When I think of teacher workload, one of the most common issues that comes to mind is marking. I regularly feel that my time would be better spent creating powerful and exciting lessons for the children I teach, rather than trawling through books.
This is not to say that marking doesn’t have its benefits. It can be quite a powerful assessment tool and can help us in planning those subsequent lessons. Marking policies and marking in general is an ever-changing aspect of teaching. Schools are always looking for ways to minimise it, but it is difficult to bring marking workload down to a point where it is stress-free.
Below are some useful things that I do to avoid over-marking and being overwhelmed and overworked. These also allow me to spend my time adapting lessons and supporting my children in different ways.
Ask yourself, who are you marking for? We might put a comment in a book because it looks good for parents or senior leaders during parents’ evening and book looks, but does it help the children learn? Is it beneficial for them? Make marking meaningful, not unmanageable.
A great idea that a few of us started some years ago were marking parties. Getting together with other teachers to mark makes things that bit more bearable. Even if you’re not discussing the marking itself, having other person to talk to whilst you do so can be a very welcome break from what can be quite a monotonous task.
Marking work ‘live’ can save hours and gives children instant feedback when they need it most.
Most of us won’t teach every subject every day. Maths and English are my priority after school. For subjects that are taught once or twice a week, I will take the ‘little and often’ approach. A few books of each during a spare 5-10 minutes will mean that over the course of a week, I can get them marked with ease.
We use pink for good work and green for what could be improved. Rather than writing a comment, highlight what you think has been positive and what could be worked on. Arguably, this will be far more effective than an overall comment for their work.
Use the success criteria to help you. If you find yourself constantly struggling with what to write and feel that you need to write something, tailor your comment to something that the child has met within the success criteria.
I regularly find that what I want to write can more easily be summarised verbally rather than via a written comment. The teachers in my school have grown accustomed to using a ‘blue box’ to let children know that there is something in their work we wish to discuss with them. The book is placed in a box where the children check before going off to lunch. Other colours are available!
This is something that has been quite effective for us. A simple discussion about what we are doing individually as teachers and the impact we have seen can influence and help others to think about their own marking to make it more manageable. We still mark everything (well, most things), but the in-depth marks for us are only big writes. Most other things are simple marking using stamps, discussion with the children or very simple comments (unless there is something we feel we need to comment on).
I in no way suggest these ideas as the ‘best’ ways of managing marking, but they are simply different strategies I have used that work for me and I hope that others will find the same. Re-evaluating the way I mark is something that I regularly do and with an ever-changing curriculum, it is always an important practice to uptake. Involving other staff in this is also key as together, we can work to support one another in something that can often seem like a thankless task.