Sunday, 7 July 2013

Colour Marking

Ah, the dreaded red pen. Students, parents and SLT often cringe at the sight of the red ink used by a teacher. Maybe because it's a symbol for blood? I think it's more likely to be linked to the idea that teachers from a previous age would use just a red pen to mark work and would be likely to mark negatively; pointing out mistakes or circling poor work. However, when a teacher marks their books now, they are usually (or hopefully) better trained into what marking works and what will benefit their students' learning.

And I do use a red pen. Alongside green, orange, light blue, brown and even a pink. These colours signify different bits of advice for my students which they can understand with a quick glance. This idea was stolen largely from Joe Kirby and his fantastic book for Teach First English Teachers (which I'm getting round to reading this summer hopefully). Joe suggested using symbols for a quick marking technique which the students would understand e.g:

? Analyse Miller’s intention in your point
+ Choose a more relevant quotation that shows their relationship
* Improve your link to the audience’s interpretations

Instead of writing the whole comment out each time, Joe would just write the symbol on the page thus saving minutes with each student which adds up significantly over the course of 30 books.

I started using this technique with one of my classes. It saved me a lot of time. However, I wanted to further personalise the marking for each of my students but still try to cut down my workload of writing comment after comment. So I decided to start incorporating colour into the marking as well. The colours would signify information to my students quickly for them to glance through which they would then inform them on future pieces of work. For example:

Punctuation or grammar
Something positive
A specific target for next time
A question which the student has to answer
Look at the success criteria to see what you've missed

I then combined these with Joe's symbols so that if I drew a box around a part of the student's work in green, they had done something to deserve a credit. If I underlined part of the students' work in orange, this was the major difference between grades. Although this might sound like gobbledygook to you or an untrained observer, to 8s1b it is quite obvious what these things mean.

I've only trialled it with one KS3 class for the whole year but they have become accustomed to it and now understand that this is one task at the start of every lesson that they can be responding to e.g. correcting spelling mistakes; answering questions; redrafting work using the success criteria or their new target.

It is slightly more laborious than just using the symbol method but once you get used to knowing what the colours signify, you get quite quick at changing colours. So start embracing the red pen!

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