Stop Taking Grading Home

In January I wrote a blog post titled “New Year’s Resolution: I’m Moving ALL Assessment into the Classroom.” I’m here to update everyone. Since January, I have not brought a single stack of digital papers home to grade! It’s been amazing!

It’s not that my students aren’t writing. In fact, they just completed a detailed six paragraph research paper on an environmental problem of their choice. This paper took them about 3 weeks to write from the time they started their research to when they finished their final draft and works cited page. We spent a significant amount of class time working on these papers. Students honed their research skills, organized their information, watched flipped videos on how to complete various aspects of the paper, like citing properly, and they received detailed feedback from me the entire way through!

I used the station rotation model every day during the writing process to build in time for me to provide real-time feedback on their work. I used my teacher-led station for synchronous editing. As my students wrote, I jumped into their Google Documents in suggesting mode and made edits. I also added static comments with questions, suggestions, and links to additional resources that might be useful.

Groups of 8 students rotated through my teacher-led station in 20-minute intervals. During that window of time, I was able to give every student written feedback on the section of his/her essay they were currently working on. One day I edited thesis statements and another day I was editing topic sentences. I tried to keep the scope of what I  was editing narrow enough to provide every student with detailed feedback.

When students were in the other stations, they worked on a variety of tasks, like reading and annotating a text on StudySync, conducting additional research for their papers, practicing a grammar concept on NoRedInk, drawing sketches of possible solutions that would address their environment problem, etc. I prepared directions for those stations ahead of time, so students could complete those tasks without needing me to provide instructions.

Here’s why I think it’s so crucial for teachers to stop taking grading home:

First, I knew where almost every student was in terms of his/her progress at any given moment. There were no surprises when the papers were due because I had been in and out of their documents several times over the course of three weeks we worked on it. I was able to support students throughout the entire process. If they had questions as they worked or needed additional scaffolds, I was right there to support them.

Second, I feel more energized and creative! I have more time and energy to invest in the aspects of teaching that I really love, like lesson design. Instead of spending hours at home wading through a neverending stack of digital papers, I am planning fun lessons, activities, projects, and guest speakers.

I realize that moving assessment into the classroom requires a shift in mindset and the strategic use of blended learning models, but it is hands down the BEST decision I’ve made this year.

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44 Responses to Stop Taking Grading Home

  1. Kelly says:

    So when did you grade their finished papers or was it a combined grade of all your drafting grades?

    • Hi Kelly,

      I pulled kids individually and walked them through a rubric with my scores. I did not do a final round of edits since I had been in their documents throughout the process. Instead, I explained their scores on the rubric and asked if they had any questions. So, I didn’t take that part home either 😉


  2. Mindy says:

    Could you tell us more about what each station is doing? I’d love tips on creating the stations for writing. Thanks!

    • Mindy,

      I use the Station Rotation Model almost every day, so the tasks change daily. Any item on a linear agenda can be transformed into a station. I write about this in my newest book, Blended Learning in Action.


      • Paige Junge says:

        I haven’t read much about the station rotation model, but it’s on my summer reading list! (If only I could get renewal credit for reading it!)
        You may answer this question in the book, but in a linear agenda, often tasks can’t be started until the previous one is complete. How do you manage that aspect, so that all the students are being productive within the project even if they aren’t at the Teacher Led station?

        • Hi Paige,

          I do talk about that in my book because it was the hardest part of starting stations for me. I had trouble not designing stations that built on one another. However, when I approached station rotation design by pulling apart a linear agenda, I realized that not as many activities actually built on each other. I also realized that I could do a series of station rotations over the course of the week and have one station build a specific skill set each time.


  3. Nancy says:

    Caitlin –

    I love this idea. I find that my students get very little out of my current process which is teaching them a skill/technique (ex. thesis statements, hooks, embedding quotes, etc.), having them work on it in class, then put all of the pieces together into a final product which I grade. Most don’t even look at the feedback they receive.

    Would you be willing to share your rubric and station rotations?

    Do you provide grades for the station activities? I know that if my students knew that was not for a grade they would put much effort into the acitivities.


    • Hi Nancy,

      I design different rubrics for different writing assignments. In fact, I’ve begun engaging my students in writing rubrics so they understand how they will be assessed.

      I use the Station Rotation Model almost every day, so I’m constantly designing stations. Since we worked on the research paper for almost three weeks, I designed a bunch of stations on a range of topics. Any item on a linear agenda can be turned into a station. In my newest book, Blended Learning in Action, I talk about how teachers can plan a station rotation. It’s definitely a shift for most secondary teachers used to teaching a linear agenda.

      I don’t assess everything my students complete in stations because some of it is designed to prepare them for more formal assessments or it is work towards a project. It’s important for students to know why they are completing work and see value in that. I’ve moved away from traditional grades. Here is a blog post I wrote about how I approach grading.


  4. Meleighsa Guster McLaughlin says:

    Thanks for providing details on how you managed this process. This is an area that I’ll certainly work to improve in my classroom.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I am so intrigued by this station rotation model’ I need you to come teach me. I have your book and am adding it to my summer reading list. I can’t wait to try this out in my class next year!

  6. Melanie Claybar says:

    I am discouraged by the grading process and waiting until it’s over to give a grade so I love this idea of concurrently providing feedback. I know this process could be modified for any size and time frame, but I’m curious, how many students do you have and how long are your classes?

    • Hi Melanie,

      I started this process last year when I taught three block classes of English language arts. Those classes had 28-30 students each. Now I’m piloting a program called N.E.W. School where I co-teach English, science, and technology. I have share 60 students with another teacher. Our blocks are 90 minutes.


  7. MrsLeo says:

    How many students per class do you have? How many classes do you have? What is the average reading and writing level of your students? Finally, do you have any newcomer students that do not speak English?

    Thank you!

    • Hi,

      Our class sizes are between 28-30 students. A full-time teacher on my campus teaches 6 classes. This year I transitioned into a new role co-teaching in a pilot program. Now, I share 60 students with another teacher and co-teach English, science, and technology on B days. We have a heterogeneous group of kids with embedded honors and students who have just been RFEPed, so we have a wide range of reading and writing skills. We don’t have any newcomers who do not speak English.


  8. Ebony Burnside says:

    Sounds amazing! My question is about classroom management. If you have 8/40 students at your station, how are you managing the other 22? I now work with a population where approaches like this have not worked so well because “the other 22” are generally unproductive or disruptive if thry think I’m not paying attention to thrm.

  9. Amy Gilligan says:

    How do you deal with student misbehavior or students who are not on task during this time?

    • Hi Amy,

      I don’t deal with many management issues. I strategically group my students and try to design stations that are high-interest, collaborative, and/or creative. Students often get to self-pace their learning and stay on task because they know if they finish their work in class, they won’t have to take it home to finish.


  10. Michelle says:

    This is such a simple but amazing idea. Thank you

  11. Jessica says:

    Hi Caitlin,

    Wow this is a remarkable idea. I’m curious, how do students respond to your written comments on ongoing work? Does it feel impersonal to write when the student is in speaking proximity? How do you manage this?


    • Hi Jessica,

      It doesn’t feel impersonal at all. I’m not sure if that’s because it is such a norm in our class or if they appreciate that we all get more done when we are working on a shared document. I definitely get way more edits done by putting my head down and leaving suggestions and comments directly on their documents. I love sitting across from them because if I do need to elaborate on something or they don’t understand a comment, we can talk about it.


  12. Kristen says:

    Hi Catlin,

    I was pleased and inspired to hear you speak about this at CATE. I experimented with this recently and failed miserably at it. I had my students work on body paragraph shaping sheets for their Romeo & Juliet essays and I commented on each one ( 3 paragraphs for each kid at 70 kids). I’m grading each one … at home… and it’s all the same messy stuff. I have your book and will dedicate more time to learning the practice, but I have similar issues as other commenters with students not utilizing the comments from the drafts. I’ve not had an “A” in the bunch.

    How do you address the students who don’t integrate the suggestions you make?

    Haalllllllp. I really want to make this work, but so far – not so good.



    • Hi Kristen,

      I applaud you for trying! Don’t let a miserable failure stop you from trying again. Here are my thoughts…
      1) Did you use a station rotation model or did you have the whole class writing at one time? I’d definitely recommend designing 3-4 stations (25 min each): a teacher-led (for real-time feedback), an online station with NoRedInk, a writing station, etc. That way, you are only working on ~8 documents at a time.

      2) Keep your feedback focused. I will usually limit my feedback to one aspect of the essay…thesis statements, body paragraph #1 (topic sentence, textual evidence, analysis), quote introductions and citations, etc. Otherwise, I find it really overwhelming because I am trying to fix everything and I cannot get through every student. Limiting the scope of my feedback has been a struggle for me.

      3) When they are done with their essays, they know they have to sit with me as I fill out the rubric with their grade. So, it’s definitely an incentive to make my corrections. Plus, most of the time I’m editing as I sit across from them in the station so I’ll call them out if they aren’t making edits. Now, that’s not to say they are all great. I have a really wide range of kids in my program, but I get more writing from more kids with this model.

      Good luck! Don’t give up!


      • Kristen says:

        Hi Catlin,

        Thank you for the feedback. I am going back to the drawing board with your suggestions in mind. I spent the day with a colleague yesterday at the Festival of Books in L.A. and we discussed at length that the only way to help writers improve is to provide individual pointed feedback.

        This process will be a good one to develop over the summer. I really like your idea of the circular agenda rather than the linear one. That image alone will help me view lesson planning differently.

        Thank you again.


  13. Helena says:

    This is great. I teach college composition, and I’ve been looking for practical ways to implement in-class writing and peer assessment, and this is very helpful.

    What do you do for make-up work? I think this system would inherently encourage attendance, so that’s a good thing, but what do you do when students are absent?

    • My attendance this year is better than in any year prior, Helena! I’m not sure if the assessment is the whole reason, but I’m sure it does help.

      If students are absent on a day when we are writing, they jump back in as soon as they return. I typically end up editing the last thing they wrote so they are a day or two behind the class in terms of my edits. Most kids catch up at home but if they don’t, I’ll pull them from other activities to work with them or pair them with a strong writer who can support them.


  14. Eileen says:

    I teach math. Do you have suggestions as to how I could use this method of instruction in a math classroom?

    • Hi Eileen,

      I’d design a station rotation lesson–teacher-led (feedback station), online practice with Desmos, and offline collaborative task with an Illustrative Math real-world challenge. Then you can use that feedback station spend a few minutes with each student assessing key problems from an assessment. It may require some strategic grading. Teachers tend to want to grade everything, so focus on what would most benefit the student.


  15. Seema says:

    Our board insists on descriptive feedback for assignments and I had a parent who actually told me how much it has helped her child as he now doesn’t feel that he cannot revise an assignment. I’m also moving to online and have already started a unit this year. It takes effort to set it up but I’m hoping to go through the process so I can have it streamlined for next year . Thx for your blog

  16. Catie says:

    I’m assuming that for this to work, you have 1-to-1 tech? Seems like most of your stations are computer heavy… any recommendations for this approach without 1-to-1 or Google Classroom access?

  17. Amy says:

    I’m curious as to why you grade their final piece that you have guided them through. Would the goal in assesssing be can they use the standards by applying them on their own? Just curious what your thinking may be? I’ve had a hard time grading what I guide them through when using a workshop approach. We’ve been told not to use that piece for asssessing but I am also elementary not secondary. Thanks for any insight!!

    • Hi Amy,

      Even though I guide them through the process, they put different levels of time and energy into their work. Leaving comments and suggestions for improvement, asking questions, and linking to resources provides them with ongoing feedback and support as they work, but I have not done the work for them. The finished products vary and reflect different skill levels. It’s important for them to know where they are at in relationship to specific skills at the end of that work so they know where to invest more time and energy in the future.


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  19. april says:

    Thanks for this post!! I currently conference with my students on their writing but find that some are waiting for me as I am live conferencing or given written feedback in a doc (or both). The station rotation makes so much sense. I just purchased your new book- can’t wait to check it out!!!

  20. Florence Hulihee says:

    I have been teaching for 8 years and for the first time at a Title I public school this year. These students are quite different from my private school students and I found that things that worked in private school does not work here. I have decided that over the summer I was going to flip my classroom, I just think that would work much better for these students. But after reading this post, I’m going to institute some of your ideas. I teach chemistry/biology but can already envision some of the stations I would create and how I could use the meeting time to really help those that are struggling. This would really help keep me on top of how each student is doing and none of the would fall through the cracks. I just love this idea and I have already purchased your book to review and help guide me over the summer. Thanks.

    • Hi Florence,

      I’m thrilled this post has you excited to experiment with stations! I love creating smaller learning communities within the larger class with the Station Rotation Model. I hope you find my book useful!


  21. David says:

    Your post on your usage of Station Rotations are so informative; thanks for giving us a window into how you do things. You mentioned that you’ve started using stations more often… How do you manage whole group activities, such as reading a novel?


    • Hi David,

      I’m so glad you found it helpful. I do pull my group together for reading at times. It’s nice to popcorn read together and pause to chat about key moments in the text. I definitely blend strategies!


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