Ticking the right boxes

4th March 2005 at 00:00
Sue Cowley on managing your marking

You started the school year with the best intentions about keeping work marked up to date, but the reality of the teacher's workload has hit. You will have realised that there is no way that you can mark every piece of work that you set and still have any kind of life outside school. Marking is a tricky balancing act to manage so try the following approaches to help you achieve the best results.

* Think about the real purpose of marking: It's easy to get trapped into seeing the purpose of marking as getting the children's books looking marked. A "tick and flick" style involves adding ticks or crosses to each answer and correcting as many spelling mistakes as you can manage. Although this will please parents and Ofsted inspectors, remember that the real point of marking is to help your children with their learning.

* Get them to look at it: There is no point in spending hours marking unless your pupils look at and learn from what you have written. Factor some time into lessons for them to look at your comments and corrections.

* Get them to respond to it: Ask for an active response to your marking.

This helps pupils to focus on correcting their mistakes and to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. For instance, you might ask them to write out spellings correctly in the back of their books, or to redraft a piece of writing, taking your suggestions into account.

* Be specific: Detailed marking is often seen as the best way to mark, but it's impossible to correct every single error on every piece of work. Too much detailed marking can be demotivating for those children whose work is weak. When you set an activity, talk to the children about the specifics of how you will mark it. For example, you could mark for punctuation, or spelling, or content.

* Set individual targets: To help differentiate your marking, set a variety of targets for the range of your pupils. One child might need to focus on presentation, while another would benefit from an emphasis on punctuation.

* Get the pupils involved: There are many occasions when your children can help you out with some marking. Marking their own, or each other's, work can be instructive. You might swap books around and ask the class to mark a set of simple sums. Divide the class into groups and ask them to talk in detail about each other's story writing. When asking children to mark more complex pieces, give them specific criteria with which to assess the work.

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