Time is a teacher’s most valuable resource. It seems like there is never enough of it to do all the things that need to be done. In this post, I will give you a favorite teacher time management strategy. I will tell you what it is and how to implement it immediately.
One of the tasks that takes up a huge chunk of a teacher’s precious time is grading papers. As a first year teacher, I was excited to grade papers. I loved using my colored pens and my smelly stickers to give students detailed feedback on their work. However, that love affair didn’t last long. Grading papers soon became something I dreaded.
The papers started to pile up on my desk. I would put a huge stack in my bag and take them home every night with the good intentions of grading them. But when I arrived home, I had other more important things to deal with like making dinner and helping my own child with her homework. The bag of ungraded papers would sit there staring at me all night, causing me to feel guilty. The next day I would drag the bag of papers back to school and hope to get to it there.
Sometimes…many times, I didn’t get to it though. We moved on to the next topic and the papers wound up going in the “circular file cabinet”, otherwise known as the trash can. I still felt like the assignments were valuable practice but I just didn’t have the time to grade them all. I wanted to spend more time creating engaging lessons and looking forward to what was coming up not grading papers that were days or weeks old.
So, I had to look for a better teacher time management strategy. And I found one. It was simple really. Spend less time grading papers by using self-checking activities.
What is a self-checking activity?
A self-checking activity is a terrific teacher time management strategy. It is any activity that grades itself or allows a student to grade his/her own work. It can be high-tech like a Google Sheets™ assignment. Or, it can also be low-tech like a file folder where you store the answer key page that students can access.
I have to admit I prefer the high-tech Google Sheets™ activities just because the students find them more engaging. You can check out my TPT store here to see a few that I use in my own classroom. I teach 7th and 8th grade math but the concept works for any subject area.
What are the benefits?
Students get instant feedback! My students love the Google Sheets™ activities that I assign to them. If they get the answer correct the box will turn green and part of the mystery picture will appear. If they get the answer incorrect the box will turn red. They know right away if they are on the right track.
Before I discovered self-checking assignments, I would have students that completed an entire page of math problems incorrectly. They didn’t know they were doing it wrong so they just kept going. I wouldn’t discover it until I found the time to grade the assignment. By then, they had reinforced the wrong way in their memory. Fortunately, that is no longer an issue in my classroom.
My students hate the red box. As soon as they see it they start rechecking their work or talking to their partner– about math!
Also, as I am walking around the classroom, using my favorite classroom management technique, pause and scan, I can see that red box from a mile away. I can zone in on students who are struggling and might need help.
How do you use it?
First, you find the assignment that you want your students to do. You do not have to buy anything or spend hours creating new assignments. Any assignment where you can give your students the answers or answer key will work.
Then, you assign it to your students. If it is a digital assignment you can post it in your learner management system. For most of my digital assignments students show me their work on a separate sheet of paper but check their answer in the on-line assignment. If it is a paper and pencil assignment just do what you would normally do but make sure the students can access the answers in some way.
Once the students have completed the assignment, you can decide if you want to officially “grade” it. If you do, it is really just a quick scan of their work because you know they already have the correct answers. Because it is self-checking it is a terrific teacher time management strategy.
Please leave a comment below to let me know how you use self-checking assignments in your classroom.