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MARKING writing is more than awarding a number or grade. Reading and responding to pupils' written work helps build a picture of how imaginatively and constructively pupils use language. Often a teacher's response focuses on the overall intention of the piece and includes an encouraging comment. At the same time, marking raises questions such as:

* has the pupil understood the task and responded appropriately?

* what has the pupil positively achieved? l are there targets that have not been achieved?

* are there any other aspects of the writing on which action might be needed?

With some of these questions in mind, the English team at QCA has worked with the National Literacy Strategy to develop some new Marking Guidelines for writing. The guidance focuses on what to do when children have completed a piece of writing and the teacher has had an opportunity to assess their achievements.

As well as providing general advice on reading and responding to individual pupils' writing on a regular basis, these materials suggest ways of analysing pupils' writing to obtain more diagnostic information, identifying strengths and weaknesses at a detailed level.

The approach is based on the use of an analysis sheet that guides attention to specific features of pupils' written work. The sheet has two main sections, one to do with grammatical conventions at ord and sentence level, the other highlighting significant whole text features of organisation and effect.

The analysis invites teachers to make judgments about how effectively children use, for example, different types of sentences or how well their choice of words contributes to the impact of the writing. These judgments enable teachers to pinpoint some of the reasons for the effectiveness of a piece of writing. This, in turn, helps to guide next steps in teaching.

The analysis sheet can be used flexibly, depending on the teacher's priorities. The information gathered can be used to clarify task-setting and to monitor and refine writing targets for individuals, as well as feeding into the teaching and learning cycle.

The guidance will be on the National Literacy Strategy website at the end of the month. It will include advice on how to use the analysis sheet and examples of its application to pieces of writing. The QCA would be pleased to hear from teachers on how useful they find the guidance either for helping children understand better the qualities of their own writing or for planning teaching and learning. Please address your comments to the English Team at the QCA.

Sue Horner and Janet White are members of the QCA English Team, 83 Piccadilly, London W1J 8QA.Tel: 020 7509 5555.Web:

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