1. Only mark one piece of work in each book, e.g., the class’s most recent essay or story. Flicking through books slows the process of marking down a huge amount.
2. As soon as you see a mistake repeated more than once or twice, write it down on a piece of paper or somewhere. Do not write it in every single book the mistake occurs in, as this, also slows the process down a lot. In the lesson where you return their marked work, go through the whole-class mistakes on the board. If you want, have a key (e.g., a ‘1.’ In your book means you’ve made error 1.: using the semi-colon wrongly).
3. Decide before you start marking a set of books how much you’re going to write, and stick to that resolution. Write one comment per paragraph, or one tick and target per piece of work. It’s easy to get carried away and write loads for the first couple of books, but then annotate very sparsely for the unlucky ones at the end.
4. Feedback is for you, not them. I think John Hattie is who I heard this from. You mark their books partly so they know what they need to improve, but it’s value is far more in letting YOU know what YOU need to go over again in lessons. At the end of a set of books, you should have written down say five targets for the whole class (see 2., above). You then spend one lesson on each of these targets. At the end of these five (or however many lessons) mark their books again – see if they’ve sorted out those five things.
5. Mark in a fountain pen. It’s so much nicer.
Grahame Greene: “My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane.”
6. If you’re giving each student a target, the next time you get them to do a piece of writing, have them copy that target out at the top of the page. If you don’t do this, they’ll forget the lovely annotations of your last piece of marking, and it will have been pointless. If you do do this, you have a bespoke target/success criterion for each student’s piece of work to measure their progress against.
7. Get students to leave their books open at the end of the lesson. This will save you a lot of time.
8. When students finish the piece of work you think you’re going to mark, get them to write a sentence or two on how good they think it is. This gets them to be reflective, and it’s very interesting to see what they thought. At time of writng, SLTs also all thought that this kind of written dialogue in books was what Osted wanted to see.
9. Give shout outs on your whole-class feedback. E.g., well done to Mohammed, Sara and Suhayl for remembering what I said about the striking final sentence. Give shout outs for what they did badly too, but don’t give names, e.g., one student didn’t put a capital letter for their last name on their assessment. Only do this last one if you have a good relationship with your class, though.