Grading Homework Papers
No doubt all our readers in the education field are well aware of the explosion of iPads and tablets in the classroom and their ability to make learning easier and more interactive. But we suspect at least some of you are still reluctant to turn the new tech loose on grading, an area where you could be needlessly wasting hours assessing students with an antiquated system. We know change can be daunting, but we promise that within this list of apps teachers love, you’ll find something you love, too.
If you’re a teacher who’s been hanging on to a hard-copy gradebook, this app is your invitation to see what all the fuss over grading apps is about. For $10 the app comes packed with features like automatic grade calculation, status report notification emails for students or parents, attendance reports on PDF, and more.
Teacher’s Assistant Pro: Track Student Behavior:
For elementary teachers, this app is a great option for recording behavior infractions and easily contacting parents and administrators with all the details if need be. Tardiness, forgetting books, being disruptive, all this and more will never go unrecorded or unpunished again.
Ah, the dreaded essay. We’re not teachers, but we have to assume the joy you get out of torturing kids with essay assignments has to be somewhat tampered by having to grade them. iAnnotate takes the pain out of it, letting you ink, highlight, underline, stamp, make notes, and more on a PDF version of your kids’ essays via your iPad.
For an app specifically designed for grading essays, try … Essay Grader. The standout feature is the wide variety of stock comments, including praise, grammar and style critiques, and organization and documentation notes it comes loaded with. Or you can import your own customized database of your own patented phrases, so you can pick one and go.
Not every assignment is as easily graded as making a check or X mark on each number. Tasks like oral presentations have to be graded on the fly, and that’s where this app shines. Use sliders to add or subtract points during a speech on things like delivery and tone, then let the app add the scores. It even lets you record video for playback later if you want to review the performance before assigning a grade.
Like A+ Grade Calculator for Android (see below), Groovy Grader is a simple, no-charge app for inputting the number of quiz or test questions and getting back a chart of scores based on the number missed. The iPhone version can handle 150 questions and the iPad 300, but both get the helpful ability to either round off numbers or display them with either one or two decimal places.
Grades are just a part of this app that’s like a social network for teachers and students. If it would save you time to have an easy way to communicate with students about their grades, send them assignments, and hear back from them on what they need help on, this free app is worth a look.
We have to dock some points for the high cost ($31), but if you’re serious about a grading app this is one to consider. It will give you suggestions for mid-term and final grades, know based on your calendar what you’re teaching when and adapt accordingly, and of course keep copious grade and attendance records.
Anything you used to do with your grades on a spreadsheet program — compiling averages, producing class reports for the principal, using weighted formulas to determine grades — you can now do quickly and easily on your iDevice, be it an iPhone or iPad.
It’s got a downright iClunky title, but iTeacherBook is a scheduling, attendance tracker, assignment allocator, and grade recorder and reporter all rolled into one. For $5 and compatibility with both iPhone and iPad, you can’t go wrong.
Teacher Aide Pro:
Winner of 2011’s Best App Ever award in the teacher category, Teacher Aide Pro can handle 90 students per class and makes communicating with students a cinch via text, mass emailing, and CSV compatibility. This version runs $8 but the lite version is free.
The self-proclaimed “smart app for busy teachers” (redundant, are we right?), Teacher’s Pet has a solid if somewhat quirky array of features, like the ability to record a student’s attitude with just the right emoticon. But with a clean interface, calendar integration, and add-ons like student photo uploading for easy recognition, this app’s well worth the $1.99.
The developer claims a Boston high school math teacher said (s)he saves 80 minutes a week in grading time thanks to this free app. That alone is reason enough to take a flyer on it. Socrative Learner requires each student has the tech to run the app, but it turns multiple choice, true false, and “quick quiz” answers digital for instantaneous grading.
On multi-page exams, many teachers find it necessary to write the number of points deducted per page at the bottom of each page, then they have to go back through at the end to add it all up. Streamline that process with Grade Ticker, which lets you see what you’ve deducted as you go and adds it all up for you at the end.
There may be a bit of a learning curve before you get the hang of this app, but once you do you’ll appreciate its customizability and intuitiveness. Break grades down into homework, classwork, test, participation, or other divisions, track attendance, and even get reminders of students’ birthdays.
A+ Grade Calculator:
We’re sure you know that shaving just seconds off the grade time per test adds up to hours by the end of the school year, hours of your life you’ll never get back. Protect the time you have left with this app that lets you input the number of questions and see percentage and letter grades.
The developer obviously didn’t sink too much time into naming this bad boy, or into creating this hilariously brief user guide. No matter. Here’s what you need to know: you can use it to create grade point systems, it works, and it’s free.
It’s not strictly a grading app, but if you’re going to be saving a lot of graded papers and tests it will be nice to be able to access them from anywhere. Also available on iTunes, Dropbox for Android is a free service that lets you upload 2 GBs worth of data for retrieval from any device with the app.
For a standalone attendance tracker, this app is a clean solution. Present, late, and absent students can be seen at a glance with color-coded labels for each. And if you make the list a Google Spreadsheet at the start of the semester, at the end of the year just check it through Google Docs and Attendance will have calculated all tardies and absences for you automatically.
It requires a free blog with UK site PrimaryBlogger, but teachers ‘cross the pond are loving Classdroid. It lets them take a picture of a student’s work, grade it, and upload it to the web for the students and their parents to view. It may not save time in the actual process of grading, but it could prevent many of your time-sucking parent-teacher conferences by improving kids’ grades.
There are quite a few different views about whether or not homework should be graded. Some say absolutely not; others definitely yes. And still others choose to just give a completion grade but not grade the work itself.
I suppose I’ve actually fallen into all three camps at different points. But none of them really seemed quite right…..
If You Don’t Count Homework
I was taught in college not to count homework at all. Just to record whether or not the students did the homework and to assign extra work if they did not.
The problem with this, though, is that the students quickly learn that homework doesn’t count for a grade and thus they’re much less motivated to put much effort into it.
And, unfortunately, a completion grade isn’t much better. At least not in my experience.
When I gave completion grades for homework, what I found was that the students’ work just got worse and worse. Of course some students still did excellent work, but many of them just threw something down on the paper and said they were done.
It just wasn’t working.
If You Do Count Homework
I knew I needed to change how I graded homework, but I wasn’t too thrilled with just giving them a percentage grade either.
You see, I taught math, and I view math homework as practice. So let’s say a student makes a mistake on 1 out of 6 problems. Is it really fair to give them an 83% on that homework? Or if they make 2 mistakes to give them a 67%? That just seemed way too harsh for me, and that’s not even considering the 50%’s, 33%’s, 17%’s, and 0%’s that they would earn if they made more mistakes.
I wanted my students to do their very best on their homework, but I also didn’t want to reward them with horrible grades when they inevitably made mistakes as part of the learning process.
I needed to hold them accountable without destroying their grades….So I finally came up with a solution I was happy with.
I decided that I would grade homework a little unconventionally. Since I typically only assigned about 6 or 7 problems per assignment…. (You can read why I chose to give so few problems in the post “Why You Should Give Way Less Homework” – it’s definitely something to consider). Anyhow, since each assignment typically consisted of 6 or 7 problems, I took off 5 points for each problem that was incorrect (but valiantly attempted) and 15 points off for each problem that wasn’t attempted at all (or that they just put down a random answer for with no work to back it up.)
So here’s what their grades would look like if they at least gave a good attempt at each problem:
As you can see, even if they really struggled with the concept and missed every problem, they still received a 65%. Now this wasn’t going to help them earn an A, but it wasn’t going to kill their grade either. I rewarded their attempt but also didn’t just give them a 100% just for trying either. It’d finally found a wonderful happy medium.
Now if someone didn’t finish half the assignment, their grade was not so pretty. Let’s say they didn’t try 4 out of the 7 problems at all. Well, that’s -15 each, so their grade was a very-fair-but-not-so-flattering 40%. A very accurate reflection of how much work and effort they put forth.
If Your Assignments Are Longer….
If you assign more problems you can simply adjust the numbers so that if a student misses all the problems their grade is somewhere between 60% and 70% (or whatever you want the lowest score to be). So, for example, if you give 10 problems then you could make them 4 points each (because 4 x 10=40 and 100-40=60). Of course you’d need to take off the full percentage value (in this case, 10 points) if they don’t even try a problem.
What About Not Following Directions?
I used to take off additional points when students didn’t follow directions. I’m talking things like using pen instead of pencil, using the wrong kind of paper, not putting their name on the paper, not showing their work, etc.
But then my administrators said that this wasn’t in alignment with our school policy, so I had to come up with another idea. And I’m actually really glad I did.
I ended up making students either complete or redo the incorrect part of the assignment. For example, if they used pen instead of pencil, this didn’t affect their grade but they had to redo it in pencil. Same thing if they didn’t show their work or decided to use computer paper instead of lined paper. (I honestly don’t remember what I did with the no name – I think I either just took off a couple points or I counted it late until they came to see me and identified their paper. Anyone have any better ideas?)
Did this take a little bit more paperwork on my part? Yes it did, but I found that requiring them to redo the work was way more effective than taking points off. And soon I had fewer and fewer issues.
So what about you? Do you count homework for a grade? Why or why not? What do you think of this idea?
Want more advice about how to manage homework? Check out the post: 10 Tips for Giving & Managing Homework (Without Going Crazy)
Feature photo by identity chris is