Google Docs: Grading Tips & Tricks

Google docs has made it possible for me to go paperless. The decision to remove paper from my life has been liberating! Whenever I train teachers, I share my enthusiasm for a paperless classroom. My cries of joy and excitement are sometimes met with grunts and skeptical looks. I’ve met several teachers using Google docs, who still collect hard copies of assignments and essays to grade by hand. They are concerned that grading online will take longer than grading by hand. I disagree.

I want to share three tips and tricks I’ve used to make grading digital writing more efficient than hand grading student work.

1. Set Your Own Preferences

Teachers can set specific preferences in their docs to tell the computer to automatically substitute one thing for another. If you have traditionally used symbols or abbreviations on your students’ papers, then you can do something similar in docs. Whenever I type the letters “awk” which stand for awkward phrasing, the computer automatically inserts the following: [note: awkward wording. rework for clarity.]

This screencast below will show you how to set your preferences!

2. Shortcuts Save Time

Keyboard shortcuts are such a simple way to expedite the grading process when teachers are editing and assessing work on a Google doc. They remove unnecessary steps which can interrupt a teacher’s flow when they are grading. Instead of leaving comments by highlighting text, clicking “Insert” and selecting “Comment,” I use option+command+m on my keyboard. It may seem like a small difference, but that adds up when a teacher has 50, 100 or 150 assignments to grade.

Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 1.51.41 PM

Mac shortcuts – click on the image to find more shortcuts!

Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 1.51.13 PM

PC shortcuts – click on the image to find more shortcuts!

Remember: You can simply click on any header at the top of your Google doc (File, Edit, View, Insert, etc.) and find the shortcuts available for the actions you repeat most when editing Google docs.

Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 1.55.47 PM

 

 

3. Make a Master List of Comments

Teachers spend a majority of their time writing the same comments on 75% of all student work. This is not an effective use of our time. Instead, I have started compiling master lists of comments. If I am grading summer assignments, I open up the master list of comments for that particular assignment. If I am grading an argument essay, I open up my master list of argument essay comments. I keep the master list open in a separate tab while I am providing feedback and simply copy and paste the comments onto the student documents as I grade. Of course, some comments are unique to each student, but I find the master list a huge help when grading large numbers of the same assignment.

Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 2.36.01 PM

This is a bit of a tangent, but I love to pair my comments with links to YouTube videos that explain a particular aspect of writing. If a student begins his/her essay without a hook strategy, I will remind them that they need to add a hook strategy but I also include a link to my video on how to write hook strategies. This provides students with the support they need to improve their work. When teachers include a link in a “Comment” it automatically becomes a hyperlink, which is handy for students.

If you find these strategies useful, stay tuned for a post on using Google forms for assessment! As always, if you have your own tips and tricks that work, please post a comment and share them. I love learning from other educators.

 

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69 Responses to Google Docs: Grading Tips & Tricks

  1. Pingback: Google Docs: Grading Tips & Tricks @CTuckerEng… | EducatorAl's Tweets

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  3. Lindsey Berman says:

    Very helpful! Thanks!

  4. Thank you so much for this post. I will return to it again and again. Wonderful resource.

  5. Pingback: Google Docs: Grading Tips & Tricks | Teachers Blog

  6. Mary D says:

    Love Google docs. I’m also addicted to using Doctopus in order to track all of the papers that come in from my students. It’s a script in GDocs that allows me to create personalized, properly named documents individually for each student with one step and also direct the submissions to a particular folder in my Google drive. Thanks for the inspiration to keep going, Catlin!

  7. Dana says:

    Using audio comments like Learn.ly has been a huge timesaver

  8. Josephine Divinagracia says:

    thanks for posting…i like the idea…

  9. Megan Ellis says:

    So great! :) I also love to link to YouTube videos – especially Kevin’s grmr.me videos! Kids love those too!

  10. Doug Silver says:

    I just signed up for WriterKEY and it is much more intuitive and less time demanding. Plus the data analytics, the alignment to the Common Core, and the Conference notes are all things that Google doesn’t do. You should check it out at http://www.writerkey.com

    • Hi Doug,

      I have have to rely on free tools. It looks like WriterKEY is a paid for service.

      Catlin

      • Geoffrey Beane says:

        I bought a personal copy of writerkey for myself at the end of last year. It was well worth it. Google docs didn’t really advance my teaching, it only took what i was doing manually and had me doing it online. This year, our school bought a school-wide license.

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  13. Ann Porta says:

    Teachers had been asking about these topics this week. What great timing.

  14. I seldom grade work now but I’m in a position to pass this kind of material on to others who do. Rest assured that your hints and ideas will be disseminated in Aotearoa New Zealand. Many thanks.

    Jens

  15. ROZIAH says:

    great tips..i will disseminate and share this with other colleague at my university

  16. Anne says:

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

    Would you be interested in also sharing your “canned comments” documents? I’m just thinking of the old adage “no use in reinventing the wheel” when it’s already been done.

    • Hi Anne,

      I’ve made my comments doc a “View only.” You can view it and go to “File”>”Make a copy” to save it in your Google drive. Just make sure you are signed into your Gmail, so the document has a place to save. Click here to view my comments doc.

      I’m not sure how helpful this will be as it is my hodgepodge of comments, but I’m happy to share!

      Take care.

      Catlin

      • Anne Sutton says:

        Thank you so much! I have been searching for a way to speed up my grading processes while reviewing 150 essays. The tips you share here, in the document shared, and in your other posts are incredibly helpful. I reallyaappreciate your willingness to collaborate, even online!

        By the way, I teach at a Windsor High in CO! :-)

      • Anne says:

        Thanks so much, Catlin! I really appreciate your spirit of collaboration. I have learned many great things from your site that I look forward to implementing in my classroom.

        By the way, I’m a teacher at a Windsor High School in CO! :)

        Many thanks again!
        Anne

        • Hi Anne,

          Thank you for the comment. How ironic about our school names! I’m thrilled that two teachers from Windsor High Schools (a couple states apart) can collaborate online.

          I’m so glad to hear my blogs have been helpful!

          Catlin

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  18. Shannon says:

    I recently took your advice and had time in the computer lab where students shared their documents with me, and I could see what they were doing in real time. Loved it. However, now I have a 120 shared documents in my google drive with no sort of organization. And, I had problems finding students documents that had previously shared them. Any suggestions on organization? I can put them in folders in my drive, but I feel like there is a better way? Any suggestions? Thanks! I love the shortcuts, too.

    • Hi Shannon,

      I actually don’t download or organize my students’ work in my Google drive. I create labels in my email, set my filters to automatically organize the documents shared with me, and open the documents straight from my email.

      If you want to try to organize your documents in your Google drive, I would suggest trying Doctopus.

      Catlin

      • Shannon says:

        I love the filters and labels idea. Hadn’t even thought of it. Google has a great search tool as well that I have found very handy. Thanks, Catlin, for your great insights! I’ve really enjoyed your blog!

      • Katie says:

        Hello I love this idea of filtering the emails. I am not sure exactly how to go about that. Do you have a tutorial of how you were able to do that. Do you require your students to put certain information in the subject.

  19. Cam says:

    Thanks for this. I will be sharing this with some of my colleagues. Is there any way to set the preferences so the comments we insert into a student’s document appear in another color besides black?

  20. Ed says:

    Hi, thanks for the tips. Do you know of anyone using Google Scripts to macro comments into the students’ papers? I know you can make a side bar, and if there were buttons like “R/O” and “C/S” on that bar, it would be an easy way to paste explanations into students’ essays in docs. I used to do this very successfully with Word, but I’ll never go back after Docs!

    Ed

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  22. Susan Heffner says:

    I just found your webpage. It is Great. I am helping an English teacher who is new to google docs. Is there a way to include a rubric with her doc so that she can comment as well as grade right in the students doc? Could you lead me to directions on doing this?
    Thanks very much!
    Susan Heffner

  23. Hannah Bailey says:

    This is really wonderful – thank you for sharing!

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  25. Allison says:

    Hi,

    I wish the substitutions worked with the Comment feature – what a bummer! Did Google ever write you back about setting font/color preferences?

    Allison

    • Amy says:

      I took Catlin’s advice and created my own preferences in Google Docs to grade. (Thanks, Catlin. This was really helpful and timely.) One thing I noticed is that if I type in my shortcut ( frag= [fragment] ) while I am in the ‘suggestions’ mode on my student’s paper, [fragment] shows up on the paper in green every time. It is eye catching for the student and for me. Hope that helps.
      Happy grading!
      Amy

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  27. Christina says:

    Great ideas. Thanks! I just started using Google docs and your tips are very hepful. I was just playing around with setting preferences and accidentally discovered that after you type the shortcut you can just hit the spacebar instead of hitting enter to see the full text. I did not have to hit enter and then backspace to fix it.

    • Thank you for the comment, Christina!

      I realized the same thing when I was grading. It’s more convenient to just press space bar as I work.

      Glad to hear the tips were useful!

      Catlin

  28. Robert SArafov says:

    Catlin,thank you so much for your tips and tricks easing the process of student grading.
    Yes,Google docs and all other Google’s apps help a lot teachers saving time and transform class room activities and assignments into electronic -easy-manageable manner.
    Me,as a Eenglish and Business study educator, teaching to various age groups in three different educational institutions,without Google ,Dropbox,Flipboard,newly twitter release-medium.com and many alike, I would not be able successfully coping with the workload and staying tuned,Nearly 70% of my students use smart phones and/or tablets for educational purposes.Furthermore,I am partnering to an amazing local start up ,in its seeding phase,putting all needed into one place for schools, educators and students.In fact,this venture has enabled us rising student’s involvement into educational process and bringing upon great results.
    Being proud to mention,92% of our students continue their education to the university.50% enrol directly to second year at NBU and rest to various EU university,as most of to their first choices made.
    Robert Sarafov,Private School for Multimedia,Graphic Design and Animation,Sofia,Bulgaria

  29. Michael says:

    Hi Catlin,

    This is an incredibly helpful website. I am currently in a workshop that asks us to explore different edtech tools and when I saw the abbreviations for longer comments I quickly called over all the English teachers!

    I saw that others had this questions, but I did not see a response. Did Google ever reply about changing the color of an inserted comment on the doc? I am afraid that my students won’t notice my comments when they reflect on their work unless it stands out.

    Best,
    Mike

    • Hi Mike,

      No, I never received an email back from Google about this. At first, I spent time going over these comments to highlight them, but I realized that was too time consuming. Now, I like having the comments embedded in the text using brackets. I always have my students edit their work, and I am able to easily identify the papers that had not been thoroughly edited as many of the bracketed comments were still present. They have to pay close attention as they are editing to catch them. Most of those comments are about mechanical stuff and sentence structure. I identify larger issues with missing elements and underdeveloped analysis with the “comments” in the side margin.

      Catlin

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  31. Would it be possible to get some copies of your masters lists of comments?

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  33. Peter says:

    Hi Catlin, Thanks for the post. Have a look at two scipts to further streamline your work, I think you’ll like these:
    – doctapus: helps organize and distribute your documents to students. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yC1AzHMilU)
    – goobric: create your own rubric, quickly grade and it adds to student documents and also can email out to students. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_5Kx9j35YM)

    Now my question and dream script… Do you or anyone out there know of a ‘canned comment’ script. If you have used Turn-it-in, they allow you to set up a nice set of comments to match criteria, etc. I would be sold on gdocs for grading all my work if this script existed. Any developers out there want to make us teachers very happy? please?

    Cheers
    Peter

  34. Faye says:

    If you place your cursor where you want to type the shortcut, then click the text button and select a color the substitution will appear in the color you selected. Not the greatest solution, but for some students the color will make it easier to find what they need to correct.

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  36. Theresa Collins says:

    So an old dog can learn new tricks! I am in the last 35 days of my teaching career (retiring after 29 years) and decided to have my students turn in their essays on Google drive (the last I will ever grade! Woohoo!). Even though I’ve had significant frustration with grading this way (I tend to be a paper/pen gal), I decided to give it one last try! Thank you so much for your pointers! I am actually excited to get to grading these essays to try out these new tools!…..Did I just say that?!!? Thank you!

    • Good for you, Theresa! I’m impressed you would take this on so close to retirement. It’s a testament to your desire to continue experimenting and learning. There is definitely a learning curve when grading online, but I’ve found it actually saves tons of time and allows more opportunities for me to provide formative feedback.

      Enjoy your last month of school!

      Catlin

  37. Rylee says:

    Hello! I began going paperless this year, and the time-saving tool of setting preferences has worked wonderfully. Although the remarks are inside parentheses which helps them stand out for the student, it would be FANTASTIC if the remarks could be automatically be generated in a different color or font. Do you know if this is possible? I know it would help students to locate the remarks more quickly.

    Thanks so much!

    • Hi Rylee,

      I actually wrote Google about this very issue. I’m still waiting for my response (13 months and counting ;). For now, I have to be content with brackets. I actually like that it forces them to look at the text really closely when editing, but I agree a different font color or highlights would be nice.

      Catlin

  38. Tom says:

    Hi Catlin,

    Thank you for the great work you are doing! It is awesome to find a teacher so willing to collaborate and share ideas.

    I have been using turnitin.com’s grading and commenting software because my previous school had a paid subscription, but at my new school I no longer have this and want to try using googledocs. The question I have is about sharing the comments with the kids so that they have a permanent record of their papers with comments. (Periodically throughout the school year, we will be going back and reflecting on previous papers, looking through comments, etc.) Is there a way to return the comments and edits to students in a way that is both easy for them to work with and revise but in a way that also retains the original comments? Or do you have any other recommendations about returning student work that has been submitted?

    Thank you!
    Tom

    • Hi Tom,

      When you are using Google docs, you can revisit any version of a student’s document. Just go to the document, click “File” and select “Revision history.” You can see every time someone has worked on the document. You can restore previous versions to see what has been changed, edited or revised.

      If you click “Comments” in the upper right hand corner of the document, you can also view all the comments that have been made on the document even if they have been marked “Resolved.”

      I also wrote a post about Google Workflows, which may help you decide on the best strategy for collecting students work using Google docs.

      Good luck!

      Catlin

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  42. Glenn Dickson says:

    Hi Catlin,

    I love this. As a new Language Arts teacher, I think it would be very helpful to me if you could share your full list of comments. I think the ones I can see in your video are great and I’d like to see the rest.

    Thanks,

    Glenn

  43. Lindsay Smythe says:

    I didn’t read ALL of the comments, so perhaps someone already said this…

    If your students share their essay with you in the new “suggestions” mode, anything we write in-text (including the bracketed shortcut comments) will be automatically underlined in green. I didn’t realize this, so for their first essay, I told them they could share in any manner. Now that I realize it will underline it, I’m going to require them to only share their essays with me in suggestion mode.

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