Piles of Papers: Getting Through the Paper Load

When it comes to grading, I don’t mind the small assignments and daily check-off work. It’s the large papers and projects, which consume so much time and cause me stress. I want to get those papers back to the students and off my desk! Thus, I’ve changed my procedures when grading large assignments to reduce my stress load.

I create a sign-up sheet with six consecutive school days listed along with space for up to six people per day. I draw names out of a hat, and the students can sign up for the day they wish to turn in their papers. Now, I only have 5-6 papers a day to grade, students actually choose the due dates (no excuses any more), and I don’t have stacks of papers piling up on my desk. Additionally, I don’t really think it’s right for me to collect work I can’t return in a timely fashion, and this helps.

With large projects containing multiple parts, I have a similar method. Let’s pretend the students have five choices but only need to pick three of the project options. I would then have all of the students who completed part 1 turn in their portions on Monday, part 2 on Tuesday, and so on. This way I get fewer pieces to assess each day, and I am constantly returning work. I see progress, and the students see progress and receive immediate feedback.

One of my colleagues, with tongue firmly in cheek, told me just to assign less work for the kids. He said that helps him, but of course we know that shortchanging the kids is really not an option.

What do you do to reduce your paper load?


7 thoughts on “Piles of Papers: Getting Through the Paper Load

  1. leafless

    Do you compensate students who choose an early due date? The ones who sign up for later due dates seem to have an advantage. For college students, this is not a problem. The same thing cannot be said of students at lower levels; they may not know how to pace themselves yet.

  2. drpezz Post author

    No benefits. I usually schedule the due dates from Wednesday to Wednesday. Kids who finish early get free weekends while those who wait have one more thing about which to worry.

    However, I always do tell my students–since extra credit is a rarity in my classes–that turning in the paper prior to the first due date is a chance for extra points. This nets me 3-5 early ones per paper.

    Most of the kids actually want to turn in the work earlier rather than later. Plus, with sports and activities omnipresent (and a very strict participation policy), students can gauge their own needs. It’s just a part of maturation.

  3. Edward Carson

    I think that I will look into this come next year; I like it the idea. I do fear that my students will elect to turn in their work on the last day — unless I did not fully comprehend your sysytem. Did I miss the boat a little?

  4. drpezz Post author

    They have to sign up for the day, and only 5-6 can sign up for any one day. This way the papers come in over a week’s time.

  5. Jaded

    I like this, except I have have 80 students and would be grading for two weeks, which is better than what I do now (3-4 weeks for full-length essays!)

  6. drpezz Post author

    I have 150, but I just spread out the assignments for the kids. No one seems to mind. I just did the same thing this past week with projects, and I finished about 4:30 today. No grading over the weekend!


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