Looking for Advice on Grading

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At my old school, my grades were based mostly on homework.  Grades for class performance were not particularly important. They were supposed to be part of the formal assessment of a student, but in practice they were fairly relaxed.  Because I lived with the students on a dorm, I also had many opportunities to remediate — if a student didn’t understand something, I had a dozen chances later in the day to catch up with the student, and provide feedback or guidance or further instruction.

At my new school, though, once the day ends, it ends.  It’s hard to catch up with students later and help them understand something they didn’t get the first time.  It’s sometimes harder to persuade them to sit through that extra lesson, because that lesson has to be more formal — I’m not conducting it “on the fly” over dinner, or after a sports practice.  I’m trying to convince a kid to show up during office hours.

That makes class time all the more valuable.  But I find that I lose some class time to social activities and side conversations.  I don’t mind losing some time, but I want to lose less time.  And a colleague of mine suggested keeping a check-sheet for marking up with symbols to track what everyone in class does, day to day.

Does anyone else do this?  How do you turn your chicken-scratch class notes into genuine information?  How do you record a bunch of hash-tags, exclamation points and question marks into a daily or weekly grade?

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