Improving reading speed; therefore, reducing marking time by @TeacherToolkit

Reading time: 4


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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This week, I nodded off at my office desk marking! I know … Shocking!


But, allow me to give you some context. After blogging about #ThePinch and explaining to readers, that at this time of the year, teachers are fraught with high-emotions and frayed tempers; fuelled by the subliminal pressures of accountability and performance (of exam results); most, if not all teachers, will be very, very tired at this time of the year.

Now, add to this equation, your own personal life and the pressures this may bring. In my own context, the particular example I give, is my son @FreddieWM who has been unwell all week; therefore, resulting in sleepless nights for the last 4 or 5 days. This has gradually built up a backlog of incomplete slumber and has taken its toll on me throughout the week …

Whilst, marking Year 11 Media Studies coursework at my desk (at around 10am or so), I found myself struggling to read … Having begun to understand, that my mind was not fully alert, without being fully conscious, I found myself having to re-read the text to ensure I had understood what had been written on the paper. Thus, by having to re-read the text; my own feedback; grammatical corrections and so forth, it soon became apparent; that my accuracy for marking was decreasing and my time spent marking, was increasing!

Jerking suddenly; coupled with the self-realisation that I had just nodded off for a few milliseconds;

I also realised that this could have been hilarious news! <Subject heading> “Senior leader found napping at his desk”; as the email alert popped up on the screen! Not once; but at least three or four times. I stood up; opened the windows and realised things had to change. Not just as a teacher; but as a parent; who is having to work much smarter to manage workload.


So, why am I telling you this?

A week ago, as part of World Book Week, I presented this assembly my entire school, on (my) love for reading (download here) and the importance of literacy. Providing a few key facts, such as: ‘students between the ages of 10-16, who read for pleasure, do better at school’ and so on…

The importance of reading assembly preview by @TeacherToolkit
The importance of reading assembly preview by @TeacherToolkit

As a result of my presentation, a colleague popped over to me at the end of the assembly, and spoke to me about an American company called Spritz. The idea is simple.

“… we spend an awful lot of time when reading a normal book or document scanning along the line looking for the next word. This searching creates a so-called saccade, a split-second of eye flicker, which slows down the whole process. The average person reads at about 250 words a minute.

Spritz, can get you up to 900 or even 1,000 words a minute, by eliminating all those saccades. How? Instead of displaying words on a line of text, something that has served publishers well since Caxton, it will flash them up on a screen, one word at a time – very rapidly.” (Source)

Watch this!

Taking the optimal letter of a word, less than 13 characters long; and by colouring that letter ‘red’, this apparently can improve your reading speed! (maybe not your comprehension, but stay with me on this.)

Here is the CEO explaining more and the broadcasting news-channel, Today.

“Reading is inherently time-consuming because your eyes have to move from word to word and line to line. Traditional reading also consumes huge amounts of physical space on a page or screen, which limits reading effectiveness on small displays.” (Source)

I believe it is only compatible with Android (unless someone tells me otherwise), so I found an equivalent for the iPhone, called Acceleread.

Click to open
Click to open

Here is the introductory video for Acceleread:


  1. If I could improve my reading speed, could I decrease my marking-time?
  2. By improving my reading speed; could I can improve my reading for marking?
  3. Would this process improve my marking-accuracy?
  4. Would the app improve my comprehension of texts?
  5. Is it a worth a try?

I am not devaluing the purpose of marking here; and certainly not the need for marking for accuracy, but the catch 22 situation we all face in the classroom, is limited time available for marking and quality feedback. As my good friend, @MrLockyer says: “Marking is broken” (Source)

Credit: @TeacherToolkit - click to open
Credit: @TeacherToolkit – click to open

“There are five key stakeholders when it  comes to marking:

Parents – they LOVE marking; Senior Leadership – they also LOVE marking; Inspectors – they LOVE marking too! Which leaves two stakeholders: Teachers – No teacher LOVES marking. Students – they don’t get the value of marking either. Very often they seek a reward, and rarely read the the comments.

Lockyer goes on to say; “this leaves us with a huge problem – the two most key stakeholders in marking – the producer (teacher) and consumer (pupil) – get the least from it.” He then goes on to describe how both parties needs to change the process of marking; planning and teaching. (@MrLockyer blog)


What I hope to do over the next few weeks – at a critical time of the year – when coursework; revision and examination practice reaches its peak, is to improve my own reading speed and use the app as a process and mechanism for marking smarter.

I am looking at alternative ways to reduce my marking time, for the purposes of proof reading.

Accuracy for marking; grammatical checks and so forth, do need much more time; and I will make clear, that this blog and this app(lication) is merely a suggestion (not a solution). It is probably not the ideal solution for improving your marking for accuracy; nor the quality. But, it may be a tool for improving your reading speed, in order to reduce the time needed to complete your peripheral-marking.

This has got to be a possible-solution, for unlocking the heavy-burden of marking and workload?

I will report back.

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