Marking is time-consuming but important.
It is an integral part of the teaching process and should benefit the pupils.
When you give work back, give the pupils a few minutes to look over your comments and ask you if there is anything they don’t understand.
You can make your marking helpful and encouraging with the following points.
- Use an erasable papermate so you can change your comments without messing up the pupil’s book.
- Try not to mess the pupil's work up with great slashes of colour. A short deletion line is as effective as a long one and less disconcerting.
- Experts on dyslexia say that you should never use bright glaring colour to mark the work of pupils with learning difficulties, since it is so disheartening.
- If a piece of writing is riddled with errors, try to find an opportunity to take the pupil aside and ask him/her to read it to you. Write a few of the sentences out underneath for the child to see the correct version. It’s clearer for him/her and not so depressing as masses of correction marks.
- Spelling corrections arise out of writing activities. Pupils with learning difficulties can only manage one at a time, and dyslexic pupils can manage one or two per week but for other pupils propose a few per piece.
- You don't need to correct every error. If there are only a few errors per page, I mark them all. In others, mark several of the most obvious ones on each page.
- At the end of a writing lesson, give pupils time to confer with each other in pairs to look at each other’s work and help each other to find their own and each other’s mistakes.
- Write positive comments to encourage pupils to correct their weaknesses, eg ‘I like your ideas and choice of vocabulary, but please concentrate on keeping it neat as well,’ not ‘This handwriting is dreadful’.
Take a piece of work done by a child and blow it up from A5 to A3. Tell the class you have chosen the piece because you are so delighted with it and start by pointing out a few positive things about it, like neat handwriting or interesting vocabulary.
Invite the pupils to mark it one sentence at a time, correcting mistakes. Providing that this is done in a positive manner with constructive remarks, it should not cause embarrassment to the child.
A few points to relieve the strain
- Use stickers and stampers with words like ‘excellent’, ‘terrific’, ‘super work’ and ‘tres bien’ and ‘sehr gut’ for the linguists.
- Where possible, mark in class with pupils marking their own or another’s book. You have to collect and check them also, otherwise the standard falls drastically.
- While the pupils are working, pick their books up one at a time and mark what they have done. This saves you time, and enables you to point out mistakes to pupils as they go along.
- Collect books open at the right page.
- Try to mark at the most time-economic point in the day. Some teachers who commute mark on the bus or train.
The above advice was provided for ATL by teaching specialist Hazel Bennett, author of The ultimate teachers' handbook. Hazel can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ready steady teach!
Your first teaching job marks an incredibly exciting time ahead but as well as excitement you may also feel apprehension.You certainly won't be alone in this. Knowing where to turn for help and advice before you start work will assist you to thrive, not just survive, in this all-important year. That’s why we’ve created this booklet for you. Not only does it include tips on things like parents’ evenings, writing reports or disciplining pupils, it also guides you through the various ways ATL can provide advice and support.
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