I wish I had a golden strategy that would fix those marking woes…I don’t! Instead this blog intends to offer ideas to minimise workload where appropriate. The important thing to remember is that no one strategy can do it all. There are times when assessments need to marked and this IS time consuming. But there are other opportunities where different approaches can be taken to ensure impact is felt in the classroom and work/life balance is intact!

You can’t and shouldn’t mark everything. Quality over quantity. Be more selective and do it better. Consider what is the purpose of the marking? Who is it for? What shall I mark? What will I do with the information? HOW WILL STUDENTS RESPOND?!  “If you’re spending x amount of time marking a book and students are not spending twice that amount of time responding to it, then why did you spend that time doing it?”

1. Getting D.I.R.T (y)

Directed, improvement, reflection time. DIRT is a great way for students to act upon the feedback that you have given as their teacher. DIRT allows students to reflect/act upon the comments that have been written, as feedback. Therefore ensuring the feedback is being put to use and is supporting the progress of our students, not for their next piece of work but NOW – today, in their lesson.

How to do it:-

You make a comment in the books and plan time for the students to act upon this. Not just writing targets but WHAT the students should do now (see images below @CalderstonesLiteracy – http://t.co/yGVuywV6Hu  ). You may find that you’re noticing the same mistakes when marking a piece of work – use a DIRT genetic model. Select 5 DIRT actions and number the students work. Students then write out the target and action it (third image).  ‘DIRT lessons’ can take as long as you feel necessary, they can form the starter or for longer pieces of work take the whole lesson. I love the starter idea! A great way to show progress of your students and a way of them seeing the improvements that they have made is to get students to complete the ‘DIRT’ work in a different colour.



2.  Whole class speed marking

How to do it:-

Read through each piece of work and on a piece of A3 note common misconceptions , highlights and students you need to speak with. Share the comments and good practice with the class at the start of the next lesson. This can then be turned into a marking crib sheet.  The crib sheet is a way to provide quicker feedback to the whole classroom rather than writing comments in each book. It gives the teacher a snapshot of the whole class’s progress, allowing an opportunity to ‘fine tune’ lesson planning and it also gives activities and tasks for students to complete within DIRT the next lesson.  I can mark a set of homework in 15 minutes using this approach.

Greg Thornton @MrThorntonTeach for template and further details.

crib sheet 1crib 2

3. Gallery Critique – making peer assessment actually work!

So…we appreciate how powerful peer assessment can be BUT there are issues. Students often are unfamiliar with how to use mark schemes (we’re professionals and sometimes we struggle), they are worried about offending someone, they are sometimes too blunt without offering any guidance; the list could continue. Gallery critique is about empowering the students AND minimising your marking.

How to do it:-

Have student friendly success criteria printed for all students and discuss this clearly with them. Place each piece of student work to be assessed on a table, spaced out around the room (like a gallery!) and ask each student to go to a piece of work that isn’t theirs. Give each student lots of post it notes. Insist that students then read the piece of work in silence. They read the work carefully, look at the success criteria and give kind, specific and helpful feedback. They write their feedback on post its and stick them on to the piece of work. When they have completed their assessment and feedback, they move over to the next piece. A good tip is to get the students to number the lines of their writing in the margin. This makes it easier for students to give specific feedback e.g. ” In line 3 I liked the way you….”

After the gallery critique. Students return to their place and read the feedback given. Each student should have at least 4 or 5 pieces of feedback, depending on how many rotations you did. They look at the feedback given and write up their targets (3 max) for improving their work



4. QLA it!

Question, Level and Anaylsis after assessments/mock exams.

You’ve marked those papers/assessments and would love to personalise every question for every student but you teach three classes and need to turn the data around yesterday and arrrrghhhh you still want the students to know how they did and apply appropriate re-teaching that will have a significant impact on progress..HELP! There is an option…phew!

How to do it:-

After marking the assessment papers, input data for each individual student against each question. RAG the answers using conditional formatting e.g. a question worth 4 marks  – green 3/4 amber 2 red 1/0. Once the data is in you will see at a glance which questions the class were most confident on and which areas require re-teaching/therapy/intervention. Students can also pick out their own areas of revision priority and complete DIRT tasks associated with that specific topic area.


5. and finally LIVE in the classroom…

How to do it:-

It’s really simple: The teacher (you) walks around the classroom with a pen in hand and marks the students’ work as they are doing a task. The benefits of this simple technique are numerous, and include:

  • Quick identification of misconceptions
  • Opportunities to speak face-to-face with each student, which strengthens your professional relationship with them. Verbal Feedback is effective and saves you ink! Professor John Hattie describes feedback as “one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement”. One of the best ways that me and you can give good feedback is to just simply sit down and talk with our students, face-to-face. Once this is done, you can simply write “Verbal feedback given.” on the piece of work, and then get the student to make corrections in a different colour. This saves time and forces the student to process the feedback given. Make sure you always check up on the corrections.
  • Time saved, as you don’t have to take home the work you’ve already ‘live-marked’


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