Lighten Your Grading Load

I assign one major project, paper, or speech per month per class, and I’m often asked how I keep up with the grading load. While there are many ways to keep up with the paper load, I tend to rely most on allowing students to choose their due dates.

I print out a sheet with due dates spread throughout the month and draw names from a hat to determine who gets to choose their due dates first. Within five minutes everyone has chosen a due date, and I have a schedule for keeping track of student work without being overloaded.

However, this system requires discipline.

I am often praised for my organization and diligence, but my real secret is portioning out my workload. Since the students choose their own due dates, I only have to assess 4-5 papers, projects or speeches per day.

Why would I assign everyone the same due date when I can’t score 30 papers in a day (or 60 or 90 if multiple classes have the same due date)? I can’t. The papers sit there, I feel stressed with an overflowing in-box, and the kids wait for feedback for days on end.

Instead, I score 4-5 major items per day, provide immediate feedback, and don’t feel the same level of stress i once did. Plus, the students like choosing their due dates because they can look at their schedules and determine how their activities, sports, and other classes impact their workloads as well.

I feel like this system allows me to feel less stress and students to feel empowered to determine in making their deadlines. For me this works. But, it does require consistent discipline and a steady workload each day.

Does anyone do anything similar?

6 thoughts on “Lighten Your Grading Load

  1. Rho

    Good idea; I have been pondering just how I am going to manage 150+ students in the coming year: Honors I, Honors II and all of the sophomore class, and Am Lit–all of the junior class except for 8 students. Major staff cuts took away an Engish teacher when we had 3 Eng. teachers for 4 grades (about 300+ students) and now it is just two. Administration doesn’t want to do away with Honors Am Lit, AP Lit, and creative writing, but those are small classes. So they are keeping them by loading me way beyond other teachers. There may be a teacher handling 60 some 9th graders, so the other hs teacher will have much smaller, more select classes. It may end up in a grievance for disproportionate class sizes and total load.

  2. drpezz Post author

    Good luck with the class size issue. It’s never easy. I average about 30 kids per class, so I feel your pain.

    My only solution has been to use more peer editing and to spread out the due dates. The workload is distributed over a month rather than a weekend but still does require about 45-60 minutes each night there is a due date; however, I prefer this over the many hours required in a single weekend.

  3. Martha

    I appreciate this idea but doesn’t each assignment develop following a unit goal so how can you spread out these assignment due dates when you cannot spread out the teaching of each lesson? Do you see what I mean? If I was have students read a short story and write an essay about it, how could I really spread that out?



  4. drpezz

    I don’t necessarily tie the paper (which has its own standards separate from the content) to specific content. I allow the students to choose the content which produces the best paper rather than tie it to a particular text. However, this is for larger papers.

    When I have a page-long writing assignment, a poem, or other smaller writing, I take those on a single due date or over 2-3 days. It all depends on the assignment and purpose.

    The goals for my courses tend to go beyond a single unit as well. For example, I focus on conscience for an entire year in one course while another centers on the big idea of defining an American and so on.

  5. The Curly Classroom

    Grading is still my great downfall as a teacher. Oh, I grade it, and sometimes I’ll even smile as I write little notes on the top of a paper. Maybe my smile is more of a smirk because I know that I’ll likely never return the paper to its owner.
    This year, I am trying a different approach to try and minimize the number of times I touch a paper and increase its liklihood of being returned. My students sit in groups and each group will have an assigned file folder. Students will submit work to the file folder. I will collect those 7 folders, leave them in there to force myself to do a 2-day turn around (block schedule). I hand back seven folders, and magically, everyone has their graded work back. I’ll piloting this idea in August, so here’s hoping!


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