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Tired of taking home tons of graded work just to lug it back again the next day? Check out how to win that graded paper battle once and for all! TheAppliciousTeacher.com

Win the Graded Paper Battle for Once and For All!

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New year, new organized you, right? About 4 years ago I made a New Year’s resolution to not spend as much time on “school stuff” when I was at home. The biggest “school stuff” time sucker? Grading papers! Night after night I was sitting on the couch checking, marking, and grading mounds of student papers and I was D.O.N.E with it!
Tired of taking home tons of graded work just to lug it back again the next day? Check out how to win that graded paper battle once and for all! TheAppliciousTeacher.com


I needed to whittle down that stack (or at least spend less time on it!) Here are a few things that have almost eliminated my dreaded graded paper stack! 

Less Grading, More Student Engagement

First, I started looking at what I was assigning and grading. If it wasn’t tied directly to the standards I was teaching, then there was no reason for me grade it. I remember having a conversation with a co-worker about grading. She had stated she had already taken seven grades in a four-day week… I about fell over! That’s a lot of grading and concept checking. I even had to clarify that these were grades going into a grade book, I was in such disbelief!  Teacher observation is just as an effective tool and provides so much more time for students to acquire and master a skill!

no more grading papers
I try to find a balance between my graded assessments. This means using about three formatives for every summative seems to work well. In a span of a nine-week grading period, I might only have nine formatives and three or four summative assessments. I’m a firm believer in never grading a child’s first or second attempt with a concept and following this rule has helped cut down on my grading stack.

Minimize the Length

I also started looking at the length of the assessments. If I just needed to see if they got a concept, do I really need to have 20 questions? Probably not. We can see in a span of two to three questions if a student has a concept down, we don’t need 20 to make sure it sinks in! With this in mind, I started limiting my length of assessments. Quick checks are usually only 5 questions long. If I need to assess multiple concepts in one test (like a summative of a math unit) then I’ll move up to 15 or 20. I like to keep 20 at the max end though. After that, it can get redundant. (And my grading hand gets tired… LOL!)


Save the Paper

Think about the amount of paper that a classroom goes through in a…


A week?



Now times that by all the classes just in the United States. We’re talking LOTS of wasted paper here, folks! The majority of this paper wasting in my room was worksheets. Did my kids really need to complete all those worksheets? Were there some better ways I could provide practice that didn’t involve cutting down a forest of trees each week? And the answer is…


Collaborative Conversation:

I didn’t realize how powerful Collaborative Conversation could actually be… but I swear, this was a game changer for me. Instead of handing out a worksheet after reviewing an assignment or concept, I’d have the kiddos talk to their neighbors about what they had learned. I’d walk around and listen to the kiddos explain. I knew right away if the kiddos got it or not based on their explanations. No paper needed!

Partner work:

I know there are certain concepts kids just need to practice writing to truly understand (math anyone?) To cut down on paper (and therefore grading) use, I would give one sheet for a pair of students to practice.

partner activities

Here you can see two of my kiddos working together on a multi-step word problem. You can read more about this activity and grab a quick freebie here.

This is the perfect activity for using the Kagan structure called, “Rally Coach”.  A quick explanation of rally coach: two students have one paper, one pencil, and two brains. To complete the activity, they take turns answering the questions. Before they can write, they have to explain and agree with their answers.


Notebooking has become all the rage. And I’ll have to admit, it’s for good reason!  I’ve been using a Reading Response Journal for years, but this is the first year I’ve started working on Interactive student notebooks. Both of these cut down on paper AND allow students to go back and use them as a reference! Score!
Use a readign response journal to reduce the graded paper stack

I don’t usually collect student notebooks to formally grade, but I do look through them. I often use them as an “exit slip” for a student to move onto the next activity. This little quick check allows me to see right away who’s got and who still needs help. No lugging of papers needed!

Page Protectors:

Best way to save paper, hands down? Page Protectors! These are a perfect trick for center work! No more lost papers or not enough copies. Run a few for a group, slip it in and BAM! Practice with no papers to worry about grading later! I love these page protectors I got on Amazon!

(Click here to grab the activity she is completing!)


But let’s be honest, dry erase ANYTHING is a great way to practice without cutting down a forest of trees and creating a mountain of papers for you! Here we are using our desks and dry erase markers for our spelling pretest. #teacherhack


spelling practice activities
and here we are taking a pre-assessment on our phonics pattern of the week!
saving time from graded papers

Use Interactive Anchor Charts

I know it’s easy to fall into the trap that every activity or standard completed needs a worksheet. But what if you could see all your students’ understanding of a concept in one snapshot. No big stack of paper needing grading later? Let me introduce you to Interactive Anchor Charts.

use sticky notes on a laminated anchor chart to save yourself on grading!

Interactive anchor charts are laminated anchor charts that students fill out. I like to use sticky notes so that every student is participating. This makes grading a breeze. I can see right away on who has the concept down and who doesn’t!

Grade it Right Away

Ok… a few years ago, I got into the habit of grading my student’s reading tests right in front of them as they finished. I originally started this practice so I wouldn’t have to lug 20 reading tests home every Friday and stress over them instead of enjoying my weekend. But soon I found that it’s a benefit to the kiddos greatly outweighs the benefit of lightening my weekend load. My kids loved seeing their scores! It also gave me time to review and provide feedback as to what they’ve missed and offered insight as to how they answered questions. If you walk away with one practice, I truly think this one will change your teaching life for the better with very little effort on the front end!

Grade it the Same Week

I know there are times where grading papers right in front of students just isn’t gonna happen (Kindergarten, anyone?) But, piling up papers week after week isn’t going to help you win that graded paper battle! If you can’t grade the papers right away. Work to grade those papers by the end of the week. I found that if I made it a routine to return papers the same week we worked on them, my paper stack was always manageable!

Tips for Grading the Same Week: 

  • Set a time every day that you will grade- maybe every day after lunch, or right after the bell.
  • Set a day of the week for grading- can’t grade every day? Then, make a point to set a specific day for completion of grading. For me, Wednesdays were lesson plans and Friday was grading.
  • Use fun pens/markers- seriously, make it enjoyable to grade! Use your favorite flair pens or smelly markers!

Keep Your Graded Papers Contained

This last tip for taming that graded paper stack for good all about keeping your papers together! I started using a plastic paper box many years ago and have never looked back! This baby makes the grading paper keeper. I can keep my markers and a grading scale in there. Then, as I collect papers to be graded, I stash them in there. It’s smaller size allows me to stay on top of the grading. If it doesn’t fit, then I know it’s time to grade and pass back papers! Click here to check this one out on Amazon!

clear case for holding graded papers

These are just a few ways to win that graded paper battle! Remember the biggest take away is the mindset. With grading, more doesn’t always mean better, so keep that in mind the next time you’re lugging home a stack of papers to grade. Do you have any suggestions for keeping that graded paper stack at bay? Comment below!

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Hi, I'm Leigh.

The Applicious Teacher is all about creating hands-on and engaging lessons that align with the standards while still having time for your life. This is your place for ideas, tips, and resources for the REAL teacher!


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