7 Ways to Make Your Teacher Planning Time More Productive

There is never enough time for us teachers to do everything that needs to get done.  But when I am honest with myself I wasted a lot of time during my planning time.  

Since I do not want to bring work home with me, and I really can’t because I have a toddler, I have to make the most of my in-school time as I can.

  1.  Know How Much Planning Time You Have Per A Day and Per A Week

How many hours per day do you have to plan?  What times of the day do those planning periods fall?  Do you like to come in early or leave a little bit late?  Do you have any recurring weekly meetings that take up your planning time?  All of these items are important to note, chart and plan for.

I use this simple Weekly Planning Period Organizer layout to help me organize my weeks.  Because it’s digital I also don’t spend time rewriting recurring events. 

  1. Plan Your Planning Time

Make sure that you have a plan for your planning time.  Do not sit down during your precious planning period without knowing exactly what you are trying to accomplish.  Minutes are eaten up as you think, “What was it I needed to do?” or “I had a plan in my head.”  I was doing this all the time.  Instead of getting important tasks done, I would grab a stack of papers to grade.

At the beginning of the week, I write down 2-3 things I want to get done each day.  When I sit down to work I have a starting point, even if I adjust it.  For some reason seeing the plan I wrote down focuses me more.

  1. Note Daily Tasks and Set a Time to Do Them

There are so many little things that we have to do every day, like…

  • Attendance
  • Grade homework (for me it’s usually spelling)
  • Emails
  • Post assignments online (Yes, I had to do this daily before Covid-19 for every single assignment)

I hate taking time from my planning time to take care of these little things because then I don’t get my actual planning done.  I like to assign a time to do them.  

For example, as my math class starts their warm-up work I enter attendance and check my email for vital information only.  Sometimes parents let me know about something big that happened at home that will affect my students’ day.  

At the end or beginning of each period, I put the assignments online.  This is usually happening while students write down the assignment we just discussed or are packing up materials from that class period.  I keep them busy so I can get this little thing done.

Email is so tricky because it pops up all day and everyone thinks you can respond even though you are teaching and watching students. 

Newsflash parents and administration, teachers are busy teaching the children. 

Set a few times to check your email each day.  You can let parents know that this is your policy and if they need a quicker response please call the office because you are focusing your attention on their children.  

This is simply setting boundaries for your workday and your life.  People may not like boundaries, but they will learn to respect them.   I like to plan 2-3 times a day. The less the better.

  • In the morning for vital information only.  Maybe a student had a hard night or there is an important parent question.  If it’s not vital I leave it for later.
  • Maybe snack time. 
  • At the end of the day plan about 10 minutes for email.  It might take practice to stick to a time limit where you can manage to send any emails you need to send out and reply to anything that has come in that day.  

Don’t let email steal your planning time.  Plan a time to check your email. 

  1. Prioritize the Most Important Tasks

For each planning period, don’t look at that long list of “to-dos” and get overwhelmed.  Instead, look at the list and pick the two most important “must-dos.”  Hopefully, you will get something else done, but prioritize and do the most important items first.

As you work you will likely think of other things you need to add to your list.  Write them done and return to your top priority tasks.

I have heard that some teachers like to start with easy tasks to feel a sense of accomplishment, but I think this is ineffective.  I want to use my planning time for focused tasks that I need a good chunk of time to complete, not easy tasks.

  1. Estimate the Time Each Task Will Take You 

I tell my students to estimate time per task all the time.  I make them record it in their assignment notebooks, but have failed to do it myself.  I am currently working on this skill.  As I write my “to-do” list I put down how long I think each task will take. Or how long I will work on it that day before I put it aside to work on tomorrow.

For example, as I pick my two most important tasks I might see grading essays will take me 2 hours and reviewing IEP goals for the special ed teacher will take me 15 minutes.  Clearly, I should start with the IEP goals, and then start the essay grading.  I can then plan to finish grading the essays tomorrow.  

Or maybe there is a day where I think my two most important tasks will take me 30 minutes total, so I will have an extra 20 minutes I can make use of in my planning time, so I pick a third task I hope I will get to.

  1. Batch Like Tasks

You likely already practice some batching as a teacher.  You make a pile of papers you need to copy and go copy them all at once.  It saves you time copying everything at once.  

If you can batch more during your planning time then you can save even more time.  I like to plan my week for batching.  Each day I have one task that I always do on that day of the week.  It’s one way I prioritize. For example…

  • Mondays – I free range on Mondays because there are so many holidays I don’t want to make it the day I plan with my co-teacher.  I use it to catch up on anything I didn’t finish last week.  This also reduces my stress on Fridays when I think, “I didn’t finish this.”  On Friday afternoon I put it on my list for my catch-up time on Monday.
  • Tuesdays –  Plan next week’s math and science. This can be detailed lessons or an outline of the week.
  • Wednesdays – Correct papers.  This isn’t for the spelling homework I can finish quickly, but for the longer assignments that take time.  I plan to have time to sit down and focus.
  • Thursdays – Plan next week’s ELA and history.  This can be detailed lessons or an outline of the week.
  • Fridays – Collaboration and copies.  I plan to collaborate with my team on this day. No matter what we do we will learn from each other and that is important.  By reserving a day for it we’ve made it a priority.  It looks different depending on the year.
    1. Collaboration
      1. Maybe you have lunch together and talk.  By sharing stories and talking you know what’s going on outside your room and get new ideas for your room.
      2. Or maybe you and another teacher each split the work so you plan literature centers and they plan math.  On Fridays, you talk about your plans.  
    2. Copies – See if either of these are possible for you. 
      1. One school I worked in had a copy person come in so if I planned ahead they would make my copies.  
      2. Another school I worked in had a copy parent.  This parent came in once a week and made copies for the class.  They can also cut out and laminate math game pieces or other things.

Batching like this may be a challenge for you, but it will make your time more productive.  After some practice, it will become easy too. Just remember that when you batch like this you will have to be flexible and switch things around sometimes, thanks to things like fire drills or assemblies.

  1. Remove distractions

There are so many distractions when I am trying to get things done.  It’s almost as if I am looking for distractions because work is work.  I tell my students to remove distractions and am working on getting better at it myself.


Co-workers are a huge distraction. They are often well-meaning, but when it is one person after another suddenly my planning period is over.  Plan the last 10 minutes of every planning period for your co-workers.  When someone comes in to talk say, “I really need to get this done for so and so, can you come back at…” and give a specific time. Or you can offer to go to their room at that time.  

If you have the same planning time every day your co-workers will start to realize this is your response and wait until that time to come talk to you.  Or you can ask them to wait until the last 10 minutes of planning time to talk to you.

When it is time to talk help the conversation get to the point quickly.  Instead of, “How are you?” Ask, “What can I help you with?”  Save the friendly conversations for lunch or while you are together at a duty.  The culture and community of a school are important, but your time to get work done is valuable too.

Move to a different location

Find a spot in the school to go do your work in.  If no one can find you then no one can bother you.  Only bring what you need to complete your two most important tasks.  Well, maybe you should bring one extra thing to work on because you will get so much done.

Put your phone away and turn off your notifications.

Put your phone in a desk draw, turn it off, or silence all notifications.  On your computer, there are websites that will block other websites.  That is literally what I searched and several popped up.  If you tend to click the Facebook or Instagram notification then this could be a solution for you.

Maximize your current computer tab or program.

When I am working on my computer I maximize my current computer program so that anything else that is on the screen is in the background unseen.  It’s enough to focus my attention.  It’s so simple, but it took me forever to think of it.

  1. Bonus Tip: Let It Go and Say No

Be protective of your planning time.  It’s one of the most valuable tools you have as a teacher.  Let the extra stuff go so you can focus and say no to requests that will make you less effective and productive.  If it is something you want to help with then see if you can set a time that works for you.  Maybe you can help with that at the end of your planning period, lunch if you want to, or the end of the day.  It doesn’t have to be a flat-out no.

Productive planning time can improve our teaching and our home lives.  If we get more work done at work, then we can leave work at work.  We can have more balance in our lives because we can relax at home.  

Click the link to my free Productive Planning Time Guide which is editable for your needs.

Are Snow Days History?

toddler standing on snow holding snowball

This year having a snow day to play in the snow has become a big deal.  Since so many schools have been using distance learning of some sort there is still school despite the 10 or more inches of snow.  It’s amazing that the schools won’t have to make up snow days anymore.  The school calendar is going to be more accurate for everyone, but at what cost?

The First Big Snowstorm of 2020

In Massachusetts, our first big snowstorm was today, December 17.  The entire state is being covered under inches and inches of snow.  There is an endless stream of plow trucks driving past our house.  It started snowing around midnight and it is still coming down heavily at 2 pm. And it’s supposed to continue for a few more hours.  

This year I am not teaching, I’m home taking care of my little guy who is not quite two.  We got to go out in the snow to play, throw snowballs, jump and climb the snow, and of course bring our dog on a walk.  

 It was his first real experience with a lot of snow.  He was hesitant, and wanted to be picked up a lot.  I had to show him how to throw a snowball and hand him several.  He finally started to pick some up on his own and lay down in the snow.  He had so much fun learning while exploring outside.  It was only a short amount of time because my little guy won’t last long out there in the cold, but it was so much fun. 

I was shocked that there weren’t more kids outside playing in the snow. Then I realized why.  So many schools are still assigning a full day’s worth of school work.

What Snow Days Looked Like At My Hybrid School

I feel I can speak to this because I taught in a school that had an online component for the last several years, even before I worked there.  Every assignment was handed out online and in class.  Jimmy forgot his book at school? Great, it’s online.  Sally forgot that worksheet?  It’s okay, just download it.  Timmy wants to see the video we watched in class to help with his homework?  Awesome, I put it up online before he left school for the day.  Jane was out sick?  That’s okay all her work is online so she can come in tomorrow ready, plus I emailed her any extra details.

Having work online was just part of our regular day.

Before a big snowstorm my boss would tell us the day before, if they knew, that school would be cancelled.  They would also tell us to assign some work, but not too much because students might need more help than is reasonable to give online.  

The bigger reason they asked us to limit our workload was that they should be kids and play in the snow.  Yes, that’s right.  The people in charge of my school told me I should not assign too much work because playing in the snow is important.

The New Snow Days … or Lack There Of

Fast forward to me being a stay at home mom during the 2020 pandemic and all over social media I am reading how schools are just fully remote for the day, kids are sad they can’t play in the snow, parents are sad their kids won’t have that experience.  Everyone is praising the few districts who are having a good old fashion snow day.

Why can’t all the schools have a snowday?  The calendar is already shortened and messed up this year.  Students are already “behind” where the schools want them to be.  What’s the harm in letting them leave the screen for a day to play and explore? Haven’t there been studies showing too much screentime is bad?  They can stretch those tired sitting in a chair all day muscles, and blink those screen weary eyes.

I think there is so much more to gain from skipping a day of “remote learning” than we can even understand.  There is so much wonder and magic in a big snowstorm.

I can see PTAs across the country petitioning to keep snow days, or at least a few of them.  

How Teachers Can Honor Snow Days

  1. Assign less work:  Chances are if you give full lessons the students won’t finish it or will have trouble understanding it.  Assign less work and maybe gear it more towards practicing what they already know.
  2. Snow work: Bring the kids into the snow to do their work.  Make a scavenger hunt.  Have them do timed tasks.  Have them build a fort.  You can justify any of them: science, math, stem.  
  3. Video/Google Slides: Have them create videos and Google Slides documenting their snow day.
  4. Journal: Have them journal about what they did.
  5. Contest:  Sponsor a cooking contest for creating the best after playing in the snow recipe.
  6. Challenge: Create different building challenges in the snow. For example,  igloos, snow house, Gaga pit.

You may not be allowed to say, “No work today.  It’s a snow day,” but you can think outside the box with what you are assigning.

9 Reasons Poetry Helps Struggling Writers & How to Implement It in Your Classroom

wood dirty desk industry

Poetry is an engaging and motivating form of writing.  As teachers, we need engaging and motivating forms of writing.  It can be a fight to get students who struggle or are reluctant to complete writing assignments.  Poetry is different from other forms of writing, so students’ reactions to it are often different.

Take a look at my growing poetry bundle on Teacher Pay Teachers to get started in your classroom.

1. Poetry Breaks Writing Conventions

Poetry breaks so many of the normal writing conventions that are required in every other type of writing.  It’s awesome to tell students that there are writing rules they don’t always have to follow.  Students take some pleasure in the idea of breaking the rules.  It makes writing poetry fun for them.

However, to break the rules students must know what the rules are.  Writing poetry can lead to organic conversations about what the writing rules are and how different forms of poetry break them.  

2. Creativity is Required

Poetry lets creativity run wild.  It’s creativity that can fit any personality too.  Some of the poems are silly like limericks.  The class clown can stop acting out for attention and make the class laugh with his or her work.  However, there are plenty of serious poems that let students get creativity with descriptions and word choice.

There are so many different formats and styles of poetry that every student will find at least one form that fits their creative style.

3. Poetry has Clear Directions and Form

In the classroom, students are often overwhelmed by writing tasks.  They don’t want to create outlines or prewrites, and just don’t even know where to start.  

Poetry is different.  Students can often get going on writing a poem easily because there are clear directions and rules for each type of poem.  There is a clear format they are required to follow. 

Suddenly students who couldn’t write yesterday are the first ones done with their draft.

4. Poems Are Short

Poetry is often a short form of writing.  To most students short equals easy.  Really, writing poetry can be challenging, but their mindset has changed and so has their output and their confidence.

Suddenly students who struggled to get a paragraph done in an hour are finished with their poem, and it’s five times more beautiful than you expected.  

My jaw has dropped many times when I’ve read the poetry of my students.  It’s also amazing to see their confidence grow.  They got an assignment, pre-wrote, drafted, revised, edited, and published in the timeframe given by the teacher.  They did it.  I love seeing their confidence soar high from writing.

5. Poems have descriptive language

Poems are short and have only a few lines, or most of them anyway.  Since Poets are trying to fit so much into a short poem they must write with more purpose.  The poet’s word choice and descriptions must be powerful.  

I find that writing poetry helps students become more descriptive writers.  It can be because it’s easier to take and implement suggestions from teachers and classmates.  It’s less intimidating to look up alternate words when there are only 15 words on the page, or just because the student is more invested in what they wrote.  No matter which reason I find students have better descriptive language when writing poetry. 

6. Poetry Uses Literary Devices

Every teacher wants their students to use literary devices in their writing.  However, every teacher also knows that’s a struggle.  It must be in the requirements of the writing piece.  

Every five years you get one student who loves writing.  It shows because they add literary devices, descriptive language, and dialogue to their writing without being asked. Poetry brings this out in most students.

Poetry makes literary devices friendly to work with because it’s often the focus of the short writing piece.  Students can really focus on understanding that one part of writing because they aren’t trying to fit it into a five-paragraph essay.  

Breaking tasks down and scaffolding them.  Isn’t that what teachers are all about?  I am often delighted that after we work with a literary device in poetry I find it popping up in other writing assignments.  It has been broken-down for students in writing a poem and now they are ready to apply it other places.

7. Poetry practices the writing process

In all of my poetry lessons, I have my students practice the writing process.  When I ask students to use a graphic organizer for an essay they barely look at it.  To them, it’s extra work they will do if required.  They think their essays don’t need revisions.  

The writing process takes so long to complete in essays because it is spread over days and weeks, so it’s hard for students to grasp and internalize the process.  

However, the short form of poems helps students to practice all the steps of the writing process several times.  They can learn the difference between revising and editing.  They can share their poem in a couple of minutes and are often proud of their work when they share it.

8. Poetry also puts more grades in your grade book

I know this one sounds silly, but it’s true.  I have gotten to the end of a grading period with only one or two writing grades before and it’s scary.  Suddenly a writing assignment carries a heavyweight in their final grade.  As the teacher, you were planning on several assignments, but the first one took longer than you planned.  

Poems are short assignments that help struggling and reluctant writers get invested in and complete their work.  Instead of one writing grade you now have five.  Now their final grade is a better reflection of who a student is and what they are capable of.  They would have struggled to show you what they can write in a five-paragraph research essay.  They barely finished because they felt sick every day during writing because it was so stressful.

9. Poetry is fun

Okay, so poetry is not as amazing as going to the theme park on a day where there are no lines and you got to ride the superman roller coaster seven times in 30 minutes. (Yes, this really happened to me). But it’s more fun than other forms of writing. 

It creates conversation about writing.  It creates humor and love of writing.  It creates community.  It creates learning.

How to Implement Poetry in Your Classroom

There are two formats that I like to use to make poetry part of my classroom.  Which you chose could depend on your personality, the students you have a particular year, or school administration.  Ultimately it’s up to you, but here’s what I have used.

Why Teachers Fail to Implement Poetry

Do not plan to add it in where you can, or hope you remember to complete the couple of poems you really like.

Why this loose plan fails:

  • You will forget it.  I worked with a teacher who did this and sometimes the Halloween poem would get done after Halloween.
  • The Common Core or other standards will overwhelm and pressure you.  There is so much that has to get finished to meet state standards that poetry gets pushed back, continuously.  It’s a form of writing that can benefit our students so much we can not let it get pushed back to next week. 
  • If you value it and keep it in the schedule your students will value it too. Our students know when something is important because we make it a priority.  Then they make it a priority too.  They will be more invested in it knowing it’s important.

Format 1 Dedicate an ELA block to poetry each week.

This sounds simple, but when you have so many other assignments you are trying to teach, complete, this is hard.

I like a two-week rotation:

Week 1:

  • Introduce the poetry assignment
  • Prewrite
  • Draft
  • Revise

Week 2:

  • Continue revising if necessary (If I leave something alone for a week then I often have brilliant new ways to improve it)
  • Edit
  • Publish and Share

Why I like a weekly block

Having poetry scheduled as a weekly block helps me to ensure it stays on the calendar.   With all the other demands the schools place on teachers having poetry scheduled in helps me keep it a priority.  

I also like that it gives the students and myself a break from essay writing, research, or revising their narratives again.  It becomes a break they know they can count on.

When I write, even a simple email, I will often let it sit for a day before sending it.  I sometimes think of something new or decide something doesn’t work well because I let it sit for a while. I feel the same thing is true by letting students’ poetry drafts sit for a week.

Why I don’t like a weekly block

Sometimes I also feel it interrupts the other work we are doing.  We might be working hard on a creative writing story and sometimes I feel like taking a break from the current project to write a poem interrupts our flow.  However, then they are letting that story sit for a day so it might be beneficial.

Format 2: Devote a month to writing poems

April is national poetry month. (You may also want to consider October or November so the benefits of writing poetry spill into the rest of the year.) Why not write only poems for the entire month?  Imagine your students’ reactions when you tell them there will be no essays for a month.  It could be a real “O Captain, My Captain” moment (from The Dead Poets Society).  

Plan to write a new poem every two days.  You would still follow the rotation we talked about earlier, but the days would be back to back.  You would be able to write two poems a week.

Monday: Poem 1

  • Introduce the poetry assignment 
  • Prewrite
  • Draft
  • Revise


  • Continue revising if necessary (if I leave something alone for a week then I often have a brilliant new ways to improve it)
  • Edit
  • Publish and Share

Wednesday: Poem 2

  • Introduce the poetry assignment
  • Prewrite
  • Draft
  • Revise


  • Continue revising if necessary (if I leave something alone for a week then I often have a brilliant new way to improve it)
  • Edit
  • Publish and Share


  • Complete anything that is incomplete
  • Also a great idea to leave this day open on your calendar because of holidays or state testing.

Why I like scheduling a poetry month

This format means that you are devoted to a month of poetry writing.  It can really help students get in the poetry zone and develop a love for it.

I don’t feel like I’m interrupting other projects because this is the complete focus for the month.

Why I don’t like scheduling a poetry month

I feel there are so many benefits from writing poetry and I like students to experience this throughout the year.  

Students don’t get to let the drafts of their poems sit for a week while they think about them.  

I don’t get to put poetry grades in my grade book throughout the year.  So their grades may not be an even reflection of what they can accomplish with different forms of writing.

Poetry is underestimated by most.  It’s a beautiful art form that benefits our students.  Let’s use it more. 

Bonus Suggestions

Poets.org has posters for National Poetry Month as well as a student poster competition for high schoolers.

Look for other poetry competitions for your students to enter.  Sometimes scholastic has them.

Check out my growing poetry bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers.  All of these poems are listed individually too.

7 Strategies to Simplify Classroom Grading

crop black woman writing report

Over and over again I hear from teachers that grading takes up so much time.  Or that they have to bring home so much work to grade off the clock.  What if we could simplify what we are doing in grading to make our lives easier?  

The only papers I ever brought home to grade were essays.  It didn’t bother me to bring them home because I only had a couple of batches to grade each year since they are longer projects.

Here are my tips on how to get more time back for yourself after 3pm.

1. Grade on the Go

It’s social studies and my students come into the room with their homework.  On the screen I have directions to follow.  It’s really routine, but the directions are there because even after 4 months there are still confused kids.  Students are now seated, starting their assignment with their homework out on their desks.

I have some choices on how to check and grade their homework.  Here’s the system that works wonders.

I bring a small class list with me.  On the side is the date and the assignment.  There is space next to their names to write their grade and any comment I might want to enter into my computer.  I write their grade on my paper with any needed comments.  I also write their grade on the assignment in case there is a computer error. They can show me the grade and I can fix it.  There is no question on if it was done or late or incomplete.

Benefits to grading on the go

It can take some time, but there are many benefits to grading on the go.  Since the kids are in their seats working on an activity there are less disruptions.

  1. I am not calling out names of students who need to come show me their work.
  2. They are not interrupted by classmates around them walking by.
  3. There are less students wondering up to come ask questions because they know I am coming to them.
  4. Students ask more questions because it’s less intimidating when I go to them to check in and we are not at my desk.
  5. I can give kids immediate feedback so they can fix errors.  Or we can talk for a minute and clear up confusion or I can adjust the lesson plan for the class.

2. Grade on Effort and Directions

On most homework, but especially in intimidating math, I grade on students’ effort and ability to follow directions.  My students know this and will actually read all the steps of the directions several times to get a good grade and ask me questions.  It’s amazing.

Mistakes on homework are good because they show us where students are confused and what we can do to clarify a topic.  It can show us how to change our lesson for that class. 

I also make sure to think about the individual student because success for one student does not mean the same thing for another student.

I look at three things when I grade homework like this.

  1. Did they follow all the directions?
  2. Is the work neat for that student?
  3. Is the work that student’s best effort?

Spelling is the exception.  Their spelling homework should be spelled correctly because they often have the words right in front of them.  Spelling words correctly is the point of spelling homework, to practice correctly. They can also look up word in a spelling sentence that they don’t know how to spell.

3. Have Six Grades Students Can Expect

In general there are six grades my students expect to get from me.  This is not a new system, but I feel that my students understand the expectations well.  I will often give grades in between based on effort, directions, and neatness.  However clear expectations for the students helps them reach for their goal.

  • Check Plus (100%) means the work is neat, organized and done exceptionally well.  I have had many students ask me about a grade on an assignment that was done.  I go back to this grading form and point to it. I ask them, “Was it done exceptionally well?”  Oftentimes the student will say no and thank me for explaining it and showing them the expectation.   
  • Check (85%) means it was done well and directions were followed.  It was a good effort, but it could have been more.  My early finishers are often happy with their minimum effort work.  The truth is it could be better and they could make it more.  And I expect them to try.
  • Check Minus (70) means the work was done with errors.  It was complete, but messy.  It was far from great effort and more along the lines of the student just rushed to finish it asap.
  • Zero (0) – They didn’t do the work or turn in anything.
  • Incomplete (I) – They turned in the work, but it was not finished.  I will often give this back to them.  If they are a student who always does their homework and it is always done correctly I will give them a warning with a little grace.  “Next time this will be considered late, but today you can just finish it up.  It will be on time because you always do your work and do it well.”  If it is a student who is often missing their work I will give it back to them to finish and it will be considered late and their grade will be reduced.  They can get between 50-70%.
  • Late (50%) – Late assignments generally start at half credit unless a student contacts me ahead of time to self-advocate or explain.

Your system may not be the same as mine. Whatever system works for you try to keep it simple.  Keep it clear. Keep it consistent.  

4. Do NOT Grade Everything

In my first long term teaching position I felt I had to assign a lot of papers and grade a lot of papers and assign more papers.  I was under a pile of papers I thought my students needed to complete and I needed to grade.  If I could get through all the papers then I was a good teacher.  I was wrong.

Do not grade everything.  Some assignments are just class participation.  Some papers are just for practice.  Do not add extra work for everyone.  It’s okay to not grade everything.  It’s okay to assign less work. Grade the most important things that will really help you see what your students understand.  Grade the work you value the most.

Let the rest go.

5. Prioritize

If you have a planning period to work on grading prioritize what needs to get done first.  I have often fallen into the trap of I am going to grade this spelling assignment really quick, because it tends to be fast and then I will get to the other stuff.  The truth is spelling is easy to grade.  I can grade two papers while I wait for art class to wrap up.  I can grade two more while students get their snacks out.  I can grade two more while students trade their books for the next class.  

Use your planning period that you set aside to grade the math tests that will take some time, but you want to finish asap. Or another assignment you had to collect and couldn’t grade on the go.  Finish that first.

6. Pick One Day A Week to Grade Late Work

One of the most time consuming things to grade is late work.  When students turn in their work late I have to find the answer key, grade it, pull up the assignment online, enter one grade and return to the task I was actually trying to get done.  This process is not efficient.  

Pick one day a week to grade and enter late work, so you are not completing this process several times each period.  Maybe you get the assignment from five students by Friday, so instead of going back and entering the grade five times you only have to do it once.

Communicate with parents and students that this is the process.  If they turn in something late they will wait to get their grade.  Let them know you grade late work on Mondays or Fridays, (whatever works for you.)

As a general rule, I only accept late work until the end of the week. Students know this is a deadline and if they need to I let them make-up work during recess.  Life is a little different during the Covid -19 pandemic.  I might make it for two weeks.  After that, it’s a zero and cannot be made up.  If you decide this is a good policy, communicate it with parents and students clearly.  Spend some time training your students. Then enjoy reducing your pile of work to grade. Enjoy that students are turning their work in.

7. Allow Redos and Resubmissions

If a student comes to you and asks to redo an assignment they did poorly on, let them.  They are advocating for themselves.  They are willing to try it again.  Self-advocating is a hard skill to learn.  It’s scary to ask a teacher to redo work.  Praise them for self-advocating.

Make students try it again. In my math class if you get below a 70% on a test you will try it again.  We will have some reteaching and math games for a day.  Students who need to take it again will try the problems they missed.  Say they got a 10/40 on the first test.  I had them try the other 30 problems again and they did better.  This time they got a 30/40.  I average the two grades and they get a 20 out of 40.  Not a great final grade, but it will help them at the end of the grading period.

There are some assignments I do not let them try again, like multiple-choice tests.  It’s okay to say no to assignments like this, but make sure you recognize their initiative to self-advocate.  Maybe offer extra credit before the end of the grading period.

Your job is hard enough.  Think about how you can adjust your grading to make it easier on everyone.  As you implement new policies about grading be sure to communicate your new expectations clearly.

Is there a tip you just loved and can’t wait to try?  Or do you have a tip you’d love to share?  Please comment below.