An organised marking routine

My old system for marking was flawed – too complicated – ineffective – time consuming and sometimes often unnecessary.

In the profession, there is this (unwritten) pressure that all children’s writing must have written feedback. Almost as soon as the academic year began, I re-orientated myself with my school’s marking policy.

I have managed to successfully adapt my marking routine so that I can fulfil all aspects of the marking policy but in a way that upholds my obligations to the school’s policy, feels humane to myself and supports the children I work with.

September – October: In September I shifted from written feedback to pupil conferencing – with fantastic results for both the children and myself.

Though at this point in the year, I was still marking work with a written ‘V’ sign in each book as I went on my rounds. Registering this in writing (for someone) became extremely irritating and I again looked for a solution.

October – December: New dawn – utopia begins:

  • I continue to you provide individual pupil conferences during writing time but no longer mark these with a ‘V’ sign.
  • Instead, at the end of each English lesson, I (and the children themselves) provide mutual feedback – reflecting on their successes and areas we have for improvement. I type this up in front of the class and we discuss. Children acknowledge they have received whole-class-feedback by placing a ‘V’ sign in their book themselves.
  • At the end of the week, these reflections are printed. They are stuck in and children are invited to add additional comments if they wish.

‘Traditional’ deep marks only now take place twice every six weeks. They take place at the end of these specific weeks:

(a) When ‘vomit’ drafts are finished -these drafts often come in staggered over the course of the week which makes the workload very manageable (this is because of the nature of our approach, ‘Real-Word-Literacy’). As a result of the pieces coming in over the course of the week, I seem to mark them with more enjoyment and give the writing the time it deserves.

(b) When they have finished editing their work – these edited pieces also come in staggered over the course of the week and are often very quickly marked due to the fact the children have proof-read and edited their pieces for themselves.

Used as part of our Real-Word-Literacy approach.


  • All policy requirements fulfilled.
  • Children say they prefer live verbal-feedback compared to less useful after-the-event written feedback.
  • Backed up by research evidence.
  • Children are more likely to remember the advice and feedback given but also they are able to apply it straight away – at that moment. This is evidence of children making progress during a lesson.

The effect of this is extra time retrieved, happiness, climate of being able to talk to children and know them as writers and people and massive stress reduction.

NOTE: Obviously, I appreciate that as a result of your current writing approach you may not feel you have time to pupil-conference your class, that is why you should seriously consider a Real-Word-Literacy approach for writing.

Research Evidence:

Verbal vs Written Feedback

  • Aubrey, E., (2016) It’s official: your school’s marking policy is probably wrong Available Online:[] 29th November 2016
  • BBC (2016) Teachers ‘wasting time on marking in coloured pens’ Available Online:              [] 22nd October 2016
  • Clare, L., Valdes, R., Patthey-Chavez, G., (2000) Learning to write in urban elementary and middle schools: An investigation of Teacher’s Written Feedback on Students Compositions CRESST: Univeristy of California
  • Corden, R., (2000) Literacy & learning through talk: Strategies for the Primary Classroom Open University Press: London
  • DfE,. (2015) Government response to the workload challenge Available Online: []
  • Elliott, V., Baird, J., Hopfenbeck, T.N., Ingram, J., Thompson, I., Usher, N., Zantout, M. with Richardson, J. and Coleman, R. (2016) A marked improvement? A review of the evidence on written marking. University of Oxford Department of Education and Education Endowment Foundation.
  • Fisher, R. (2010). Using Talk to Support Writing. Sage Publications: London
  • Freebody, P., Maton, K. and Martin, J.R. (2008) ‘Talk, text and knowledge in cumulative, integrated learning: a response to “intellectual challenge”’, Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 188–201.
  • Gibson, S. A. (2008). An Effective Framework for Primary-Grade Guided Writing Instruction In The Reading Teacher, 62(4), 324-334
  • Jean E., Tree, F., & Clark, B., (2013) Communicative Effectiveness of Written Versus Spoken Feedback In Discourse Processes, 50:5, 339-359
  • Pinkett, M., (2016) I’ve given up marking and so should you In TES No.5218 pp.27-32
  • Rooke, J and Lawrence, P (2012) Transforming Writing: Interim Evaluation Report London: National Literacy Trust

Pupil Conferencing:

  • Alexander, R. (2008) ‘Talking, teaching, learning’ in Alexander, R. Essays on Pedagogy, Abingdon, Routledge.
  • Alexander, R. (2008). Towards dialogic teaching. (4th ed). Cambridge: Dialogos.
  • Alexander, R.J. (2008) Culture, dialogue and learning, in N. Mercer and S. Hodgkinson (Eds.) Exploring Talk in School, London: Sage, pp. 91–115.
  • Barnes, D. (2008) Exploratory talk for learning, in N. Mercer and E. Hodkinson (Eds.) Exploratory Talk in School, London: Sage, pp. 1–17.
  • Barrs, M. and Cork, V. (2001) The Reader in the Writer Case Studies in Children’s Writing. London: CLPE.
  • Clark, J. (2010). Why talking in the classroom can be a good thing? In Literacy Today 63: 15 (accessed May 2016).
  • Coultas, V., (2015) Case studies of teachers’ understandings of the pedagogy of classroom talk: some critical moments explored In Literacy 50:1 pp.32-39
  • Maybin, J. (2006) Children’s Voices: Talk, Knowledge and Identity, Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan.
  • Mercer, N. and Hodgkinson, S. (2008) Exploring Talk in School. London: Sage.
  • Mercer, N. and Littleton, K. (2007) Dialogue and the Development of Children’s Thinking: A Sociocultural Approach London:Routledge
  • Myhill, D., (2006). Talk, talk, talk: Teaching and learning in whole class discourse In Research Papers in Education 21, no. 1: 19–41.
  • Nguyen, H. (2007) Rapport building in language instruction: A microanalysis of the multiple resources in teacher talk In Language and Education 21: 284-303
  • Norton, B. (2000) ‘Claiming the right to speak in classrooms and communities’ in Identity And Language Learning: Gender, Ethnicity And Educational Change, London, Pearson Education.
  • Nystrand, M., (2006) Research on the role of classroom discourse as it affects reading comprehension In Research in the Teaching of English 40: 392-412
  • Wenger, E., (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Wertsch, J. V. (1994) The primacy of mediated action in sociocultural studies In Mind, Culture & Activity, 1: 202-208

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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