My Top 3 Tips for an Organized Grade Book

I tend to treat the first day back after Christmas break like the first day of school.  For one thing, if I’m teaching semester long classes, I will I have whole new groups of students so for them it really IS their first day with me and we need to do the whole classroom procedures/expectations/intro to class type stuff (I’ll spend a few days on all that).

If I have a year long class, inevitably half my kids will have brain dumped over break so I use the first day as a refresher for our procedures and my expectations.  I will specifically discuss what went well the previous semester, what they should work on, and to be fair, what I’ll work on…like giving them more time to answer questions, speaking slower, whatever it is that given semester.

I also take the opportunity to re-organize my files/plan book, revamp activities and projects, etc.  Thankfully, courtesy of the teacher I student taught for, I never have to worry about my grade book getting out of whack.  She had refined her grade book keeping techniques over more than 20 years of teaching, and I thought it was such a great system I’ll be using it until the day I retire.

I should note, I personally choose to keep both a physical grade book and the school’s digital grade book so that I have a record of my students’ grades no matter where I am, and having two sets of grades is essentialy a self-check system.

Here are my top 3 tips to keeping my grade book organized:

1) highlight the grades after you input them into your digital grade book–if you’re like me you’ll appreciate the visual satisfaction of getting things done, but also, you don’t have to waste time figuring out which grades have been entered and which haven’t, and if a student asks you a question about his or her grade, you can say the grade is completely up to date, or you still have to input the test grades, or whatever the case is.  I find this step most helpful with missing grades, I’ll have all the assignment grades highlighted except for the 3 that didn’t get turned in, and it’s easy for me to count for students and tell them how many assignments they’re missing.

2)  if a student doesn’t turn in an assignment when it is due, draw a diagonal line through the grade entry square–when it gets turned in, write the grade on one side of the line–if it never gets turned in you can easily make it an x and put a zero in the digital grade book.

3) if a student is absent, outline the square of the grade box in pen so you know not to count it as late when he or she comes back to class (if they turn it in when you expect them to…if it is past your “absent work deadline policy date” then use the diagonal line and go from there).

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As you can see in the picture, there is an X in the bottom row because the student never turned in the assignment, and the square next to the X is because the student was absent the day it was due.  I also include in my grade book records the dates we are in class (even if there’s no assignment that day), the name of the assignment, the total points possible, then the points the student received.  This is a mock version I created to protect my students’ privacy, but it should give you the general idea.  While we’re on the topic of organization, if you want to read about how I keep my master files for lesson planning organized you can find that post HERE, or you can read about how I deal with absent students and work getting turned in HERE.

Do you have a grade keeping tip or trick?  I’d love to read it in the comments!

Back to School Season, But Not For Me

back to school season

back to school season

Right now I should be stocking up on memes to print and laminate for my classroom.  I should be buying markers, colored pencils, and organization bins for student supplies.  I should be researching the most effective seating arrangements and visiting my classroom to see which ones will work.  I should be hoarding pens, pencils, and erasers because every day at least 5 students need to borrow them.  I should be fine tuning my lessons and making changes to any that didn’t go so well last year.  But I’m not doing any of that.  I have had a classroom one way or another since I student taught and this year I don’t.

I was displaced at the end of last school year and rather than be a day-to-day sub in any school in the district for any grade, I decided to stay home with my daughter.  I NEVER EVER EVER pictured myself being a stay-at-home mom.  Has it been a blessing in disguise, absolutely!!!!  Did it take me a few months to realize it, yes!  If I could have had a long-term subbing job each semester where I actually taught that would have been different, but it unfortunately wasn’t an option.

When my daughter turned one I knew she was going to need more than just me at a certain point and I needed to get back to teaching.  She started going to day care 2 half days a week and that gave me the time I needed to finally open my own store on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Now with 6-8 unadulterated hours a week to create activities for other teachers, I had a professional outlet again.

With no traditional jobs in sight, I reached out to some home schooling communities to see if any families would be interested in having me teach their kids social studies a couple of times a week (because let’s be real, not every parent who home schools loves every subject, is an expert in every subject, has creative ideas for every subject, etc).  In one local home school co-op, the kids get together 2x/week for class.  They are taught things like science, math, Spanish, history, robotics, and music theory (essentially the history of the world through music).  I was lucky enough to have a specialty that the co-op director needed a teacher for so the best of all worlds seems to be falling into place for me.  My daughter will still get what she socially needs in 2 days of daycare, I will teach 2 days a week (Geography and Music Theory) and get some professional fulfillment, and I will still have my at home time with my daughter.

So I won’t technically have my own classroom which will be weird and I won’t be decorating the room I’m in because the co-op is in a multi-purpose/multi-use community building.  Needless to say, I’m pretty jealous of all these back to school pins on Pinterest and I’m living vicariously through my friends who are starting to decorate their classrooms, but I’m doing something new which is in itself exciting, and I’m doing what works for me and my family.  All in all I have no complaints, but man I love back to school shopping and decorating and I am definitely missing it right now!

Back to School: Letter to Parents

It’s no secret that having open ones of communication with parents or guardians in high school is more than a little difficult.  I always send a letter home to parents with students on the first day of school to open the lines of communication.  I try to email 2 parents/guardians a week to give them an update on how things are going for their kid in my class.  I always focus on something good, such as “Sarah” asked such an insightful question today and it led to a great class discussion or I was very happy when “David” was proactive after getting his test back and asked me what he could do to make up some lost points.

letter to parents

Opening the lines of communication with parents during back to school season

I have two versions of the letter: the one in my head and the one I actually send home.  In my head, the letter goes something like this:

Dear Parents, I regret to inform you that I will be your son or daughter’s history teacher this year.  I am going to push your child to their academic limits.  I will not let them settle for what they think is their best because I always see the potential in my students that they do not see in themselves.  They might not always enjoy my class because they are going to work harder than they have in other history classes, but they WILL learn more about history and their place in the world than they thought they would.  I will make them appreciate the value in thinking outside the box, we will study every event from multiple points of view, and I will hopefully open their eyes to the wider world.  I am not just their history teacher…I am helping them prepare to be responsible world citizens.  I will play devil’s advocate and I will make them work to prove a point or justify an opinion.  They might break out in an academic sweat but at the end of the day I will make learning fun for them.  History can make us laugh, cry, shriek, fear, wonder, admire, sigh, lament, applaud, cheer, and more.  Your child will do all of that in my class.

In reality, I write a much more PC version of that letter and you can find it with other back to school materials by clicking HERE.