One question I get a lot when I bring up interactive student notebooks is “I have 100+ students, how will I find time to grade all these notebooks?”
This is a tough question for a lot of teachers. We feel guilty sometimes for asking how much TIME we have to spend doing something new (like ISNs) when we know is good for our students… but I think it’s okay to be realistic and ask this question.
I’m here to tell you it can be done without massive amounts of time on your part, and in some cases, ISNs can actually lessen your grading time! Without further ado, here are my six grading practices for interactive student notebooks:
1. Grade while students are testing.
I’m not sure what other teachers do with this time, perhaps grade other tests? But I’ve always graded ISNs during this time and I love it! I decided early on it was better to grade ISNs during class time than try to take 100+ notebooks home with me or try to grade them after school.
I will admit this can get tricky with class larger than 25, but anything less can be done if you know what you’re looking for and test frequently enough. I just simply ask students to turn their binders in to a specific table, pick up a stack, grade the stack, and lay each binder by its owner. A bonus to all this is students are less apt to attempt to cheat because I’m constantly moving around the room.
2. Grade Omissions ONLY
This may be counter-intuitive, but to streamline the grading process, I only grade work that is missing from students’ ISNs. When I look at each lesson (which for me consists of two pages) I glance at the foldable to see that it is filled out and then focus on the right page examples to be sure students completed all of them. I do not check to see that every example was done correctly, I simply look for omissions.
I feel at peace doing this because 90% of what I’m looking at was done together in class. Issues of writing things down incorrectly usually get fixed during practice time the day of the lesson. I’m really just checking to see if students actually did the classwork (which almost everyone does because I would get onto them during class otherwise!).
3. Grade for Organization
If you want to have a quick grading experience, you want your students to value organization. Otherwise you have lessons all over the place, you can’t tell which lesson is which because they’re not labelled, you may have things glued on wrong pages, etc. (Trust me, it’s a nightmare. It happened to me!)
Honestly, this is where most students lose their points, especially at the beginning of the year. But grading for organization is important because it creates a feedback mechanism: good organization = all points, bad organization = lost points. Most students catch on quickly, and then you won’t be pulling your hair out.
4. Grade Consistently
This can be difficult to do sometimes but having a system for what you are looking for specifically will help a great deal. Have a set amount of points each ‘omission’ or lack of organization causes a student to lose, and stick to that the best you can.
For example, an entire lesson is worth 5 points in my class. If a student is missing an entire lesson, it is -5 points. If a student fills out their foldable but doesn’t complete the examples, -3. If a student doesn’t complete one example, -1. I have predetermined amounts, so that when each happens, I know what to do.
Also, I consistently grade for organization. Each time I grade I give 10 points for the table of contentss, vocabulary, and lesson headers. Each missing entry in the table of contents is -1, each missing vocab word is -1, and each missing header is -1.
You can grade your ISNs however you need to based on the way they’re set up, but these are examples of how I grade consistently. Whatever you do, be sure to keep the numbers simple for yourself – this aides in the speed!
5. Grade Regularly
I have tests about every four lessons: I glance through eight pages, look for anything missing, then I glance at the last lines in the table of contents and a few vocabulary words. This keeps the sheer amount of material I’m looking at down to about a minute or two per student.
Not grading regularly can make it more difficult for you to get in a groove while you’re grading. Also, you can amass an overwhelming amount of content to grade, which may cause you to give up on the whole process.
If you wait to test every 10 lessons and prefer it that way, you may have some trouble grading every student’s ISN in one class period. In this case I’d suggest doing an ISN check halfway through the unit, and perhaps letting the students quiz or something that day!
6. Grade with Finality
This last practice is especially important to me. I allow students to retest, and I spend a lot of time tutoring, grading, and regrading various materials for that process. Therefore, to help keep me from losing my mind with grading, students are not allowed to ‘fix’ their ISN.
Yep, I said it. If a student is absent and doesn’t get their ISN filled in by the day they test/I grade, I say, “Sorry, but I will not regrade it. You should still fill it in so you have it to refer to later, but I will not give your points back.” Same thing for organization, forgotten examples, etc. This causes my students to know test days mean business and you can’t dilly-dally around and not do your work in class. Feel empowered to draw a line!
I hope these six practices will help you to grade ISNs in a more managable way than lugging them all home or staying after school for hours – although they can help you there, too! If you have tips for grading that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section! Have questions or want clarification? Feel free to comment or email me.