5 Tips for Better Grading

Katelynn GiordanoBlog, Connect Better, Lead Better


  • Grade better by aligning all of your assessments and creating clear feedback measures.
  • Eliminate unnecessary assignments and involve students in the process.
  • Use tech tools and verbal feedback whenever possible.

Coming back to school means many things: students in our rooms, interacting and building relationships in person, learning to instruct in person and online simultaneously. But it also means that we have an opportunity—a special one—to come back better. 

This approach applies to all facets of our educational world, but if you know me, you know how excited I am for what this means for grading.

As we begin anew, many of us have had our practices and beliefs shaken up. This is especially true for grading, assessment, and feedback because we were forced to reckon with what we have been doing for years. Now that we have, we’re looking for new approaches and ways to tackle this bear.

In the years I spent transforming my classroom (and my thinking) from a transactional, points-based system to one that focuses on learning and progress, I learned a couple things that have helped a lot. No matter where you are in your journey, I hope they can help you, too.

While we’re at it, allow for reassessment. Then your feedback will really be read because students can truly do something with it. Click To Tweet

Better Grading Tip #1: Align all of your assignments. Yes, all of them.

The first and most valuable thing you can do is put a clear learning objective on every single assignment you give. It’s simple, it’s quick, and it’s transformative.

Not only will students know exactly what they are supposed to be demonstrating knowledge of, but they will also have a clearer understanding of why they are doing the work. It’s literally right there on the page.

But what’s more is that it will provide a specific ‘thing’ for you to give feedback about. Hold yourself to it, and only provide feedback on that one skill they are practicing. Hold off on the rest; it wasn’t their focus when doing the work, and it shouldn’t be yours while assessing it.

Better Grading Tip #2: Create clear feedback measures.

Whether this is a skills-based rubric or a consistent feedback structure or both, find a measure that works for you. There are so many that work well and I’ve used a wide variety of them. I can confidently say the one that works best and the one that I recommend is the one that you and your students are comfortable with.

Take the time to ensure students know how the feedback structure works, how to read a rubric, and where to look for your comments. This makes sure you are not giving feedback into a void, but that your feedback is being reviewed and used. 

Oh, and while we’re at it, allow for reassessment. Then your feedback will really be read because students can truly do something with it.

Better Grading Tip #3: Eliminate unnecessary assignments.

If you can’t figure out what the learning objective is or you don’t see the value in giving feedback on an assessment, reconsider giving it at all.

If it has no purpose beyond giving points, then I have to say, it’s pretty pointless.

Better Grading Tip #4: Involve students in the process.

When you go to create rubrics or proficiency levels, have your students weigh in. Student-created rubrics are incredibly valuable because they are totally accessible to your learners. They did, after all, help create them.

On top of accessibility of language, students also tend to take more ownership of something they themselves helped to make. They will understand what to do, why they are doing it, and feel more invested in the work itself. This is especially helpful for students who may struggle to see the value in the content or what they are being asked to do.

It may be time consuming, but the benefits are more than worth it.

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Better Grading Tip #5: Utilize tech tools and verbal feedback whenever possible.

Many students report that they prefer hearing our feedback to reading it. Many LMS and add-ons have been created to help address this, and are very easily used to provide this type of feedback.

This can also help create more of a connection between you and the student. We all know how difficult (read, impossible) it is to tell how a person means a comment over text. The tone can be misinterpreted, damaging the relationship or rendering the feedback harmful instead of helpful. Instead of messing around with the subtext, use voice comments and eliminate the question altogether.

In addition to these benefits, it can also be a lot faster than writing out feedback. Think of the time it takes to write out all the suggestions, and then consider how long it would take you to just say it. That time saving can really add up!

As you rethink the grading and assessment in your classroom, take time to consider how you might come back better using these tips and tricks.

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About Katelynn Giordano

Katelynn Giordano is a Middle Level Language Arts Educator in Illinois and the Director of Curriculum & Instruction for the Teach Better Team. She is a dynamic educator who is passionate about student voice and empowerment, promoting equity, and valuing teachers as professionals.

In 2019, Katelynn presented information on action research in the classroom with a team at the National Council of Teachers of English Convention in Baltimore.

You can check out more of Katelynn’s work & her writing on her website KatelynnGiordano.com or her blog Curriculum Coffee.

Katelynn is also a member of the Teach Better Speakers Network.