Get Your Gradebook On - Organizing for the New Year!

Hello.. I'm back... Happy New Year!

School starts again on Monday and I know I should be working on my New Year's resolutions... or at least on MAKING some. 

And I KNOW what one of them should be.

I just went and dug out my gradebook.  Here's what I found.

It looks remarkably like the way I left it when I threw it in my bag on the way out before Christmas.  (and considering it was still in the same place I put it when I got home, I shouldn't be surprised.)
I hate grading papers.  Like, REALLY hate it.  I am good at walking around while my kiddos are working and writing notes on sticky notes about how they're doing, and about taking notes during small group time, etc.  So I do have a very good handle on how each of my kiddos is doing.
But when it comes time sitting down and actually correcting things - and then putting things in the gradebook, I can find a MILLION other things that need to get done first.  I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.  When you first start teaching, grading papers is fun.  Drawing smiley faces, circling errors, writing encouraging comments.... but it gets old fast.
Knowing that grading is not on my top ten list of favorite things to do, I've devised a system that helps me stay relatively on top of things.  No system is perfect and honestly, if you don't make a real effort to USE the system, it doesn't work (ask me how I know :-)

So, here are some strategies I use to make grading (and recording!) a little easier.

This one is really important.  There are a ton of pre-made gradebooks on the market, and if you search TpT you can find even more - some you can even customize.  You just have to find one that works for you. 

I know I wanted a gradebook that fit with the Common Core standards, since our school was moving to standards-based report cards this year.  I also did not want to write my students' names in a billion times.  And it had to have big enough spaces for me be able to not only put a grade, but add a note too, if needed.  So - I created my own CC standards-based gradebook.

There is a page for EVERY standard.  I put my student names in and printed 2 copies of each page, so I would have enough space for most of the year.  Then I tabbed each section. 

NOTE:  After going through one round of report cards, I discovered I needed to add MORE tabs to my binder.  I needed the individual standards grouped by over-arching standard, because that's what was on our report card.  So I added little sticky tabs for those.

I also added a back page with all the info I would need for end-of-year data: DRA level, writing prompt scores, etc.  By keeping this all on one page and adding to it throughout the year, I'm one step ahead of the crazy end-of-year rush!

I have to say, this really worked well for me.  It was easy to gather grades for report cards, I could address any specific academic concerns when they came up, I had data for PPTs... success!
(If you're interested in seeing the editbale gradebooks I created, click HERE to go to my TpT store.  I have them for grades 1-4. I have also begun to create custom gradebooks that match your report card. You can email me for more information.)

Having a useful and pertinent gradebook does make recording the grades easier.  But that doesn't help with the actual task of GRADING papers.  For that, I present to you, the 3-tiered system of grading!

Tier 1 - stuff you don't grade
Admit it.  You have stuff you don't grade.  And if you don't, you should.  I'm talking about things like activities you've done whole class, quick reviews you give to jus to make sure everyone is still on track, some center activities... All these provide valuable information, but do not need to be added to the pile of things to grade.  Check them off - or better yet, have your students draw a smiley face or whatever - and send them home.  Of course, if anyone had trouble with the activity, you'd make a note.  But don't put them in the pile.

Tier 2 - stuff you correct for information
What does that mean?  A 100% does not mean the same thing for everyone.  For example, when you correct/grade an activity, 3 students have everything correct.  Just writing 100 in the gradebook does not tell you much.  Student 1 finished quickly, needed no help and had a solid understanding of the concept.  Student 2 completed the activity in a reasonable amount of time, but had a few questions while working.  Student 3 got them all right, but needed a quick reteaching and some support to complete the activity.  Each of those examples shows students who are at different points with the concept.  I use a quick coding system of plus, check, check minus and minus in my gradebook to tell me what I need to know.

When I go back and look at my gradebook for report cards, if a student has mostly check marks, that means they are where I would expect them to be now.  Those with plusses are beyond, and those with "check minuses" are the ones who still need support.  These "coded" grades give me the most information about my students.

Tier 3 - stuff you grade for benchmark scores, etc.
This includes spelling tests, math chapter tests, writing prompts, etc.  It's the actual grade that matters here, for the most part, since that is what will be recorded on data sheets.

That's it!  I also find it helpful to have a tiered tray where I put papers to be graded.  The ones on the bottom are the ones that need a quick review and then send home (Tier 1).  My IA often takes care of these.  Love her!  The middle tray are those to be "coded."  I try to put something on these right away after the students do them so I remember how things went.  Then all I have to do it quickly write them in my book and send them home.  The top tray is for those papers I need to really look at, make a copy of, etc.

I already talked about this a little, but it bears repeating.  Some things can just be sent home with a big "C" or check mark or smiley face.  Timed math facts? Want to hear a dirty little secret?  I don't correct every math problem.  We do 100 facts in 5 minutes and I do NOT check each and every one.  I glance at the problems, pick up on any mistakes and just count up the number completed.  It's not going to matter if the student really got 86 problems and I recorded 90.  It all averages out in the end.  I do know which certain students I need to check more carefully, but for the most part, I just count by tens and go!

Using journals and interactive notebooks gives students a chance to show what they know without adding to the grading stack.  I have students show me their work right away and add it to my gradebook immediately.  Sometimes I will have them leave their journal or notebook open to the particular activity and I'll go through them quickly when I have a moment.

I hope you can use some of these tips to make your grading easier.  To me, the most important part of grading is getting the most valuable information possible.  That pile of papers can get overwhelming very quickly, so it's important to find ways to make things easier.

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  1. So many similarities between you and I when it comes to grading... But this post has lots of great suggestions too. Some were really helpful to just affirm that I'm not the only one that struggles with it and I'm slowly figuring out what works best for me! I've moved to a digital grade book (or more so a "log") using Google Docs- I can access it anywhere, it's easy to update and I can tailor it to my needs/standards. I'm still working on the best way to organize it, but it's really helped, especially for those really valuable post-it notes on observations that just get lost in the other piles of stuff to 'grade.' Thanks for sharing! :)

  2. Such a great post full of ideas. I currently use to a digital grade book because it links to our report cards and parents eventually will be able to see it (so we've been told). I love your standards based grade book. Like you, I take a lot of notes as I confer with students and during small group time and this has helped me give more accurate grades.

    Swinging for Success

  3. So many great tips! I LOVE it!
    Annie :)


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