New tricks from an old dog - Marking

Marking work is a key factor in developing effective lesson planning and, more importantly, is a key discipline strategy. It is a basic rule of classroom management that marking regularly supports behaviour management as unmarked work gives the pupil the message that you don't care or value the work, so why should they?

It is easier to mark one page of work after each lesson than after a run of work that leaves you with five or six pages. The pupils will see you valuing their work as well as realising that they can't get away with not doing tasks set. Write yourself a marking rota, perhaps one year group a week depending on your timetable. Try to mark in this way for your first term, then ease off to once a fortnight or so.

Buy yourself a stamp of some sort to indicate good effort - there are many on the market. Use this liberally through the work to encourage the pupils.

More focused comments can come at the end of each piece of work. Some companies offer bespoke stickers with your school name on, or customised praise postcards that can be sent home to follow up good work. These help raise the status of your marking and really help discipline.

Put your department marking policy into language the pupils understand and let them practice marking the odd piece of work. This will save you time as countermarking these efforts is quick and efficient. Once your classes have got an idea of how to mark their own work, move onto peer marking, where pupils mark each others' work and get them to include a comment justifying the grade they have given.

Marking well and regularly will help you save planning time as your lessons will focus into building on what your marking tells you, rather than planning a run of lessons "in the dark". Likewise, a lesson focused on a specific learning outcome will be quicker and easier to mark than one that covers a general area of the curriculum. Sometimes it is best to sample mark - only take in part of a class's books to see how the pupils are doing with the work.

Good marking rests on good time management. Ensure that you make time for it. The best approach is to allocate a set time each day for the task. One of the best times is the golden hour before school starts. If you can get in early there are no distractions and you can plough through the work. If you prefer to wait until school ends, make sure you get down to work immediately.

Be disciplined. No frittering away half an hour over a coffee chatting to colleagues. It may be an unwelcome piece of advice, but the occasional working through lunch will also help you lighten the marking load.

And only mark what you set. If you have a busy week then convert a few lessons to display work, role play, or some task that requires no written or assessed outcome.

In marking, little and often really is the key to managing your workload.

Roy Watson-Davies is an advanced skills teacher at Blackfen school for girls, in Sidcup, Kent. His books Creative Teaching and Form Tutors Guide are available from

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