Planning and marking efficiently

I’ve always felt that I teach for free, but get paid to plan and mark (don’t tell my Head that). They both seem so time-consuming and arduous, and yet with a little thought and organisation, you can produce marking and planning which is rich and highly beneficial, all in the same amount of time that you would normally spend!

So, here’s the set-up;

I find I work best after school, undisturbed and at a class desk, but whatever works for you.

You need the results of a lesson of work from your class, some post-its, your marking equipment and an A4 pad or equivalent. On the A4 pad, draw a line down the middle, and two equidistant from each other across the vertical. You should end up with a 2×3 grid. Draw an arrow from each left to right box, and label the left boxes Red, Amber, Green, or whatever works for you in the way of “no idea/some idea/got it.” The left-hand side will be for names, the right for the problems you notice that need tackling (i.e. your next lesson’s objectives).

On the post-its, write these same three categories, and space them out. With the books, start with one. Mark the work, and decide which category it will go in - red, amber or green. Put your comment at the bottom of the work, and then turn this into an Action Objective for your A4 note section. An action objective is a very clear, clinical objective, leading with a verb, which can be measured. For example:

  • Expand range of nouns.
  • Increase explanations.
  • Develop counter arguments.
  • Put this book in the marked pile.

Mark the rest of the books this way. Make a note of repeated objectives to give you an idea of the main areas for improvement - it really makes a difference for your planning. You can add the names to your A4 planner as you go, but I tend to batch do this at the end. Sometimes, if I’m really tired, I spread the piles out in three lines and take a photo of the front covers - I really am that lazy/tired!

So, what are we left with at the end of this process? A pile of marked books, with next steps written in. A set of three groups to work within the next lesson, and a collection of Action Objectives to use in your next lesson. Marking is done, and if you add this assessment data to any assessment tracker you use, that’s done too. We’re left with the planning. Look at the overarching need of the groups, and put that into an Action Objective. You’ll end up with three. My theoretical gut teacher says that at the beginning of a topic you’ll have one objective for a new class, and end the topic with many specific ones, but in reality three is manageable (with specific injections for each student).

For each objective, work out the best way to enable them to action it, i.e. complete it on their own. Remember that one of the most effective ways of doing this uses Direct Instruction: Demonstrate, Practise together, Perfect alone. Decide what measure you would use to ensure that this Objective is achievable - don’t get weighed down with designing something or laminate this or that. Get them to the action as quickly and effectively as possible!

This may seem complex and drawn out, but the more you do this, the faster and more effective your planning will be! If you want to know other ways to trim planning and make it more effective, I’m sure there is an excellent book out there just waiting to be used…

This article originally appeared in the September 2016 edition of UKEdMagazine

Stephen Lockyer is a Deputy Head and educational author in West London, and passionate about creativity and improvement in the classroom. He is on Twitter as @mrlockyer.

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