A Grading Routine to Minimize Distractions

Years ago, in the early days of online gradebooks, I taught many students who took a learning strategies class as an elective. In that elective, they learned study skills and had time to complete assignments for other classes. The teacher required her students to complete weekly progress reports for the rest of their classes.

The students were expected to look up their grades themselves, but required teacher signatures to verify the accuracy. She gave these reports to students on Mondays, and some students would bring them to me right away, others would wait until Thursdays, the due date. Of course, some would bring them to me on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. It was a constant interruption every day…and the late student managed to disrupt Fridays.

I also found that sometimes I was entering grades after I had signed off on a grade that affected the accuracy of that grade within the same week.  My solution to this problem was to come up with a “grade update day.”  I would only accept the progress reports on Wednesdays, assuring my students that the grades would be updated fully by then.  I collected all the progress reports at the beginning of class, made time in each day’s lesson plan for me to verify and sign while the kids were working, and then returned the reports–it was better for me and for them.  

Although that teacher has retired and the students no longer need progress reports, I found that the “live” entry of grades into our current online grading system was just as disruptive to students/class.  Each time I entered grades, I had students lining up the next day to find out what it was they were missing or why they got this grade on this assignment. 

It didn’t take long for me to return to my weekly grade update routine.  It is so much more efficient.  I try to grade work throughout the week as it is turned in, but keep my grades on a paper roster.  Then, on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, I enter all the grades at one time.  This way everyone gets a complete view of the week before and all on the same day, so I can deal with questions at the same time.  I still build some independent/seat work into my plans for Wednesdays so that I can help students who have questions or need help locating missing work.    

For the students’ sake and my own, I try to enter the grade columns (placeholders) in the online gradebook on the days the assignments are made–this way they should at least know there was an assignment (and I don’t forget to grade something).  I don’t enter any grades, though until the mass entering on one day of the week.  

Our online gradebook does allow for teachers to set a publish date, and this may work for some teachers–they can enter the grades as they grade papers and set them to publish at a later time. I’ve tried it, but I find that it’s much faster to enter all grades at one time from my paper roster.  There’s also something reassuring about having my paper roster as a backup in case I make a mistake.    

Any day would be fine for “grade update day,” but I find Wednesdays are a convenient day for a couple of reasons: 1) it gives me a couple of days at the start of the week so that I don’t have to devote the weekend to grading if I don’t want to 2) students seem more likely to turn in missing work on Thursday or Friday, as opposed to going home on the weekend and forgetting by Monday.  

Establishing–and sticking to–a routine like this saves time in the classroom and reduces the amount of work we bring home.  The minutes you save by discussing grades only one day a week, add up to many more minutes your students can be learning.  Additionally, routines like this help keep us on track–knowing that my students (and their parents) expect their grades to be updated on Wednesdays makes me accountable to do the grading.  It forces me to do the right thing and get the grading done–which is better for me and better for my students.

Give it a try. Let me know how it works for you. Or do you have another time-saving grading technique? Please share in the comments.    

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