I may have already mentioned that marking is something I find difficult, and that I also intensely dislike. As the school year ended and I was looking back on my marking especially I felt the same wistful longing as every year, “Maybe next year I’ll get it right.” I know how useful it can be to students and how important it is for them to know how they are doing and how to improve. So I feel that sooner or later I need to get out of my marking misery. So here’s an inventory of what went well this year and what could be improved.
What went well:
I made a lot of progress in terms of what I was recording in my (paper-based) mark book. I was more careful about writing in homework marks and I made more of an effort to collect these during class time when the students were on task with something. I was better at following up on students who didn’t do homework and applying the consequences I say that I will.
I was helped by a better way of recording missed homework in my mark book. I had a column on a separate page from the weekly homework columns where I recorded the dates of the first missing homework and any follow up offenses. Then I could more easily read these off, instead of trawling through the weekly columns. And I had a record there of detentions given as well. This made communicating with the Heads of Year or parents a lot easier.
I collected the books more regularly and more proactively. In some classes I collected them even when I thought I wouldn’t have any time to mark them, since on a few occasions this led to me spot checking and stamping a few books.
Still needs improving:
I have both paper-based and electronic mark books and this is confusing for me. My husband and I have talked about getting me some kind of hand-held device that I could use in my classroom tours when I am checking homework, but I don’t have one (yet?) and so paper still seems better. But electronic is the way of the future, and can provide data that is useful and searchable. It’s obvious to me that I need to move more electronically, but it just doesn’t seem convenient enough yet. I would love to survey other teachers about what they do electronically and how it is set up.
When I get busy, marking pretty much stops. I hate it and so I put it off and it is so easy to procrastinate from it completely. In my temporary job at the end of this term, I marked for the first half term, then didn’t bother. It was near the end of term and there were very few repercussions for me. I am ashamed of my dislike of marking and I want to know how to make it better!
I don’t always leave very useful comments for students. I am just moving to a school where the policy is that only comments are given in the lower school (years 7-9) and so I will need to improve my comment-making. Students deserve useful feedback.
I keep a lot of things in my head, especially those things I end up writing on reports. I wish I had a good way of recording them. My memory is out of space now and I am concerned that I won’t remember what I need. My students don’t have a great idea of how to improve because that’s not communicated to them very well. This could be done in lessons, not just through marking.
Ideas for next year:
I have a little stamper that says, “Lesson objective achieved” with my name and a smiley face and a thumbs up. I need to start using this at the end of lessons—work my way around the room checking work and seeing what I can praise.
I think it’s time to complete the transition to a fully electronic mark book. I hear a rumor that I might get a tablet laptop from the new school. That might make it all the more possible!
I have always talked about teaching students to peer assess. I know that this helps them gain an understanding of what makes good work. And, in the context of this discussion, it makes marking easier, and also more meaningful for me. It’s easier to comment on a peer’s assessment by saying what I agree with. And I can add comments that help a student assess better next time, as well as letting the student know what they can do to improve their homework.
The name of this blog reflects how much I value my own feedback loop, and so now I need to finally give the students the same positive feedback experience that I thrive on.