Revisiting old posts: marking and feedback


There has been a sudden surge over the past few weeks of teachers discussing their marking load and seemingly giving up a huge amount of time at the weekend for this.  Here are three strategies that I have employed to reduce marking and feedback time.

  1. Green penning

Green penning has changed my life for the better.  It is an absolute life saver and is a strategy that I have nicked from Michaela.

So, for example, I start every lesson with recap questions to assess prior learning (see my Rosenshine Research Practice blog).  I give pupils 5-10 minutes to complete these questions (using full sentences) dependent on how many questions there are.

Then we feedback.  Pupils share their written responses.  As they do so, they must have their green pens in hand.  They use their green pens to

  1. Tick answers they have got correct.
  2. Correct answers that are wrong.
  3. Fill in any blanks.
  4. Extend answers after class based discussions.

And then every time we feedback during a lesson, the same process is gone through.  Pupils have not only marked their work (ticking where they have got answers right and correcting wrong answers) but through clever classroom discussion, pupils are also able to develop their responses further adding in alternative interpretations and ideas shared by their peers.

That’s it.  Simples but by god does this reduce your own marking as a lot of the work has been marked by the pupils themselves.  In fact, I love green penning so much that I brought two boxes of green pens with me to Italy!

2. Whole class marking

This has been blogged about a lot too and again is an initiative Michaela introduced.  I use whole class marking for extended paragraphs or pieces of writing.  Instead of marking each piece individually, writing the same comment a million times, you take in a pile of responses and use one whole class marking feedback sheet instead.  The Positive Teaching Company has recently cleverly produced books of whole class marking feedback sheets for teacher ease and I would recommend one of these as it keeps all your feedback sheets together.

Whilst reading responses you

  • Note down work that really stands out and needs to be celebrated, explaining clearly what it is that makes the work so successful.
  • Identify the areas of strength you see developing in the class.  The aspects of the success criteria they have really nailed.
  • Identify misconceptions and errors that need addressing in class.
  • Identify common SPAG problems.
  • Identify specific pupils who are missing work or need some form of intervention.

This will take you half an hour rather than the 2-3 hours marking would normally take.  From this, I then plan my DIRT (Directed Improvement and Redrafting Time).

My do it now always focused on core literacy.  For example, placing common incorrect spellings on the board and asking pupils to ascertain correct spelling.  Pupils then copy these words out three times into their books correctly.  Usually, there will be some form of grammar task as well… most common are capital letters for people’s names and apostrophes for omission and possession.

Once this is done, I will go through the task itself and celebrate the excellent work I have received.  I will identify the strengths of the class against the success criteria, celebrating how they have made progress and developed core skills.

Then I will go on to celebrate individuals.  Now what I have noticed here, is that your quiet pupil – you know the one who sits quietly and doesn’t contribute as much – is the one who has excelled and when I first started doing this, I can’t tell you how good it felt to draw attention to and celebrate that quiet pupil.  To see these pupils grow in confidence was a sheer delight.  I inform the class about the excellent work the pupil has produced and explain why a particular section was so good.  Often I will pop the work under the visualiser or photocopy it so that everyone has a copy and then I will ask the pupil to stand up and share their work and we will applaud them for a job well done.

Once I have been through the work, the rest of my lesson will focus on the misconceptions and address these.

I  will re-teach or seek to address some of the misconceptions again if I feel it necessary.  Common misconceptions that I feel the class would benefit from…e.g. embedding quotations or creating judgement statements.

Then, finally, independent redrafting.  In addition, to the whole class marking feedback sheet, I will identify the 3-5 misconceptions and create corresponding DIRT tasks for the pupils to complete.  Pupils will select the task they feel they need to address and work on target area.

All of this is done in green pen to show response to feedback.

I also photocopy a copy of the whole class marking feedback sheet (minus the identified pupils for further support – a post it note to cover this up when photocopying suffices) so that all pupils have a copy of my feedback.

Job’s a goodun.

Here is an example from the Positive Teaching Company page of their sheet in action.

Whole class marking feedback

3. GCSE marksheets

Now I’ve found that we can’t get away from the fact that some pupils will want to know their exact mark, level, band etc and I think this is useful information for them, so, at times, I will also use a mark-sheet.  Now this would increase marking time but it still does not involve writing any comments and that is where the time saving comes in.

For each unit, I create marking slips with the key criterion.  As I am reading, I highlight in green the marking criteria pupils have hit and once I have finished reading, I highlight in pink, one area they need to improve.  Instant specific feedback and adds all of probably 30 secs per pupil to marking.

I staple this to the paragraph pupils have written.

Marking sheet.jpg

At my last school, when they conducted a book sample, English came out on top for quality of marking and feedback.  It can be done without breaking anyone’s backs or taking up entire weekends.


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