We’ve all been here. The staff meeting overran by about 20 minutes. If you’re like me, you’ll have already texted your other half to tell him he'd better have a bloody big glass of gin ready or a huge bar of chocolate in the cupboard because nobody is as tired as I feel right now. I get in, collapse on the sofa after being mauled by 2 over-excited dogs and snuggle up with my two little girls who haven’t seen me in daylight for three days. I muster up all the energy I can not to show them how ridiculously exhausted I am, lie there while they stick playdoh to my face and try to leave the classroom behind for the next hour before bedtime.
Once the chaos of the house has died down and my thoughts finally have time to settle, I remember. This isn’t it. This isn’t the end of the day. There’s 30 books in my boot that I need to mark because we’re writing the next paragraph of our descriptive piece tomorrow, and I know for sure that little Johnny hasn’t written anything more than his date and Susie wrote three pages as one complete sentence. So I traipse out to the car, drag a broken carrier bag of books out onto the sofa, stick the latest Netflix series on and get to it.
Before the clock strikes 9, I write ‘remember capital letters and full stops’ in ten Year 6 children’s books, despairing that they need to use semi colons before we get to Christmas. There I stay, until all that’s left are three books of children I either can’t read because their handwriting is incomprehensible, or I’ve had too many gins. Before I know it, it’s Thursday night…Friday night… a never-ending marking Groundhog Day nightmare.
So why do we do it? Did this never-ending marking cycle ever actually have a huge effect on attainment in my class? Absolutely not. Did children appreciate that I spent every single night marking 30 books for 2 or three hours? Nope!
If you’re lucky like me, you’ll be part of or have a senior leadership team which is willing to take risks, explores new movements in education and wants the staff in their school to work as efficiently as possible. There’d been a few posts on Facebook about ‘whole-class marking’ I’d spotted but mostly on KS3/4 groups. Looking into it a bit further, I realised how much time we would save as a staff if we didn’t mark: we gave feedback.
Having just attended a course on effective feedback in the classroom, it linked so well. Children need feedback: they need to trust that you care so that they will care enough to improve. Our whole marking policy changed to a feedback policy and my whole way of teaching changed completely. I’ll go into our feedback policy at a later date as I think it’s something that would enlighten so many teachers as it did our school.
So after researching countless existing feedback sheets, I came up with the one we have now. Each section is integral to the effective feedback I would give a class. So how does it work? Well sometimes our teachers still have that pile of 30 books to look at, but now, rather than spending time and ink writing the same comment in each book, they will skim read each book, jot down notes in the relevant section of the feedback sheet, circle, highlight and annotate a few things in books which are integral to that particular child, but otherwise everything goes on that one sheet. Before the next day comes, instead of spending evenings marking, teachers are playing in their heads exactly what that feedback has told them. What does that feedback tell me about what I need to teach tomorrow? Who hasn’t quite got it? Who really got it and needs challenging further?
In a different colour I annotate my feedback sheet with what I’m going to do tomorrow. The feedback sheet is no good if you write it all down and do nothing with it. All that information is like absolute gold dust. Use it. Make your teaching time the most effective it can be by teaching what they need, not what you planned you would do last Saturday night on your laptop.
I’m going to do a few more blog posts in the future with a bit more detail about whole class marking, so please look out for that. I know there’s lots of Twitter talk about this at the moment so I would love to hear your thoughts! If you have used our feedback book and want to guest post here about how it's changed your teaching, I'd love to hear from you so please send me an email.