I’m sure I can speak for all teachers that time is such an important aspect of our jobs and lives, but there is never enough of it.
How many times have you found yourself wishing that you had just one more hour in the day? Or eight days in a week instead of seven?
Don’t feel the need to answer as I’m sure you can’t even count the actual number of times.
Teaching is truly a profession that can be described as time-poor. If you look at everything from lesson planning to meetings (that could have been an email), it is no wonder that teachers are tired and feeling burnt out.
I feel one of the most time consuming parts of teaching is the grading. This is also probably one of my least favorite tasks. As my teacher years have grown higher, it has been my mission to lessen the time spent on grading.
Unfortunately, we all know that grading is a part of the job description. Literally.
If I can instill just one piece of knowledge for you, it’s that not everything has to be graded.
Say it again.
Not everything has to be graded.
Alright – now that that is out of the way, let’s have a discussion about how to cut down grading in your science class.
1 – Decide in Advance what is Graded
This strategy is time consuming in the beginning, but will make your life so much easier after you complete it one time.
Take a good, hard look at your curriculum. Decide which assignments or assessments align most closely with the essential questions or objectives of the unit.
For everything that you decide needs grading, be sure you are asking yourself WHY – there needs to be a reason.
Then decide how it will be graded. Will it be on a pass/fail basis? Will you contact parents if students fail? And will there be retakes? With all of this in mind, it may become clear that not everything should be graded.
For instance, when I am teaching my genetics unit, I know that Punnett squares are one of the most important topics. As a result, I decide that those assignments are my priority and will be one of the graded assignments.
Now, we all know that students are “point happy.” Simply put, they love getting points for work they have completed.
This is why I started taking completion grades for some smaller assignments to make students feel like their work doesn’t go unnoticed. Now, when I say points, I’m talking two, maybe three, points. This, by no means, has any substantial effect on their overall grade.
When I record completion points, I walk around the room and do a spot check before we go over the assignment. So, I am not actually collecting the assignment and taking it home.
2 – Use Peer Grading
Some may find this unpopular, but I use peer grading in certain situations. Not only does it lighten the load, but it promotes collaboration, critical thinking, and self-assessment skills among the students.
I will sometimes use peer grading for classwork assignments or projects, such as posters and Google Slides creations.
Each student will receive another student’s work and will provide feedback for that student. When they are correcting the assignment, I am going over the answers or students are given a rubric to use.
Before our first peer grading sessions, I provide students with a quick training.
- We discuss what constructive feedback actually is.
- I give students visuals of good feedback and bad feedback.
- I project a “student answer” and we write constructive feedback together as a class.
I also find this to be a good life skill. Students will need to constructively critique others once they leave the walls of high school. If they go to college, they may have to critique the work of others. And if they go into the workforce, they may find themselves needing to critique co-workers or those below them.
3 – Use Self-Grading Quizzes
There are many benefits to technology and self-grading digital quizzes, such as Google Forms Quizzes, is one of them.
For this format, I find that multiple choice and short answers are the easiest to assess and be digitally graded.
Since the quizzes are self-grading, the students get immediate feedback, which is an added bonus. Long gone are days where students need to wait a week before knowing how they performed.
So, not only do self-grading quizzes lighten your grading, but it allows students to identify their areas of weakness and seek clarification from you, the teacher, before they fall even further behind.
I find self-grading quizzes SO useful in cutting down grading in Science. That’s why I include a Google Forms Quiz with every Google Slides Lesson in my store. You can check those out here.
4 – Use More Formative Assessments
Lastly, don’t be afraid to use more formative assessments. Formative assessments are great because they are low-stakes as they are not graded.
I use formative assessments for a variety of reasons. First, it lets students see what they have understood throughout the unit, so they can improve before an actual summative assessment.
I also use formative assessments to inform my teaching. For example, if I see that my whole class is completely lost in the transcription step of protein synthesis, then I need to reteach it in a different way.
It is also important to note that formative assessments do not just need to be the traditional paper and pencil format.
Examples of formative assessment
- I will use mini white boards. To do this, I simply ask students a question and they write their answer on the white board. After they write their answer, they hold the white board up and I quickly scan the answers and offer explanations.
- Get students on their feet with kinesthetic voting. For this, I ask students a question and give them two options, which are on opposite sides of the room. Then, students will move to the side of the room with their chosen answer.
For example, I could ask students which stage of protein synthesis comes first: translation or transcription? One side of the classroom is translation, the other side is transcription – students have to walk to either side to show their answer.
You can also swap this for stand up/sit down, or thumbs up/thumbs down, depending on the layout of your classroom and energy levels.
- Digital quiz games like Kahoot, Quizizz, and Boom Cards are also great options. I like using these because it provides an electronic report that I can use to evaluate student understanding, but also have data for administrators and parents.
Take Back Your Time
Teachers work so hard. We want the best for our students, but it’s important to set boundaries and respect your time.
By cutting down grading in Science, you can reduce your workload, but still maintain effective classroom practices.
The time you save from not grading every piece of paper will allow you the additional time needed for other important activities…
Including REST and RECHARGE time for you!
(And we know being fresh and relaxed ultimately benefits our students).
So… my challenge to you is:
- choose one of these strategies,
- try it out,
- cut down your grading today!
I hope you have a wonderful day,