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Cutting down time spent on marking by using codes

After marking 25 Y9 essays on ‘How the narrator is presented in The Tell Tale Heart’, and writing near enough the same comment on at least 50% of said essays, I was desperate for another marking option. In case you’re interested, the top comments were: ‘extend your discussion of the effects of technique’ - 11 times; ‘embed your quotations’ - 13 times; and ‘good use of relevant point’ - 24 times.

My initial thoughts on how to cut down my time re-writing these comments was an ink stamp. I thought a stamp that had these key comments as options would be a great way of adding feedback to essays quickly and effectively. However, logistically, this was a terrible idea. I would need several different stamps and I doubt any would be big enough for the full range of comments I find myself writing.

So, I went back to the drawing board. After many attempts at trying to figure out a way of marking quickly and efficiently but also purposefully, I decided upon codes. All of the comments I have ever made, and will ever (hopefully) make, are written in a table and arranged into codes. If I’m being honest, the initial task of putting this together was daunting and whilst it did take a while, and has been tweaked as I’ve used it, I can say it was worth it!

I write down the codes instead of comments e.g 1A, 4C...

When marking, now all I need to do is write down the codes that correspond with the comments I want to write for each pupil. I usually write one or two codes for what they’ve done well and one code that identifies their target. Pupils then use the codes to fill in their own comments. Surprisingly, they love it! I thought there would be some backlash but there’s been none at all, and in most cases, they treat it like a game or puzzle as they search for what they did well.

A pile of assessments is now much less daunting!

This has really helped me cut down on the amount of time I spend writing comments across stacks of assessments, whilst also ensuring that pupils are still receiving valuable feedback. It even encourages them to be more conscious of their own targets as they are now more active in this process. I also find that pupils want to have more conversations with me once they’ve written down their own feedback. They’ve also started to take more ownership over these comments, and often come to ask me, ‘so this is the target I’ve written for myself, can you help me think about what it would look like?’. So, I definitely feel that these are a win win!

Pupils look up the code (pink) and then word their own comments.

In terms of how pupils access these, I use them in various ways. Firstly, I have them as posters on the wall. Therefore, if I write them on a homework or piece of classwork, they are quick and easy to access. I have also printed them out onto coloured card and place them on desks when we are doing reflection and feedback lessons. I always end these sessions with a re-draft (see earlier blog post: 21st April), which forces them to try and improve the marked piece of work using the target they just identified have identified.

As I said, these did take a while to make and at the moment I only use them in KS3. However, as the KS3 trial is going well, I am now working on creating sets for KS4 and will update this section once they have been tried and tested.

The KS3 codes currently in use are based on every single comment I have ever made about either a piece of work marked for reading skills, or for writing skills. They tie in nicely to the grading criteria we currently use at KS3, as well as all of the specific skills pupils use on a daily basis in each lesson. In addition, I think they would work for any teacher regardless of the grading criteria used as the skills we are teaching and assessing are the same no matter which school we are in.

I hope you find them useful! They are completely editable so feel free to tweak to your heart’s content!

Link to codes, click here.

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