Every Minute Counts
Chemistry teachers love to blow things up. But, unfortunately, we're being buried under mounds of paperwork that make it hard to find time in the lab. Do you wish you could use the age-old toss the papers down the stairs and grade 'em where they land method? Has the Scantron machine become your second-best friend, next to your coffee cup?
Spend a few minutes with me and I think we'll be able to salvage some of your time and get you back in the lab where you belong.
- Routines save time. A fresh start in September is the best time to train your students. Think through how these routines will play out come November and February. You want to pick a path that can stand up through the year.
- Prep pays off. Spend time making paper seating charts, attendance logs, etc., that you will be able to access easily and use to make quick notes on.
- Create a key. When you grade, you may find yourself making the same comment numerous times. Make up a short-hand that you can decipher for students when you return the paper. Or, print out the key and hand it back with the assignment.
- Stroll around the classroom at the beginning of class and check homework for completion while students complete a warm-up or some other regularly scheduled activity (remember, routines save time.)
- Don't grade every paper. For group work, have students turn in a packet and then randomly grade one of those papers.
- Have students do some of the work. In my class I have students grade their own papers with a different colored pen and then turn in the assignments. That way they get instant feedback and I get help grading.
- Grade in chunks. Have students keep worksheets for a particular chapter or section and then turn them in as a packet. This way you only have to enter one grade into the grade book and you need only handle that student's work once.
- Stick to your guns. Enforce your late work policy. If you say, "No late work is accepted after the unit test," then let that be law. Grading one late assignment can take as long as grading 5-10 regular assignments when you consider finding the key, etc. Be organized. Students will be absent. Have a folder with missed assignments ready to go. Students can consult it when they return without your help if they are into the routine. Make your assignments easy on the eyes. Format assignments so that answers are easy to find. Try to use one sheet of paper to reduce page turning. Require students to type their answers if there will be a lot of writing involved. If you actively think about how you manage the homework and grading load in your classroom, I believe you will be able to streamline the process and reclaim some of those precious minutes without sacrificing quality instruction.