Yellow Box Methodology

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Yellow Box Marking


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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How can teachers reduce the day-to-day marking burden?

One of the most useful strategies I’ve been championing for the past 3 or 4 years, is using the Yellow Box (originally from George Spencer Academy) to reduce teacher workload; to pinpoint key marking points for improvement. In this post I offer a short video to explain what it is and why it works.

What is Yellow Box Marking?

I understand the need to use various coloured pens to make marking and feedback more accessible between teacher and student, but as soon as this notion is applied for evidencing and observational purposes, again, schools have lost the purpose of marking; benefiting the observer and not the teacher and student.

How Does Yellow Box Work?

Choose one area of a child’s work to mark. Just one section. Mark it well and in detail and offer sophisticated feedback (verbally or in writing) and no matter what, ensure that the feedback is specific and diagnostic (e.g. see verbal technique = not yet). By avoiding any assessment, students should understand that their work is in progress and by ‘zooming in’ on one area to improve, the Yellow Box focuses students to act on that feedback in a clear and specific framework.

The addition of a new (empty) Yellow Box should vary in size and allow the student to comprehend what work is expected in their redraft / improvements. It also doesn’t need to have a redraft zone at all – the box could limit improvements. Ultimately, the Yellow Box (or ‘zonal marking’ as I now associate the strategy with) is about finding and selecting one area of work the student can fix.

Why Is It Effective?

The student knows where to work and what to target; improvements can be identified much more clearly to help aid student progress. This ensures you are marking for the child – not observers – to reduce your workload with more direct, specific comments. that lead to greater impact. Even if your school does not advocate this methodology, you can still toe-the-line with your own school’s marking policy recorded inside the zone.

Critics may think the Yellow Box is another triple-marking strategy in disguise. I wouldn’t expect teachers to mark the re-drafted version (ever) unless it was for summative assessment purposes. Even then, I’d stick to the original assessment and offer verbal feedback on the improved piece of work. Worse, teachers are beaten over the heads and placed under capability and/or increased pressure to mark and mark and mark. Forget the purple pen of progress, even forget the Yellow Box!

As long as marking is manageable, meaningful and motivational for the student, that’s all the matters – and the Yellow Box is perfect for workload and supporting student progress. If marking fails to do those three things, then you are not marking for impact.

8 thoughts on “Yellow Box Methodology

  1. Love reference to the three Ms. I feel this powerful method has been hijacked by the Ofsted criteria for progress over time and inflated beyond manageability. The most recent SLT book scrutiny I participated in measured quality against an unbelievablly complex exemplar of quadruple marking from a grammar school in the South East. The benchmark applied was that anything less than this visible dialogue with students was insufficient. Thoughts?

    1. There lies the issue. Why do we need to prove visible dialogue between student and teacher for observer benefit?! It’s as if we don’t trust teachers to be speaking with their students…

  2. Yellow box marking has just been launched in our school as the major new initiative for this term with a set number of instances that teachers must show use of it (three each half term)
    I wonder if any teachers have examples of how they have used this in practical subjects. In art or textiles for example adding a yellow box to a drawing visibly changes the student image.

    1. Hi Tim; this is a classic example of how effective teaching strategies get lost in translation. They YB concent is ‘as and when needed’ and is zonal rather than focused on coverage, colour or frequency. As soon as your school insists that all teachers have to do XYZ X number of times, the focus of manageable, meaningful and motivating has been lost – and less likely to be effective. Please let your SLT know from me, they’ve got it wrong this time. Share this. Please email me and I’ll try to dig out some practical subject ideas …

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