The Best Classroom Pet Ever!


A stuffed animal is the very best classroom pet.  Kids love it and it's a great way to get kids to write in a home journal.

Have you thought about having a class pet, but don’t want to add one more thing to take care of in your classroom?  Well, I have the perfect solution---a take-home stuffed animal!  Kids love it and there is no cage or tank to clean out!


Having a traveling class pet was by far the most popular class pet I ever had.  Kids couldn’t wait to for their week to take home the pet and have it be part of their life for a few days.  Of course, I had to include a journal for the kids to write in through the week.

Tips for having a take-home class pet.
1.  Choosing a stuffed animal is the easy part because kids love them all.  But, keep the size of the pet in mind.  Too large and it's difficult to transport home and then back to school.  Too small and it feels too much like a toy instead of a real pet.  

2.  Pick a traveling bag for your pet.  I like clear plastic bags so everyone can see the adorable pet inside.  Make sure it's large enough to hold the pet and the journal.   I found this bag on Amazon for under $10.  

3.  Decide on the requirements for the journal.  The requirements should be based on the writing level of your students.  Kindies can have a drawing journal where they draw a picture or two that shows what they did with the pet.  Firsties can write a few sentences along with illustrations.  For older students, they can write paragraphs and add illustrations.     Make sure all requirements and suggestions are included in the journal, so kids know exactly what is expected. 

A stuffed animal is the very best classroom pet.  Kids love it and it's a great way to get kids to write in a home journal.

4.  What will you use as a journal?  I like using a composition book.  It's sturdy and will last the whole year.  You can glue on a cover and then glue all instructions and suggestions to the inside cover.  Click here to download this freebie for setting up your Take-Home Pet Journal.

5.  Make sure you share the journal on the day it's returned and before it goes home with a new student.  

6.  A letter home at the beginning of the year, explaining the Take-Home pet is a good idea.  That way, parents know what to expect.  I also let parents know the take-home schedule a few weeks in advance.  That way, the schedule can be adjusted if a family needs to reschedule the pet's visit to their home.

Above all, have fun.  Just like a live pet, the stuffed animal pet is a great way to teach responsibility. 


Do  your students want a classroom pet, but you don't want the mess?  Then I have the perfect pet for you!




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Books are a Treasure

 
Books are really a treasure.  This beginning of year read aloud teaches kids how important books are in our lives.

“I mean we USE books all the time. They’re all over town, but . . .”

“Use them? You mean READ them don’t you?” she asked, leaning closer to the boy.
“R-r-read? What’s that?” Eli asked.
----From the story Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair by Patricia Polacco.


As so begins a wonderful story that I share with my students during the first week of school.  It’s a great way to begin discussions about books and how they enrich our lives. 

Triple Creek is suffering some pretty severe consequences because years ago they knocked down the library in order to put up the giant TV tower.  Aunt Chip begins telling stories to her nephew, Eli.  Eli spreads the stories to his friends and soon they all want to learn how to read.  

It isn't long before the kids are grabbing books from everywhere to read.  You'll have to read the story yourself to see how the stories and books change the town of Triple Creek!

After sharing the book with your students you can make a mini-book about books!  It's the perfect time to teach your students about caring for books and how we use books in our lives.  Two versions of the mini-book are included.  One is geared toward 1st and 2nd graders and the other for 3rd graders.
All About Books,  free mini book about the parts of a book,  Perfect way to introduce your class and school library expectations.




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Make it a Poster!

Turning a single page .pdf file into a large display poster is super simple.  It's an easy way to create anchor charts and other displays for your classroom.

You’ve just purchased the most adorable digital product and there are a couple of pages you’d like to display in your classroom.  But, no one will see them at their current 8.5 X 11 size.  What do you do?  Turn the page into a poster.  It's super easy .


I guess the easiest way is to take the file to Staples or Office Depot and have them pint it for you.  They also have online poster printing that starts at $12.99 for a 18" X 24" poster.  They have lots of options for paper types and it can even be laminated.  The finished poster will look great, but may not be so easy on our pocketbook.

Or, you can print your own poster!  Any PDF file can be printed as a poster.  First you need to start with a .pdf file.  You can convert most other file types into a .pdf file. Other file types might have a poster printing options, but I'm not familiar with them.  So, I'm going to explain how to print a poster from a .pdf file.

Step 1, print.  From the print menu you can choose the size, cut marks and see a print preview.
Turning a single page .pdf file into a large display poster is super simple.  It's an easy way to create anchor charts and other displays for your classroom.
Step 2:  Cut.  I use a paper cutter so all the edges are straight.  Make sure you leave one edge with a white paper margin so the piece can be glued to the piece that will be beside or below.
Turning a single page .pdf file into a large display poster is super simple.  It's an easy way to create anchor charts and other displays for your classroom.
Step 3, Putting it together.  A repositional glue stick makes moving and adjusting the placement much easier.  After I have all the pieces glued together I secure all the seams with tape (on the back).
Turning a single page .pdf file into a large display poster is super simple.  It's an easy way to create anchor charts and other displays for your classroom.
That's it!  you now have a poster large enough to display in your classroom for everyone to see.  This is my favorite way to make anchor charts since I can't draw with a darn!  Here's one I made for a lesson on subjects and predicates.
Turning a single page .pdf file into a large display poster is super simple.  It's an easy way to create anchor charts and other displays for your classroom.





Turning a single page .pdf file into a large display poster is super simple.  It's an easy way to create anchor charts and other displays for your classroom.




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Increase Student Success with Academic Vocabulary



Increase student success with academic vocabulary.  These are the words your students will encounter in text books and high-stakes tests.

What is academic vocabulary and why is it important?  Studies have shown that the size of a child’s vocabulary is an accurate predictor of academic achievement. (Hirsch, 2013)  But, academic vocabulary is more specific.  It is the words used in an academic setting.  This includes textbooks, class discussions, and standardized tests.  These words are not learned through casual conversations in our daily lives.  Students need direct instruction and focused lessons to master the words they encounter in an academic setting.

How many times did you wonder if your students truly understood what the question on a standardized was asking?  They may know the information, but the vocabulary in the question may have confused them.  And we all know, if you don't understand what a question is asking, then how can you answer it. This is why it’s so important to teach these essential words and make them part of your students’ everyday classroom vocabulary.

What are the most essential academic vocabulary words?  Experts have said there are about 300 academic words that should be taught through direct instruction.  Of course, you don’t teach them all at once.  But over the course of a child’s school career, through different content areas, these words should be taught.  Many schools have developed lists for each grade level and/or subject area.  Check to see if your school has such a list.


 Most kids get stuck on the verbs in test questions more often than the content nouns. So, this is a good place to start your academic vocabulary lessons. The resource I used the most to kick-start my vocabulary instruction is by Marilee Sprenger. Her wonderful book, Teaching the Critical Vocabulary of the Common Core (2013), gives definitions, examples and suggested activities for 55 (verbs and nouns) of the most commonly used words in the Common Core Standards.   I liked the first book so much that I bought her second book, 101 strategies to Make Academic Vocabulary Stick.




No matter what you opinion is on standardized or objectives based tests, it looks like they're here to stay for awhile.  So, we need to make sure our students have the vocabulary skills to perform their best on these tests.  

One of my goals is to incorporate these verbs into my daily lessons.  I wanted my kids to hear, see and use these words as frequently as possible.  That way, when they encountered them on the "big test" at the end of the year these verbs wouldn't cause any confusion.  I wanted my students to be able to answer the content of the question without getting hung up on what the question was asking.

I decided to introduce each word with a short PowerPoint presentation.  In the presentation the word is defined, a sample question is answered, the word is applied to an everyday situation for a partner talk and a short activity or printable can be used in a class lesson.  

Here's how I introduce the essential 29 verbs:
1.  On the first day, I show just the first two slides (definition and sample question)  
2.  On day two we review a couple of the verbs from previous lessons and then do the third slide for the new word (partner talk). 
3.  The next day would begin with a review and then the fourth slide for the new word (activity or printable incorporated into a content lesson).
4.  On the next day, we would add the word to our Word Jar journals. (see the link to this freebie below.)

Here's what one of the lesson presentations looks like:
video


Another great way to help your students master these words is to start a special journal, just for words.  At the beginning of the year, I love reading Donavan's Word Jar.   It's a great book about a young boy who starts collecting words and it inspires my kids to become word collectors themselves.

 I created this freebie so you can turn your class into word collectors!  Word Jar: A Word Collection Journal  


Word Jar Journal.  A place for students to collect words throughout the year.  It turns into a great reference source they'll use all year!




Do your kids have the vocabulary they need to be successful in academic tasks?  Find out why direct instruction in academic vocabulary is so important in today's classroom.



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Digital Task Cards, A Must for Every Classroom!

Have you tried digital task cards?  Kids love them, and so will you.  Find out why teachers are falling in love with these task cards.

Task cards-- love them!  They're great for individualizing, class scoot games and for learning centers.  And have you heard about digital task cards!   Boom Learning™ has digital cards for every subject and every age. 

With technology becoming a bigger part of our classrooms and home schools it's time to look at the benefits of using digital task cards. 

If you're tired of all the laminating, cutting, organizing and storing of task cards, it may be time to switch to digital.First off, there's less prep.  You don't have to print, cut, and laminate the cards.  That also means less $$$!  Plus you don't have to come up with a way to store them and you never lose them!  No more little baskets, boxes, rings, and files cluttering up your shelves and cabinets.  Digital task cards are always within reach with your device. Kids can log in to Boom Learning™ and access their cards anytime. Boom Cards™ can be used on laptops, desktops, tablets, iPads and even cell phones!

Instant feedback    With the digital cards kids know right away if they're correct or not.  No more turning in their recording sheet for the teacher to check and get back to them.  This is so much better than letting kids check their own task cards with an answer key or QR code.  With some students, I was never sure if they used the answer key before or after they wrote their answer!

Record Keeping at your fingertips!   The Boom Learning site keeps track of your students for you!  You can see what decks they've completed and how they did on each card.  You can't get any easier than that.  The system lets you assign decks to your whole class or to the individual student.  Super easy way to individualize.

Use in a variety of setting.   Just like printed task cards, digital cards can be used for individual students, in learning centers, and with your whole class.  If you have literacy or math centers, set up your tablet, iPad or computer to access the Boom Learning™ site, kids will have their own login and they're all set to begin working on the assigned decks.  Now, you can also use the task card decks with your whole class with a feature called Fast Play.  You can get a Fast Play code for any of your decks.  Simply input that Fast Pass web address into your computer and project it onto your whiteboard. This makes it a great way to introduce a new concept or review a skill. 

Finally, it's fun!  Kids love technology.  They're more motivated to work through 25 math problems when they get instant feedback and earn little rewards.  


Do you still want to hang on to your paper task cards?  Don't worry, you can have both!  I've been converting some of my print task cards to digital, which are available in my Boom store. (Crockett's Classroom on Boom)

But now, some of the task cards in my TpT store have companion digital sets on Boom.  When you purchase the set from Crockett's classroom on TpT you'll get the printable task cards and a code to access the deck on Boom Learning™.  How amazing is that! 

Verb task cards.  Try out the print and digital versions!

I've created a special category in my TpT store called Boom Cards. This category will soon be filled with sets of printable/digital task cards.  I'm starting with a set of free task cards for Verbs (action, helping and linking)

Disclosure:  I am receiving renewal of my Boom membership for writing and publishing this blog post about Boom Learning and Boom cards.



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The KWL Chart -- New and Improved!


It's time to get rid of that old KWL chart!  Check out these versions that reflect what student learning really looks like.

      KWL charts have been around since the early 80’s.  Chances are you’ve used them either as a student or as a teacher,  maybe both. I remember thinking the traditional chart with three columns were wonderful.  I used them for so many of my science and social studies lessons and thought they really helped my students organize their thoughts and learning.  They guided a lot of our informative research and writing. 


    Well, it’s time to bring the KWL chart up-to-date.  I’ve found several really interesting ways this chart has been adapted.  Some are still simple and adaptable to many lessons, but others are more specific and may not fit with a wide range of activities.  Here’s what I found---

Traditional KWL
Let’s start with the oldie, but goodie.  The three columns stand for What I Know, What I Want to Know and What I Learned.  This is pretty straight forward and kids easily understand them.  After only a little whole class practice, students are able to use this chart on their own.  What I love about this chart is the versatility.  It can be used for almost any lesson or activity. (Click on image to download this organizer.)
Traditional KWL chart, simple and easy way to organize information for both literary and informative text

With the traditional KWL chart, it's simple and easy to organize information for both literary and informative text  
Literary Text--
K:  background knowledge    Students list what they know about the topic, characters, or setting.  Students can even list what they know about the genre.
W:  Want to find out.     Students can make predictions of what they think will happen. Predictions can be added or adjusted as they continue to read. Questions they want to have answered as they read the story can also be written here.  Then if the question is answered it can be moved over to the Learned column.
L:  Learned from the story.    Students can write a summary of the story, or the lesson learned in the story.  Their predictions can be checked and their questions can be answered.

Informative Text,  video or movie, science experiment --
K:  Previous knowledge     What knowledge do students already have about this topic.  This could come from previous experiences, books they’ve read, movies or TV shows they’ve seen.  It can also come from previous lessons or activities.
W:  Want to learn     What do the students hope or want to learn about the topic.  Questions are best for this column because they easily lead to searching for answers.

L:  Learned from the text       Any facts and information that students learn from the text can be written in this column. The facts do not have to pertain to what they wrote in the W column. But, if they do answer one of the questions from the W column, it can be moved over to the L column as they write the answer.


Thinking KWL Chart
I really, really like this KWL chart.  It values the knowledge that students already have about a topic but requires them to find evidence to support their ideas.  Let’s face it, kids know a lot, but it isn’t always accurate.  I also like the fluidity of this chart.  Instead of writing on the chart, I like to have kids write on small sticky notes.  These notes can then be moved from column to column as they read and research.  
This thinking KWL charts adds extra accountability to the traditional KWL chart.

Here’s how the three columns work;


K: What I Think I Know-  The first column is the biggest change from the traditional KWL chart.  Kids can write down any facts, background knowledge or information they think they know about the topic.  The emphasis, though, is that this “knowledge” may change once they begin researching or reading the text.  Perhaps they write “bears hibernate” in the first column. But, from their research, they find out that they don’t truly hibernate.  They go into a torpor or a deep sleep.  Bears can be woken up quickly and easily from this torpor state, unlike hibernating animals. The note about bears hibernating can now be updated and moved to the last column- What I know I Learned column.
W:  What I want to Know-  In this column students write notes about what they'd like to learn, or questions they have about the topic or story.  As they read and research, they can update these notes with their new knowledge and move the note to the last column.
L:  What I know I learned-  The last column is where all the notes from their research are collected.  Only notes that have text-based evidence can be placed in this column.   Notes from the first and second column are moved here as soon as they are proved by the research and reading.


The next KWL chart comes from an article I read on the NSTA blog.  It describes a KLEW chart.  


KLEW chart from a third grade science lesson, One type of KWL chart reviewed in this blog post.
http://www.nsta.org/publications/news/story.aspx?id=51519
I like how this chart guides students through their research.  The first column lists what students think they know, just like in my Thinking KWL chart.  In the second column, they record what they are learning, followed by the third column which lists supporting evidence.  The last column lists questions for future research.  To read how a third-grade teacher used this in her science lesson you can read the full article here:  Evidence Helps the KWL Get a KLEW.

Check back soon.  I'll be sharing more ways to use the KWL chart idea in your classroom.


Is your KWL chart up to date?  Check out new ways to use this organizational chart with your students as they read literary and informational text.

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5 Ways to Engage and Motivate at the end of the School Year

As the school year winds down, it's not easy to keep your kids engaged and motivated to keep learning.  Here are 5 ways to keep them going until the very end.


     How do you stay motivated through the last few weeks of school?  For me, this was the toughest time of the school year.  Testing is over, summer is almost here and kids have a hard time staying focused. To be honest, teachers have a hard time staying focused, too!  So what can you do to stay motivated and keep your students engaged in valuable learning experiences until the very end?

Mix It Up!        One thing that works for me is to rearrange my daily schedule.  I might add something new to the morning routine or move a subject I normally teach in the morning to the afternoon.  A really easy change could be the morning sponge activity.  Instead of the daily language, math or reading review have them start with a drawing/writing activity.  Write a prompt on the board and tell the kids they have fifteen minutes to draw and then set the timer for a 5-minute quick write.  At the end of the quick write, we take a couple of minutes to share and then the paper is put in our writing folders. Students might want to expand the writing at a later time.


Brag About It!       Add a new element to your behavior system.  Kids love brag tags so why not add a weekly brag tag.  On Monday I display the brag tag that kids have the chance to earn through the week.  We talk about the behaviors or qualities they need to display through the week in order to earn the new tag. I also give them each a brag tag nomination slip.  They can fill out the slip to nominate someone else in the class who they think has earned the weekly brag tag.  Nomination slips are placed in a box.  I go through the slips after school and give out a few tags the next morning.  On Thursday I have every student fill out a slip in which they nominate themselves!  They are asked to explain what they’ve done to earn the weekly brag tag.  This makes it possible for every student to earn the brag tag by the end of the week. 
Click on this image to download this free sample so you can get started with brag tags.

Give your kids brag tag goals.  This allows you to focus on specific behaviors for the week.

Expert for the Day.    I start this project about 30 days before the end of the year.  Each student chooses a nonfiction book with the purpose of learning something new.  They read the book and do some online research to become an expert on the topic.  Then they are scheduled to present what they’ve learned as the Expert for the Day.  Depending on the time you have, you can schedule 2 - 4 students to present each day.  Or, one year we invited parents in for our Expert day.  The kids set up around the room and parents wondered through listening to the short demonstrations. Their presentation includes a demonstration along with visuals to display their new knowledge.  Everyone loves seeing the creative way our classmates share their expertise. 


Put on a production.       Kids love to ham it up so putting on a little play or reader’s theater is the perfect way to keep kids engaged during the last few weeks of school.  Reader’s Theater scripts are my favorite.  There are so many free scripts available is a wide range of topics.  You can even have students take a well-known story and turn it into a script themselves!
Here are a few online sources I’ve found:

Timeless Teacher Stuff-- http://www.timelessteacherstuff.com/

Start a project.       Now that your state testing is over you have time for a fun project.  Research projects or book projects are perfect because they can incorporate reading, writing, science, social studies, art, and music.  One of my favorites is a wild animal park project. The kids are divided into groups.  Each group will research the animals and plants for a specific habitat.  Then the group creates the part of the wild animal park for their habitat.  The parts are put together to create the class park.  You can do sooooo much with this type of project; research, math problem solving, studying animal and plant adaptations, write songs or poems, etc.  This project is available in my TpT store.  Click on any of the images to check it out.










     No matter how you spend the last few weeks of school I hope you remember to take care of yourself.  If you don’t, you won’t be able to enjoy your kids.  The year has been long and probably very challenging at time.  Remember to take the time to reflect on the growth and accomplishments of your students.  And never forget the positive impact you’ve made on their lives.
As the school year winds down, it's not easy to keep your kids engaged and motivated to keep learning.  Here are 5 ways to keep them going until the very end.

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Thanks for the Memories

End of Year Memories Booklet.  Great activity to relive and gather memories from the school year.


As the school year comes to an end we all have mixed feelings. Excited for the summer ahead, sad to say good-bye to friends, stressed to get all the paper work finished on time, pride in the accomplishments of our students and even a little nervous about what the next school year will bring.

No matter what you're feeling I'm sure you spend time sharing memories from the school year.  Many of you will have memory books and yearbooks for students to sign and write notes to classmates.  I have a different way to relive special and personal memories-- Memory Bracelets.  I've used this bracelet idea at the beginning of the year as a getting-to-know-you activity, but it works wonderfully as a memory sharing activity, too.

Memory Bracelets, a great activity to relive and collect memories from the school year.


The first step is to brainstorm as a class, the big events from the year- field trips, class projects, school assemblies and plays, class visitors, special events, holidays, etc.  Make sure you give kids time to talk and share their persona memories about these events.
Then give each student a set of Wonderful Memories slips.  The slip has a place for a student's name and then space to write a special memory.  To save time I suggest you fill in each student’s name before you copy the pages for your class.  Each student will need one complete set of Wonderful Memories slips. Give students several small blocks of time to fill in a personal memory for each classmate.  If you have them complete the memories page at one time, the memories tend to be less personal and more redundant.  Once all the memories are collected have the students cut them apart and store them in an envelope.
End of Year Memories Booklet.  Great activity to relive and gather memories from the school year.


Now it's time to make the bracelets. Each student should have a pipe cleaner to collect the memory beads, a baggie of pony beads and the envelope with the memories.  Sharing the memories will include finding a classmate, reading the memory and placing a bead on their pipe cleaner and pasting the memory slip onto a blank space of their memory book.

End of Year Memories Booklet.  Great activity to relive and gather memories from the school year.


The memory sharing can be done all at once or in small blocks of time.  Kids will know who they need to share a memory with because they have a memory slip for each classmate.  When all memories have been shared the kids can twist the ends of the pipe cleaner together to make a bracelet, or keep it straight as a keepsake. They'll also have a memory slip from all of their classmates to take home with treasured memories from the year.





Relive the wonderful memories from the school year with this unique activity and booklet.

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Grading---Keeping it in Control!

I don't know of a single teacher who says they love grading papers, but it is such a valuable part of teaching.  A student's written work is one piece of data or evidence that we have to see how well the students are understanding the skills or concepts being taught in class. Through the years I've found a few ways to keep the paper grading from becoming too overwhelming.
Everyone can keep their paper grading under control with these simple organizational ideas.

First,  you need a way to keep the papers organized.  I've tried pocket folders and a binder with pocket dividers.  Here's how I set them up.

Subject grading folders are a very simple idea.  I made sure to have a different color for each subject.  Then I wrote To Be Graded on one pocket and Graded on the other.  When a set of paper was graded I wrote the scores on a class slip, clipped it to the set and moved them to the Graded pocket.  The class slip of paper was an easy way to temporarily keep the scores until they could be transferred to my grade book or computer grading system.
Using a separate folder for each subject or class is an easy way to organized papers that need to be graded.

A Grading Binder became my favorite way to keep the paperwork organized.  I liked having everything in one place, but it is larger and not as easy to slip into a bag to take home for the evening.  When I set up my binder I used dividers with pockets.  The pocket dividers were labeled for each subject.  On the front pocket I wrote To be Graded and the other side was labeled Graded.  Just like mentioned above, a class strip with scores, was clipped to the graded set of papers.

One of the advantages of using a binder is you can have so many other things right on hand.  One handy item is a zipper pocket at the front of the binder to hold marking pens, sticky notes, stickers, and a grading scale.  The binder can also have a section for your grade book pages.  I always kept a paper grade book, even when my district went to computer grade books.  I liked having those paper grade sheets to look at quickly.
 Keep your paper grading in control with these simple ideas,  Use folders to keep all those papers organized.

Other time saving tips:
-Label each set of papers with the assignment, page number, etc. 
-Have sticky notes close by!  You never know when you might need to write a note to a student or to yourself! 
-If you assign a % score, use a grading chart or wheel.

 Keep your paper grading in control with these simple ideas,  keeping the materials you need close at hand is essential.

Just a word about student work . . . I don't like and never gave my students "busy work".  I define busy work as anything given to a student just to keep them busy, and did little or nothing to help that child learn or master a skill or concept.  I've seen trash bins filled with student work that was never looked at by the teacher. If a student takes the time to do it, then I think a teacher should take the time to look at it.  But that doesn't mean you have to assign a score or grade to everything. So, here are a few ideas of what to do with student work you know you'll not be scoring or grading.
-Have students exchange papers in class.  They can each use a marking pencil or crayon to check the answers as you read them aloud.  Walk around as students are checking to see if any papers need more attention from you.  Or, you can collect the checked set of papers to look through quickly to see if anyone needs a little reteaching of the skill.
-Assign checking partners.  Students get together to compare answers. If answers are different the students rework to see where a mistake was made.
-Check work as students are working.  Walk around with a marking pen and put a star on problems that are correct, or circle problems you want the student to look at again.  When students turn in their work, you can quickly look through the rest of the work to get an idea if students have done well, or need more practice.
-You don't have to grade everything on the page.  Box in one section and grade only that area.  If it's a written paragraph or essay, grade it only for one writing trait.
-Read through the student work and give a simple star or sticker to indicate you've looked at their work.  You can pull out papers that need more of your attention.
 Keep your paper grading in control with these simple ideas.


Click on the image to download the free printables to help simplify your grading.
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