Three Tips for Grading Papers Faster

The town was paper, but the memories were not.
--John Green’s Paper Towns

I’ve had a love affair with paper for as long as I can remember. Continuing to write my fourth-grade pen pal in Australia until high school, starting a fad in middle school where we crumpled paper until it became as soft as tissue, and finishing thank-you notes within a week of my honeymoon are but a few examples.

In one of my high school English classes, I received a paper that was ripped to shreds by my teacher’s red pen. I mean ripped. To shreds. Ripped to the point that my then-EXTREMELY shy self (I once cried when I had to speak in front of the class) asked for a conference with the teacher. The written and verbal feedback I received helped me eventually earn much higher grades on subsequent assignments.

That experience prods me to offer prompt teacher feedback because I know the difference it made in my life. As much as I would rather organize map pencils or prepare for the next day, I attempt to grade my assignments within 24 to 48 hours because I know the benefit my students will receive. I don’t always accomplish this, but it is my goal.

Here are some tips to help you move through grading:

Schedule calendar around deadlines: To the extent possible, try to schedule student work days, reading days, and/or guest speakers on days you are collecting major assignments. That way you can use some class time to work on grading.

Check progress on assignments: Break down assignments (e.g., thesis, opening paragraph, etc.) and set different deadlines for each piece. Having already looked at pieces of the assignment may allow you to move more quickly.

Grade Five, Move, Grade Five, Move: Use this tip with especially lengthy assignments. I grade five, complete a short classroom task, and grade another five. Breaking up the grading gives me more stamina to continue through the pile.

Hopefully, these tips will help you feel free of ungraded papers and offer students opportunities to gain insights about their work (and not lining birdcages with the papers!).

Allison Venuto, who liked Paper Towns more than she thought she would, has been teaching in the Dallas area for 10 years and owns Ducks in a Row Personal Organizing. Please contact her with questions at

Views and opinions expressed in guest posts are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of ATPE.

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