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Outdated Marking Strategies

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by BoldAsBrass, Nov 27, 2018.


    SEBREGIS Senior commenter

    For me marking works this way:

    Can I honestly say I know how my students are doing?

    How do I show the progress my class is or is not making to other people, so that I can get help where it is required?

    Can I identify what each student needs to do to 'get better' at doing my subject?

    What is the best way of me telling them this?

    There is no 'one size fits all' solution to this.
  2. CheeseMongler

    CheeseMongler Senior commenter

    From your perspective... not necessarily the students.
    Doesn't this imply your written comment was redundant if the student needed to speak to you in order to understand it?
    So the purpose of your marking is so the parents give you a pat on the back?

    Sorry, but I dislike the way your posts reflect the "one-size fits all" attitude towards marking that I think is the major issue. I don't doubt that some students relish the written feedback. (Especially if half of your classes are sixth form). I don't question that those individuals who read and respond to written comments, those who discuss with supportive parents, will benefit from your comments.

    To imply that everyone must therefore do this with every student is the issue. Half the students I teach struggle to read a written comment (and that's not just because of my handwriting). Very few of them would have the confidence to independently talk through the comments if they didn't completely understand. A lot do not have supportive families at home.

    Marking policies don't reflect this though, every student must have a written comment; it doesn't matter if it will benefit that student or not. Hey, it doesn't even matter if the student can even read it as long as they put a mark in red/purple/green pen to acknowledge it is there.
  3. matevans

    matevans New commenter

    If you look at my first comment in this chain, it was in reply to a series of posts from people saying they felt marking was largely unnecessary or pointless (surely an example of a 'one sized' policy attitude). I don't agree with that and tried to explain why. I wouldn't for a moment suggest I know how everyone in every school context should mark. I never said I did. If you don't think it works in your context, it is a waste of your time clearly. I never said I backed whole school imposed inappropriate marking policies - who would? I don't think I did imply everyone should do a certain type of marking.

    But in my teaching & in the context I work in, it is hugely valuable to my students I think, and the best teachers I've worked with have marked well - so I wrote to defend marking. I know many many of my written comments have have made no impact, I'm know many many of my targets have been ignored. But they do work well for a lot of kids, especially when they see the same target repeated two or three times and then the penny drops as to what they need to do to make better progress.

    I don't judge the success of the feedback by if they put a mark next to it. What would be the point? I measure it with their next essay. Most times I don't get them to do anything specifically with the feedback, except ask them to re-read it before their next essay and focus on getting that one element better. I get 'reminded' about the need to get them to respond as a result.

    And no, of course I don't do feedback to get a pat on the back from parents. Really - it takes so many hours every week to do it, to suggest someone would do it to get a few thank yous would suggest a microscopic self-esteem. But kids are not stupid. It is no coincidence to see a correlation between that the teachers my own school age kids most respect, and the effort that is put in by that teacher, and an important element (& I'm not implying this is the most important) in that is marking. It is mutual respect - if a teacher expects a student to try hard in their HW / assessment, that teacher needs to show they value and respect that by the effort put in in the marking. And if we don't want them to work hard on their HW, it isn't worth setting.
    dodie102 likes this.
  4. FriarLawrence

    FriarLawrence Occasional commenter

    I'm not denigrating your teaching. You sound great. I just think you've misidentified what makes you great. Let's use me as a control. My A level results are pretty much identical to yours in ALPS terms. My GCSE progress scores are outstanding, and my sec-mod top set last year did better than the top set at the supposedly "outstanding" grammar down the road in raw attainment (more grades 8 and 9). In Ofsted terms (bleuch) I've been "outstanding" for most of my career.

    I generally don't bang on about my track record online, having nothing to prove, but in this case it's unfortunately necessary in order to make the following point: I don't do any of the things you advocate.

    I was having a conversation about marking with another dept head the other day. He's universally adored by his students, consistently ALPS 1, incredible GCSE results, huge uptake for his subject. He doesn't do any of the things you advocate either.

    We're clearly, all three of us, good teachers. We clearly all get excellent results. You break your back with marking. I don't. My colleague doesn't. And your contention is that marking is the thing that makes all the difference, even when there's no large-scale evidence behind you, and quite a bit against you? It simply doesn't add up.
    agathamorse and Oldfashioned like this.
  5. cathr

    cathr Occasional commenter

  6. cathr

    cathr Occasional commenter

  7. cathr

    cathr Occasional commenter

    Why does writing have to be done from memory? The children could take pleasure in composing their 'own' text using writing frame?
  8. rootietoot19

    rootietoot19 New commenter

    If you've addressed an issue, verbally or written, then there should be an expectation that the child works hard to correct it.
    As teachers, our job is to ensure children achieve. Marking in any form is only effective if it has an impact and this is measured by the outcome. Marking cannot stand alone! As a leader I've seen many lengthy, well written comments which are completely pointless! At the other end, I've seen large ticks across a page of errors that are repeated day upon day! Always ask yourself, who are you writing it for? If it helps the child, great! If it's to prove to SLT that you're doing your job and tick a box then STOP! I have no doubt, some leaders will question you. This is when you have to know your children and therefore provide the evidence that the child has understood, reflected and responded to any kind of verbal or written feedback you've provided.
  9. Oldfashioned

    Oldfashioned Senior commenter

    There is zero evidence that this works. If a child can 'work hard' to correct an error, having had some guidance in red pen, we wouldn't need teachers. 'provide evidence' ! I'm a professional who knows my job, there's your evidence.

    All those countries above us in the pisa table, they don't mark anything but tests.

    Oh and by btw if you have time to check books so intensively you should be teaching more. You sound like another ncsl robot trying to justify yet more pernicious policies.
  10. lbambridge

    lbambridge New commenter

    In English we mark what we can in the time we can - www and EBI

    WWW is often a repetition of standards or in younger ages to raise praise to their pupils. EBI is often too limited to make significant change to those with many barriers to learning. I used detentions for offering ad hoc extra bespoke literacy activities. I also began to adapt the starters and end 'game' for pupils - again bespoke to their needs.

    I want to mark MORE than be forced into another meeting about exam paper grades or additional CPD. I recognised some time ago that English teachers need more marking time and more in depth use of marking in their delivery but the general school or college agenda is to focus on delivering the SOL to the assessment and not every HoD will trust your instincts.

    I love marking. It is essential for English teachers to be given time to mark and comment. It works wonderfully to have books marked throughout and the pupils to feel that someone is viewing their productivity, and seeking their improvement in details. It makes all of them happier to have got a spelling right next time.

    Having marked for years in EFL - where we mark the wrong spellings as wrong, (with red pen and crosses) and the correct English as correct, no one has reported a 'demoralised' child with too many errors corrected and that is because the marking ideas for UK schools is about retaining pupils interests. This is nothing to do with teaching English.

    English improvement in grammar, spelling and punctuation, is very easy to consolidate in Year 7-9 and it makes pupils happy, especially boys, because it is about wrong/right answers (something that is missing in creative writing analysis), and about rules that help with memorising spellings.

    The concepts of this alleged demoralisation are not true for English. It is more demoralising to keep failing, than to fail once, get a spelling corrected and then to have a SMART TARGET, to get better. I spell ten words correctly now, is a SMART target that works for detention study work, as well.

    You can give more positive feedback for things children can achieve so why make a child think they are better at spelling when they are not, by omitting spelling corrections they can learn from? How defeatist it is to claim they would not be able to handle spellings just to tell them when they are in Year 11 that their spellings are a problem or their grammar or punctuation.

    Furthermore, there are now many hidden EAL problems lurking in the British born pupils, who have not gained sufficient vocabulary or grammar rules to compete with other pupils and so by Year 11 are opting to talk to friends rather than look up words they do not know the meaning to. I am very much in favour of literacy spread throughout the school, and in all subjects but I think it has to be in English that we remove the barriers of poor ideas around English.

    We do not do this to history, and I cannot imagine any teacher saying: "We left you with errors in your dates in the essay in order that you were not undermined emotionally, and we did not correct the wrong names of kings, so now you are aware that is why you never got a 5 or above in marks. All the time you wrote it was incorrect and it was Queen Elizabeth not Victoria and in 1588 not 1792".

    How about we did this in chemistry? I decided to let you think sodium is represented by SO not Na in case you were upset by my corrections to your chemical compounds.

    The justification to attack or impair the study of English, actually makes pupils angry and angrier. It does not make a jot of difference what colour the pen is either. They can tell that other pupils 'get it' but when they are told to 'read a book', this is not going to put the words they read to memory nor have I seen children actively use dictionaries or thesaurus to find out what they read (except where I have directed them to do so).

    Their peers' opinions of them, and the humiliation of their peer, is far harder to handle in Year 10 or 11 than in Year 7 -9 when as children the all know they all make mistakes and their egos are less easily swayed by peer ridiculing.
    Good teachers never intentionally undermine a child's confidence so I dislike the rule that teachers can only correct five spellings because it is impairing the child's learning and it leads to a sense of distrust in later years.

    I therefore applaud literacy being forced back into the secondary school openly and intentionally.

    It is hard enough to explain 'enough is not enuff', and 'snuff is not snough'. I like to applaud inventive spelling as I correct it, as 'sensible phonetic spellings', for the logic that is behind it. Like a crossword enthusiast, I offer it up for the group to muse about. I emphasise that one spelling is absolutely correct and one is absolutely wrong and a dictionary or thesaurus is a 'sure' way to get it right each time. A derision and humiliation free tool but you have to look up 'enuff' or 'snough' to see it is not in the dictionary at all. It sounds so simple but if one looks at literacy lessons, there is a distinct lack of interest in trying to make connections for memory to link onto, and using models of the quirks of English spelling.

    I enjoy playing games with homophones for the same reason that the English, for centuries enjoyed in their stories and the delight in listening to puns in headlines like a secret message. Essential for metaphors to be explained.

    Also it is entertaining to list for year 7 (and pupils of much lower reading ability may never have envisaged multiple versions of spellings or new meanings attached to spellings not sounds). The groups usually point out they 'did this' in junior school, but when given a harder piece to read and correct, as 'easy' for them, it is clear that they have memorised around twenty of the simplest homophones and become engaged in the dictionary research of the new words.

    The concept of more, possibly hundreds of homophones, is also an easy way to get children used to recognising the variations of spelling in English but also easy to then explain historical reasons for such variance to phonetic spellings. Start with 'right', then 'write', and go to 'wright' and 'rite' but use a dictionary to describe it as a verb or noun, or to consider the history of ancient usage, etymology and the act of reading a good dictionary definition is a way to feed the brain with directed reading and absorption of other ways to express ideas.

    English has been so poorly treated in the schools that the choice of dictionary or thesaurus is based on costs and using end of budget expenditures and not about testing the dictionary writers' choice of definitions they offered

    I also dislike it when teachers leave spelling errors on the page. I think it is about disabling our unifying element of social cohesion, which is our expression in a mutual language. It is good to recognise that learning spellings is a skill, and learning and memory use are important for brain development overall.

    In fact, we know now how neglected children have damaged brain connections and these underdeveloped connectives hinder their development and uptake of rapid learning. Stress and anger floods the frontal lobes and inhibits this part of the brain's function of learning. Consider Helen Keller before she met her teacher. We are all there but for the grace of ….

    We can also see in cases of miraculous development in those with damaged brains that some intensive stimulation of the senses have encouraged in spina bifida cases. Learning seems to build up repair to the brain's neural connections, and if that is the case, then using the simplest form of praise for 'right' spellings, or lists of connectives and so forth, that are taught at the age range of the child's reading ability (not their expected average year group) would be therapeutic and potentially rebuild cellular level connections to support their more challenging lessons in English. We know the brain will make more varied roots to pass on information and memory in brains of adult stroke victims, so there is all reason to calm the lessons away from stress to happiness, and happiness is sometimes about SMART TARGET achievements.

    In English we give them works by adults, written by adults for adults and assessed by adults as a artform of international praise. Some pupils are being asked to explain complex emotional expression in the texts they study but have no vocabulary to do so or personal experiences.

    If you are a child with a very limited range of vocabulary to express emotions, then why would you appreciate a poet's choice of words?

    This is what I tell my private tutorial group I have taught very successfully for three years - and these pupils are dedicated enough to come each Saturday morning, for one hour of intensive English lessons. Despite being very able pupils I will always ask them to write down the alternatives they have in their minds for sad, bad, good and happy. Invariably they offer five words maximum, even if they have read Macbeth, a range of poems and delved into Priestley or Dickens.

    I ask them to look up a word in the dictionary that is an example of a sophisticated synonym, and invariably they will forget the definition within a breath of it being read out. I like to remind them that they have to memorise the words not just look them up.

    This demonstrates that variants of 'happy', are clearly understood by them as chosen for nuance or connotations, of intensity but they are not acquiring vocabulary by reading it once. For their memory to adhere to words spelling, and meaning, they need it said three times or discussed in terms of its peculiar spelling or how it is used, and this is by repeating the questions for each in turn.

    When the misspelt words are challenged later in Year 10, the child has been cheated or the consolidation in the memory of the correct spellings. Teach it properly and in its correct form first time and then ask about it around three times immediately, and it is usually remembered. Listening to peers repeating it also logs it in the brain. No wonder we humans love triplets.

    I tend to make a lesson out of looking at their books, finding spelling errors and asking them to learn the correct spellings for a test. Then working on gaps in their work. However, I am thoroughly demoralised by schools, who fail to remove disruptive pupils immediately, and will not consider the long term damage they perform each lesson on a very much larger number of pupils, as directly hindering English acquisition. Instead the SLT are eager to try to retain disruptive pupils in the classroom and offer training in behaviour management such as 'waiting time' or the opportunity to watch SLT teach lessons with pupils who are not being taught English but instead answer the questions at the end of a RE or history text book.

    No one is born able to speak English or write it or read it and no one is able to spell without memorising spellings. A great deal is expected of children to have 'learnt' spellings by reading pages in a book, then assuming they would remember. Their ability to memorise or re-use vocabulary is also a variant of each child's skills in manipulation of English, especially as many children seek books they are comfortable with, not challenged by, and many avoid looking up new vocabulary. Instead they guess the words' meanings, and are very assured of these ideas from then on in. The word 'pasteurised' is about pastel colour painting, said one to me and even questioned me when I corrected them, 'Are you sure?'. Another had no comprehension of buoy, bow, mast, sail, harbour, quay or the verb,to moor, at GCSE. In one school, a child in year 9 asked how you use a dictionary because no one had ever explained this to her in her life. Another had no idea of how a crossword worked, but the most bemusing was being told, by five pupils that they were taught that there was a rule that 'a capital letter could not be used in the middle of a sentence'. This was because the department had used every week, for many hours per week, a parent -TA who did cover lessons and had assumed a mantle of a teaching expert in English, and who had greater bearing with the pupils than teachers in English. This same group also found the notion of doing a spelling test without chatting, as unusual but confused the correct form of a spelling test with a spelling bee, so expected the teacher to spell the word for them and offer a definition too. Even the absurdity of this notion did not seem to disturb them from complaining about the spelling test. Again this was peculiar because clearly they had not had a pattern of being tested in spellings and yet the spellings I was offering them were words misspelt in their peer's exercise books, therefore one might assume were known by their peers.

    When I teach in schools I am often judged on my ability to be like any other traditionally trained teachers, and so follow the prescribed roles of teachers, and use 'waiting time' or the five spelling rules. When I am liked by pupils and their parents relate this, there is no finger they can put on it. No one expects me to offering something. No one knows I do this, and have done this now very successfully for a group of pupils in a weekend tutorial group who are regularly getting 8 and 9 when predicted 6 or 5, because no one asks you if you have long term methodology to improve learners' work or if there is something outside of schools' teacher training, they might learn from.
  11. needabreak

    needabreak Star commenter

    I think you are right, my teachers didn't do this for me or my contemporaries and we arguably did better than many of the students this was meant to help, if we persist with this it is worse than just a wast of time, it is taking away some cognitive processing practice, they don't have to pay attention and interpret what they are being told as they can refer to the notes we have made for them in their books to subsidise their own, I can't see how it can help them retain information, that is something they really must do independently, we can provide information and provide recall practice and revision aids but at some point it will be down to the student to recall information, select, interpret, apply and in some cases justify it *in my subjects at GCSE and A'level anyway, so the more practice they get the better we can always revisit topics that they clearly do not grasp. If they see and understand how mark schemes work they can evaluate their own work it is a huge advantage as they can read questions as they were intended and not lose the plot in their responses. With enough practice they will get there if they are able to.

    Finally it really is spoon feeding and if we continue to do it up to A'level students are poorly prepared for university or indeed work where there is a distinct lack of hand holding going on.

    It is likely now simply a way to monitor teachers understanding and performance more than anything when it is implemented and that is a waste of time.

    Edit - I am speaking from simply my secondary experience I guess there may be differences for primary students.

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