From Piles to Smiles: Transformative Tips for Elementary Paper Grading

Hey there Teacher Friend! I am so glad you are here. Today, by request, I am talking about paper grading! Such a fun topic right? Here are some ideas for keeping up with paper grading that won’t be overwhelming! *This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something using this link we will receive a very small portion of the sale. The price of the item purchased remains the same whether you use an affiliate link or not. I will only recommend products and resources that I believe will be of value to you, my readers. By using my affiliate link you are helping to support this website and I genuinely appreciate your support!

Image of a pile of papers. Text: From Piles to Smiles: Transformative Tips for Elementary Paper Grading

To Grade or Not to Grade…That is the Question!

Not everything that you have students work on needs to be graded. Students do a lot of practice at school and it should be that, practice. So, prioritize the assignments you grade to important ones such as tests, assessments, final drafts of writing, or projects. Focusing your time and energy on grading papers that provide the most insight into your students’ achievement and progress will give you the “most bang for your buck”.

Image of graded paper. Text: To grade or not to grade,,,

As a teacher, you know that if you graded EVERYTHING you wouldn’t have time to do anything else. A good rule of thumb is 2 grades per subject per week. If you have more that you think are important, great. Doing less may result in not having enough grades to adequately showcase your students’ achievements.

For those papers that you don’t grade…I always want my students to know that I have at least looked at their papers. I mark them with a star if they did great, a smiley if they did well, and a check if it is done. Other times, they get a sticker and it gets sent home!

Tips to Make Paper Grading More Efficient

Image of a pocket chart for paper organizing.  Text: Tips to Make Paper Grading More Efficient.

ABC Order

In my grade book, all of the students are in alphabetical order, so this is how I grade their papers. My students each have a classroom number based on alphabetical order, so number order is how I collect my papers. I have a pocket chart on my back wall. Each student has a numbered pocket (Amazon Affiliate Link) into which they turn their papers. Then, I pull the papers out in number order, and voila! I am ready to grade them. This also helps alleviate the problem of no-name papers!

Only Grade a Part

Grading papers such as homework or practice classwork doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Choose 1 or 2 of the exercises and just grade those. If a student does terribly on the ones that you chose but did better on others, consider that. Give them points for those exercises.

Walk and Grade

One thing I like to do if I want to take a grade on a practice sheet, or I just want to monitor progress, I have students leave it on top of their desks before they go to their special. Then I walk around and take a look at everyone’s paper. If they finished and it is ready to go home I mark it and have the student put it in their folder to go home. If the paper isn’t done, then I circle the ones that didn’t get finished. Then you can give them time to finish it later or send it home.

Grading Line

Have students bring their paper to you and wait while you grade it. If I knew that I wanted to check out the page when it is done and send it home, I have students just bring it to me when they are done. I can usually grade it quickly, and then give it to the student to take home. This gives students instant feedback as well. If you want to put the grade in the grade book, jot down the kiddos’ score on a student list, then enter them later.

I try to make this process a little more fun by using smelly markers. Did you know that there are such a thing as stinky markers (Amazon Affiliate Link) now? The kiddos couldn’t wait to get up to my desk with their paper so they could “ewww” and “yuck” at whatever scent I was using. It was always rather amusing.

Don’t Grade!

If it is a paper that you want to send home without grading, put a sticker on it! Students will know you saw it, and most will appreciate the sticker! If it is a paper that was just busy work, recycle it. Keep in mind though, that busy work doesn’t serve the students or you as the teacher, so it should be avoided.

Observe! Sometimes you get more information about how your students are doing just by walking around and watching them. This doesn’t always translate into a grade, but these observation anecdotal notes can be invaluable for parent conferences, or other conferences where you need information. I like to use labels for this. I number a page of labels and put them on a clipboard. As I am walking around observing students I can write down my observations on the student’s label. I stick that in my data notebook or conferring notebook when it is done!

Technology is Your Friend

Instead of handing out papers for your students to complete, you can do computer assignments. Things like Boom Cards and games like Blooket are super fun ways for your students to practice essential skills without papers for you to grade.

Using something like Google Forms to create self-grading assignments is a great way to get grades without having to grade them yourself!

Paper grading isn’t always the most fun part of teaching, but it is essential. I hope you found some ideas in this post that will help make paper grading easier for you. I would always try to make paper grading a little more fun for myself by using a fun pen or some great stickers (Amazon Affiliate Links). It doesn’t make it any easier, but it gives me the excuse to play with my fun office supplies.

Thanks so much for stopping by today! Pin the image below to save these paper-grading ideas!

Image of a pile of papers. Text: From Piles to Smiles: Transformative Tips for Elementary Paper Grading

Happy Teaching!


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