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Simple Ways to Save Time on Grading

saving time grading student work

Here we are with another guest post, this time from another efficient teacher, Tanya G. Marshall, aka. The Butterfly Teacher.  If you read last week’s post from Jennifer Lewis, you’ll love that this post is another goody based on what Tanya presented at my first online conference, The Efficient Teacher. Read on to find out ways to save your sanity and enjoy teaching again, and stay tuned, because I will be releasing two vodcast YouTube episodes in the coming weeks with even more tips and tricks!

“What tops the list of reasons why teachers QUIT teaching? Take some wild guesses with me:

  • Lack of pay?
  • Student behavior problems?
  • Crazy work hours?

In 2017, the American Federation of Teachers surveyed over 5,000 teachers who gave their top 5 reasons why they quit their teaching jobs. Listed as the second reason was: Overwhelm with testing paperwork and data collection! What does that have to do with this post on grading? Because if you are a teacher reading this, you know all too well the frustration of taking stacks of paperwork home to grade each week. Many teachers spend an additional 10-15 hours every week on grading alone! It’s no wonder that this builds up to an overwhelming frustration that leads to quitting. If you’ve been to my blog, you know from my bio that I began my teaching career just four months after my husband passed away. I was a young widow, a fresh single parent to a 9-month old baby, and a first-year teacher. Saving time on grading wasn’t just a nice idea for me; I HAD to find solutions to this problem. In this post, I am sharing those solutions with you. No matter what you’re grade level or life situation, these tips will allow you to save time on grading too!

Why Grading Matters?

It’s important to establish our reason for taking grades in the first place. Otherwise, we would all be tempted to just throw them out the window!

  • Communication: Grades help us communicate with students and families about student progress.
  • Track Progress: Grades help you to see what teaching methods are working vs. what’s not working to impact student learning.
  • Planning: Grades help us plan our instruction to fit student needs. They drive instruction for your class.

Keeping these reasons in mind prevents teachers from things that are unnecessary and only add more work to our already bulging plates!

1-Save Time on Grading with Tech Tools

Technology has really streamlined grading in my classroom by leaps and bounds! You can shave hours of grading time from your schedule each week with FREE online software and smartphone apps. Here are some of my favorite tech tools that help you save time on grading student work:

  • Plickers–Grab a FREE guide to using Plickers in your classroom HERE
  • Seesaw
  • Google Docs and Google Forms
  • Flubaroo (A FREE Google Chrome Add-On)
  • ZipGrader–I have an entire step-by-step post HERE that shows you how to use ZipGrade
how to save time on grading
how to save time on gradingHere’s a snapshot of a quiz I graded using ZipGrade. For full details on how it works, click the image.

These are just a few of the resources available online that help teachers become more efficient with grading. Some of these tools can be quickly accessed and used right from your smartphone! Which no one leaves home without anymore. I am constantly raving about apps that help me teach more efficiently because technology in the classroom isn’t just for student improvement. Teachers can improve grading routines through technology as well.

2-Spend Less Time Grading by Enlisting Student Participation

Remember those top reasons WHY we grade student work in the first place? The first one is communication with students. What better way to communicate with students about their grades than to train them to be a part of the grading process? Not only are students given more ownership over their work, but you are saving time on having to grade all those assignments yourself. Some ideas on how to enlist student participating in grading are:

  • Using rubrics that students can easily follow and use for self-checking.
  • Peer-editing checklists and partner work for students to check each other’s work.

Of course, these ideas work best with classwork, homework, exit slips, practice work, etc. I do not recommend having students grade their own tests, book reports, or essays.

3-Save Time Grading Tests/ Essays / Book Reports with Adult Help

Don’t be afraid to simply ask for help with grading student work. I underestimated how effective and EASY this is as a teacher. One evening in a small group session at my church, I expressed how stressed I felt by all the work I had to grade. Before I left the building, three people gave me their phone number and said, “I’ll be glad to help out if you have the answer key.” Now I do put a major disclaimer on this tip. I am not suggesting to hand over student papers to complete strangers who have no idea what they’re doing! Nor should you assume that it’s someone else’s “job” to get your students’ papers graded. Let me clarify:

  • If you have a TA (Teacher Assistant) / Parapro that helps in your classroom, organize your workflow so that he or she can take on some grading assignments. I make this super easy by keeping stacks of work request sticky notes that only take a few seconds to complete. I attach these to the papers that need to be graded. My TA has a designated area where I keep papers for her to check.
  • Get an approved, dependable classroom volunteer to help you. Maybe you are allowed to have a Room Mom or Dad, a retired teacher, or some other adult come to help you in the classroom.
Work Request notes for teachers
Work Request notes for teachersThese work request notes help me communicate well with TA’s, classroom volunteers, etc. which saves everyone time! Click the image for more details.

If you are concerned about not being able to “see” how your students are doing on an assignment, just ask your helper to leave the papers in your organized paperwork area so that you can access their progress/ results.

4-An Obvious Way to Save Time on Grading: Grade LESS Work

I am definitely not being sarcastic with this one. If you want to save time on grading student work–stop grading every single thing that your students complete. This is a challenging one for many teachers. We feel like students will not take the work seriously and give quality effort unless it’s for a grade. If students are only motivated to complete something just for the grade, then I encourage you to reflect on ways to increase student engagement and excitement in class. Maybe this will help. Taking up every single classwork and homework assignment, every single exit slip, everything that your students do will definitely lead to overwhelm with grading. If you feel that your principal/school district requires it, then find out for sure what they are expecting and why. It’s unrealistic to grade every single paper and this unspoken expectation is why over 5,000 teachers listed it as one of their top reasons for leaving the classroom.

How Will This Look in My Classroom?

As an upper elementary teacher, I love using learning centers–especially literacy centers. Students complete an activity at each center, several times a week for practice to reinforce skills.Do I grade every single center activity? Nope. Here are the different ways I handle these center activities:

  • Look over them for major gaps or lack of understanding. If a student complete bombs a center activity, I will briefly conference with them when they come to my small group teacher table to find out why.
  • Ask my teaching assistant to grade them. I will often pull one center activity that really targets a specific skill or standard and leave one of these work request notes to have my TA or a classroom volunteer just grade that set.
  • Have students self-check their own papers. I train my students on how to complete the center, then get the answer key to check their own work.

The rest go in my lovely recycling bin! No stacks of papers to take home for grading.

5-Collaborate Effectively with Team Teachers to Save Time on Grading

If you work on a teaching team, you may be able to collaborate with your co-teachers to save time on grading. This also has worked wonders for me as a teacher. In my school, I am one of the 4th Grade Language Arts and Social Studies Teachers. We lesson plan together once a month. Since we were using similar or identical lesson plan activities, we decided to find creative ways to grade work together also. “Group grading” saved each of us SO much time because we were working together to get the job done faster. The bonus part for me was having a trusted colleague to weigh in on grading details and results. Unfortunately, not every teacher has this type of team or co-teaching situation. But even if you have only one teaching friend that is able to collaborate with you, this time-saving grading tip could work well for both of you in the end!

Final Thoughts on Grading:

Grading student work doesn’t have to eat up all your teacher time each week. Choose one recommend tip above at a time to implement and master. Trying to do all of them at once will only add to your feelings of frustration with grading student work. As you build consistent routines, you will experience more efficiency with all required paperwork as a teacher. And remember that you are NOT alone in this! You are doing your best and things will get better. I hope these time-saving tips and tricks help you along the journey!”

The Butterfly Teacher

Saving Time as a Media Specialist

Hi Friends, I hope you enjoyed last month’s guest posts on the theme of gratitude. Some of those have continued to trickle in, and I will be sharing them here. However, today’s post is going to bless your socks off. It comes from my friend and Georgia State Media Specialist of the Year, Jennifer Lewis. She is sharing her best ideas for when you are a solo librarian, but even if you’re not, you will get some great tips here. She previously shared this information in my first online conference, The Efficient Teacher. Enjoy, share, comment, and be sure to follow Jennifer on Twitter.

“Hello! My name is Jennifer Lewis, and I am the media specialist at Indian Knoll Elementary School in Canton, Georgia. Being a librarian is the best job in public education! It’s the perfect combination of literature, technology, and of course, kids.

But being a solo librarian is a huge job! My first few years in the media center, I spent twelve or more hours a day working. I realized that if I didn’t find ways to make the job manageable for me, I would burn out quickly. Today I’m going to share with you a few of the tools I use to help me work smarter, not harder!

The first tool that I use is OneNote. I created a OneNote notebook that I call my Media Center Task List. I created a section for each month of the year. Each section has a list of tasks that I need to complete that month. Some of the items are things that I do every month, like “schedule volunteers.” Some are specific to the month, like “order cardstock for end of the year awards.” As I complete the task, I change the color of the words from black to red to mark it done. Or, if it’s something I decided not to do this year but want to keep it on the list for next year, I change the words to purple.

I also have sections for celebrating the Georgia Children’s Book Award nominees, author visits, and the book fair as well as a list of projects that I would love to get to if I ever have any extra time. I have the OneNote app on my phone and iPad. I love the app because I can go over my to do lists while I’m standing in line at the grocery store or waiting to pick up my kids from baseball practice.

Another tool that I use is my Outlook calendar. My media center operates on a mostly flexible schedule, so I don’t see the same class at the same time each week. When I collaborate with a teacher on a lesson, I create an invite on my Outlook calendar. I include the topic of the lesson and any notes about the lesson in the body of the invite and then send it to the teacher so that it’s on her calendar as well.

There are several features that make Outlook my favorite scheduling tool. In Outlook, I can add a link to a Skype meeting, create a repeating event (like a weekly event for my kindergarten classes or a yearly event for my staff members’ birthdays), and search for events that happened in the past, which is helpful for remembering which lessons I have taught in previous years. I can also give access to my calendar to others at my school. I give full calendar access to my administrators and also to my teachers so that they can see when I am available for lessons. In Outlook, I can also create multiple calendars. I have one calendar where I track lessons and school events. And I have a separate calendar for my volunteers.

A lot of my job is helping teachers and students find the best resources to teach standards or for research projects. In the past, I haven’t had a place to house the resources for students to retrieve easily. Destiny Collections is a new component within Destiny Discover, our library catalog. It allows users to collect resources, such as websites, ebooks, documents, images, and physical resources all in one easy-to-access location! We can use Collections to curate resources for our students that correspond with the standards they are learning. It helps streamline their research time. Instead of spending days just looking for the right resources, I can provide the resources and have my students spend their time reading and learning the content.

The first Collection I made was to support a project designed by our fifth grade ELA teacher. The students were researching two historical figures and writing a comparison/contrast of them. I knew Collections was going to be popular when I went into a classroom to deliver a book a few days after introducing it to the fifth graders and saw students using the Collection I made. After that, I continued to develop Collections each time I collaborated with a teacher. Soon teachers were requesting Collections for each unit of study. Collections has saved me so much time because I can create them so quickly, and the resources included are exactly what my teachers and students need.

Another great time saving tool is Flipgrid. This summer, Flipgrid was acquired by Microsoft and now it’s completely free! Flipgrid is a website or app that allows teachers to create “grids” of short discussion questions that students respond to through recorded videos. Each grid is a little message board where teachers pose a question and their students can post 90 second video responses that appear in a tiled “grid” display. Students can also respond to each other. Each grid generates a link (we post the links in our learning management system).

The students in this picture are responding to a discussion question I posted after a lesson on digital citizenship and website privacy policies. We have also used Flipgrid to have students share the books they are reading. If a book is recommended by a classmate, they are more likely to read the book. It’s a great way to get responses from all students. Even students who would never raise their hand to participate in a class discussion love adding their videos to Flipgrid.

Flipgrid saves me time as a media specialist because I can use it as a quick formative assessment tool to inform instruction. Instead of going through a stack of tickets out the door, I can pull up the grid on my laptop, iPad, or phone to view student responses. Working with the classroom teacher, we decide if an individual student or even the majority of the class need reteaching.

Another tool that my students and I love that is a great timesaver for me is Microsoft Forms. I use Microsoft Forms anytime I need to collect responses. For example, I created a Microsoft form for a mock election during the last presidential election. Occasionally, I like to have a quick way to check for comprehension of the books my students read for book club. We use this data to select our reading bowl team. So I create a ten question quiz for each of the books in Forms. During our meetings, I email a link to the quiz to the students who read the book. Microsoft Forms grades the quiz for me and offers instant feedback.

Participating in the Georgia Children’s Book Award voting is one of my favorite things to do every year. I love how having a shared list of books promotes kids discussing books, arguing over their favorites, and it also leads to kids checking out these books and other books by the same author. I announce our voting day early so that teachers and I have plenty of time to read the books to our students. When voting day arrives, they come to the media center and watch a short slideshow to review all of the choices. Then students go to a voting booth. In years past, tallying the results from hundreds of ballots has taken me forever! So this past year, I created a Microsoft Form set up on a laptop for the students to make their choice. The students love this because many of them have seen their parents vote and our set up is similar to that. After students vote, they head over to a Dr. Seuss-themed photo booth where the classroom teacher takes pictures of the students and uploads them to Seesaw. And the students get an “I voted!” sticker just like mom and dad get when they vote. This is easily one of my favorite days of the school year. And the Microsoft form makes the day easy to manage.



If you have any questions about how I have used these technology tools to become a more efficient media specialist, please contact me! My email address is librarylew@gmail.com. I blog when I can at missliberryteacher.blogspot.com. My Twitter handle is @librarylew and my Instagram user name is @ikesmediacenter.”

Challenge: Gratitude

I hope you’ve been loving this month of posts emphasizing all our reasons to be personally and professionally grateful. This one comes from Kate Kennedy. 

gratitude guest post suzylolley.com

“November is the month of gratitude. We have an entire day dedicated to sitting around a table with friends and family and actually telling each other what we are grateful for. Forget about the food coma that comes afterwards, and the rush to head out to the Best Buy line, that five minutes around the table is one of the best parts of my year and something we should all be doing more than once…”

Read on at https://classjam.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/challenge-gratitude/

Thankful for All the Things

Yes, we’re continuing our month of gratitude and guest posts, but this one has a twist. It was submitted by Rachelle Poth, but she was so full of gratitude, she had her PLN share too. Read what all of them say about gratitude here. 

gratitude guest post suzylolley.com

“I am thankful for every moment.” Al Green

“Every single moment that has occurred in my life so far has led me to where I am today. Some of those moments were filled with love and laughter and some were blanketed in sadness and fear. But each turn taken and road followed has helped to mold me into the person that I have become today and who I will be in the future.  I am thankful for a mother that fought for her daughters to have everything that the world could give them and more. She sacrificed so much for us, and everything we do as educators today is because of her and for her. I am thankful for a dad, who found his way back to us. We are so glad that you did. I am thankful for grandparents and their love and endless amounts of cookies and candy! I am thankful for a sister who is truly my best friend. Thank you for giving me one of my greatest gifts, Nancy and Finn. They crawled right into my heart and filled in the hole that momma left when she passed away. I am so incredibly thankful for them. I am thankful for the love of my love, Tony. Thank you for picking up the phone when I bravely called you in the fall of 1997. Thank you for being my biggest supporter and for loving me for over 20 years. Thank you to my campus family for loving and supporting me in everything that I do. I am so lucky to get to work alongside each of you! Thanks to all of my former students. You truly schooled me on school. I learned all I needed to know from each of you, and I am a better educator and human being because of you.”

Did you enjoy it? There’s more where that came from. Read the rest at this link: https://rdene915.com/

With Tech and Twang,

Going Together

Friends, I was a bad girl and got behind on posting all the gratitude guest posts, but I am so glad to have four more to share, and it’s not Thanksgiving yet!

gratitude guest post suzylolley.com

Today’s post is from DianaLyn Perkins, and she tells us why, although it may not be faster to team up with others, it is better in the long-run.

“This year I began my 10th year as an educator and my first year as a digital learning coach. I have had 3 different positions now all in the same district. As I reflect on the ride, there are so many things I am thankful for.

My first role as an educator was as a special education science teacher. I entered the education world as an alternative certification educator. I had been a physical science TA for 4 years in college, but that was so many years ago. I still remember two days before the kids were to come in sitting in front of my computer wondering what I was going to do with them. Just as the panic was really starting to settle in, my mentor, Sharon Pyburn, came in, walked me off my cliff and helped me plan my first lesson. She was so supportive doing all she could to help me get the resources I needed. She made a difference for me and for my kids. I co-taught with many different educators and gained valuable lessons from each one of them, but Angie Mahalic became not only a great co-teacher but also a valued friend. In addition, when I was going for my Master’s degree she was so open to every idea I brought to her, no matter how challenging or involved it was…”

Want to read more? Check out the rest of the  post at https://eduperks.wordpress.com/2018/11/13/going-together/

Know Your Enemy

The next guest post is here! This next one is from John Honish, a middle school teacher in Wisconsin. Read on.

gratitude guest post suzylolley.com
“As a 23 year old kid fresh out of UW-Stevens Point, I entered a job market relatively high on supply and low on demand for Social Studies teachers. Wisconsin had just passed legislation to cripple the powers of the Teachers Union and it was a time of great uncertainty for the profession in our state. Math and Science were the hotly recruited positions, but I knew the reality was any openings for a Social Studies teacher would mean my resume would be one of hundreds on an administrator’s desk. I took a calculated gamble: risk looking like an unprofessional goofball that was too young and lacked the seriousness for the job by encouraging anyone thinking about hiring me to look at my crappy parody music videos on YouTube.

Somehow, some way, Beloit Turner called and said they wanted me to come down for an interview, and as I sat there rehearsing canned lines in my ill-fitting JCPenney clearance rack suit, an important looking man walked by, stopped, turned to face me and said “you’re General Dan Sickles!” referring to a “mockumentary” I had made for a college assignment that was posted on my YouTube channel (which you can watch here). It was fun to make, but we’re talking about scenes with the stock Windows MovieMaker grainy black and white effect while my roommate threw a basketball at my leg to simulate Civil War cannon fire. It definitely risked making me look like an unprofessional goofball that was too young and lacked the seriousness for the job.

‘Dennis McCarthy! I’m the Superintendent,’ he said as he extended a hand for me to shake. ‘This is either really good, or really bad,’ I thought to myself…”

Want to read more? Click the link here: https://mrhonish.weebly.com/blog/know-your-enemy

With Tech and Twang,

The Fellowship of the Tweet: A Grateful Member

Continuing our guest post tradition, which I hope you’re loving, here’s another one on the gratitude of a great PLN. Our guest author is Carol McLaughlin, from Birmingham, Alabama.

gratitude guest post suzylolley.com

“I’ve always felt a little odd. A lone wolf. I usually don’t mind, but you rarely grow in isolation. You need others to encourage you. To push you. To inspire you.

I had no idea I needed a Twitter PLN. I didn’t even know what a PLN was until 8 years ago around this time actually. I was in the last PD session before we were out for Thanksgiving holidays. To say we were all ready to go was an understatement.

The PD was edcamp style and the last session was entitled, “Building a PLN.” I went to it because the others were all on academics areas and I wanted to learn something totally different.

However, I  had no idea this session was about to change me in so many ways.

I went to the session and was introduced to Twitter. We all joined and I sent out my first tweet. I enjoyed the session but I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue using it. BUT…I was intrigued enough to give it a try.

My mom had recently had knee surgery so we all had to stay the living room most of the holiday since she was still recovering. We all sat around watching holiday movies and I thought it would be a good time to explore Twitter…”

Curious and want to read more? Visit the rest of this post by clicking here http://aneducationalphoenix.edublogs.org/2018/11/04/grateful-for-a-fellowship/

Gratitude & Kindness: Appreciating & Creating a Colossal Dose Of Sunshine One Ripple at a Time

Have you been enjoying our gratitude guest series? I hope you have. Here’s our latest installment, from Mommy Teacher Fashionista:

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the many blessings and opportunities I have had these past couple of months.  As many of you know, I’ve taken on a new endeavor and after teaching kindergarten for 22 years, I am now an extremely grateful brand new second grade teacher. I’m in the same school so some of my students are the wonderful children I had in kindergarten two years ago.

I have an energetic, inquisitive and enthusiastic group of seven and eight year olds in the inner city of Providence, Rhode Island. My second graders are always eager to come to school and love to read, write and problem solve in such thoughtful and creative ways. My students are so appreciative of each other and all we do every day. They are culturally diverse and enjoy sharing their own unique experiences with the class. We learn from each other. My school is working hard to build community among families and staff and we have a safe, respectful environment. I am grateful to be a part of the Harry Kizirian Community. 

Also as many of you know, I have been working hard to create special moments and experiences for my students by creating DonorsChoose projects and have been extremely fortunate to receive help from so many generous people. One that has had an enormous impact on my students is our Kindness Matters project. It involved nine different beautiful books that all carry a rich message of extending kindness towards all and was funded by Jen Corneau on behalf of Mobile Giving Page and Steve Harper, of Austin, Texas. My project goal was to be able to add books to our classroom library that were about kindness, acceptance and making the world a better place. I also wanted to use these books as part of carefully selected activities that would extend the messages within each book…”

Like what you’ve read so far? Finish reading at https://www.mommyteacherfashionista.com/home/2018/10/8/adding-a-colossal-dose-of-sunshine-to-lessons-and-life-one-ripple-at-a-time

With Tech and Twang, 

WHO IS YOUR GUIDE WHEN THINGS ARE TOUGH?

You guessed it! It’s another guest post, this time from Kansas Middle School teacher Josh Stock.

gratitude guest post suzylolley.com

“Every year hundreds of people attempt to climb 29,035 feet to the highest point in the world, the summit of Mt. Everest and every year hundreds of sherpa guides, porters and yaks make sacrifices to get them there. Without their help, most wouldn’t make it to the top alive, and many of them don’t come back. The life of a sherpa and porter comes with great risks. Most climb to provide for their families.

Image result for peak by roland smith

My classes talk about all of this while we read the novel Peak by Roland Smith. At one point in the book the main character, Peak is being filmed for a documentary and the film crew doesn’t want the sherpas, porters and yaks interrupting the shot. Peak yells at the film crew. He explains that without those sherpas, porters and yaks, none of them would be able to climb Mt. Everest. They help carry the needed supplies up the mountain and help guide the climbers when things get tough.

The sherpa guides help lessen the load of the climbers. After we discussed this point in the book, I asked the students: Who are your porters? Who can you not survive without? Who helps carry the burden when things get tough?”

Like what you’ve read? Keep reading at https://mrstockrocks.com/2018/11/07/who-is-your-guide-when-things-are-tough/

With Tech and Twang,