This was originally part of one post with my Time-saving hacks for teachers: Planning, but I split it into Planning and Marking. Here are my marking hacks for teachers.
My 7 top marking hacks for teachers
Marking is the bane of my life. As an English teacher, my marking workload is pretty heavy. If I teach 20 hours a week, I can easily spend the same amount of time marking, particularly in the run-up to exams. Here are my top marking hacks:
1. Stick a mark scheme at the back of each students’ book.
This is really useful, especially so you can refer to it when you’re marking, or when you’re teaching. The students can annotate their mark schemes and they can easily flip them out to refer to them when they are working – and so can you when you’re marking! By the way, I never mark without a mark scheme. Examiners don’t, and, no matter how well you know the mark scheme, it’s best to have it there for consistency.
2. Use the Pomodoro technique for marking.
- I learned about the Pomodoro technique from Aby at You Baby Me Mummy. She uses it for creating blog posts and blogging. I used it for marking and found it to be miraculous. This is a marking hack you have to try!
- The principle is that you work intensively for 25 minutes. You set a timer (the original timer was a tomato-shaped one, hence the name), get rid of all distractions, and just work solidly for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, you take a 5 minute break, and then do another 25 minutes.
- This is amazing for exam marking in particular. If you lay your books or papers out so that you can mark question-by-question (see below), you will be amazed at how much faster you go.
3. Get students to leave their books open at the relevant page for marking
- My colleague does this all the time. I originally thought it was a waste of time, but then I tried it and found it really does make a difference. The other thing I found was that it makes you more consistent. If you mark exam papers like this, marking all the question 1s, then all the question 2s, rather than student-by-student, you are much faster and much more consistent in your marking.
4. Use marking stickers and feedback templates.
- The chances are that your school already produces these, but if it doesn’t create some yourself! Whether you use ‘What Went Well’ and ‘Even Better If’ or another system, create some stickers and save yourself writing it out.
- I’ve started to take this further for some questions, particularly close to exam time when the students are practising exam questions, and I have a ‘tick-box’ system which allows them to see where they’ve hit the mark scheme and where their target is. You really can take this marking hack in any direction.
5. Create a marking timetable and stick to it.
- This is one piece of advice that I always give to trainees. It’s something I’ve learned through bitter experience. I’ve had one too many weekend or holiday taken up by marking piles of exercise books or exam papers.
- Now, I set myself a marking timetable in September. I work out when I see my groups, and try to find sensible times to mark their work. Then I write it down on my timetable. The reality is that you’ll probably need to do a set of books a night to keep on top of it. HOWEVER, it sometimes really is a ‘tick and flick’ exercise, and sometimes in a more in-depth marking with grading and detailed written feedback. Which brings me to my next marking hack..
6. Plan for your marking
This is another one which has taken me a long time to learn. As an English teacher, I can sometimes find myself with 30 long essays to mark, which all require detailed feedback. That’s fine, but it will take me more than one evening to mark them, especially as I have children, a home, a husband and I generally value my own wellbeing. So I give myself a chance to get them marked by setting tasks for the next few lessons which don’t require any marking on my part.
In terms of English, this generally means that we do a big reading task with a long response (like an essay) over a few lessons, followed by a speaking and listening activity. We then plan a piece of writing. The speaking and listening activities require hardly any marking, and neither does the planning. So by the time I have to mark the writing, I’ll have had a break from marking the reading piece.
This also means planning carefully so you don’t end up taking home 3 sets of books all with writing tasks in them over half term. I didn’t do this over half term, and it made for a really miserable half term! I try to stagger my groups and ideally get the books all marked before a holiday.
7. Make the most of your marking
Very often, I used to give the students their books back, and they’d just look at their grade. To be honest, that’s still the first thing they look at. But now, I get them to complete tasks related to the marking. They might have to re-write a section. Or perhaps they have to annotate their own work before it’s marked (I love getting them to do this – it makes marking so much easier). If I’ve used marking codes, they’ll need to write them in. And so on.
If you’ve spent 5 hours of your time marking your students’ work, you don’t want them to just see the grade and ignore everything else. Make it really worth your time!
So there’s my 7 top marking hacks
I really hope they are useful. Again, if you find this kind of post helpful – I’ve been teaching for 13 years in a variety of roles so I have a fair amount of experience – please let me know and I’ll do more of them.