Sunday, July 14, 2019

10 Grading Tips for Teachers--How to Keep Grading Manageable and Fair

When I was younger, I loved grading papers. It was one of the things I was looking forward to when I become a teacher. I would have one of those sliding grading things and some cool pens and grading would be so fun!

That got old real quick. I like going through student work to get an idea of what they understand and where to take my instruction based on that data.

However, the process of collecting work, grading it, entering grades, passing back assignments...not something I enjoy.

Over the years, I improved my grading process so that it didn't consume so much of my time but still provided students with feedback that needed.


Here are my tips to make grading work for you without causing you unnecessary stress.

Know your district/school/department grading policy

Most schools will probably tell you at the beginning of the year. It should tell you how many grades are required, how many should be test/homework/daily, if students are allowed to redo work, etc.

Know when progress report and report card grades are due

...and don't wait until the last minute to enter grades. Not only will it be stressful at 4 pm to enter grades on the day they are due at 4:30. That will certainly be the day your computer starts acting up. I had a goal to enter 1-2 grades per week. Students and parents probably have online access to their grades and parents especially expect grades to updated regularly. It also isn't fair to a students who had an A the first week of grades to now be failing after a teacher waited 3 weeks to enter grades again. So, keep on top of it. 1-2 grades a week isn't unmanageable.

You also should wait to long because you are depriving students of feedback. One purpose of grades is for students to know how they are preforming in your class. If you only do two batches of grading in a grading period, students are not getting the proper feedback they need. (There are other ways to give feedback (I'll discuss later) If you are doing those other forms, use them as grades!

Don't grade students on responsibility

Some teachers won't agree with this one. I don't count off for late work. That's grading responsibility. There can certainly be other consequences: call home, lunch detention... but if a students doesn't turn in an assignment, I am not going to count off because it is late. I grade to know if they can do the work.

Let students fix their grades

You can let them make corrections of work you have passed back OR let them replace a grade with another assignment on a similar topic. For example, if a student got a 50 on an assignment about order of operations but then a week later did another assignment on order of operations and got an 80 -- I replace the first grade with the second grade. If the purpose of a gradebook reflects a student's understanding of the subject, that 50 is no longer an accurate reflection.

Find ways to make grading quick

Use SeeSaw, Quizizz, Self-Checking Assignments (like coloring pages), shortened assignments. Spot check assignments too. If a student can do the first 10 problems correctly, then possibly that's enough to know if they got it.

You don't have to grade everything. 

You just don't.

Don't take formative assessments as a grade

...unless you are willing to give students a similar assessment to improve their grade. The point of a formative assessment is to see where students are at and then to adjust your instruction. So students might not be ready for assessment and it isn't really fair to base their grade off of it.

Differentiate the assignments you take grades for. 

We have to standardized our state testing--but not in the classroom. If you only take grades on multiple choice assignments, you aren't letting some students show their potential. Have a variety of ways for students show what they know. Including verbal responses! If I pull a student for small group and they do a wonderful job explaining how to convert from a fraction to a percent -- I'll take a grade.

Try not to take grading home. 

If I took grading home over the weekend, it usually sat in my bag and made me feel guilty for not touching it. So make time to do it in 10-15 minutes bursts during the week.

Have student helpers

The worst part of grading for me was remembering to pass it back. I would always remember as students were leaving my room. So I created a file folder for each student and would give stacks of graded papers to students to file before or after school. Then I could just hand each student a stack of their papers. This also made it easy to make copies of students work that I was tracking for RtI or their IEPs.

My opinion on grading throughout my career has changed and I am sure it will change again before I finish. To be quite honest I think we should get rid of grades, reduce class sizes to 12-15 and have report cards be like Kindergarten ones that explain in words how a student is doing in class.

What are your thoughts on grading? Anything you agree or disagree with?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Rational Numbers Cards FREEBIE Small Group Instruction Ideas

One things I consistently used every year was random numbers written on cards. Usually, I would take some index cards, cut them in half, and write random numbers on them right before class started. 

Once small groups started, I pulled students over and depending on the topic, gave them random numbers to work with. 

I used these number cards for classifying numbers, ordering and comparing numbers, converting between fractions, decimals, and percents, and rational number operations. 

By the end of going through 3-4 groups per class, over 3 classes over 2 day, those cards got a lot of use out of them. 

So, I wanted something that would last longer, and where I wouldn't have to use brain power to come up with random numbers on the spot. (Have you ever made yourself come up with random numbers on the spot? Eventually I can't think of anything!)

I created these cards with lots of numbers so I could laminate them on pretty colored paper and use them over and over again without scrambling to write down numbers real quick. 



Here are some ideas on how you can use them in small group instruction:
  • For ordering numbers, students pull 5 random cards and order them least to greatest, greatest to least (use all the vocabulary here)
  • For classifying numbers, students pull 10 random cards. Create a large Venn Diagram on butcher paper and students will classify numbers. 
  • For converting numbers, give students a fraction, decimal or percent and ask them to generate two equivalent numbers. 
Of course, you can differentiate for each student. You can give them random cards or you can choose specific cards to give them depending on what kind of practice they need. 

I find that in the best small group instruction, students need to do most of the talking. So as they are completing the tasks above I ask them questions. 

"Why did you put this number there?" "Explain the process you used for this." "Why isn't this number an integer?"...




Monday, July 8, 2019

Free Editable Math Game for Middle School or Elementary Math


One thing my students liked to do is create challenges for each other. When they do that, the get practice in two different ways. First, they have to create problems/games for others to solve and then they have to solve and play other student's games. In my experience, students usually try to stump their classmates.

I created this template that you could use to have students create a Spin and Cover game for others to play.

You can give students this blank template and and topic to create a game for. Give them some time to make the game and then when they are done, they can switch and play. 
Some topics they can make the game on: 
  • Integer Operations- students pick 8 numbers to place in the spinner. Then they have to write enough integer operation problems where the solution is one of the 8 numbers they selected. 
  • Multiplication facts- Students pick 8 numbers and write multiplication problems where the solution is one of the 8 numbers they selected. 
  • Equivalent Fractions- Students pick 8 fractions and then they fill the circles with fractions that are equivalent to the 8 they selected. 
  • Solving Equations- Students pick 8 numbers to place in the spinner. Then they write equations where the solution is one of the 8 numbers they selected. 
Some topics will be more challenging than others, but you can vary it based on what your want your students to practice. 

Here is a completed game board where students will compare numbers. 



Finally, here is an editable version of the game so you can add your own numbers and problems. 



Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Circuits Intervention-Science STAAR Review-TEKS 5.6B

Ya'll. It's that time of year again.

STAAR Review Time--closer to summer and no alarm clocks and pool time!

This 4-day Easter weekend was just enough to give me the taste of summer.

STAAR review is not my favorite time of year because it can be so boring. By the end of our 2-3 STAAR review weeks, I am ready for the students to take the test and just get it over with already.

So, I refuse to just do 2-3 weeks of practicing test questions. There needs to be variety, students talking, excitement, etc.

I've had this idea that a multiple test is basically full of true/false statements. Students just need to identify the true statements and easy-peasy! (Of course I realize it is more complicated than that.) But for some students, it might be a way to chunk the questions and make them more manageable.

I have an activity to share that focuses on electrical circuits. In the activity, students analyze a circuit and 7 statements about it. They will need to determine if the statements are true or false.

I used this in an activity in small group yesterday. We analyzed the circuits together--talked about the path the electricity traveled, found areas where the circuit was open or closed, and traced the path with a dry erase marker. Then I gave each student one of the cards to determine if the statement was true or false. After they figured it out, they shared their answers and we talked about it. 

If you want to try out this FREE Resource, click the here to download it. 


I also have these Circuit Task Cards available in my store. 


Let me know how this intervention goes for you!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

2019 Books So Far

I saw a tweet back in December where someone asked for suggestions for books they couldn't stop reading. That kickstarted my reading hobby which has been suffering since having my first baby in 2013. This year I have read/listened to 21 books! And there have been some great ones. If you want to follow me on Goodreads, where I keep track of my reads, you can click here.

I want to share some of my favorite reads of the year here.

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1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sรกnez


This is the most beautiful story I have ever read. I cannot stop thinking about it. It ended up on my to-read list because the audiobook is read by Lin Manuel Miranda, and I'm so glad I found it! Its about two boys growing up and finding their place in the world in El Paso in the '80s. 

2. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

This is nonfiction. Stevenson is a lawyer who found the Equal Justice Initiative. He works with inmates on death row, those who were sentence to life in prison as a juvenile. He has argued and won cases in front the Supreme Court. His book was truly eye-opening for how the justice system in the United States is not completely just to all our citizens. There is also a young adult version of his book. 

3. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan


This needs to be listened to. Music is such an important part of the story and the audiobook uses music to tell parts of the story. The book follows a harmonica as it travels from a boy living in Nazi Germany, to orphans living in New York City, to a girl and her family living in California during World War II.  

4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates



This is a book of essays where the author is writing to his son about race in America. I don't feel like I have words to describe how critical it is for White Americans to read this book, but White Americans should read this book. Toni Morrison calls is "required reading." It is eye-opening to read how life can be so different for someone who lives in the same country as me. Read it. (I listened to it and it is read by the author.)

5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


This is another book that was a great audiobook. There are different voice actors for the characters which makes the story come to life. In this book, a toddler escapes to a graveyard after his family is murdered in the middle of the night. The residents of the graveyard agree to raise him and the story follows him as he grows. 


Do you have any books you can recommend? I am adding to my constantly growing to-read list.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Rock Cycle Resources

Teaching the rock cycle can be fun. Even though it is a real-life process that takes millions of years to observe, there are many ways to model the rock cycle.


This lab uses chocolate, butterscotch, and white chocolate chips to model sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rock formation.

If you have some broken crayons (what teacher doesn't), this lab uses crayons to model the three types of rock formation.

Love starburst? This lab uses starburst to model the processes.

(I did not create any of these lab. I just found them on the web.)

Types of Rocks Foldable


Digital Types of Rock Sort on Google Drive


This interactive webpage overviews types of rocks and the formation. There is also a little quiz at the end. 


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Teacher Self-Care

This is a buzz word in teaching right now.

Treat Yo Self, right? However, no amount of manicures, massages, Netflix binge, or sleeping in will help if you aren't setting limits for yourself at work.

Teaching is a stressful job. Teachers plan a lesson, and then differentiate for their students it. These are ways that I have found to practice self-care myself.


1. Say No or Don't Volunteer

It is extremely hard for me to say no OR to even sit in a meeting where someone is asking for volunteers and to not speak up. But! I am not Wonder Women! I cannot do it all, and I am more and more willing to realize when my plate is full and pass when I need to.

2. Don't reinvent the wheel

There are lots of resources out there just waiting for you to use them! Now, best practice is to not just find activities to fill the time you have with students. The things you plan for your students need to have a purpose and truly help your students meet their learning targets.

Where to find resources? My favorite place? Twitter--especially if you are a math teacher. The #mtbos or #iteachmath community has lots of helpful teachers from all over the country. Another place? The teacher down the hall. If you have other teachers at your school teaching the same subject and grade level, you should be planning together. It should make both your lives easier.

3. Focus on a few things a year to work on

I know I start every year with a long list of things I want to learn and conquer. It never works out that I can do it all. And when November hits, I just feel guilty that I haven't done better. Instead, pick 1-3 things you can improve on in a year.

4. Ask for help

Again--that teacher down the hall, twitter, your team leader, your spouse, your friend, your mom...you are teaching the future! Everyone should pitch in. In addition to this, stop spending your money! Unless it truly bring you joy to spend your money, find ways to get things donated, ask your principal, use Donors Choose, or don't buy it. There is probably a free way to do what you are trying to do.

5. Don't take it personally

My first year, I took every misbehavior so personally. I came home physically and mentally exhausted. I remember coming home, sitting on the couch, and not moving until it was time to go to bed.

My second year I realized that these little people were still learning how to treat others and were developing their personalities. Looking at it from this point of view, I didn't take their misbehavior personally and instead saw it as an opportunity to teach them. I also got much better at establishing procedures and expectations in my classroom.

6. Find the thing that reduces your stress

My thing? Laying on the floor and letting my kids hug me and climb all over me. Instant stress reducer. Also a good nap.

Your thing might be chocolate bar, a night out with friends, a massage, or a long run. These things shouldn't be the only way to practice self-care, but can be part of your plan!

7. Speak up for yourself

I added this one last after a particularly bad day. I haven't completed this step yet, because this is the hardest for me. We have to be willing to speak up for ourselves and say when something isn't right (or illegal), or causing us stress when it doesn't need to be. In my case, I have a responsibility that is causing me stress and anxiety. It is something that can probably be fixed but....I have to speak up for myself. This risks me looking whiny, ungrateful, not a team player, etc. In fact, I have spoken up in the past at other campuses and it not gone well initially. So I have decided to speak up, or stay silent and hope it changes next year.

All those teachers that have gone on strike have practiced this bit of self-care. They are willing to fight for public education and for better working conditions and pay and speak up for themselves and their colleagues.

How do you practice self-care? Anything I missed?

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