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6 of the Best Grading Tips For Teachers 

If you’re like me, grading is one of my least favorite things because it takes SOOOOO long. So how do teachers keep up with grading? Over the years, I have wondered this myself, but I have found different strategies that have helped me grade more effectively and efficiently. So without further ado, here are my top 6 grading tips for teachers and also some suggestions of what not to do. I hope you find some grading tips for teachers that makes a difference for your classroom!

#1 Grading Tip For Teachers: Decide if it actually needs a grade

Grading tips for teachers: A picture of a student working on an assignment with text that reads, "Decide what really needs to be graded."

Out of all the grading tips for teachers, I think this one might be the most important. One of the biggest time savers is deciding what actually needs to be graded in the first place. Does the assignment show you new insight about your students’ understanding? Does it assess a new skill or provide a check in from a previously taught skill? Is it a cumulative assignment? 

Picture of Hawaii subtraction worksheet with student work.
Should this subtraction practice be graded? It depends. Do you already have subtraction grades recorded? Does this show a new understanding of students’ skills? You really only need a few subtraction computation grades. This could just be for practice.

In short, if the assignment is just for practice it doesn’t need to be graded! There is no reason to tediously go over an assignment just to put a star or sticker on the top. So what can you do with practice pages to hold students accountable and make sure they are on the right track? 

  • Only assign parts of the assignment. For example, give students only odd problems to complete or 2 of each type of problem. 
  • Have students self-correct their work. I do this a lot during small group time while students work independently. I put a couple answer keys in manilla folders at the front of the room. As students finish their work, they bring a pen to check their answers against the answer key. They can turn in their page with the number correct at the top. 
  • As an added bonus, by checking their own work, students will develop their own ability to self-assess their understanding of materials.
Picture of addition worksheets with an answer key in a manilla folders for students to check their own work.
If it’s not for a grade, leave out an answer key for students to check their own work. This works great for center work and other independent work like seen here.
  • Randomly go over a few of the problems together as a class. 

What not to do: Have students grade each others’ papers.  Students should not see how other students do on assignments.

#2 Grading Tip For Teachers: Grade as You Go

Picture of student working with students with text that reads, "check student work as you go."

As students are working on assignments and you are circulating around the room assisting students, this is the perfect time to start grading. As you go from student to student, be ready with your pen. If you notice correct answers, mark them right away with a star. If you notice incorrect answers, circle that problem.

Picture of division practice pages with markings to show if the answer is correct or not. A star means that answer is correct while a circle means that answer is incorrect.
As you circulate around the room, check a few questions on a students page like this division practice shown here. A star is a correct answer and a circle is incorrect. When you go back to grade this whole assignment, some of the work has already been done!

While it isn’t likely you will be able to grade an entire assignment as you are working with students, a few questions will already be graded on multiple students’ work when you go to grade that stack of papers. 

Depending on your grading guidelines, you might want to let students know about the markings.. Most likely they will figure it out anyway. Will you allow students to fix wrong answers after they have been marked? Can you give half points for corrected answers after you’ve marked questions incorrect. This provides a good learning opportunity for students and also gives you data about what students need additional prompting or support to answer the questions. 

Depending on the assignment and how I am supporting students, there are times I can also grade entire worksheets while also supporting students. For example, if I am reading math questions to a student, I might be able to grade some questions while he/she is figuring out the computation. 

If you are already looking at students’ work as they complete assignments, you might as well use that time to grade a few problems here and there, too. 

What Not To Do: Even if your whole class is working quietly, I do not suggest sitting at your desk to grade assignments. I think it is vital that teachers circulate the classroom and check in on students. This informal data you can collect as you help students is invaluable to you as the teacher, and your support can help students understand a concept and better complete a task. As tempting as it is, don’t take away your students’ time with you to complete your grading.

#3 Grading Tip For Teachers: Use Rubrics

A picture of a rubric with different weight  for each category. The text says, use rubrics to grade."
Each column is weighted at certain percentages. The lowest score a student can receive is a 50% in the above example.

Rubrics can be such a helpful tool for both teachers and students. When rubrics are designed specifically around an assignment (or type of assignment) I find that I can grade quicker. This is especially true for writing assignments or larger projects. 

When I design a rubric. I try to list the criteria in the order that they will most likely appear as I grade. This means that as I go through the assignment, I can mark the rubric as I go. For example, for a writing assignment. I include the topic sentence as the first part of my rubric. 

One of my favorite tips about rubrics is that the lowest rating on a rubric does not need to be 0. I usually weigh each of my columns so that students don’t automatically receive a failing grade for missing one or two parts of the assignment.

What this means is that for writing a topic sentence there are 3 options for me to mark: not yet, still developing, or developed. Instead of assigning the 3 columns a points score of 0,1, and 2, I first decide what percentages I want each column to be. You might consider selecting the lowest score to be a 50%, the mid score a 70% and the highest score a 100%. Therefore, on the rubric, for the topic sentence, students will receive a 1, 1.4, or a 2. 

You can also provide more or less points for each row of your scale. For example, I usually put the least emphasis on spelling and conventions in students’ writing and more emphasis on their ability to use text evidence to justify their answers. It is possible that the top score for justification might be 4 points while the top score for conventions is only 1 or 2 points. I figure out the remaining scores by using the given percentages. 

As the school year goes by, feel free to adjust the percentages of your rubrics. Maybe at the beginning of the year, the lowest possible score was a 50% but once students have had additional practice you change the lowest possible score to a 40%. Either way, mathematically, it is easier to improve from a 50% than from a 0. 

What Not to Do: Don’t hold on to rubrics without sharing the information with your students. In fact, it is best to show students the rubric ahead of time so they understand expectations. By handing back the assignment with a rubric, students can see exactly where they need to focus to improve.

#4 Grading Tip For Teachers: Set Aside Grading Time

Picture of a blackboard with an A+ listed on it and a yellow clock with the text that reads, "Set aside grading time."
Including grading into your schedule can make sure that you have time to complete the task and helps you stay on top of grading.

I find that scheduling time into my day as grading time has helped me stay on top of grades. I look at my plan times throughout the week and pick parts of different plan times when I only grade. I try my best to only use these predetermined times for gradings. 

I will also bring home papers a few nights a week for grading. This can vary from week to week based on what assignments look like. I do make sure not to plan to grade every day. I think having a plan ahead of time helps hold me accountable for getting grades done. 

What Not to Do: Don’t skip the times you set aside for grading. When papers pile up it gets harder and harder to manage.

#5 Grading Tip For Teachers: Use an Answer Key!

Picture of an assignment with an answer key present for quick and easy grading with text that reads, "use an answer key."

I know this one seems obvious, but there have been so many times when I didn’t use a key. I figured, of course I can do third grade work, I didn’t need a key. However, a key is helpful because it requires less thinking as you grade. 

Depending on where your assignments come from it is likely an answer key has already been provided. I like to copy and print it and file it along with my assignment so it is easy to find in the future. 

You can also write how many points each question is worth and clearly mark the total amount of points the assignment is worth. This is great for the following year because some of the initial “thinking work” before grading has already been completed.

What not to do: Try not to misplace your answer key so you need to rewrite it or relocate it each year. Also, be sure not to accidentally copy it on the back of student work! I have been guilty of this a few times…

#6 Grading Tip For Teachers: Use One Assignment for Multiple Grades

Picture of students working in a notebook with the text that reads, "use one assignment for multiple grades."

One assignment can often be used for multiple grades across different subject areas. Let’s think about a science test for example. The overall test would count for a science grade. You could also look at the vocabulary section and consider putting that as an ELA grade for knowing content specific vocabulary. If there is a written response portion, you can grade those areas twice. Once for science content, and once for overall writing structure. You could even take another look at the writing through the lens of conventions and spelling. 

While each of these additional grades will need a separate rubric or recording place and it can take a little bit of extra time to reassess an assignment for multiple grades, I have found that this still takes less time than assessing 2 or 3 different assignments. I can fill out the rubrics or recording sheet for more than one grade as I go. 

What Not To Do: Do not just take an assignment’s grade and copy and paste the grade into multiple places without accounting for the differences in the subject area. For example, just because a student had a poorly written paragraph doesn’t mean that the student didn’t understand a science topic. It is important to tease out the aspects that we are assessing.

What are your favorite grading tips for teachers?

I wish grading was like magic, but regardless of all the grading tips for teachers, there will always be time and energy put into grades. However, through grading, we are able to offer meaningful feedback to our students, track student growth, and get to know students in different ways. While it does take time, I hope these tips can help it take a little less. 

I would love to hear about your favorite tip! Send me a message on Instagram at Llama with Class or leave a comment here.

Make Every Teaching Moment Count,

Signature that says, "Love, Julie from Llama with Class"
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