Beyond the Red Pen: Meet Kelly, Middle School English

Meet Kelly, a middle school English teacher and grading ninja from Indiana. Learn more about how she was able to watch all 10 seasons of Friends in one sitting, why rubrics is her go-to grading tool, and how she has increased engagement and motivation amongst her students by just watching television.

grading tips routine

What is your current location?
I teach at New Castle Community Schools in East Central Indiana.

What subject and grade(s) do you teach?
7th/8th English.

What is your favorite teaching accessory?
Purple gel pens.

Tips and tricks on making the best “teacher lunch?”
My co-workers and I split up lunch.  Someone brings lunch for one week, and then the next person does the next week.  We also make use of the refrigerator and buy things to make.

grading tips for teachers

teacher grading tips organization

Kelly’s grading pile organizer!

teacher grading tips organization

A multipurpose grading organizer and storage area

What is your super grading secret?

Rubrics!  Decide what you want to grade and only focus on those aspects.  Making rubrics has really helped me justify grades as well as keep grades fair.  Students don’t want to fail an assignment or project if they turn it in on time.  Rubrics can help bring scores up with other factors like presentation and extra features.  They offer a clear observation that can be used by students and teachers.

What’s your favorite time to grade and why?
I take Friday afternoon (because sometimes I crash early for some reason) and Saturday off, then I grade all new work on Sunday.  I start with the Sunday morning slow and work my way through E! television or old movies.  One year, I watched all 10 seasons of Friends while grading papers.

What is your must have grading tool/utensil?
I prefer a purple gel pen.  I can also use green.  I prefer to not use red, and when in a pinch, I choose blue/black over red. HIGHLIGHTERS!!!!!

How do you find grading “zen?”
Tiny rewards for finishing my individual piles.

What is your super secret tip to grade faster that you wish all teachers knew?
I grade one side of a paper until I am through all the papers, then I turn the page and grade that page through the entire stack. Often I provide similar paper (cut sheets), so I can have a clear format everyone follows. And use RUBRICS!!  Especially for essays and projects.  It can make you less focused on tiny errors that may not be as important as the lesson being taught.  Too many errors marked can overwhelm students.  They don’t want others to see their marked up paper, and they don’t always read every comment.  Keep to specific skills and add new ones as the year progresses!

teacher grading tips

What is one strategy that has worked to increase student motivation?
Sticks of gum, candy, stickers can improve participation.  Extra credit always seems like more to them. Five points doesn’t really do much for their grade but for their ego. Sometimes I let my students pick their seats based on their grade on a particular assignment. For anyone who fails or doesn’t turn it in on time, I choose the seat.

What is the best teaching advice you’ve ever received?
The kids don’t remember the lesson, they remember that you cared.  You cannot show that you care by not having rules and being easy.  Expecting the best and requiring the their best can be very difficult at times.  You have to earn their respect before they can learn from you.  Sometimes it is tough to let someone fail, but often it can be the best lesson.  The teacher cannot care and do more than the student.

teacher grading tips fun

How can teachers get to know today’s students better?
Use the Internet.  Mold worksheets, PowerPoint presentations, web quests, quizzes, and any other possible idea into what works for you!  Teachers are incredibly helpful to other teachers for the most part.  We all have the same goals.  Often if I know a student works well with a coach or another teacher, I use that connection to help a situation or to help the student see the importance of my lesson also.
Know the music they listen to and the books that they read.  Watch their silly shows, even if just to tell them that they are silly.  The personal connections can last a lifetime.  Teenagers are dramatic, so knowing a little about their outside life can lighten the mood.  Ask about pets and parents and weekends and friends.  If you want their attention, get the distraction away early.

Do you have specific teaching shoes? If so, what are they?
Skechers Go Walks, Carters, Tevas

What’s the last thing you bought for your classroom?

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