One of the things that I thought about during the holidays was my marking. There is no way that I am spending the amount of time marking as I do without the students returning the favour. For example, one class of marking three lessons has taken me 45 mins. I have marked just before planning the lessons so I can integrate it specifically into the planning.
As usual, I used my marking timer. Marking is a pain in the sense that you can’t really stop before it is complete. It is also boring in the sense that it is arduous, tedious and sometimes difficult. But it should never be boring because it has no purpose.
Using a rubric and having students assess the work is a useful thing, too. It is part of my planning, but makes lessons and marking somewhat more purposeful. I wrote 12,000 words in a few days over the holidays while on my brother’s sofa abroad, and here a few about marking for you now:
My plan for last year was to complete all the work I had set the students. This was naively ambitious, not least as I had moved into a new apartment and was enjoying playing many multiplayer games and watching films instead of completing secondary school work. I did, though, complete the first tasks of each worksheet, though. This was more suitable than completing everything, not least because my classes didn’t always have time to cover the extent of my modelled examples.
My plan for the following year is to create straightforward rubrics – that is, differentiated outcome charts. Based upon a scale of 1-2-3, I want to find a quick way to make students aim for outstanding achievement in all the tasks they do. These can’t be completed for everything, can they? How difficult would it be for each task to create a 1-2-3 outcome chart? If one to two minutes for each lesson, maybe.
My other ambitions are to improve my marking, and this is linked to the above rubric. Marking is a contentious aspect of the life of an English teacher, and one that I do not spend enough time on.
A life without boredom and hunger is a suspicious one. Part of my fear in school is that I have alleviated these two conditions. I can sit on my backside for far too long in the evenings because I am rarely hungry (for I eat constantly.) And I am rarely bored because I stimulate myself with snippets of popular culture and break my life up into manageable chunks of time. This does make me less able to concentrate on that which is not stimulating for any length of time. Fortunately I embrace the risk of embarrassment and ridicule, no matter how much that makes me cringe. I taught a teacher training session with dramatic clapping, and sing in class regularly. I form the cartoon character of my reputation as a teacher carefully, and keep myself entertained if nothing else. Moreso, I do these things to make the student explicate the need to challenge themselves and to develop resilience if they are to have ambition.
One problem with marking is that there will never be a time that sees me able to choose to do so.
While my head has some thoughts, this is what I will do next year:
a) All students will number their books according to where they are on my register. This will be done at the start of the year. Students who arrive half-way through are added to the bottom of my markbook, and should be given a larger number.
Students will be expected to hand their books in via each row, ensuring that they are in the correct order. They will then be passed to the front of the room, and two people will be responsible for ensuring that those books are place in the correct order. They will then be put into a marking box.
I will need to purchase a marking box.
The purpose of a marking box is to fabricate the condition of wanting to mark. I will either marking in school, or (more likely) take such marking home. If I do take such work home, I will only work for a length of time. That length of time should be determined by what I would do if I had a meeting and the gym at the same time. The meeting would finish at 5:00pm and the gym would finish at 6:00pm. Finishing work at 7:00pm would leave me with between 2-5 hours of free time that evening (or, per day.)
I think marking is a curious one. I think that, essays included, need to be handed to me in a certain order. It will make recording much easier.
What am I intending to record? I think that a level is, by myself, nonsensical. Instead, the levels can be transferred into rubrics for that task, and the students can perhaps write what I expect for each of the respective tasks.
Marking each class once a week is a minimum requirement. Previously I aimed to mark the work of my students once a week. I ended up struggling.
b) When students have work/books returned to them, they will be required to walk around to see what other students have done. This will need to be something that is not completed on a frequent basis – maybe even once a half-term. In that case, it would be with an assessment rather than just classwork. But, then again, perhaps even just getting each of the five sections of the classroom to nominate the best work in that section, and why. That work is then evaluated, with pictures taken, and then printed and put onto the boards. This is a suitable plenary (with a student going to fetch the printing, and another cutting it.)
This will be a fairly regular plenary, especially when students have been given a rubric of what to complete. Students need to be completing some writing when other students are fetching the paper.
c) I need to ensure that all my students have fresh books. One of my colleagues had a habit of grabbing new books to separate their students’ work into several different sections, and would take three times as many books as they really should have. This leaves the other students with less books. An order was taken recently, and the number of books to be taken was also discussed. I doubt things will change, much. Fresh books for year 11 are necessary, though.
What happens at the moment with marking? Many things are marked for: run-on sentences, a lack of detail, and misspellings are the most common errors. To what extent do students address these issues? To not much extent at all, I think. How often does marking happen? Not very frequently.
The bane of English marking is, though, the timed essay. This is a 3-4 hour marking marathon. Even with my speed-reading, it takes an age.
The previous post focussed heavily on marking. It is an example of how the bureaucracy of teaching cannot be ignored. Instead, it needs to work for the teacher and for the students. And in such a way where it can be completed properly.
Now, when it comes to marking, it is such an inherently boring and arduous task, that it needs to be done at a judicious time. In the past I have put on a timer. Now, I need to see exactly how long it will take.
5 minutes per essay is a maximum. For a book, it can be marked in 2 minutes. A class can be marked in a hour. An hour is a minimum for marking. The less in a class, the more time each piece of marking is given.
And so, this looks like my timing for next year:
a) Wake up between 6:45am and 7:15am (with 7:15am really being an easy wake-up.)
b) Arrive at school between 8:00am and 8:30am (depending on how thorough I want the setting up of materials for that day to be.)
c) Any PPA times are spent liaising with people, or managing pastoral issues.
After school Monday is INSET until 5:00pm.
After school Tuesday and Thursday are gym days: these would be good marking days, especially if I can discover what food I should eat each time.
After school Wednesday should be food shopping time.
After school Friday is football/finishing time.
Saturdays should be park run time, if I am fit.
I have struggled to work on Saturdays for a long time. I need to, instead, have certain bits of work off-limits at this time.
Marking in English is split into three distinct aspects. Marking books (which I have somewhat addressed), marking controlled assessment (which is bizarre) and marking timed essays. Timed essays are the most arduous form of marking, and need to really take place at home in a study with a timer. Controlled assessment needs to be marked over a period of time. Books should be marked in school, really, with some of the routines talked about above. I need to schedule these in this half-term.