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 I blog when I can at My Twitter handle is @librarylew and my Instagram user name is @ikesmediacenter.”

10 Teacher Timesavers to Help You Become a More Efficient Teacher Today

In last week’s Facebook Live session, I shared ten ways you might be an inefficient teacher. If you missed that session, watch it here, and remember that you can tune in live each week at 8 PM EST to get even more valuable tips for use technology in your classroom.

Now that you’ve gone back and watched the video (you did, right?), you might feel like you have a problem (or ten of them) but no solution. That was exactly the point. I wanted us to spend time together focusing on your pain points (and mine) as a teacher. Teaching, by nature, is inefficient. That’s because we’re not dealing with machines. We’re dealing with people, and those student-people are usually not mature yet, so the very process of managing a classroom where they are the focus is going to be messy.

It may feel hopeless to you that you will ever spend less time and get more done in your classroom. But you can! In this week’s episode and post, I’m going to share ten solutions to last week’s problems, so here they are:

10 Teacher Timesavers to Help You Become a More Efficient Teacher Today

Problem #1: Too Many Tools

You might have one for grading, one for delivering content, one for student blogging, and one for assessing.

Solution: Though they’re all cool, I’m sure, your life could be simpler if you had one program that hosted content for, delivered content to, and received work from your students. We call such a program an LMS. If you are just getting into LMS world, let me recommend Edmodo. It has a Facebook-like look and has a free version you can use with your students. However, if you want a more robust and even system-wide solution, Canvas is the best program out there. It looks clean, functions well, and I can say with certainty, it will handle just about any classroom task you can throw at it.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Yolanda Payton’s session includes Canvas and will show you how simple it is to drive instruction through an LMS.

Problems #2 and 3: Lack of Purpose, Priorities, and Balance

You spend plenty of time at work, but you wake up out of a stupor at your desk after several unpurposeful hours and haven’t accomplished anything, OR you might be a rockstar at work, but you scream at or neglect your family at home.

Solutions: An efficient teacher knows how to manage her time and balance her life well; she can’t be made just by a certain tool or set of tools. You could be the most efficient teacher in the world and still waste the time that you gained back. Scheduling and prioritizing have to be goals each day. One of my favorite virtual mentors for the prioritized schedule is Angela Watson, and you can read an article she shares on the topic here.

But you don’t have to take my word for it, or even Angela’s… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here.  Kelsea Studebaker’s session will show you the top characteristics of an efficient teacher. If you can become more efficient, you can get your life back!

Problems #4 and 5: The Paper Nightmare and Your Messy Desk

If you’ve heard any of my Facebook Live videos, you’ve heard me talk about how my desk was always a mound of papers waiting to be taken home in a rolling crate and (possibly) graded.

Solutions: Use paperless or less-paper solutions like OneNote Class Notebook to deliver work straight to your students and receive no papers back! Kids don’t even have to remember to put their names on their papers or bring pencils to class. There’s no more messy desk for you, and the students have clean desks too!

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Tammy Dunbar’s session to find out how you can even be more efficient by using OneNote from your phone. Grade and deliver work from anywhere!

Problem #6: Inefficient Hallpass Systems

if you’re like me, you’re always looking around for a scrap sheet of paper or a kid’s often-lost agenda in order to write a hallway pass. Then, when the kid goes somewhere, you forget where he went or how long he’s been gone.

Solve that problem for good! Use a Google or Microsoft Form accessible with a QR code right by your door, and kids can scan to sign out on the way out the door. To combat the additional problem of kids staying gone forever and you forgetting, place a kitchen timer hung with command strips right beside the QR code. Kids push start when they leave, and have it set to beep after five minutes, so that you can track down kids who might be “lost” on the way back.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Missi Love’s session and find out even more tricks you can do with free Google tools.

Problem #7: Struggling to Enforce the Rules

Imagine this: Your class is a zoo. The kids don’t seem to know how to line up, their papers are everywhere, and they are rude every time you have a sub. Maybe you don’t have to imagine very hard, because you are picturing your very own class.

Solution: An efficient teacher makes rules and sets of classroom systems from the very beginning of the year. The more the kids are taught to follow a routine, the more efficient they are in it and the less you pull your hair out. Baldness would be very inefficient 🙂

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Ashley Millar as she shares plenty of tips on efficient behavior management in her session.

Problem #8: Poor Parent Communication

I don’t know about you, but in my classroom, I toggled among many forms of parent communication. From website to those carbon message books you use in offices to paper agendas to emails, it was always a struggle to keep up how I was communicating and how often.

Solution: Use one system to communicate. My favorite is Remind, but maybe you’d prefer to check out Bloomz, recommended by Vicki Davis. Whatever you choose, make it simple for you and the parents. Use one system that allows for two-way communication, and use it all the time.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch

Problem #9: Assigning Student Supplies

Maybe you’re a math teacher, and students borrow a calculator from you every day. The problem is, you never know who took which one, who pried the keys off, and who walked out the door with that expensive pocket computer. Or you’re a teacher with laptops, books, crayons, or anything else kids use regularly. You don’t have a system for signing items out and checking their condition upon return.

Solution: I love the number system for so many reasons and used it often in my class, including when I assigned supplies to kids. Check out this post for more information.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Tanya Marshall’s session and learn several time-saving systems to stay organized, whether online or off.

And finally, this #10 item is keeping you from being efficient, and it’s the elephant in the room: Slow and Stressful Grading

The problem: I think you know it. It’s why you avoid grading (if you’re like me) in favor of any other activity. It’s grading where you learn just how little of what you taught the kids retained and where you just can’t seem to go quickly, no matter how hard you try.

Solution: Embrace digital and manual systems that will let your students evaluate themselves and each other, or allow tech tools to do the grading work for you. Here are a couple posts chock-full of information to help you with either of these concerns:

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Meredith Dobbs wow you with her ideas for using audit-style grading to give good feedback while saving time.


Well, there you have the them, the 10 teacher timesavers to help you become a more efficient teacher today. But what if ten aren’t enough? What if you need 100 more, from all different subject areas? The Efficient Teacher Conference was created with you in mind. I knew what stressed me out as a teacher, and I painstakingly sought out teachers who could give real-life, effective advice to help you become more efficient in the classroom. Won’t you grab your free ticket today? 

With Tech and Twang,



Tech Tuesday #20: Putting Differentiation on Auto-Pilot

Did you ever read a choose-your-own-adventure book? If so, you know that the reader controlled what happened in the story. Differentiation should be the same way. Students who need help should get it, and those who have mastered content should be able to move on. Further, it should not be labor-intensive for teachers to set up such differentiation and try to keep up with which student is on what track. Today, let’s explore innovative uses of OneNote, Microsoft Forms, and Canvas LMS, three tools with features that make differentiation easier and even automatic.

In OneNote, we will:

  • explore the individual and groups distribution features
  • see how you can reward students with badges using those features

In Forms, we will:

  • turn on the branching feature
  • try a sample branched activity

In Canvas, we will:

  • create a module
  • turn on the Mastery Paths feature

Intrigued? Watch the video embedded below, taken from my Tuesday weekly Facebook Live session at 8PM EST, where I discuss all the features in detail and show them in action. Like the page now so you never miss another video!

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Automate Your Life by Connecting Favorite Online Tools with IFTTT

I am just slightly hyper, as anyone who knows me can attest. However, I still need help. I can’t possibly get everything I want to do done in the day, and I’m sure you’re the same way, right? Enter a really cool product called, “If This, Then That,” or IFTTT for short. IFTTT provides a way to have two tools in your online life talk to each other and allow automation you never thought possible. For example, your Twitter account can send photos to Facebook, or Facebook can send tagged photos of you to your Google Photos account. Cool, right?
Watch this video to see how other IFTTT applets just could be work-life changing.

Create Recipe Lists and Auto-Populated Emails with Office Quick Parts

I don’t know if I hate it or love it more when I find the product I’ve been using for years has hidden secrets I knew nothing about. I think I love it. I owe this tip to the illustrious Susan Dreschel, who was my unintentional mentor for my first three years as an Instructional Technology Specialist. She has now retired and left me alone, but that’s a subject for another day 🙂

Anyway, just such a hidden treasure exists in both Outlook and Microsoft Word, and it’s called Quick Parts. Did you know that you could have both of those programs save text that you frequently use and spit it back out at your command? Did you know that you could send fully-formed emails with just a click of a button? Or that you could generate your recipes and related shopping list with just a couple clicks as well?

Not only will the tip I’m about to show you save you time, but I also love when the process of giving you the tip is quick. Check out this post on creating your own embed codes if you like quick-to-receive tips.

But now on with the show…if you’re intrigued about Quick Parts, watch the video to learn how to use them.

Favorite Chrome Extensions for Teacher Productivity

People have all different kinds of favorites. Some have favorite shoe brands or favorite jeans or favorite stores. You know I’m a technology nerd, because I have favorite… browsers 🙂 if you’ve been a teacher for a long time, you might have been totally addicted to Internet Explorer for years. The problem is that it hasn’t been updated in at least four years. Even Microsoft, who created the browser, has changed over to Edge. I’m getting my feet wet with Edge and there’s a lot to like about it that I can show on another day, but Chrome is still my favorite.

One reason I love the Google Chrome browser is that it’s customizable. Not only do you  have a great modern browser, but you can also tweak it to make it enhance functions that you do on a daily basis. I thought it might be worth our while for me to show you some of my favorite Chrome extensions, how to find them, and how to make sure that your extensions travel with you from machine to machine.

The extensions I love and share in the video are:

  • Colorzilla
  • Crafty Text
  • OneTab
  • The QR Code Extension
  • Bitmoji
  • Emoji for Google Chrome

Ready to get started? Watch the video below. P.S. The quality of this video is terrible–I was trying something new and it was a fail:( However, the info is good…my apologies.