Dear Buried Alive,

Don’t worry! There are lots of small tricks you can use right now to get that pile of student work graded and off your desk. Here are 6 of our favorites…

1. If you are grading student exams, work on individual sections or questions across all the exams, rather than grading each student’s submission in its entirety. Thinking about one question at a time will increase your efficiency by reducing your cognitive load.

2. Minimize your comments to students. Focus only on comments that can be used for improvement in future work in your course. For example, if you are grading in-class essay questions, don’t correct student grammar and spelling (unless they’ve spelled a key term or name wrong!). Ask yourself what the benefit will be to the student when you find yourself compelled to write a comment.

3. Put on some music you love or set yourself up in a space that makes you happy. If you set a positive mood for yourself at the beginning of the process, you might find you that have more energy to sustain you through your grading.

4. Grade with a friend! Working with a colleague or friend, or even several as part of a grading party, is a great way to use positive peer pressure to finish up your grading. Share your goals for the grading session at the beginning (e.g. “I want to get through 6 of these essays before lunch”) and help keep each other accountable.

5. Set a timer. Grade in short (20-30 min), focused chunks and then stand up, stretch, and take a 5 minute break before you start again. One popular version of this method, known as the Pomodoro Method, can be done completely analog, using a kitchen timer and a pencil. The key with this method is to minimize all distractions (such as emails or your cellphone) and intensely focus on a task for a short period of time.

6. Create a document for yourself with notes about any misconceptions or challenges that your students encountered that you will want to discuss with the whole class. Rather than writing the same comment 20 times, keep a running list of issues you’ll discuss with all of the students when they get their work back. If your students are submitting their work on Canvas, and you want to share these comments with individuals, you’ll have automatically created a comment bank that you can quickly copy and paste from.

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