Economise on your marking

5th December 2003 at 00:00

Advice for teachers in their early career

Are you drowning in a sea of marking? This can be a tiresome task, and you must ask yourself whether the rewards for pupils merit the time spent on it.

Most of the time, probably not. So you need to maximise the usefulness of your marking while allowing you time to plan, prepare resources - and have a life.

How long do you spend on marking? Keep a record so that you know the scale of the problem. Are you letting marking spread out over a longer period than it should? That is easy to do - but a huge mistake. Decide what is a reasonable amount of time to spend on marking and when you can fit it in with your other commitments. Balance it out over the week so you don't have to do it all at once.

Different work needs different levels of marking. There will be times when a Rolls-Royce input is needed, others when a more routine effort will be enough. Plan work that is quick to mark. Are you making the most of different marking strategies? Perhaps you need to extend your range. Try the following:

* peer marking, in which pupils mark each other's work

* self-assessment

* pupils mark work in plenary sessions

* tick and check while pupils work

* use stamps ("good effort" or "excellent")

* use shorthand codes with pupils to avoid having to write full sentences - for example, "sp" for "check your spelling"

* use a grading system

* selective marking, ignoring all but the answers to key questions

* brief comments that respond to specific learning intentions

* detailed comment against specific learning intentions

* traffic-light marking - pupils put a green mark against work where they feel they have met the objective, or a red one where they have not understood it. This helps the teacher to prioritise the pupils who are having difficulties.

Ask other staff how they mark. Details such as collecting books that are open at the right page for marking can make a real difference. Once you get to know the expectations of the school and the pupils' work rate, you can design a marking schedule that won't overburden you.

Sara Bubb's The Insider's Guide for New Teachers is published by TESKogan Page (pound;12.99)

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