Why mark? Because you’re a teacher damn it and that’s what teachers do! Of course, nobody reads it and nobody ever acts on it and you’re only doing it because your boss says so… Do these words sound familiar because I’m willing to bet you’ve heard them many times before. What about being ‘OFSTED ready, or ‘showing progress’? Seriously, is that really what matters here? I don’t think so…
I believe that the reason we mark is this that marking shows students where they went wrong so that they can put it right. And the key to it is that last bit which I’ve helpfully underlined for you. We all learn from our mistakes and marking shows the children where those mistakes occured. Because we know what we did wrong we can learn and improve and it’s improvement that counts!
Say it, ‘it’s improvement that counts’! This is a useful mantra for when you’re marking your books. It kind of forces you to write a comment that will actually lead to an improvement. Think to yourself, “What will this child go and do as a result of what I write here and will it get this student on the path to their best grade?”.
In our school we are encouraged – yes, I mean encouraged because nobody is forced – to use different colours when marking a child’s work. For example, pink is used to highlight great work and to comment on the good stuff. Green is used for work that needs improvement or to underline SPaG errors. The students then write their improvements in purple. A lot of staff like to use highlighters to draw over the work they are marking while others prefer to use coloured pens and underline, circle and write. The truly enlightened will use a combination of the two methods, applying them according to the nature of the work that is being marked. You can actually have a bit of fun with this particularly if you like stationary. For example, I’ll often put a pink or green ‘blob’ with a highlighter then use a fountain pen to write the comment for a bit of style!
And then the children improve their work using purple which I think they really enjoy because it makes a nice change from always writing in black. Naturally we are drawn towards this work in the books whenever we open them and this helps students and staff recall the learning every time they see it. This is really, really useful and must not be under estimated. The power of children and teachers seeing the improvements that have been made is very motivational for both parties and I believe helps fix the learning in the child’s long term memory – which is where you want it!
Great marking (and great feedback) leads to great improvement and that’s what matters most. Mark using colours, do this every time you mark and see the difference it makes to your kid’s work. Honestly, it’s ace!
Pink means I love it!
Green means I don’t!
Write your improvements in Purple.
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