Use icons to set targets, save time and help them improve.
Imagine you have five classes of thirty students, who you teach three times a week. Marking their books is the bane of every English teacher’s life. To mark every student’s book each week, it means correcting about 300 pages a week.
One simple solution helps: use icons to set targets. Set aside five hours a week to marking books: that hour each weekday after school is the most powerful time you spend as a teacher. No other teacher marks books this often. If you do, you’ll instantly win every student’s respect. ‘How do you do it?!’ they’ll ask admiringly…
Most marking is high effort, low impact. Teachers spend hours poring over books in the first few weeks, laboriously writing out personal comments. They quickly burn out, and struggle to keep up with even marking every two weeks.
The problem with this for students is that it doesn’t help them improve. Comments take too long to arrive, they’ve forgotten what they wrote two weeks ago, and they can’t act on the advice.
Instead, what would maximum impact, minimum effort marking look like?
Don’t write out comments. You end up writing such similar comments across the class, and they won’t read them anyway.
Instead, get them to write them out. Choose three to five targets or questions before you start marking, then scan their answer, choose the best fit between the student’s work and the group target, and draw an icon. One minute per book maximum. At the start of the next lesson, you write the targets on the board, students write their targets in their books. They get instant feedback and can take action on their target straight away.
Simple. It saves you time and helps them improve.