I mentioned this idea for marking in my last post of NQT Resolutions as a tool to help me keep on top of the amount of marking a teacher has to do. At the time of posting I had been given permission to try it out by my Headteacher (something I felt I had to do as an NQT) and actually marked a couple of sets of books using the technique. However, it had not yet been put in front of the biggest critics (the kids) and I had not yet seen if it would benefit them. Since then I have found great success with it and even a mention in my first NQT Observation done by my Headteacher – please read on if you want to save literally hours of time a week!
I would start straight away by re-emphasising that this is not my original idea. I came across the method in a series of excellent summer blog posts by @LearningSpy who referenced it to Joe Kirby’s blog! The idea is so simple – basically instead of writing comments that is expected by a teacher to praise what the child has done and give constructive steps on how to improve – you write down three symbols. Then, in the very next lesson (as this method allows you to mark books for the very next lesson with ease) children are given 5 mins to copy down the relevant feedback to those symbols. Typically I have 8-10 various comments that are used across a set of 30 books ranging from correcting common misconceptions to a gentle reminder to underline the date and LO. During this specific silent 5 mins I then take the time to target individual children i have made a note of to give some extra verbal feedback on what they’ve done and try to progress their understanding further. I personally have labelled this time ‘MAD Time’ (Make A Difference) but the concept is that the children write the personalised comments down, rather than the teacher.
Does it MAD?
Well, it has been a week and a half since I have introduced MAD into my teaching, and it has indeed MAD!
1. My workload has balanced
Before I would spend up to an hour, maybe more, marking a set of class books. After having written repetitive comments in books the children would then barely give them a second glance, despite my attempts at the start of each lesson to get them to read and initial the words painstakingly etched by me. This would become disheartening after time. Now, I find I am spending 20mins or so on the same number of books. This means I have more time to prepare engaging follow on lessons from the learning I’ve just assessed.
2. The feedback has improved
I am not afraid to admit it – after marking 20-23 books, my enthusiasm would deplete and my comments to the children in their books would become more and more generic and rushed. I suppose this is human nature (and why a wonderful piece of writing from a child might get more rushed toward the end!) Because of this technique, the level of personalised feedback is constant for the whole class, not just the children whose books are nearer the top of the pile!
3. The technique gets the children to take the feedback in
Now that the children are, in essence, writing comments on their own work they seem to take it in more. Just this past week I have seen direct improvement on a child’s work from comments they have written. Would those improvements have been made if I had written them? Maybe, but it is less likely the child would have read them. This way, the feedback is certain to be acknowledged, even if then the child makes no effort to act on it.
4. It shows innovative practice which is centred on one thing – learning
As mentioned, this MAD Time was observed in my first NQT Observation last week by my Headteacher. I said beforehand I would not focus on the grade, if I was given any, as Ofsted would not grade me. Then I was given an Outstanding…I couldn’t help take notice of that! The MAD Time was stated as an extremely good way of helping children make a difference in their learning and straight away set a precedent for that lesson that we were there to learn, and they would have the feedback yesterday to work on.
5. FInally…the children LOVE it!
I did NOT expect this outcome! Quite honestly, I thought my class would hate it to begin with. However, now when I display the 8-10 comments they may find in their work, they actually get excited! Some even utter a ‘yesss’ when they know it’s MAD Time before they then find they have a ~) and a +) which they need to work on. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it’s a new idea and it’ll lose it’s freshness after a couple of weeks. Maybe it’s because they feel they are actually engaging in something they feel is new and a good way to improve their learning. They actually care that they understand why they’ve received certain feedback and what they can do to achieve that. I’ll probably need a bit more time to fully understand why they like it so much but I am certainly not complaining!
Will you try MAD Time in your teaching and learning? How do you get written and verbal feedback across to your class and are there any other ways that have been effective for you? Are you MAD?
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photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/ludwg/8668129713/”>ludwg</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>