Claim Back Your Weekend!

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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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What day of the week are teachers most likely to mark students’ classwork?

Recent academic research claims that the first Sunday of every academic year is the time when teachers are most likely to mark students’ exercise books.

Why such a claim and by who?

Well, I confess; it’s me! I’m joking. There is no research. However, I’m certain that this fact could be true.

The first (or second) Sunday of the academic year, teachers have mixed emotions. Many teachers may be still clinging onto their summer holiday; choosing to gallivant off at the weekend for a last-ditch attempt to relax before the long autumn terms kicks in! A minority will be full of beans, excited to be back into the swing of school life, spending the weekend planning or marking at home for the week ahead. In reality, the vast majority will have just spent the first week in school meeting new classes and will already find student exercise books brimming with two or three pages of work ‘waiting to be marked’.

The Purpose of Marking:

As teachers, we wish to set a good impression with new students and parents. We also have high expectations of ourselves, knowing that we are well-rested from the summer break and hope to keep on top of the marking burden. There is a high chance that every teacher will spend their first weekend after returning to school, planning and marking the first series of lessons to get off to a strong start.

We also know that during every weekend, and not just the first weekend back at school, we are in danger of succumbing to the Marking Frenzy. Yet, teachers understand that marking is the best form of differentiation there is and that effective feedback aids progress; that our students know that we ‘mean what we say in class’ if teachers are reading work and marking with love and attention.

Marking has two purposes. One, students act on feedback and make progress over time. Two, it informs future planning and teaching. ‘Should teachers be marking every piece of work?‘ “Absolutely not!” says @MaryMyatt. “High quality, not truck-loads of ticks. Fewer things, done really well.

Fundamentally, we know that whatever mechanism(s) we use and at whatever time of the week – including ‘at school’ – we choose to mark, students must act on feedback.

Claim Back Your Weekend:

Knowing that the reader is quite likely to be marking student books on a Sunday, why not claim back your weekends? I have identified three marking strategies I use again and again to achieve this so that teachers can;

  • save time
  • have high impact in the classroom
  • enable students to act on feedback.

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Image: Shutterstock

And don’t be fooled, I do mark classwork at the weekend too! I’m just trying to reduce the frequency of it still happening. Here are the top 3 marking strategies that I use with my students to help me Claim Back My Weekend!

1. Student Marking

Get students to mark their classwork and their peers’ work; using student friendly mark-schemes. Do this regularly and see your marking workload decrease. Train your students well with assessment methods and routine self and peer-assessment and you can watch their capacity to retain knowledge, act on feedback and improve the quality of their work, gradually increase!

2. Margin Marking

Instead of marking each spelling or grammar mistake, put a mark in the margin for some of them for the students to find their mistakes, and correct them. Share your school’s marking code and use it religiously; and please stay away from ‘verbal feedback stamps’ for observers such as Ofsted inspectors. Mark for your students, not for anyone else!

3. Re-drafted Marking

Get students to re-do a piece of work for you after a lesson focused on how to improve. Only accept the work if they have now scored a higher mark on it because they understand the feedback on how to improve. The Yellow Box is a useful methodology for this. It removes the burden of time and replaces the teacher and student with a focused marking zone in the exercise book. Re-drafted work is made more precise and concise!

As the autumn term gathers pace, adopt a few easy wins for your wellbeing and for goodness sake, pace yourself!

shutterstock_213985705 Stressed and frustrated Asian man sitting at his laptop.

Image: Shutterstock


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7 thoughts on “Claim Back Your Weekend!

  1. Student marking is hugely beneficial to the pupils, and has a very positive impact on progress, as well as cutting down teacher marking time. I use it in my Y4/5/6 class, mainly for writing, with good results.

  2. Thanks for this, Ross – will be sharing it with the trainees I worked with in August who will be hitting their first sets of exercise books round about now!

    One other tip I’d add – sometimes set a word limit for the work you set. If pupils have a word limit it tends to make them think harder and choose words more carefully. The quality goes up, and the marking load goes down – a win/win.

    And it’s interesting thinking about the ‘Claim back your weekend’ idea. I realise that throughout my career I usually worked all day Sunday, but what I did in that time changed as my jobs changed – a lot of lesson planning and marking in the early days, then less of that as my teaching load reduced but time spent on policies, planning assemblies, appraisals etc. Now, beyond my full-time teaching career, I STILL work every Sunday – planning training events, presentations, writing, reading the TES etc. I think I’m a routines person, like you….

  3. Our school has been working hard to build blended/flipped solutions so learning modules are accessible anytime for students to progress at their level and rate. As a result I spend far less time talking and now have time to do a lot of marking feedback to students during lesson time. This is great as well as more time for students who are struggling with the concepts. This also provides feedback on the spot which helps when students can visibly see areas to improve on during a task before they reach the end of a task.

  4. Pingback: Top 10 @Teachertoolkit articles by Stress Free Teacher – Stress Free Teacher BlOG
  5. I agree that the work and personal life balance are extremely important and love your ideas for minimizing the amount of school work that many teachers often bring home. These are considerations I look forward to implementing in order to reclaim my weekend while also being more productive and efficient in the classroom. Thank you for sharing!

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