7 Ways Science Teachers Can Spend Less Time Grading

how much time do middle school science teachers spend grading?

Talk to any teacher, and they’ll probably tell you that one of the hardest (or most annoying) parts of teaching is grading. I’m not saying it isn’t important. (We all know that it is!) After all, quality formative and summative assessments are the only way we can truly measure student achievement or the effectiveness of our lessons. But let’s be real…grading often takes so much time! There’s got to be a way that science teachers can spend less time grading!

With so many demands on your valuable time, it’s important to find grading practices that provide effective feedback without taking a lot of time.

Good news!

After years of refining my own time management skills and talking with other science teachers, I’ve learned a few best practices for grading time. Here are my favorite ways science teachers can spend less time grading:

Two words: Google Forms

Personal opinion: Google classroom is the greatest technological advancement that modern classrooms have ever experienced. This learning platform comes in handy for just about everything. That being said, my favorite feature is, by far, the ability to use Google forms as an assessment tool. This easy-to-use tool has streamlined my own grading practice and given me a good snapshot of student progress in less time than traditional paper and pencil grading ever could. This allows me to spend less time grading and more time teaching or working with struggling students.

Google forms can be a little time-consuming on the front end. It can take some time to create and set up the form. However, once the forms have been created, they are incredibly easy to use and the assessment process is clear and simple. These forms can also be saved and re-used year after year.

Google Forms features I love:

  • Multiple choice assessments grade themselves.
  • Writing assignments are easy to grade without trying to decipher handwriting.
  • Assignments and papers can’t be lost.
  • It’s easy to see which students did not submit the assessment or turned in late work.
  • The forms provide entire class survey data and information.

Want to see some examples?

Here are a few Google forms assessments I’ve created and used within my own classroom!

Don’t Grade Practice.

Students need lots of opportunities to practice new skills. That being said, each and every assignment does not need to be graded for accuracy. As a general rule, I don’t grade practice work. First of all, I believe that each new skill must be practiced without students worrying about tanking their grades if they don’t get the correct answer. It’s called “practice” for a reason.

Secondly, we do WAY too much independent practice and classwork for me to individually grade each assignment. I certainly don’t have enough time for that (and I’m guessing, neither do you.) Instead, I recommend collecting and grading only the most meaningful work. This includes major projects, quizzes, and summative assessments. This allows students to know and understand that they are getting a score for the progress they are expected to make. Generally speaking, I let practice be practice.

Conduct Binder/Notebook Checks

You’ve probably been wondering, “But Laney, how do I make sure my students actually DO the assignments if I don’t grade each assignment?” Great question! Binder checks have become my favorite method for holding my students accountable for doing their work in science class.

Instead of collecting each individual class and homework assignment, I will periodically collect and review their Interactive Notebooks and binders. Sometimes I will have a pre-scheduled collection date (ex: every Friday). Other times, I will simply ask students to take out their notebooks for a surprise check. Students receive a completion or participation grade for these notebook checks.

Notebook Quizzes

Another great way to motivate students to stay on top of their notes and assignments is to periodically have a notebook quiz. For these quizzes, I typically create a Google Form (again, saving time with the auto-grading multiple choice feature) and allow students to use their notebooks to complete the quiz.

This method allows you as the teacher to very quickly and accurately be able to see which students are completing practice assignments and keeping their notebooks organized, and which are not. Trust me, you’ll know exactly which students have been taking notes without collecting or opening a single notebook.

Trade and Grade

For simpler assignments, I love using the “peer review” method of grading. Students will swap papers with a neighbor. All you as the teacher need to do is read the correct answers from the answer key. This method of grading and review still allows students to gain important feedback about their own progress and learning, without requiring you as the teacher to spend any additional time outside of class grading these assignments.

As a bonus, having students review and grade work in real time allows them to ask questions about the assignment while the information is fresh in their minds.

Selectively Grade Questions

It is possible to get some valid and helpful insight into your student’s learning and understanding without grading every single question. That’s right! On many assignments that my students turn in, I’ll pick and choose two or three questions to grade for accuracy. By choosing a few questions to grade, I am still able to assess student learning while also cutting the time I spend grading down significantly.

Important Note:

Typically, I won’t tell students ahead of time which questions will be graded, so that they put actual work and effort into the whole assignment.

Combine Assignments

Whether you prefer paper or digital assignments, you can only collect and grade so many individual assignments before it begins to feel like you are drowning in student paperwork. One of the ways I like to reduce the number of assignments I collect at any given point in time is to create opportunities for students to collect and showcase their learning in one place. This is a simple way teachers can spend less time grading!

Here are a few examples:

  • Have a weekly hyperdoc with a section for Monday-Thursday exit tickets.
  • Have ONE weekly homework sheet (given on Monday and collected on Friday). Students record their homework answers for the week’s assignments in one place. Google forms work well for this.
  • Have a weekly Google Forms quiz that covers the content taught that week. Every third week, the form is cumulative and counts as a test grade.

Other Helpful Resources:

When it comes to cutting down grading time, these are a few of my favorite ed-tech tools and platforms that make grading assignments quick and easy:

  • Quizlet and Blooket are both packed with teacher-made activities and assessments that are self-grading and easy for students to use.
  • Teachermade will take any PDF or assignment document and turn it into a digital interactive worksheet that grades itself!
  • Liveworksheets is packed with digital, interactive worksheets and makes it easy to create your own.
  • Boomcards has interactive learning games that are fun for students and provides real-time progress reports for teachers.

What are your favorite ways science teachers can spend less time grading? Do you have any additional tips or tricks to share? I’d love to hear them! Drop a comment on the post below or join our free online learning community today!

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