Same here.

Ellie: yeah.

Brittany: It was a big help.

Ellie: For sure. Yeah.

Something else I also liked to do was start grading when the students were still finishing up their tests since everybody [00:07:00] finished at different times. If I got 10 papers, you know, then I would start, I would kind of put 'em on my clipboard and walk around the room and as I was walking around and monitoring, I would do some grading on the clipboard just to get a little bit of that done. Before. All the students were finished and that helped. I mean, if I spent 10 or 15 minutes grading while everybody was finishing up, that cut down on my time later in the day, you know, planning time or after school time. So I like to do that.

Brittany: Yeah I, would do that occasionally too, or sometimes I would even kind of like pre grade it. Hmm. I would let kids turn it into me. This is when I taught math. I would let kids turn it into me and I would skimm it real quick. And I would say, you know, you might wanna look over page two again, you have some errors on page two, but I wouldn't tell them what was wrong.

Ellie: Okay.[00:08:00]

Brittany: And so they had to go find it and.

Ellie: Oh, that's great.

Brittany: My daughter in college, her math teacher actually does the same thing.

And so I was interested to find that out

last semester when she took math that she actually does the same thing. So that was kind of, that was kind of interesting that in college she's choosing to do that method as well.

Ellie: Mm-Hmm. yeah.

Brittany: And that kind of helps when when they do finally turn it in, done, done, because then you might have less to grade because maybe they found their errors and now you know more are correct and you have less corrections to make and explanations to write and

Ellie: mm-Hmm.

Brittany: feedback to give and all of that.

Another thing you can do is to not grade every single question. You know, the kids need to practice [00:09:00] more than you need to grade. They need, they need lots and lots of practice on how to do things and how to do lots of different types of problems in all the different subjects. And so when you can . Just pick and choose.

You know, we didn't do so hot on fractions last week, or the kids didn't know their capitals last week or whatever. Then you can just pick out, I'm gonna grade, you know, number three, number six and number 10 off this warmup or, or whatever, and not grade all 10 problems. Then that's gonna save you a lot of time as well.

Ellie: Right. Definitely. Awesome. All right, so those are some great streamlining tips. How about an organizational tip or two, do you have any organizational strategies that you used?

Brittany: I I like to alphabetize my students' papers when I grade,

so [00:10:00] it doesn't, it . It doesn't really help you with the grading process and make that faster, but it does make the recording process faster.

Ellie: Okay.

Brittany: And and then I would actually also have a sheet that I made. It was a little half sheet that. It would have all the students' names on it.

At the very top. It would have the assignment name and the number of points possible it might have, and it would have the date, it would have, like if there was a snow day or absences and that sort of thing down on the side. And then I could put the students' scores next to their name.

Ellie: Okay.

Brittany: so that way I could hand back the papers and just keep that half paper and record it into my grade book or into the computer whenever I wanted to because [00:11:00] I had that little half sheet with me.

And then on the right hand side, next to the student's name, I had a place for notes where I could write, you know, maybe had trouble with division or . Had trouble with the essay problem.

Ellie: Mm-Hmm

Brittany: Doesn't understand how to, uh, the rules of ie.

Ellie: Okay. Okay.

Brittany: So I could put any kinda note I wanted on the side or I gave them an extension for three days, you know, something like that.

Ellie: Mm-Hmm.

Brittany: That little half sheet was just like this. Golden re receipt paper for me where I just, and then I would just keep those all year long in case there was ever a question or anything.

Ellie: That was gonna be my question is like, did you kind of hang onto those so you'd have them at parent-teacher conference time or things like that if you ever needed to go back and refer [00:12:00] to something specific there. So Yeah. yeah.

Brittany: Yeah. Yeah.

Ellie: That's great.

Brittany: What about you? What's an organizational strategy you would use in the classroom for grading?

Ellie: Sometimes just using color by numbers or color by codes kind of thing makes grading really easy. And so you can actually, you can grade the student's answer sheet in a similar way. To what we talked about because there's a specific spot to put each answer. So it's pretty easy to find them that way. Or you can grade the actual pattern and look at their pattern and see if their pattern matches your pattern. Answer key. And that makes it really fast and easy. So you can see, okay, they got, this one was Red instead of purple. What problem was that? And then you can quickly go to that problem and identify what they may have done wrong in that one. So that's really, it's organizational in a way, but it's also using a specific activity to kind of drive that organization.

Brittany: Mm-Hmm. . [00:13:00]


And color by codes can be used in so many different subjects.

Ellie: Mm-Hmm. so, Right, right.

Yeah. I have a couple I had for language arts, for parts of speech and things like that.

Brittany: Yeah. And you've got a lot for math, as do I and

Yeah. History. And I know there's some out there for science, so

Ellie: right. right.

Brittany: Grab a color by code. Yep.

Ellie: Great. So how about grading choices? We talked a little bit earlier about maybe you don't have to grade every single question, but what other grading choices might we be able to make to make grading more efficient, more strategic?

Brittany: So I didn't learn this tip until a few years in

to my teaching career, but not grading every set of papers.

Ellie: Uh oh.

Brittany: As I said, . As I said, the kids need to practice a lot more than you need [00:14:00] to grade,

Ellie: Mm-Hmm.

Brittany: When I was just very stressed out and very overwhelmed with everything going on in the classroom, I had my curriculum director show up at my door and go over to my stack of grading, which was probably about a foot high.

Ellie: No.

Brittany: And she went through and she took like four sets of papers out and just took them away from me, , and tried to explain to me that papers can go in the circular file. IE the trashcan

Ellie: Mm-Hmm.

Brittany: And luckily she just took them away and disappeared with them because if she would've put them in my trash can, being the highly

Functioning type A person that I am, I would've gone and picked them out of the trash can But [00:15:00] you know, that taught me that it, I didn't have to grade everything. The world was not gonna end

Ellie: Mm-Hmm. .

Brittany: if those papers disappeared. And so

Ellie: right.

Brittany: that helped me a lot that day because I, I could see that . I could throw things away and they were still going to get an accurate view of how they performed

Ellie: Yeah,

Brittany: be. Yeah.

Ellie: that reminds me my gosh, maybe my third or fourth year of teaching. I was teaching with my fifth grade teacher and

Brittany: How cute.

Ellie: I. right. I remember. No, I think we're talking about having, okay, well, I have X number of quizzes or this many whatever tests, quizzes, whatever, number of grades and, he said something about once you've got this number, that's really all you need. [00:16:00] It's not gonna change that much no matter how many more you add. It's not gonna change their grade, you know, once you got have this much. And so it's interesting, you know, you could grade a hundred things. And not necessarily get the same, the kind of feedback that you're looking for. You might be able to get the same feedback by having a conversation with a student and just taking one or two assessments and, and, just having a conversation about like, what did you do here?

What were you thinking on this one? What, what do you notice? About this just to get more into their mind instead of what's on their paper.

So, you know, thinking about grading in maybe a little bit different way, and that you don't have to have grade after grade, after grade after grade to understand where a student is.

Brittany: Yes. Yes. I love that. Just maybe slowing down a bit and having [00:17:00] conferences with students

Ellie: Mm-Hmm.

Brittany: instead of just piling more papers on your desk.

Ellie: right? Yeah,

for sure. feel like I.

I always learned more about what my students were thinking by walking around and stopping in and, you know, say, oh, you know, what are you doing here? What are you thinking here?

What? And they're willing to share. They're willing to tell you what they're thinking, and you learn more about them than you would from what they wrote on their paper.

Brittany: Mm-Hmm.

Ellie: I mean, maybe not especially in math, but definitely in math

Brittany: Yeah.

Ellie: can follow the thought process. So we're not gonna grade more and more and more. And we're gonna perhaps limit what we're gonna grade. And then, like you said before, we don't have to grade every single question. You know, depending on what the topic is, you may even give them a brief assignment and say, on this essay, I'm only gonna grade the introduction, or I'm only gonna grade the closing. Or they give you a short paragraph and you're only gonna grade for spelling or for capitalization, or for [00:18:00] sentence structure, or for a sentence hook or, or something like that, that not grading everything.

Brittany: Yeah.

Ellie: every single part of an assignment.

Brittany: Yeah. And you can get like little stamps at like teacher stores or online and stuff that say only graded for.

And then it has different check boxes, or you can fill in a blank that says what you graded for. So if you're worried about parents being upset about what you know, why is there spelling so bad on this paper?

Why didn't you, you know, correct all their spelling.

Ellie: Mm-Hmm.

Brittany: You've got at the top only graded for punctuation or only graded for introduction. You know,

Ellie: Right. that's great. And if you happen to teach multiple subjects, you can take the same assignment potentially and grade it for both subjects, and that way you know, you're looking at the same assignment in two different ways. But by looking at it in two different ways, you're, you're a bit more familiar with what's there. And it could make the [00:19:00] grading process for one subject, like for language arts quicker than it would've been if it was just a brand new essay. So you can kind of cut down on the number of things perhaps by using things in multiple subject areas.

Brittany: Yes. That's a great idea. And we would actually do that. ' cause our history teacher and our language arts teacher were different.

Ellie: Okay.

Brittany: And we would actually just pass the paper from teacher to teacher.

Ellie: Oh, great. Okay.

Brittany: And that actually saved the kids some work too, instead of having to do double work.

Ellie: Mm-Hmm? .

Brittany: that was a great idea. You can also just grade one type of math problem or, or one type of, I kind of mentioned this earlier, like one type of, you know, they just didn't get the fraction problems this week, or they just didn't get the capital problems this week. So just grading those kind of problems on [00:20:00] a warmup or a homework assignment or whatever.

Just looking for those kind of problems. Choose one, two, or three and just check those ones. . So,

Ellie: Right.

Brittany: I did think of another one as we were talking. I would grade orally sometimes,

Ellie: Okay.

Brittany: In history class. I had my students learn their countries and capitals.

Ellie: Okay. Mm-Hmm.

Brittany: And as they worked on their interactive notebooks at their desk we would have a testing week and I would take maybe five or six kids a day and bring them back to my desk and really quietly I would give them a country or a capital and they would have to tell me.

The country or capital that it belonged to.

And so grading orally, you're done right then

Ellie: Right, right.

Brittany: You just have the score [00:21:00] immediately and you're done.

Ellie: Oh, that's fantastic.

Brittany: So that saved a lot of time.

Ellie: That's great.


Brittany: So that's kind of a grading choice as well.

Ellie: Right. That's excellent

Brittany: All right.

So today we've delved into grading with efficiency and precision. We've explored the art of stream lining your grading process, mastering organizational strategies, making effective grading choices. And so this week we'd like you to try taking one of those strategies from the list of 10 plus we gave you and add it to your repertoire.

Let us know if it helps you at Teaching Toolbox Podcast.

Ellie: If you want any more support and grading ideas, you can find some of these ideas in my post about grading. Have a great week.

Brittany: Bye.

Narrator: You just listened to The Teaching Toolbox. Follow them on your favorite platform for more episodes, and share it with a friend.[00:22:00]

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