Teacher Strategies: Grade Smarter, not Harder

teacher strategies

Introduction teacher strategies

Grading is part of the teaching life, but you don't have to do it the hard way. These 3 grading strategies for elementary (and secondary) teachers keep you grading smarter instead of harder.

Best Grading Practices in Elementary School

When I’m looking to save time on assessing elementary students, there are 3 grading strategies that I use. I’m going to share them with you because I know they’ll save you time while still offering the quality feedback your students need in order to further progress in their studies.

As an added bonus, you’ll get plenty of documentation that you can use for report card comments.  Now, let's dig into those 3 strategies! teacher strategies

1.  Stamp System Grading Strategy

No need to grade every assignment that you give to your elementary students.  

Sometimes, the most important action is for students to practice a particular skill or strategy and receive feedback from you about their progress. A formal grade really doesn’t serve this purpose as it’s essentially meant to determine how well a learner has mastered a concept.  

The stamp grading system assesses progress. That’s why I love to use it with homework and daily classroom assignments.  

Here’s how it works... teacher strategies

Grab 3 stamps: red, yellow, and green.  

No stamps? No problem!  Three markers in those respective colors work just as well.  

After collecting student work, review the papers and then divide them into 3 piles: Got It, So-So, and Review 

The “Got It” kids understand the lesson well; they’re good to go! The “So-So” group has the basic hang of the skill/strategy but could use a bit more support. The “Review” students need extra scaffolding from you.  

Once you have your 3 groups, place a red stamp or check mark on the “Review” papers, a green stamp or check mark on the “Got It’ papers, and a yellow mark/check on the “So-So” assignments. 

Instant, visual feedback for students! 

The stamp grading strategy for elementary teachers is relatively easy to implement, pretty quick yet powerful.  

Learners see right away where they stand regarding that teaching objective and can now take that feedback and move forward with improving.  

If you’d like more ways to assess students easily and quickly, check out these informal assessment exit ticket ideas!

2. Student Self-Assessment Grading Strategy

The next effective grading strategy for elementary teachers involves students assessing themselves. 

As a side note, I don't suggest that you use the self-assessment grading strategy with formal assignments because as an educator, you really want to dive into those formal assignments to determine what specific areas your learners are struggling to master. 

When I talk about student self-assessment, I’m referring to relatively “easy-to-check” assignments such as timed multiplication tests or spelling tests.  

Recall assessments such as listing the capitals of each U.S state or naming the order of the planets lend themselves well to student self-assessment, too.   

An important hack with having elementary students grade their own papers is that you must require them to check their responses with a permanent marker or pen. Doing so greatly reduces or eliminates the temptation for them to change their original answers.  teacher strategies

Have students grade their own work can be an effective grading strategy for elementary teachers.  

Can teachers have students grade papers? teacher strategies

While I’m all for students grading their own papers (when appropriate), switching assignments and having learners assess each other is an entirely different thing, and I personally don’t feel too comfortable with it. 

Peer-editing is one thing.  

Having a student grade another student’s work? Umm… not so thrilled about that.  

I put myself in their shoes, and I wouldn’t like it so I guess that’s why I’m generally opposed to it. 

3. The Chunking Your Grading Strategy 

The last effective grading strategy for elementary teachers that saves time is chunking. 

Chunking is basically the process of spreading out longer or more in-depth assignments (e.g. project-based learning, essays, etc.) across a predetermined time frame.  

I especially love to use the chunking grading strategy with rubrics because rubrics have several standards that I can assess over a period of time. 

For example, let’s say I need to assess students’ persuasive writing pieces. Grading every essay in one sitting (torture!) is time-consuming and draining.  

But when chunked, it works super well.  

On Monday, I’ll analyze organization and assess students in that standard only. Tuesday, I may look at how well they wrote an introduction and conclusion.  

During my Wednesday grading session, I’ll focus my attention to how well their details “show” and not “tell”.  

Whichever standards present themselves on the rubric, I’ll tackle one each day until all have been covered. 

With this method, you can provide feedback to students daily. It surely keeps them anticipating what’s next. 

The chunking grading strategy can be used with any long or in-depth assignment and in various ways.  

Alternatively, you could decide to in one session to grade only those students whose last names begin with A-D and then on Tuesday tackle those papers with student last names beginning with E-H. 

Or maybe you want to chunk based on time: 30 minutes of daily grading and then that’s it for the day.  

No matter which option you choose, the point is that you’re accomplishing a bit each day and eventually, those little actions add up to big results WITHOUT the headache that comes with procrastinating or doing it all in one sitting.  

Wrapping Up: Grade Smarter, not Harder

As an elementary teacher, you have so much on your plate and deserve to work the most efficiently whenever possible. This especially applies to grading and assessment. 

These 3 effective grading strategies for elementary teachers will help you stress less about grading while assessing smarter.  

To assessing smarter, 

Missi Morazan

About the Author

Over at my little corner of the Internet called Curriculum Chef, I help elementary teachers like you do a few (or a lot!) of things smarter in your teaching life so that you stress less and have more time for the things that really matter!

For more great ideas, resources, and strategies for working smarter as an educator to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students, head on over to curriculumchef.com

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