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‘Three Top Tips from Tom’ will be updated weekly with the best advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management.

Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state school in Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour.

Using marking to make the world a better place: how assessments can make life easier not harder

Yeah, I know, what fags have you been smoking? I’m serious, marking can be something that makes your life and career less difficult, not more. I know that in most school environments, the prospect of grinding your way through yet another set of ragged, variegated exercise books shares the same appeal as stitching a new zip onto your frenulum (do NOT look it up *pause* I warned you). Given that marking books is a given, an immovable object, we need to consider ways that it can be used as efficiently and effectively as possible. And, given that all activities in the classroom contribute to every other activity, it can be a behaviour modification strategy, because behaviour is based on relationships, and relationships emerge through proximity and communication. And one of the channels of communication we possess…is marking. I am NOT joking.

  1. Individual comments. When close marking a book (you should do this as much as possible but no more, despite what some brainless schools seem to think of the possibilities of 24 hour days) use the time to make comments that are aimed precisely at the student, rather than having the appearance of a generic every-student platitude. Use their name; mention something in class that you’ve noticed, preferably positively.
  2. Marking in progress.As a class works on a task, this is a great opportunity for you to manage-by-walking-around, flitting from desk to desk and dropping in on, hopefully, every student. Use the chance to make a simple tick, or a stamp on their work (I am amazed by how old a child has to be before ink-stamped stars lose their potency, even ironically). You get a valuable second to land on their launch pads, mix up their space, and monitor how they’re doing. My stamp runs out of ink, and even my bruisers beg for it.
  3. Private conversations: this is a huge opportunity to speak to the children that don’t like public praise, especially in a room where the culture of celebrating success isn’t there yet. Say something nice. Make it meaningful. Mean it.

Marking is there for a reason; it aids their academic progress, but it also serves the purpose of reinforcing the relationship between you and the student, in a way that can often be hard in public. Be aware of its potency, as one of your many, many strategies.

And good luck


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