Beyond the Red Pen: Meet Yuko, First Grade


Meet Yuko, a first grade grading expert! She believes in the power of sweet snacks, stickers and stamps, and Clorox wipes and I think many teachers out there can agree. Read on to learn more about how keeps on her class on pace and why after school is the best time to grade.


What is your current location?
Currently in Las Vegas, Nevada.

What subject and grade (s) do you teach?
I teach an ALM (Accelerated) first grade classroom, and teach all subjects (English Language Arts, math, science, and social studies).

What is your favorite teaching accessory?
My favorite teaching accessory is my watch – we’re always running out of time for everything.

Tips and tricks on making the best “teacher lunch?”
Make enough dinner for leftovers, and ALWAYS pack a snack (something sweet is preferable).



Yuko’s homework envelopes go home every week that ask parents to review completed work with their children.


What’s your favorite time to grade and why?
Usually I grade an assignment or test on the day the students complete it (during prep or after school). It’s still fresh in my mind and if I see that a student is struggling, I pull them aside for small group. I try not to take it home where there are too many distractions (TV).

What is your must have grading tool/utensil?
As a primary grade teacher, I MUST HAVE stickers and stamps. Perfect scores = sticker/stamp 🙂

How do you find grading “zen?”
It’s easier to grade in my own classroom after school, once it’s nice and quiet.

What is your super secret tip to grade faster that you wish all teachers knew?
Grade it the day you gave the assignment or test, and alphabetize so it’s easier to enter in the grade book.


What is one strategy that has worked to increase student motivation?
To foster responsibility, I check everyone’s reading homework daily.  When the whole class brings in perfect homework, they earn a tally mark. After 10 tally marks, they decided on their own reward (which was a cupcake frosting “lesson”) and then we increased the goal to 15 tally marks. There’s more motivation since they choose their own reward, and they also hold each other accountable.

What is the best teaching advice you’ve ever received?
A quote and advice I love: “The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.'” – Maria Montessori


Do you have specific teaching shoes? If so, what are they?
No specific teaching shoes, unless it’s for a special occasion (i.e. field trips and field day means comfortable tennis shoes). Whatever matches my outfit that day!

What’s the last thing you bought for your classroom?
The last thing I bought for my classroom is a 3-pack bottled Clorox wipes…my students wipe down their desk and chair twice a week, especially since we eat breakfast in the classroom. It results in a mound of blackened wipes in the trash can and a pleasant smell in the classroom.

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