Pacing Grading Pacing – Tricks and Tips on How to Organize and Manage Grading Papers

Ahhh…the fall… Colorful leaves, crisp breezes, pumpkin-spice everything. These seasonal wonders might not be fully upon us yet, but never mind that “autumn” doesn’t officially begin until September 22. For most intents and purposes, the summer, sadly, is over.

As if the inevitable temperature decrease isn’t souring enough, the looming workload of grading papers is nigh as well. But there’s hope, well, maybe more “madness management” than anything else. But perhaps together we can share some ways that we find ourselves most efficient, effective, and sane at handling the stacks of essays lest they start to feel like heaps of fallen leaves waiting to be carried off in a sack.

They’re certainly different in color…

…though they weigh about the same in a bag








Different papers require different modes of attention based on their genre, page length, goals, etc. Assessing a personal essay, for example, requires a different mindset and attention to different details than say an argumentative research assignment.


I’m still not entirely sure how to best organize my own schedule of grading papers based on the different assignment type, though one technique I’ve found that helps to break up the monotony regardless is to intersperse “good reading” or perhaps more appropriately, “polished work”.

What I mean by this is that often if I’m grading, say, a slew of personal essays, I’ll take a break in-between papers to read a page of two from a finely crafted fiction novel. The power of consistent, already elevated writing seems to help recalibrate me before moving on to the next first draft paper. Not only that, but I’m able to continue reading for leisure throughout the semester – a valuable hobby when one’s time, and perhaps sanity, is on the line.

This is just one technique to managing paper grading. I wonder what some others are? Some questions to answer (please share your own tips and tricks in the comments below!):

  • What do you read while you grade? How? Why? When? If you don’t, then why not?
  • Do you read different types of texts based on what assignments you’re grading?
  • Any specific texts you recommend to your fellow graders?
  • Other ideas, questions, or suggestions?
  • Links to other relevant materials regarding this topic?

About josephtlabriola

Joe Labriola is an author, blogger, and lecturer of Writing and Rhetoric at Stony Brook University. He enjoys writing, swimming, and cooking crazy Joe-coctions. His more eccentric hobbies include collecting beach glass, reading great books at bars, and describing himself in the third person when writing "about me" biographies. Please visit some of his very professional social media sites for more info!
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