A marking rota gives pupils regular feedback and relieves work pressure, says Dawn Cox
One of the first realities of full-time teaching is the amount of marking, minus the extra time you had during training to complete it.
I began my NQT year teaching RE to 600 pupils a week. That meant 600 books which needed to be marked for classwork and homework. There is no way that it was possible to mark every book every lesson.
Luckily, I had a helpful colleague who showed me how she managed her mark load using a rota system that ensured books were marked every two to three weeks. Basically, it meant working out how many class sets you teach in a week and organising a marking rota over a three-week period - working out as a set of books a night and two at the weekend. Although it doesn't sound often, it is actually the equivalent of the core subject teachers (who see pupils three times a week) marking their class books every week. When put into perspective it seems a reasonable task to tackle.
I soon realised how the work that was set for homework significantly affected the amount of marking that I had to do. It was agreed as a department that over a three-week period we would also rotate the type of homework set between "written", "find out" and "effort". This was carefully planned so that, for example, the Year 7 written week did not coincide with the Year 8 written week.
"Find out" tasks are assessed in the next lesson as the information they find is relevant and useful for their understanding of the next lesson.
"Written" work is assessed using RE assessment levels. We try to give a positive comment and at least one achievable target for improvement.
"Effort" homework is work that doesn't necessarily show knowledge and understanding but gives an opportunity to reinforce work learnt in class, such as a "colouring" task.
We also developed the use of peerself assessment - pupils marking their own work and each other's work. Giving them the mark scheme or marking criteria is useful - it means that pupils must understand the assessment criteria - which will sharpen up their work.
Marking has a significant impact on pupil behaviour and motivation. Pupils love to have their books marked and assessed regularly, especially when you give lots of praise. Marking keeps them on their toes! And they look forward to their next piece of assessed work so that they can improve their grade or level.
Keep your mark book up to date and include other comments and records of when you award and other kinds of praise, such as stamps, stickers or certificates - especially useful for remembering faces when it comes to writing reports and doing parents evenings.
Dawn Cox is mentor to new teachers at Charles Lucas arts college in Colchester