Paper Grading the Pomodoro Way

Four Rounds...Fight!


I woke up last Saturday morning and said to myself, "I have a plan today." As I typed those words I chuckled because the best-laid plans are often disastrous. And by disastrous, I mean bargaining with myself to put off chunks of grading so I can take in or on other aspects of my life.  My plot involved getting through 94 argumentative essay drafts in one day. These were the final writing assignment given to my Advanced students before the writing post-tests. This was also the last step I had to take before going through test preparation and state testing

How They Were Graded

Because this was a type 3, students were being assessed on their application of skills before receiving any previous feedback. A type 3 writing essentially gives the students three different parameters of grading before the assignment. They vary, but they consider format, content, structure, and conventions/style.  Read more about the five types of writing at the John Collins Writing Website. I could have chosen to continue on with the assignment and allow revision or editing, or I could be satisfied with a quicker draft. I chose the latter for this assignment as it was a measurement of what students could do on their own before the post-test. 

I used my "checkboxes and pre-loaded comments system" because I don't trust myself when it comes to grading. I would spend up to 17-18 minutes in the past on one student's piece of text. I wish that this were a reality that I could spend this much time on each and every student's piece of paper; however, it is not feasible or possible. Period. This is one of those sacrifices that we make as teachers that also makes us cringe on the inside.

We have to be okay with doing what we can.

Here is my rubric system for this type of shorter writing assignment:

The preloaded comments still give students feedback. I just am not writing it out each time. I have recently discovered a Chromebook Extension called Check Mark. Has anyone used this? My plan is to use this on my next round of papers. It inserts the comments with a click of a button. While I desire to have individual writing on each of my students' papers, 1.) My handwriting is terrible and 2.) My students would not get the timely feedback they need. 

Pomodoro Grading

A rubric is just a method to accomplish the means. The means is where we, as teachers, run into all of the problems. The actual sitting down and doing the work of getting through the stacks is the main problem. I came across a method of working called the "Pomodoro technique." Essentially, it is when you work in shorter rounds with frequent breaks. You schedule the rounds, and then you keep track of your progress. While you can set your tomato timer for 25-minute rounds with 5-minute breaks, I prefer 50-minute rounds with 10-minute breaks. It gives you a rule for working. During my time spent in Angela Watson's 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club, I have learned the value of setting those expectations and rules. 

Lots of teachers are catching on to this type of technique. Like at Edudemic, Medium, and TheTeachingSpace. Trust me, check it out. 

Some Quick Math

It takes me 2 minutes to do a paper on this method. If this were a more in-depth feedback type of paper, it would take me somewhere around 5-6 minutes. As teachers, we have to get specific about time because time is precious to us all, but it is the most precious to us teachers. We can't get it back with students or with ourselves. 

If I start with a 50 minute Pomodoro round, I can get 25 of these graded. 

Round 1: 25 papers

Round 2: 25 papers

Round 3: 25 papers

Round 4: 18 papers

This is four hours of grading scheduled the smart way. If I hadn't of pushed these off to the side, I could have done two hours one night and two another night. However, because I am a glutton for punishment, they are all getting done today so I can rest on Sunday and write. 

Writing Mindset Reflection: What rules do you set for yourself when it comes to grading and paperwork? How many hours do you give on the weekend? Do you bargain with yourself?