Helping students learn is a joy, but requires lots of work. Lesson planning, instructing, collaborating with colleagues, and conferencing with students all comes with the job. And then there’s one of the most important parts — analyzing student work. This last part can cause your workload to pile up so high it will follow you home every night and even creep into your vacations. But don’t panic, there are smart ways to prevent student work from becoming your homework.
Stop grading every single assignment. As a middle school English Language Arts teacher, I give a lot of assignments about everything from vocabulary to essay writing. In just one day, I can accumulate 20 assignments from just four classes. It took me two weekends of non-stop grading for me to realize that putting a percentage or letter grade on every assignment isn’t necessary. Instead, have some of your assignments function as practice exercises. Provide students with a rubric, and allow them to self-assess and make improvements to their work.
Set up a peer-grading system. When it comes to certain essays or written assignments, my students review each other’s work. Based on the rubric, they focus on and assess one aspect of the writing for five minutes at a time. For example, the first round might focus on setting, the second on implied character traits, and the third on evidence of conflict. In just 15 minutes, an entire class set of assignments is graded. As an added bonus, try creating a rubric together with your students. They’ll become more invested in the assignment and the peer-grading afterward will be as seamless as a dream.
Make grading an irresistible student job. One thing I’ve learned about students is they love to work for their teacher. And the most-loved job is grading papers. It’s something about using a colored pen and being in charge that makes them feel like they are on top of the world. They also learn to respect your job once they realize it’s not as easy as they thought. Give this particular classroom job to students who are reliable, objective and accurate, and make sure they’re only grading straightforward assignments, like multiple-choice quizzes or one-paragraph responses.
Find time to grade at work. As a teacher of 15 years, I know the job can feel similar to being a parent in that the work is never done. Every prep or lunch period, there’s always a bulletin board that needs decorating, a parent to call, a new objective to plan for, a grade-level meeting to attend, or even a frustration you just have to vent about to a colleague. But try to dedicate at least half of your time each day to analyzing and assessing student work. Not only can this prevent work from going home with you, but it will allow you to return work back to students in a timely manner.
Students need you to help them learn, and one of the best ways to do that is receiving frequent feedback on their assignments. While they are learning from their mistakes, you can also learn from them, too, and adjust your lessons to meet their needs. As long as you grade strategically, use your resources and your time wisely, you’ll be able to achieve a high level of student work analysis without sacrificing all your free time.
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