Marking work every lesson – should we bother?


Actually, it’s not every lesson. I’m trialling a system of marking books every time students use them. The difference is that they don’t use them formally every lesson.

I tweeted this in the week and a couple of Tweeters were vociferous  in their disagreement, so I thought I’d explain what I’m doing and what I believe to be the benefits.

Firstly I have a confession to make that will probably make you sick or stop reading this blog post…



Why have I started this?

Two of the best teachers I’ve known in my career were those that did this. I used to watch my colleague every morning with piles of books, marking diligently. They are both History teachers so their mark load is one of the most in terms of amount of classes and amount of written work to mark. They also have little/no behaviour management issues, great relationships with students and excellent results ( Not saying I don’t!).

When you have other responsibilities in school, the core basics of planning & marking seem to often come last. In my new job I am determined to prioritise and these will be at the fore of my day-to-day teaching.

My plan

I teach 18 classes. At KS4 we have reduced curriculum time so I’m not using books but one piece of A3 for the term to which we add views each lesson. This is separate from my GCSE class who have books/folders.

I have a multi colour process ( the colours are not significant, they’re the cheapest colours to buy!).

  • my marking = pink/purple
  • self/peer marking = red
  • improvements = green

These stand out from the writing colours of blue/black/pencil. In the centre of each table is a pot of red and green biros ready for them to use.

I mark for SPAG & presentation

Notes get a SPAG/presentation check and a stamper ‘Work checked by Miss Cox’

Independent written work has a WWW/EBI format to feedback including SPAG/presentation. Some of it may be levelled ( we’re still using levels at the moment).

Some work will be peer marked. They swap and mark in red using very specific criteria for the piece and WWW/EBI. If they haven’t I send it back to the peer to change. I then use the ‘Work checked by Miss Cox’ stamp and the ‘Peer assessed’ Stamp. If I disagree with anything or need to add I do this after the peer feedback.

Some will be self marked with WWW/EBI & reflection and the process above used.

Some work is assessment work where we have to use a large orange sticker to feedback. It essentially incorporates WWW/EBI/level/SPAG.

Every lesson whilst I’m doing the register and sometimes for longer students must ‘green pen’ their work. It’s mostly putting a capital G on ‘God’ but I expect them to address every aspect where there is my pink writing.

The process so far

I’ve really enjoyed being in control of my marking load and knowing that when I give the books back to students they’re up-to-date. Last week I made an error in my marking planning and had to bring two sets of marking home at the weekend that I propose not to do again! I have marked before school, break time, lunch time, when a DVD is on ( in between pausing and asking student questions) and after school.

Tips & ways to manage

  • Buy stampers. I have many stampers, some of which are personalised so they say exactly what I need, including using GCSE mark scheme language.
  • My favourite stamper is ‘Work checked by Miss Cox’
  • Consider your time at school & your work/life balance. Are you being efficient with your time?
  • Marking one page of work is quicker than three. The more it builds up the longer it takes, the longer it takes the more you’re put off by the pile.
  • Plan lessons with no/little writing – This could be display work, discussion, group work, rough notes ( back of book – not marked) etc
  • Plan so all assessments aren’t done by all classes in the same week
  • Use peer/self assessment with caution. It must be effective for it to be valuable.

My opinion of the benefits

So these are my views. You could argue that these are false causes but I believe they have had impact. I can’t wait for official studies and effect sizes to tell me otherwise.

  • It makes my expectations clear – you can’t hide rubbish work because I see it and make you re-do it next lesson. High expectations.
  • Quality of work – If I had a suspicion that a student wasn’t truly focussed or maybe talking too much, marking their work usually confirms this. The quicker this is dealt with the better. The longer they think they can have a poor attitude or do the minimum the more difficult it is to get them out of it. I’ve changed students in seating plans because of the poor quality of work.
  • It gives routine. They know they have things to do at the start of the lesson.
  • It helps to find common misunderstandings ready to be addressed the next lesson. What’s the point in doing it two weeks later? Explain and then get them to green pen their work to show their new understanding
  • Behaviour – I am a believer in marking promotes good behaviour. It links back to the expectations. If you are busy doing what I expect you to do, there isn’t time for anything else
  • A consequence – if students don’t green pen their work adequately in the time given they will do this in their own time. I say it, I mean it and I enforce it. High expectations.
  • It shows your value their work;every piece. And that you care. Not marking work must be one of the most frustrating & demotivating things we can do to a student.
  • It makes your subject feel important. Linked to the above. If literacy and quality are important then it supports your subject.
  • Planning is marking. Marking is planning.
  • You can easily and quickly identify students that need support or challenge. Intervention is quick & focussed.
  • You can easily track progress of a student or the successes or problems in a scheme of learning for the future.

To me the benefits outweigh anything else. I believe a teacher is employed to teach and ensure students are learning, if you’re making them write you have a duty to mark it in the most efficient & effective way.


6 thoughts on “Marking work every lesson – should we bother?

  1. I am trying out a system with some similarities. From loathing marking with every fibre of my being and detesting it with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns, I have come to merely slightly dislike it. This blog has excellent advice.

  2. Interesting, I love students using A3 sheet, even if there’s only a mind map on the page it feels more creative. I think I’d be interested in giving your idea a try. Do you divided the page up? Do they write on the back? How does it work writing out exam answers? How has your school responded to your A3 sheets, what do the students do with them once they have completed the work? Do they glue them into their books?

    My issue is that I was using a system that I was pretty happy with – marking exit cards that related to the learning objectives every lesson – I would mark the cards, if they did well I gave them a task to further their learning, if they needed help, I’d set them a task that would help their understanding, they would then glue those cards in at the beginning of the lesson and act upon in green pen. I felt like I had a good grasp of where each of my students were and their learning.

    However, it did mean I wasn’t marking their physical books, I did this once a fortnight and this was where I would noticed areas in their books that needed correcting, for that I used symbol marking to speed up the process. Again, I would have a task that moved them on in their learning. But the complaint I got was my symbol marking only meant something to me. I even trialled a sheet with lots of comments on that I highlighted, but it wasn’t personal enough.

    Basically, the school want me to write WWW/EBI in all books with a comment that follows and this to me just seems to time consuming especially if I’m writing the same task for a number of students.

    So going back to your GCSE stamp – did you create that or did you buy that somewhere as they sound like a genius idea.

    • Hiya
      At ks4 we have two different systems. Core RE is once a fortnight, non examined so it is one sheet of A3 per half term. I’ve only done it for half a term and I think it’s worked well. No feedback on it from leaders….yet.
      Just added to my stamper collection. Will post them when on a more convenient device.

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