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Inventive Ways to Save Grading Time with ZipGrade in an ELA Room

Hey there, secondary ELA teachers! Less than a month from now and we will be welcoming back students to another educational year. And I know, it stinks thinking about how tedious it is to create and then grade assignments. It really just kills the excitement of going back and seeing the kids, but it’s all a part of our job, unfortunately. The good thing is that there are innovative tools and apps that make our work so much easier. TL;DR: You're seriously missing out if you're not using ZipGrade to streamline your grading system!

For today’s topic, I will share about one app that has helped me create an easy grading system for my classes without having to rely on our tech for support or countless hours grading old-school style.

If you are not yet familiar with ZipGrade, then you're in the right place. I will tell you all about this revolutionary grading app that has helped me cut my grading time in half!

ZipGrade is a cost-effective app that lets teachers like us streamline our grading system for bellwork, multiple-choice tests, quizzes, assessments, and even as rubrics for writing or projects. If you're ancient like me and used Scantrons for college exams, it's the same general idea, but SO much cheaper and more flexible. Using a mobile device or a tablet’s camera as a scanner, it generates results within seconds and organizes them for easy review.

Photos from ZipGrade Video Tutorial

But how exactly do you use ZipGrade? And how does it help save time?

Step 1.

First, you need to download and print a blank answer sheet form from ZipGrade’s website. (Pro tip: You can even design your own custom answer sheets depending on your needs and use!)

Step 2.

Distribute the blank form to your students and administer the test as usual. Students can use a pen, pencil, or marker to mark their answers in the bubbles. Remind them to use a dark-colored pen or marker for best results.

Step 3.

Download the ZipGrade app and log in. From the dashboard, you can start adding your quiz. Make sure that you choose the same number of question bubbles. If there are unused bubbles at the end, that's no biggie. It will only grade according to the answer key you'll set up in Step 4.

Step 4.

Enter the answer key or simply scan a clear copy of the answer sheet. You can even adjust points values per question, link it to tags for standards, topics, etc., and add partial-point options for incorrect answers. If you have multiple versions of the same assignment or quiz, simply create a key for each version and have students mark their assignment version on the answer sheet!

Step 5.

Choose the option Scan Answers when scanning the students’ forms.

How I've Leveled Up with ZipGrade

Grading Time:

I used ZipGrade regularly for four years and it definitely reduced my grading time. I cannot tell you the joy that I would get when I could scan a huge test in - literally - a snap. Walking out of that classroom at the end of contract time never tasted so sweet.

My district's computers and internet connection were questionable, at best. Plus, we had a rash of cheating while using the laptops, so we had to switch to paper-based assignments and tests. ZipGrade really saved me here! Even when it came to worksheets, I would make minor adjustments on their pages so they could easily mark their answers on the bubble sheet.

For instance, if we were working on grammar, we'd do it SAT/ACT-style with (a) no change; (b) correction option 1; (c) correction option 2; (d) correction option 3. This turned out to be awesome for the kids taking the SAT & ACT, too, as they were super familiar and comfortable with this format come test day!

If there was a matching activity, I would label the options A-E so they could quickly mark them on the bubbles. For longer matching questions, double up the letters! So, beyond the A, B, C, D, and E, we could have AB, AC, AD, AE, BC, BD, BE, CD, CE, and DE! If you created a custom answer sheet online, you could add a whole bunch of letters to give a huge combination of options! Students would just mark the letters for the option, and you would mark the double-letter combo as the correct option for the key.

For fill-in-the-blank questions, I would often just create a little word bank for their choices and label them with the letters as I mentioned before.

This image shows how to use ZipGrade as a rubric. You can use this within the larger context of a test with multiple-choice and short answer or essay questions, or design an answer sheet just for an essay or project where each questions number represents a different category they're being assessed on.
This image shows how to use ZipGrade as a rubric. You can use this within the larger context of a test with multiple-choice and short answer or essay questions, or design an answer sheet just for an essay or project where each questions number represents a different category they're being assessed on.

But what about short answer questions or essays? What about projects?

I'm about to blow your mind because I turned the ZipGrade custom sheets into my rubrics! When I was setting up my sheets online, I'd either choose "Verbose Labels" for a question option and list something like the image here, where I could quickly read a short answer question (even if it was part of a larger exam), mark it's ranking, and then scan the whole test. Just make sure you tell the kids not to mark the rubric questions! Those are just for you. You could take this a step further and create a 6-Trait Writing rubric, for example, where you note that #1 is ideas, #2 is organization, #3 is voice, and so on. Make some quick marks, scan, and you're done.

Bell Work:

What I love about it is it you can also laminate a small answer sheet that can be easily taped onto the corner of student desks for bell work, with students using a dry-erase marker to add their name/student ID number and response. Then I just scan my students’ answer sheets using my phone as I circle the room and voila! It generates the results in an instant. I usually made bellwork a review question from the previous day, so this was an awesome snapshot of their comprehension, allowing me to review any missed topics before beginning the new lesson.

As I mentioned earlier, ZipGrade also allows teachers to create a custom rubric on their website for just about anything you'd like. One of the first ways I used this was for bell work journals for a writing class. I simply just taped or laminated it to the top corner of my students’ notebook cover so I could quickly grade, mark their journal completion score with a wet-erase marker that wouldn't rub off in the stack, and set it aside for later. When I’m done, I just grab my phone, open the ZipGrade app, and scan it on quick repeat through the whole stack. I would leave the rubric filled in when I hand it back to students and have ZipGrade set up to email them the results. Or I would just simply give them access to the ZipGrade Student Portal on the website, so the students can see it themselves.

Evaluating My Teaching:

Aside from saving time, I also used ZipGrade to evaluate my teaching. Our district asked us to have students complete a teacher evaluation at the end of each semester and for us to analyze the data in a short reflection on how we could use it to improve. Great idea, giant pain in the....tush. However, I got the idea to have students complete their evaluations of ME on a ZipGrade sheet without points assigned to the answers. It allowed me to quickly scan their responses and see a breakdown by question of the ratings. I could see areas I did well in and areas that needed work very easily in their app and on the online platform. I always included a written response for final comments at the end, and for this, I just had students write on the back of their answer sheets.

It’s so easy and convenient to use. Teachers can use standard answer sheets with 20, 50, or 100 question sizes or create their own customizable answer sheets on the ZipGrade website for any project you need. Of course, there are limitations to using the app. For instance, it can’t be used for instant grading of essays and whatnot, but after you read it and mark your rubric, it can scan and enter scores for their work for you. You can even download the Excel sheets from the website and upload them directly into PowerSchool.

As a teaching companion, I use the ZipGrade analytics to identify which topic I need to emphasize or review for my students because it instantly shows me which questions were answered incorrectly. This helps me adjust my teaching style as needed, and is a quick way to show your admin that you're using data-driven teaching methods.

Additionally, I find that students also benefit from using ZipGrade as it reduces their anxiety of having to wait for the next day (or week!) to find out quiz results. They can bring it right to your desk and see their score almost instantly. Having a clear picture of how they did with the quiz enhances student success as they go about their other subjects.

So, if you are not yet using ZipGrade, now is the right time to check it out! The app is available on both Android and iOS, so go ahead and download it! The free version lets you scan up to 100 papers for a month. Or, if you feel like being a big spender, you can drop the $6.99* for a full year on the premium plan! I started out with the free plan and quickly upgraded. It's less than a dollar a month for the school year! Plus, you can reuse all of these answer sheets and customized assignments year after year. Set them up once, rinse, and repeat. And no, I'm not an affiliate of ZipGrade. I just had to share how it made things so much easier for me as an ELA teacher! At first glance, it may seem better suited for a math or science class, but with a little imagination and ingenuity, it's a perfect fit for any ELA classroom, too!


I would love to know what you think about ZipGrade, so don’t forget to follow me on my socials. 😉




I've included ZipGrade sheets and keys for all of the quizzes in Vocab Vigor, with four different quiz versions to boot. Check them out below!

*Premium ZipGrade prise as of 8/7/23.

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