Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
Since the research papers are quite involved, I want to meet with each student as they hand in their papers and review all the necessary requirements. This is important as it gives me time to figure out who has the paper and who needs extra-time, compared to who has just procrastinated. Students are also handing in multiple components (final draft, rough draft, thesis proposals), so I want to make sure they have each as I collect them. Middle schoolers can sometimes try and pull a fast one, so by doing this it avoids any issues down the line of students claiming they handed certain aspects in.
I begin the class by handing out the Rubric - Content and the Rubric - Form to the class. The first rubric focuses on the quality of the writing and the second rubric focuses on the format of the research paper. I break these into two grades as we have spent quite some time looking at both areas during this process. It also makes grading a little bit easier and helps the students as well as both grades will ultimately be averaged. When I pass them out I have them write their final thesis statement on top of the Content Rubric. This helps me as I grade their papers to remember what they are trying to prove.
After that, I call each student up one at a time to my desk to collect their papers. During this time, students are either reading or working on their presentations. They have the freedom to choose what they would like to do with their time. When they choose, they are more engaged.
As I am calling them up I collect each requirement. I make one pile with one copy of their rough draft. I save these copies for their presentations. The second copy I will use to assess. I also collect their thesis proposals. During this time I am able to grade them on their Rubric - Requirements. I can quickly go through my grade book to make sure they have completed all their requirements (note cards, thesis proposal, biography submitted) throughout this process. This video explains that rubric: Requirement Rubric Explanation.
I have no problem using this time in class for housekeeping type work. While it may appear that instruction is not happening, it very much as as students are able to hand in their work and I can discuss with students what they have. This greatly reduces the amount of work that is needed outside of class for me, as grading their actual papers will take some time.