Sunday, 4 November 2012

Marking Matters

Now I'm no expert in this field, but I thought I would share with you what works for me in my classroom on a daily basis. My results have always been good, significant positive value added and all that jazz, so I can't be going far wrong. I was not always a great marker and it took a teacher who was to show me the way and I've never looked back.  If you use marking and feedback well in class your students will hugely benefit and you will see real progress from all.  Below are some techniques that I find effective with my students.
Focused marking:
I think there is a place for extensive all inclusive marking perhaps once a term. One piece of work you can really go to town on and mark for everything can be useful and very interesting. However most of the time I stick to focused marking because I find it is much easier for the students to take in. The whole point of marking work is to provide feedback to allow them to develop and if there is too much to work on it becomes a very daunting experience getting marked work back. I feel it is much better that we find a key focus, something that will really make the difference and move them on and focus on that. Manageable for us and them alike, everyone is happy.

Reflection Time:
There is simply no point in your pouring over a pile of books every evening marking everything in sight if you do not give them time to look at what you have marked and plan for progression. So many times I see a beautifully marked book but the student is never given time to engage with what the teacher has written. Why, why, why? What a waste of your time teachers! I make sure that I give guided time for reflections during lessons after a marking spree. This can take many forms like silent reading of the words you have written for a set time, reading the comments out aloud to one another, writing out elements of your marking feedback. However you do it, just do it!

Recording and Reflecting on Achievements and Targets:
When my students are getting freshly marked books back they have some little routines that they know I follow, this one is mainly KS3 but works for all. My pupils know that I tick in specific places where they have done well and write the skill the noticed on in the margin allowing them to see exactly what and where they are doing well (e.g. 'vocabulary' or 'style'.) I will then relate my positive comment at the end of work to one element I noted in the margin and expand on this. They have an on-going list of positives at the back of their books and know to fill this in every time their books are marked. I will also place a target or two at the bottom of the work clearly indicated and related to the focus of the task. The students will add these targets to their on-going list of targets at the back of their books. These positives and targets lists are frequently reviewed, used and referred in lessons. They have no choice but to connect with the feedback I have given them. They can really take ownership of this as trends and common positives and targets are easily noticed by them and me.

Targets Related to the Objectives Set That Lesson:
Too often I see targets such as 'underline your titles' or something just a generic written in books. Now I am all for excellent presentation in books but this is not a learning target in my mind! Underlining their title is not going to move them forward in their levels, I have never seen that phrase in the level descriptors! Make the targets relate to the learning objective. If you are focusing on sentence structure then give them a level related target that will help them move forward with their sentence structures. If that is what you have asked them to focus on then that is what you should feedback on in your marking. Students can feel cheated if you shift the goal post. (We all know about that this year hey English teachers!) Keeping targets focused makes the marking meaningful for all involved.

Individual Marking Meetings:
I love these sessions. Once a half term I hold individual marking meetings with all my classes. I set the class up to do some silent work or reading, often with some classical music in the background and set about meeting each student one by one to discuss their work and progress. I time this just prior to reports going home so that they can fully understand where they are before a barrage of levels come at them in their reports. We sit together for a few minutes speaking in hushed tones and flicking through a half terms worth of work in their books discussing their targets and levels. It is really special actually, you get to see them in a completely different light and that private moment shrouded in classic music so the others can't really hear. Students completely up to moving forward. Really effective in making all your students feel valued and that their voice is being heard in the craziness of the school day.

Verbal Feedback Given:
I started doing this with KS3 last year and have now moved on to use it with KS4 and KS5 also. I have a stamper with the phrase 'verbal feedback given' embossed on it that I carry around with me to all my lessons. I generally use it as I walk around when pupil are working in groups or individually, I discuss an element of whatever they are doing in depth, stamp their books and ask them to note bullet points down that we discussed and tick them off as they address them in the lesson. This is really good for capturing a conversation and allowing them to come back to it at a later date.

Peer Marking:
I use peer marking frequently with all key stages. I will share with them the marking criteria I must use for their work, get them to reword it or highlight most important things that are being assessed prior to the task. We will discuss the skills and levels as a class and in groups often. I allow them to choose the levels they are aiming for and connect with that level in some manner. Once the task is complete we will revisit the mark schemes they have deconstructed clarify any issues with it now the task has been completed and peer marking will take place with their study buddies. I always model the task and them also model the peer marking. I also direct them to how I mark their books for guidance with this marking process too. We use green pen for peer marking so that they can look back and see when I mark(various colours but never green) and when it is peer or self marked work.  Works like a dream if you keep practising it and clearly explain and discuss the reasons and processes they must go through. Complete focus on what they want to achieve and allowing them to directly see how to get there. I'm a big fan.

The Power of the Sticker:
I don't care what anyone says, everyone loves a sticker!  Don't deny it now.  I use stickers every time I mark work be it Year 7 or Year 13. I will only reward someone with a sticker if I feel they have really achieved in their work, I let them know this and they always love it.  A little sparkle in their eye appears even if they then pretend not to have noticed.  I'm sure there is room for some sort of teachers sticker scheme, it would motivate me!

Happy marking!