Making grading easier

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Aliceacc, Sep 2, 2011.

  1. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 2, 2011

    'Tis the season! I already see a number of threads about being overwhelmed with grading, so I figured we were due for a thread about tips to make it easier.

    I teach math, so mine will be geared towards that.

    My tests are uniformly two sides. I've learned over the years that a test on 2 sides of 8x11" paper, with room left for work, can be done by a typical class in our 38 minute period. So that might mean 4 geometric proofs, 2 systems of equations using matrices, or a whole lot of factoring problems.

    My tests always have the point values written on the test. Sometimes it's in the beginning (problems 1-8: 10 points, #9:20 points) and sometimes it's at the start of each small section, but the kids always know the value of each problem.

    They also know ahead of time exactly what the test will look like-- how many of each type of problem and how many points each will be worth. As teachers, we like to know what our supervisors are looking for when they evaluate; I can do no less with my students.

    I grade one side at a time. I do the whole class, side one. At the bottom of the page I write "-8" or the appropriate total, and circle it. (I always have to explain this for the first 2 tests I hand back-- it's the total from the whole page, not that last problem.) Then I flip the stack and grade the backs. After about 4 pages, I don't have to look at my answer key anymore-- I KNOW the answers and it makes the grading fly.

    Each of my classes gets a different test or quiz; I very rarely use the same test for 2 periods. That way, they're free to discuss what was on the test over lunch without comprimising its validity. I ask the first kid in the room whether he wants test # 1,2,3, or 4-- they're all interchangeable in terms of difficulty.

    I'm huge on partial credit. As I make up my key, I designate point values along the way. So, for example, in a 15 point verbal problem, perhaps the "LET" statement will be worth 2, the equation 4, the solution 7 and the final answer 2. That way I'm grading uniformly.

    As I return tests, I put my answer key up one the visualizer and go over each problem. The kids can see the point values along the way, so I seldom get a lot of "you took off more points on my paper" comments unless I've actually added wrong. The kids know that they SHOULD check my math; I'm fine with correcting any errors I make.

    Most of the time, my makeup is a different version of the test-- say, the 8th period's version for a 3rd period kid.
     
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  3. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Sep 2, 2011

    I could have typed the exact same post! I always say, work smarter, not harder. Make it easy on yourself and the kids, for them to be able to show what they know, and your life will be sooo much easier!
     
  4. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    Sep 2, 2011

    My biggest thing is handling paper as little as possible. I put papers in alphabeticaly order, grade it & immediately input the grade into my grading system.

    This year I'm using a folder system to return work. Alphabetical order. So easy to put papers away!
     
  5. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    Sep 2, 2011

    Grading for English can be a little different for math, so I will post some tips, as well.

    1. This year I have been doing as much as possible on the computer. I gave a quiz Wednesday and it was in the book Wednesday afternoon. Moodle grades the MC questions, and then I clicked on their paragraphs. I could type feedback. It went much faster (for me) than grading on paper. For essays, you can do track changes and it is less paper you have to carry home.

    2. Essays are a beast for grading. I used to have some steps to grading a stack of essays hanging by my desk, but I think I can remember them now:
    -Always have a rubric. The best and easiest is to use your state's rubric for the writing test. (Sometimes I will add a category of my own).
    -Plan to grade all the essays at once. This keeps you consistent.
    -Find a spot where you will be able to work for that amount of time. (I like going to a coffee shop but some people like complete quiet).
    -Read through a few of the essays first to get an idea of the kinds of responses you are getting.
    -Know what you are looking for in the essay. Did you want parenthetical documentation, counterarguments, transition words, etc. What was the focus of this assignment?
    -Only mark grammar mistakes once, or for the first couple paragraphs. They should be responsible for applying the marks to other mistakes in the paper.
    -Go with your first instinct when marking the rubric. (I give kids the opportunity to revise their essays, so when in doubt, I always go low, knowing they can fix it.).
    -Stretch between each paper.
    -Don't write extensive remarks on the paper. The kids don't read them. Instead, encourage them to conference with you after, especially if they have an opportunity to revise.

    3. For tests, like Alice said, split it into sections. For longer response questions, score one at a time. It will actually go faster if you go through each test multiple times, focusing on one question at a time, then if you try to grade the whole test straight through, because you will have to keep going back reminding yourself what you want the answer to be.
     
  6. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    Sep 2, 2011

    I teach English, and papers can get out of hand easily.

    I always have a rubric, which speeds things up a lot. I also stagger due dates, so I never get all of the papers at the same time. I have different due dates for different classes, and students also have the option to turn things in early. I generally don't have more than 20 papers at once. Spot checking is a possibility sometimes. For instance, I might check number 7 out of a group of 10 questions because that's an area where kids often struggle.

    When I use journals, I have 1-3 kids per class period turn in a journal every day. By the end of the month, I've checked everyone's journal.
     
  7. Harper

    Harper Companion

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    Sep 2, 2011

    Good tips from everyone! Thanks for some new strategies!
     
  8. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Ima Teacher, I hadn't thought about that for journals! I like that idea.

    I am the opposite way for papers. I absolutely cannot grade them all at once. I get much harsher if I work for longer than about an hour on them. The being said, I also had four classes that had to be kept the same so I was getting 100 papers at a time. Now I only have 80 kids total and no repeat sections so I am staggering the due dates.

    Tests I do the same way as others. I grade them one section at a time, one page at a time. It goes much, much faster that way!

    For homework, I often check for completion and go over the answers verbally. I also like to collect it and then just correct a couple questions, I usually do this with grammar. It gives me a good idea of what still needs to be reviewed or what kids maybe aren't quite grasping. I do sometimes grade the students' homework for right/wrong answers but not often.

    My seniors do packets where we review the answers daily and then I collect them on test day and just flip through them to make sure they answered all the questions. I really like doing this.
     
  9. krysmorgsu

    krysmorgsu Cohort

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    Sep 2, 2011

    These are a lot of great suggestions! I love the journal collection idea!

    A few quick things I'd like to add: I usually will pull out the top 1 or 2 students' tests in the class. Sometimes I do this because I'm lazy and didn't do an answer key, but it's also helpful for me to see how the test went. If those kids got the same question wrong, I'll look through some other tests quickly. If most of the kids got the same question wrong, it can help my quickly identify if it was poorly worded, or, since I teach a language, if perhaps there was another acceptable translation that I didn't think of. It's so easy to make up the test and go "this means that", but by looking at a few kids tests, I may decide that I made a mistake or what seems like common sense to me can have another interpretation. It saves me from grading 5-10 tests and then going, "you know, maybe I should look at that sentence again" - and subsequently having to remark all those tests. That's not to say that I never encounter that problem or that I always change the acceptable answer, but if there is an issue, usually grading a few of the top students first helps me identify it quickly.
    I also try to mix up my tests - I find I get depressed, frustrated, etc. if I grade all the lowest tests together (which usually happen to be on the top or the bottom of the pile). It can really bum you out to have a number of D's or F's together. Try to make sure you have a couple of good tests in between - that way the grading doesn't seem like so much drudgery. Of course, every student has a bad test, but realistically, it's rare for an A student to suddenly fail a test, so once you get to see what a student's typical grades are, you can do this.
     
  10. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Sep 2, 2011

    - It's ok to grade homework and class work for completion.
    - Pick a comfy spot to do your grading. Whether it's at school, out somewhere, or at home - make sure you'll be comfy and relaxed.
    - Kids get two journal grades a month. I pick five a week from each class and grade. They get credit for doing it; I write comments in their journal.
    - Kids really, really like to stamp papers. If it works in your schedule, let them do it for you.
    - Have a good organization for papers - how they're collected, where to put them to grade, and how to pass them back. I clip each period's papers together, throw them in my "to be graded" box, and then have trays for each period when it's time to return them.
     
  11. teach42

    teach42 Comrade

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    Sep 2, 2011

    Alice, do you give partial credit and if so, how do you handle it?
     
  12. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    She does, teach42. Here's a start, though I'm sure she'll be happy to elaborate further:
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 3, 2011

    Thanks TG!

    Yeah, my kids love my partial credit!

    My feeling is that it's really NOT just about the answers in my class. Math is a process. I'm trying to teach them the process to mathematically arrive at the correct answer. So that process is what earns them the points, not just the last step in the process that yields the answer.

    So say it's a 15 point geometric proof on congruent triangles. It might have 4 main components. Getting the triangles congruent would involve, say, proving "Side, Angle, Side" and then finishing the proof using Corresponding parts.
    I would give 3 points for Side, 3 for Angle, 3 for side, 3 for pulling it together to get the triangles, and 3 for Corresponding parts. Some or all of those points could be awarded as they achieved each part of the proof.
     
  14. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 4, 2011

    I just wrote this in another thread, but it bears repeating:

    When you stop and look at how kids have scored, look at the MEDIAN, not the MEAN.

    The median won't be skewed by the one kid who got 100, or the one kid who got a 30. It will show you how the "average" kid-- if he exists-- scored.
     
  15. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I always told my kids that the right answer was really the smallest part of the problem. I was far more concerned with the process along the way. This way, if kid made a stupid addition mistake in the middle of a 5 step algebra equation, but did the process correctly, I could make sure he got the credit for knowing how to do the algebra, and only ding him a little bit for the dumb adding mistake.

    I developed my grading philosophy after I took a calculus class in college. My TA had that policy. There are two experiences that drove that point home for me. One was when all I could do was set up the problem. It was a 5 point or so problem, and for the life of me I couldn't solve it. What I did do was draw out the situation presented. My teacher gave me a half a point for that. That half point actually made the difference between an A and a B on that test. The second experience was for a much larger point value problem. It was an optimization problem involving airplane manufacturers and was in several parts totaling about 20 points. I had an issue near the beginning and couldn't get it set up correctly using the information in that particular problem. So, I wrote on the test, "I can't get this one to work right, but if it had been _____ (and gave a different example) here's what you would do. For the rest of the parts, I used my own example. That teacher gave me about 80% of the points available for those problems because I showed him, in a different way, that I knew the concept.

    I never forgot how that teacher graded, and how even when I thought I deserved to fail (based on how every other teacher I'd ever had graded), he found a way to find out what I knew and give me credit for it, and how that drove me to work even harder in that class.
     
  16. Ms.SLS

    Ms.SLS Cohort

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    Sep 4, 2011

    This year, my life is a little different. I have 2 periods of 11th grade, and 4 period s of 7th. I have a TA that is an 11th grader, and SO, she gets to correct spelling and punctuation errors on the 7th graders' essays! It is the best thing ever! Obviously that's not an option for a lot of people, but still...

    With that done (for the most part), I can grade for content and structure much more quickly.
     

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