We all want to save time grading. But is it possible to give assignments that not only help your students learn more, but reduce the time it takes to grade them? Yes it is!
I often feel overwhelmed by piles of student work. While I use Google Forms for quick and frequent formative assessment, multiple choice does not show the depth of student knowledge (or misconceptions) that you need to know in order to help your students.
Giving assignments that require reflection and critical thinking are crucial for student understanding and growth. The only trouble is grading those assignments! They are so time consuming!
But they don’t all have to be. Here are a few quick tweaks you can make to assignments you already have that will lead to both greater learning and save time grading!
I love labs. As a High School Biology teacher, labs are my favorite go-to for applying whatever topic we are learning.
The lab activities are so fun and engaging. Students love really getting their hands into Science subjects. Written lab reports, or lab reflection questions, are an excellent way to get students thinking about these concepts and making connections.
But all the buzz and excitement ends on the day it’s due…and your students turn in their labs…and there they sit in a pile on your desk. The pile is so thick that a large alligator clip wont even hold them!
Or maybe you teach English and this is a pile of Essays. Or History teachers, a pile of DBQs. Whatever your subject, you likely have one of these stacks of needs-to-be-graded on your desk right now.
How many hours will it take you to grade them? It seems like forever (days? weeks??) before you finally finish and hand them back.
By then, your students are long past this subject, and many are past caring about what they got wrong. All those notes you wrote on their papers – will they even read them?
Save Time Grading
Maybe it is just me, but after hours of grading I am almost to the point where I never want to do another lab!
Of course, this would be a huge disservice to my students. So I have found a better way, or rather, a few better ways, that not only require less time grading, but lead to greater learning (and more enjoyment) for students.
The best part is, you do not have to invent a whole new assignment. With just a few tweaks today, you can start using these ideas in your classroom tomorrow.
I will outline them in order from least change to most change.
Save time Grading: Grade Digitally
Have your students turn their work in digitally. You can use Google Classroom, or have them submit their work through a Google Form.
Then grade their papers digitally. Pull up their work in a Google Doc and use the ‘comment’ feature to give them feedback.
It is easy to do! Simply highlight the section you want to comment on, and you will see an icon pop up on the right side that looks like a call-out box.
Typing is faster than writing. But even better – copy and paste!
I find that I write the same feedback over and over. Either “this is great! well done!” or comments about the same misconception on many papers.
Save time by typing the comment once, and paste it into every paper that needs the comment! I usually open a blank document to make a list of frequently used comments so I can grab the ones I need quickly.
Time saved! And greater learning? Yes! Because you can grade the papers faster and get students their feedback sooner, while they are still in the process of learning about this subject.
Want to save even more time?
Save Time Grading using Student Voice and Video
What if instead of sitting down and reading a pile of papers (or digital files) you could listen to your students’ work?
This year I had a super-packed work schedule, including three preps, and one of those was AP Biology which I have only taught once, and that was two years ago. I am part of a few committees for the fist time, and a Mentor to a first-year teacher.
Plus, during any free time I enjoy blogging here on TeachEveryDay.com and adding products to my TeacherPayTeacher store Science Of Curiosity.
Did I mention I am also wife and mother of two? Whew!
So when faced with the first big lab of the year I was willing to try something new in order to spend less time grading. I just couldn’t face that pile of papers on my desk!
I went to my favorite and most versatile technology tool – Padlet. There are so many amazing applications of Padlet in the classroom, and it is so easy to start using!
For the first lab I did not even change the assignment. I handed out the lab instructions just like the year before, complete with reflection questions.
But I told students that instead of writing, they were to create a Padlet and do an audio recording of their answers! To make it even better, students took pictures of their lab results. They were also required to make a graph, which they did on paper, and then took a picture of it!
All of this can be done right within Padlet – ether on a phone, iPad, or laptop with built in camera and microphone.
NOTE – The audio feature does not work on phones. A good work-around is to have students video-record in Padlet if they are using phones.
When students make a Padlet, have them use the Shelf option. This puts their posts in order, which is easier to grade.
Show them how to change the settings so that you can add comments to their posts when you grade it.
Click the ‘SHARE’ button at the top right, then click where it says “THOSE WITH ACCESS” and select “CAN MODERATE.” This will let you make comments on student work!
You can even audio record your comments to them – they will love to hear your voice give them feedback right on their own Padlet- talk about personalized instruction!
To find the AUDIO-RECORD feature, click the three little dots that appear when you add a post. A menu will come up which allows students to take a picture, make a video, record audio, and even draw a picture!
There are lots of other features too – let us know in the comments what other ways you found to use Padlet!
Have students submit the SHARE link of their Padlet to a Google Form.
Check out this post and learn how to easily make a Google Form to submit student work. This way you have all of their Padlets in one place, rather than getting a ton of emailed links and having to keep up with them!
To get the share link, click the ‘SHARE’ button at the top right corner of Padlet. Then click ‘SHARE/EXPORT/EMBED’ at the top right of the menu.
Finally, click where it says ‘COPY LINK TO THIS PADLET’.
This method can work the same way for any written assignment that contains open ended questions. For English papers, consider having students make a separate audio clip for each part of the paper.
As for grading, I love being able to listen to my students rather than read their answers.
I found that students put more thought into their answers when they talked, rather than wrote. When I asked them to explain something, they actually did!
Their comprehension seemed to double compared to previous years doing traditional written assignments. The lab was the same – but something about speaking their thoughts vs. writing made it clearer to them, and likely clearer to me!
I wasn’t spending time trying to decipher illegible handwriting and spelling errors, run-on and dropped sentences. Audio responses gave me a clear line between their brain and mine.
Time wise, grading this way is so much faster. Give it a try – you will be amazed!
To top it off, research says that students learn better when they talk about concepts out loud. Take a look at this article to read more about it!
Save Time Grading: Cut Your Grading in Half!
Learning by teaching others is extremely effective. Many studies have shown that teaching a subject increases student learning and retention far beyond just taking notes and studying them.
This research is the reason that, for some assignments, I have students work in pairs.
First, I make sure there are an even number of questions to answer. Student pairs then go back and forth, where one will ask the question, and the other will answer the question, as if they were teaching the first student.
Combine this technique with using Padlet!
I ask that students use the Video-Record feature in Padlet for these assignments. This way I can see tha both students are engaged in the process – both the ‘question asker’ and the ‘teacher’.
Often my questions include explaining something that requires a visual aid – so a video recording shows me they are using it.
Teacher Tip: When doing an assignment that will make a big impact on their grade, like a lab, I allow students to choose their own partners.
Students are a bit shy about putting themselves on video or audio, so it helps when they are comfortable with their partner. Plus, if their partner drops the ball on their half, they can only blame themselves for picking that person to work with!
When students work together in this way, there is only half the number of assignments to grade! Plus, they get the learning benefit that comes from collaborating.
Do you have any tips that help you save time grading? Let us know in the comments!