Running Out Of Red Pens

Three weeks on from my most read post ever – on marking – I found myself hitting a bit of a brick wall this week. The demands of what I was doing was onerous and, I admit, the seemingly endless piles of class books were getting me down. I’d been here before, of course. Starting each year with good intentions which, sooner rather than later, fizzled out. This time was different though. While before I marked and marked because I thought that was what I was supposed to do, this time I really know why I’m doing it and why it is so important.

I’m in school before eight every morning and mark ten class books before we start. I mark ten during the day – cover classes, non-contact periods, even lunchtimes if I have to, and then ten at night. Every weekday. Only now am I starting to see the true value in this approach. I am much more confident and aware of the needs of every child. I see things which have passed me by. The hilarious S4 girl who can’t help cracking jokes in almost every paragraph; the silent warriors who leave four lines at the bottom of every page; the girl who couldn’t stop drawing a heart above every ‘i’. She doesn’t do it any more; she knows I’m on to her.

The difference in my approach to class has changed too. Because I’m on top of every classbook, the pupils know they will be asked to completely redraft work which is not perfectly presented. I inform them regularly that I want them to strive for perfection and will not allow them to accept less. As a result, first drafts are much, much better: a true sign of improvement in my eyes. There is a real sense that pupils are taking more pride in their writing. Classbooks are free of mess and filled with good work. Writing has a purpose for them.

I wrote in that post that I ringfence one period a week purely to work on feedback and redrafting. Often it seems like a big commitment but the difference it has made has been huge. A quiet, industrious room filled with students working on individual feedback is surely what we all want at times. They have learned that working in silence is valuable. Hard work is valuable. More importantly they know that I know their individual strengths and weaknesses more than ever.IMG_0453

Now this approach is more of an entrenched habit, the necessity for spending lots of time on each book has lessened. I try to get to every pupil during lessons and mark as I go along so when I look at the whole book there is usually a limited amount of work to correct. That recovers time to prepare other lessons. I’m much happier with writing in my classroom. I write with the class, on OHP believe it or not, and model writing, showing that errors and changes can be made during the process and how writing is always a challenge. They see me making spelling errors, changing vocabulary, extending sentences.

Teaching writing is a constant process but in my class we are beginning to believe in its importance. My new marking approach has brought us all to this point

One thought on “Running Out Of Red Pens

  1. Another thoughtful blog Kenny, you always make me envious of the fact that I’m peripatetic and don’t have my own class to work with on a day in day out basis.

    However there’s always something I can take from what you say, for me, perhaps more than some others, its important the kids feel I actually AM listening and bothering cos they don’t see me for a week at a time. They love it when I remember something they did last time (they don’t know or make the connection that I’m only ‘remembering’ cos I mark the work!)

    Making those connections is what makes it all stick and tick along. They need to know we care.

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