I’m doing what I hate: I’m trying to mark everything. I’m getting students to write reams of timed outcomes and then recoiling in horror when I assess what I have to do…I’m not sure it’s helping them or me.

Ladies and gentlemen: it’s exam season.

I’m as wired as the opening of this blog post sounds. I’ve just written four different versions of the same list whilst scoffing a can of tuna for my tea in the vain hope that I can shape my “to-dos” into something that looks  “do-able.”

I’ve been like this for a week or so and as a result, decided to have a long talk with myself on the drive home (more evidence that exam fever is slowly chipping away at my sense of reality and reason.) I reminded myself that to make progress, you only need assess, not mark. And, assessment comes in all shapes and sizes.

So, I made ONE FINAL list. This list includes some pearls of wisdom passed onto me from those I work with and some of what Jim Smith refers to as “Lazy Teacher” strategies. I call them good sense. I vow to use them this week:

  1. Highlight work and walk away: pink is for positive, green is for growth. Ask students why they think “that bit” is pink and “that bit” is green: use feedback or book annotations to check on their self-assessment. Use the targets to inform planing.
  2. Whole class feedback: on your whiteboard write two lists (I really am obsessed with lists) one that features whole class targets, the other the strengths of the class. Students identify which target applies to them. Also known as “global feedback.”
  3. T1= use terminology, T2= embed quotes, T3= for the love of god use an apostrophe…. give them a sheet of codes and ask them to to fill in their own targets based on the code you have given them, then ask them to highlight where that target is applicable in their work.
  4. Type up good examples: have  snippets on the white-board when they come in: explain why they’re good and you’re showing them expert models and lifting the self-esteem and confidence of the class.
  5. Make three piles: got it, kind of got it, not in a month of Sundays- then plan accordingly.
  6. Live mark: I find this hard but it works. Work on what they are writing, as they write. Use the highlighters, green and pink.
  7. White-boards: old favourites, wouldn’t be without them.
  8. Tell students you only have 20 seconds to read each piece of work: where should you look? They underline and you peruse accordingly.
  9. Strips of sugar paper: get students to stick annotated quotes, topic sentences, or whatever it is you’re focusing on, up on a wall: assess how well they have worked by looking holistically at the outcomes. This can tell you just as much as going through a pile of books sometimes.
  10. Find your barometers: those kids who can efficiently and accurately inform you whether the class got it. Pick a top, a middle and a bottom and again, plan accordingly.

Practice: practise not making for a bit.

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