Time Saving Marking Tips
When I began my first year in teaching, I was overwhelmed by the amount of work there was beyond the core task of actually being present in a classroom to deliver a lesson. One of the most time consuming of these tasks was marking.
So in the hope of helping fellow practising class teachers to restore some sort of work life balance, we have compiled a list of Time Saving Marking Tips for you to use or disregard as you see fit.
Certainly, it is by no means an exhaustive list of strategies and nor can I say with any degree of confidence that I am not ‘teaching granny to suck eggs’. Nevertheless, Songs for Teaching hopes you will enjoy reading this blog post and we invite you to share your tips with us.
1. Give plenty of verbal feedback
Forget slogging away late into the evening to write a critical essay on the merits of each child’s work! Instead, offer as many pupils as you can verbal feedback at crucial moments in the lesson. The immediate nature of this type of feedback makes it one of the most powerful assessment tools at your disposal.
2. Let the children do it!
Otherwise known as peer marking, this assessment technique can be highly effective once pupils are trained in this method of giving and receiving feedback. The way it works is that pairs of pupils swap work and offer one another feedback in an agreed format. You can do this with the whole class or amongst one or two groups only but either way it offers children an arguably more exciting experience that reading reams of your Sunday evening scrawl (and saves you a bucket load of time in the process).
3. Plan your assessment
I hate planning with a passion! But one very useful function of planning (as opposed to the in the moment, off the cuff teaching that I prefer) is the way in which it can enable you to decide in advance whose work, and which pieces will be marked in a particular way.
For example, I might plan to teach Literacy, maths, science and history on a given day. That’s potentially a lot of marking! Unless of course, I consider more carefully ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘when’ work is going to be assessed. That way, I can organise the day’s activities to be less burdensome in terms of the marking load by planning for practical activities that require only verbal feedback to be given to pupils, to follow lessons where pupils might be producing work that must usually be marked by the teacher (e.g. extended writing or assessment tests).
When it comes to assessment, giving more thought to how, when and who you will assess will surely mean you spend less time at hunched over the dining room table and more time at your leisure.
4. Whiteboards and photographs
I love having the children work on whiteboards. Not only does the use of whiteboards make pupils active participants in lessons, it is also a really good way of getting work down that arguably does not need to be marked. Simply have your TA photograph or photocopy the whiteboards and get the children to stick the pictures in their books perhaps during registration or another quiet time of the day. You could then have the children write a caption about what they were doing on their whiteboard.
5. Think carefully about your schedule
This links to number 2. Don’t plan for pupils to produce two pieces of extended writing and a tonne of calculations in their exercise books on the same day you have to sit through the tedium of a staff meeting and have to take your Great Aunty Betty shopping after school. Instead, plan some drama or role play or some educational games that don’t need to be marked.
6. Keep it brief
Does every piece of work need a lengthy comment? When you were a pupil, did you care about two stars and a wish against a success criteria or were you only bothered about a gold star and a scrawled ‘well done’?
I rest my case.
7. Play the game – know which books will be scrutinised
Perhaps unethical but only marking in detail the books of the children you know your HT will scrutinise could save you enough time to tip the work-life scales back in favour of life. Every other child’s book could just be marked with a brief comment. I call this type of thing ‘playing the game’.
8. Make sure children read and respond to your comments
Okay, so this won’t actually save you any time in the short term but in the long term it will provide a morale booster as you will no longer feel that the late nights of marking were all for nothing. There’s nothing worse than putting great efforts into something only for it to be ignored.
In the longer term, if you make sure that little Billy has actually read your comments and is now aware of how unhappy you were about his apparent ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude towards underlining the date and title in the last lesson, he might actually stop avoiding such formalities and prevent you from ever having to write the same thing more than once.
9. Know your school’s assessment policy
Knowing exactly what your school expects could also pay dividends when it comes to freeing up your time. For example, if you know your school’s policy only expects one piece of work out of four to be marked in detail then you can save yourself a lot of labour and more time pursuing your dreams and ambitions or catching up on your favourite soap.
10. Use your TA/LSA’s feedback
A bit of a grey area for me but I’m yet to be convinced that you can’t allow your TA to offer verbal feedback to a group of children or an individual child and have that count. Of course, don’t overuse this one but it works in satisfying both the child’s need to have immediate feedback on their work and my need to get the heck out of work before 5:00 pm!
11. Print sticky labels
Okay, I personally haven’t done this one yet but I shall eventually get round to getting some sticky labels and use them to print a bunch of generic comments using Microsoft Word. Imagine how much time you would save using pre-printed sticky labels to provide children with a personalised comment when required.
Thank you for reading Songs for Teaching’s ‘Time Saving Marking Tips’. For further information on how to improve your practice whilst spending less time at work, then I must recommend Jim Smith’s ‘The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook’. It certainly gave me food for thought particularly at the very beginning of my journey in teaching.