Why marking is a lot like painting the Forth Bridge

Marking books is crucial. Our students need feedback to progress. Plus they need to know you give a monkeys. Marking acknowledges that you care about what they are doing and as a result so should they.

But I’ll admit it that in the past I’ve struggled to keep up with marking. Teaching a humanities subject where I only see each class at Key Stage 3 three times a week means I teach a LOT of classes (this year I am teaching about 200 kids) and keeping up with these books has been very tricky.

This year I think I’ve cracked it though. I’ve realized that the key to success is that marking is a lot like painting the Forth Bridge.

The Forth Bridge in Scotland is 8,296 feet long. It’s a whopper. Being in Scotland it’s exposed to the elements so it needs painting to keep it free from rust and damage. As it’s so large they paint it constantly. They never stop. Once they get to one end they start again. If they tried to do it in large chunks it wouldn’t work, it needs constant attention. This year I’ve taken the same approach  to marking and it’s working.

Previously I tried to mark a whole set of class books at one time. It took me forever, it made me grumpy and being honest meant that I did not read the work properly or give good feedback towards the end of a long marking session. Additionally, it took so long to mark one set that I gave up trying to do more for a few days, making me get further and further behind.

This year I’ve taken an entirely different approach. I never mark more than 8 books at one sitting. But I mark constantly (well nearly!). I genuinely mean it, I never stop. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • I mark more in lessons. I don’t think you can do more than a handful but that’s a handful done.
  • If I have a spare five minutes waiting for a meeting or a parents evening I mark a couple of books.
  • I nearly always mark a few before school once my lessons are sorted.
  • I try to take five books (and no more) home a couple of days a week.
  • I try to mark a few every lunch.
  • Any free I have I allocate at least 15 minutes to mark.

It’s not exactly rocket science or a sparkling revelation, but it works. For once I am on top of my marking. And, without bragging, my marking is better. I feel I’ve given more specific advice, know the kids who aren’t working hard enough and kept on the toes of them all!

I’ve also developed a simple system to work out which books are marked and which aren’t. Upright books are marked, those that are horizontal on their spines aren’t. This means that I can easily nip into a classroom and grab a few to mark.

I’ve also upped the amount of self and peer assessment the kids do, when it’s an easy enough thing for them to mark at least. This means a bit less for me to mark, although I always initial it to let them know I agree.

Anyway I should be marking, so got to go…


One thought on “Why marking is a lot like painting the Forth Bridge

  1. Pingback: Why marking is a lot like painting the Forth Bridge – Radical History | The Echo Chamber

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