One of the things I noticed last year, when I started evaluating how my time was spent, was that a huge portion of my “teacher time” involved tediously grading daily assignments. Personally, I felt that this wasn’t the best use of my time and opportunity with the kids; I wanted to be doing more actual teaching.
Since my kids are 3rd and 5th grade, I figured they were old enough to learn some self-checking and self-correcting in a few areas. So we instituted what we called “Grading Center,” and this year we added a little flair at the kids’ request: a sign, some stickers, and colored pens.
What Grading Center Is
- At a certain time of day, one of us sets up the Grading Center at our dining table. This is a location that is out in the open and in clear view. The answer keys are set out during this time, as well as our sign, stickers, and pens; after assignments are graded, everything is put away again.
- The kids grade only daily assignments: math lessons, map work, Latin worksheets, etc. I grade all tests and quizzes.
- No pencils are allowed at the grading center, only our colored pens.
- This is a time for them to notice what they’ve done wrong and attempt to understand the corrections themselves.
- This is also time for them to build integrity and character. It’s a lesson in honesty, and doing the right thing. It’s a testing ground in a controlled situation.
What Grading Center Isn’t
- It isn’t at any time unsupervised. No answer key ever leaves the designated location. And while I am not looking over their shoulders, I am close enough to see and notice things.
- It isn’t without accountability. During our time to together, I quickly look over everything they’ve graded. First, I scan for errors. Their work is still easy enough at this stage that, at a glance, I can tell if they’ve done a decent job and can still easily catch any errors. Second, I ask if they’ve understood all of the corrections. Most of the time, they do. But sometimes there are some new math concepts or a confusing map skills question that requires a bit of explaining.
- It isn’t encouraging temptation. I stress honesty and that it’s okay to make mistakes. Nothing they grade counts for an actual grade; I grade all quizzes and tests. Also, I’ve talked with them about telling me if they feel any temptation to cheat, that there is nothing shameful in struggling, but that I would want to know so that I could help them to avoid actually cheating. If at any time I felt one of my kids was being tempted in this way, we would make other arrangements.
- It isn’t encouraging laziness. As a matter of fact, in many cases, I think it has encouraged careful work. It makes a much bigger impact for them to circle and mark their own careless mistakes than for me to mark it and merely tell them it was careless.
While this definitely isn’t a “one size fits all” solution, having a little help with the grading has made a huge difference in my day. It frees me up to be able to do more teaching than correcting. And it’s one step closer to making them independent learners. Just like having them help me clean the house teaches them character and responsibility, having them help with the grading has been a great training ground, too.
Are they always excited about doing it? Of course not, let’s not fool ourselves. But the stickers and neon pens do help.