Teacher Hacks: How To Grade Like A BOSS!

Teacher Hacks: How To Grade Like A BOSS!

Raise your hand if you have left school with piles and piles of paper… only to haul them back in Monday morning untouched!

This was my life every night during my first few years of teaching. You think I would have learned to stop bringing all the papers home thinking MAYBE I’d get a blast of energy and GET ? THEM ? DONE?.

NOPE. Never happened. Not even once.

SO, after 7 years of teaching, I’m going to share all my tips to make grading fast, organized, and something you don’t dread. After trying every system and cute notebook, I finally have a system for grading that I LOVE! And, I actually don’t mind grading at all anymore!

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When you sit down to plan for your upcoming unit, or the following week, make it a priority to plan out WHAT you are going to grade!

Most schools have requirements for the number of grades that must be in the grade book each week. Decide those two assignments BEFORE the week or unit starts! This makes the grading process so much easier! You know what and when you need to grade, and you are prepared!


You may ask, “then when should I do it? I can’t do it while my students are in front of me!”


When you take grading home, you are blurring the line between home life and work life. You will never be able to let go of the day if you take it home with you every night. Instead, dedicate a morning or two each week for grading ONLY. I always get to work early on those mornings, shut my classroom door (love all my coworkers, but I’ve things to do!), and GRADE! I have to make sure my lessons and copies are prepared and ready for that day, because this time is ONLY for grading! It really works!


I know there are so many cute paper grade books, but do you realize how much EXTRA time you waste by grading, recording the grades in a notebook, and then entering them into the digital grade book?

I grade right in front of my computer and immediately type in the grade after I write it on the paper. It saves SO much time!

I also like to grade first thing in the morning when my mind is fresh! This is when I am fully awake and able to provide my students with meaningful feedback. I also make very little mistakes when I grade in the morning (you know that one kid who catches your mistakes every time? I had to step up my grading game!).


Maybe I am scarred for life from my days in school, but I will never grade in red pen. I love using bright, bold and easy-to-read markers and pens! Here are my absolute FAVORITES:


ANNNNNDDDDD if you need a pouch to hold all those pretty pens, check out my favorite pouches HERE!


This may be my favorite tip! Self-check assignments, like my multiplication self-check bundle, cut my grading time in HALF! Not only do these assignments provide students with immediate feedback (they always know if they are right or wrong!), but they are essentially grading their assignment at the same time. I create self-checking assignments as often as possible. My students love them just as much as I do!


Organization is my jam. When it is time to grade, I don’t want to spend 20 minutes organizing papers and finding materials. Create a turn-in system (check out my favorite turn-in hack here), so work is ready to go! Check out some of my favorite items I use in my classroom to organize paper and student work!:



I’m not sure what’s worse- the process of grading, or the thought of passing back papers in class. After spending so much precious time handing back papers, I came out with the idea of filing. Each student has their own file folder and can pick up their graded work any time they want (I also set the expectation to pick up work before or after class so students are getting up in the middle of the lesson to check their grades). This system has been a GAME CHANGER for me!

You can even have a trustworthy student file for you! They LOVE it!

Check out my GRADED WORK station below!


What are your favorite grading hacks? COMMENT below!

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Comments (26)

  • Ms L Reply

    These are AWESOME tips! I do most of these but never thought of a dedicated morning for grading! I will definitely start that this week.
    Ms L
    8th Grade Science

    February 24, 2019 at 6:23 pm
    • Admin Reply

      I hope the morning grading goes well! Thanks for reading!

      February 26, 2019 at 11:16 am
      • L. Pollard Reply

        Hello. What exactly is the “graded work station”?

        July 17, 2019 at 2:31 am
  • Sulyana Reply

    Never thought of doing #1.
    #2 I always do and never get anything done over the weekend or evenings.
    I definitely love #s 3 & 4 I try to get in as many grades in while I’m in front of my computer at school.
    I’ve tried assigning self-check assignments, but that has always been a bust for me, I think maybe this will work with really on-task 3rd and above, but in my experience it’s always been a headache asking my third grade students and above to help grade.
    #6 and #7 are definitely helpful!

    Thank you so much!

    February 25, 2019 at 8:42 pm
    • Admin Reply

      Thanks for your sharing! I totally understand the struggle of self-check assignments with the younger groups. After I trained the third graders I worked with, they were able to do more self-check. There were always the few that would write the answers in random spots without trying ??‍♀️

      February 26, 2019 at 11:15 am
  • Shannon Reply

    I love these tips and use many of them often! One more thing I can add to your tips is to have an answer key to any handouts I use. When I collect the papers I always paper clip them together with the answer key on top and put them in my turn in box. This way if a parent ever pops in and asks if there is anything they can do for me I have assignments that can be graded all ready to go! It also makes it super convenient for me when it’s time to grade because I don’t have to go hunt down the answer key.

    February 27, 2019 at 9:29 pm
    • Admin Reply

      This is BRILLIANT! I was just thinking about making a binder with all of my answer keys so I’m not constantly making a new one! Love this idea! Thanks for sharing!

      February 27, 2019 at 9:31 pm
    • Kai Reply

      Thanks so much for this! I am a first year middle school science teacher and grading HAS been so much of my weekend this year!! I am definitely going to I corporate the early morning grading as well as some self checking.
      Thanks again

      April 13, 2019 at 1:48 am
  • Jen Reply

    I have a grade sheet with student names in the order that they are in my online gradebook. I have bolded the line below every fourth student. I do this, so once I have all the grades written in on paper, I can easily drop them into the gradebook. The group of 4 grades is easy to remember, so I am not looking back and forth so often!

    February 28, 2019 at 3:23 pm
    • Admin Reply

      Oh! I love this idea! I hate having to look back-and-forth to make sure I’m on the right student. Thanks for sharing! I am going to use this!!

      February 28, 2019 at 3:27 pm
  • Rebecca Reply

    This is brill! I’m a uni lecturer and this really works, especially the dedicated mornings.

    April 2, 2019 at 2:08 pm
  • Elizabeth Reply

    Thanks for the tips! Having a “trustworthy student file for you” breaks FERPA laws, though, so careful with that one!

    April 5, 2019 at 9:19 pm
    • Admin Reply

      Yep! You are totally right! I fold over the corner of the paper where the grade is written so people filing can only see the name of the student. Thanks for bringing this up- super important!

      April 5, 2019 at 9:55 pm
      • Kelly Reply

        I write the grade on the last page or on the back so that it is not visible to anyone else.

        July 9, 2019 at 5:54 pm
  • Carrie Reply

    Instead of self check, I often have students partner check work not being used for assessments. This helps to keep them accountable and checks understanding. They have to figure out the right answer if theirs are not the same and can only check the answer page once they have shown that they have tried to figure it out themselves.

    April 13, 2019 at 7:31 am
  • Heidi Plocher Reply

    I LOVE the idea for individual file folders for each student! I was always sorting through them, stapling – such a waste of precious time. We have a “keep current” system whereby the 9th and 10th graders are automatically put on a watch list and told to tune in a missing assignment the very next day. Well, that means that when the kiddos turn in their work, I am spending mucho time getting everyone’s work alphabetized so that I can them see who didn’t turn in their work. Thanks to your tip, I’m going to create “turn in” folders for each student, as well as the “hand back” folder.

    July 4, 2019 at 9:50 am
  • Catherine Hashimoto Reply

    I collect papers in ABC order. (I teach first grade.) They learn their numbers and I teach them how to get in line- who is in front, who is behind… and they become experts. That way when I am in front of the computer everyone is in order!!

    July 6, 2019 at 1:02 am
  • Marie Reply

    A teacher I worked with used a document sorter (see amazon for a picture) that allows you to sort documents alphabetically. The students learned to put their assignments in the document sorter by last name when turning in. This cut down on her having to sort their papers when grading and easy to put in the grade book afterwards!

    July 7, 2019 at 12:24 am
    • Admin Reply

      This is a game changer!! I need to look into this! Thank you for sharing!!

      July 7, 2019 at 2:21 pm
  • Stacy Guidry Reply

    I love these ideas!! I do grade in front of the computer. It makes life so much easier. My school also requires us to do both, write in grade book and post on computer. So I am not doing double work, I print out my grades when I have about 6-7 done and tape them in my book. It prints like an excel sheet. Score for me and my school. ?

    I love #7. Definitely will try #’s 1&2 this upcoming school year.

    Thanks for this great post.

    July 8, 2019 at 11:40 am
    • Admin Reply

      I can’t believe you have to do BOTH a paper gradebook and digital one! I would have never thought about just printing out grades! Genius! Thank you for sharing! Love your ideas!

      July 8, 2019 at 11:56 am
  • Jane Noecker Reply

    I write my students names by first name and in alphabetical order……it makes it easier for me to find quickly.

    July 13, 2019 at 8:24 pm
  • Megan Reply

    If you don’t specifically set aside time to hand papers back, how do you do improvement tasks? Do you set a whole class task?

    August 7, 2019 at 6:16 am
  • BREANN Reply

    My students turn in their assignments to a pocket folder on the wall that is numbered. They are assigned a number which is the class in alphabetical order and turn their paper in to that number. Then I grab all the papers and they are in alphabetic order ready to grade and put directly in my GradeBook. This also allows me to see if I have everyone’s paper without having to ask who is still working and more importantly if a student forgets their name I know exactly whose paper it is because it’s in order. This has been a GAME CHANGER for me and everyone else that has seen this system in use. Your tips are amazing and very helpful. Thank you for sharing.

    October 17, 2019 at 10:53 pm
  • Sheri Reply

    What do you do with the papers you are not putting in the gradebook? I always feel bad not grading work I make them do?

    November 23, 2019 at 8:22 pm
    • Admin Reply

      I try to give credit to every assignment that they complete, even if I don’t grade it fully. I keep a binder with a roster for each class and have a column for every assignment. I use a simple checklist to keep track if they turned in assignment, and will sometimes add 5 points to another grade in the grade book for effort and completion. I usually don’t hand back these assignments unless the students ask for them.

      I try to be strategic in what assignments I grade for correctness to assess their progress and catch any misconceptions. I always want to give them credit for the work they complete, while also keeping track of students who are not turning in assignments. This system is a great tool for documentation, too!

      November 24, 2019 at 8:24 pm

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