I teach high school Pre-Calculus. In an effort to make my lessons more efficient time-wise, one area I think I can improve is choosing the right time to return graded assessments to my students (that are given on paper).

Option 1 (what I have been doing up until now): Return the assessments to the students at the START of class. This ensures that I don't forget to do it later on. However, I usually give the students a Do-Now to work on at the start of class. If they receive their graded assessment back as they are working, they become distracted by looking through their assessment and comparing scores with their peers. Hence, it takes longer for the students to complete the Do-Now and time is wasted.

Option 2: Return the assessments to the students in the MIDDLE of class. I tried this once but it had the same effect as Option 1; students would get distracted from working on the in-class exercises and they would want to go over some of the solutions right away, disrupting the flow of the lesson.

Option 3: Return the assessments to the students at the END of class (ideally when the lesson has concluded). This may work because the students are not trying to work on math problems at the same time I am returning the assessment. However, I often forget to return the assessments because I am thinking about other announcements I have to make before the students leave. Also, the lesson needs to end a few minutes before the class period ends, which for me is hit or miss.

Option 4: Return the assessments to the students OUTSIDE of class. I have not tried this yet but if I were to try it, I would hold on to the graded assessments and tell the students that if they want to look at their assessment, they have to see me before or after-school. This may conflict with some students' schedules (extracurriculars, sports, jobs etc.), but the students who value their grade will probably find the time.

I appreciate any advice from those who also encountered this problem and what their solution was. Is Option #4 worth trying?

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    $\begingroup$ This question seems better suited to the Education stack exchange, as it really isn’t specific to mathematics. That said, I like your first option but without the “Do-Now”. Is there any problem with letting them thumb through the graded assignment for a few minutes? You’re less likely to forget if you do it early, and possibly students will have opportunity to question you on grading and any feedback you wrote. $\endgroup$
    – Nick C
    Sep 5, 2022 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ Option 4 doesn't need to be synchronous for all students, so the schedule problem hardly really exists. I've seen it used to lure students into one's office and hold a discussion with them about their assignment performance and the course in general. Unfortunately, like everything else of this sort, it works best with students who need it least. $\endgroup$
    – fedja
    Sep 5, 2022 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ @NickC, could you provide a link to "the Education stack exchange"? I'm not familiar with it. $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    Sep 5, 2022 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ @JRN Unfortunately, no. I meant the Academia stack exchange. $\endgroup$
    – Nick C
    Sep 5, 2022 at 14:45

4 Answers 4


Return at the beginning and go over it then. Any in class drill should wait for the finish of q and a on the papers.

Avoid parallel processing. You are leading a large group, not an individual. Regimentation helps with classroom management. You don't have to be harsh, just organized. Set the tone and they will fall in.

Personally I don't hold with graded homework or projects, in high school math. I advocate weekly, Friday, hour long tests. But the above goes for returning those. First thing Monday. Or even let kids come by Friday afternoon and grade them fast during lunch and prep period. But overall class gets them Monday class start.

Whatever you do, don't dawdle. Grade them ASAP. This is only fair given they care about them. Also, it quickens the feedback loop, better pedagogy.


You're putting the cart before the horse... first answer the question

why are you giving the graded assessment back?

It might be so that they have a record of their performance in case you get hit by a bus. It might be to motivate them to participate in class activities in a different way. It might be to set up going over a set of common mistakes you saw. It might be the material they need to complete their post-assessment reflection.

It might be ten other things, and it's almost certainly a mix of all, in different amounts for different students at different times.

I, for instance, often am handing back papers because as part of my lesson plan we're using them. So I give them back at the relevant point in my lesson's plan. (It might be the first thing we do that day, it might be the last, it might not matter and I put the day's bullet points on the board and poll the students for what order to go in.)

You've identified the right factors.

The intended use of class-time, time spent comparing with other students, questions that arise from seeing your feedback... all of these should be considered as part of your planning. So after grading, think "what do I want the students to get out of continuing engagement with this piece of paper? What activity of theirs will best lead to that? What class time (if any) should I devote to ensuring that happens?"


There's lots of good news here.

It's great that you (a) treat class time as valuable and try not to waste your students' time, and (b) give students written feedback on their work. Good for you. You're incredibly lucky that (c) your students care so much about doing well on their schoolwork, but (d) aren't just copying the answers to the problems off of the internet.

Realistically, high school teaching involves a huge number of contact hours, far more than is actually necessary for instruction. I doubt that you're going to find anything that will restore these extra few minutes of lost time that you're worried about. What you're already doing sounds fine, so I would probably just keep doing it and not worry.

If you want to try something different, then you could give feedback to your students outside of class, but do it using the internet. Expecting high school students to see you after school to get feedback on their work is just not realistic.


Hand it to the Class Monitor before the class

I am a student myself, and in my experience, this is the best method that has ever been done.

In every class there is a responsible one. Hand it to this responsible student (termed the 'monitor' in schools in my country) and forget about it. Since all students want their assessments back, they would collect it on their own accord after finishing their do now. Others get the assessment after the lesson is over when the monitor distributes the rest of the assessments.

Any personal feedback to the students are to be given after the end of the period/school hours on a one to one basis

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    $\begingroup$ Logistically this seems like it would work well. The problem is that this monitor now has access to grades for every student. The other students may resent it. $\endgroup$
    – Amy B
    Sep 6, 2022 at 8:59
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    $\begingroup$ To reiterate Amy's point, this wouldn't work in the U.S. because of a confidentiality law whose acronym is FERPA. $\endgroup$ Sep 6, 2022 at 14:00

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