Marking & Feedback Toolbox

For me, marking and feedback has two purposes; for learners to act on and make progress, and to inform you where your students are so you can plan for the next session of learning. What I share below definitely meets both of these criteria. They have been begged, borrowed and stolen from people who, I think, make a big difference with children’s learning. Used effectively they can improve student confidence with, and enjoyment of, learning. Hopefully they should also reduce the amount of time you spend actually marking. I will be updating this blog over the next couple of weeks, so pop back for updates.

Ross Morrison McGill (@teachertoolkit) has written an excellent blog on 10 strategies for marking which are summarised in the sketch note below. If you are not familiar with any of them click on the picture to go to the site. Ross has done a great job of explaining these , so I won’t bother.

ross mcgill blog sketchnote

Students are more than just a number – chasing the empty boxes

It’s easy to identify students who haven’t completed the latest piece of work, it’s not in their book. Chasing up those students who still owe you previous pieces of work though can be trickier. The longer they elude you, the further down your priority list they fall until eventually it becomes a missing mark in a mark book that you bring up at parents evening. I have found a solution which helps to clarify what students owe you, what you have marked and how up to date students are with their work without the need to pour over your mark book at the start of every lesson.

Marking and feedback blog

I number pieces of work and write them on the front of the book, so the first piece of work I mark in September is number 1, the second number 2, and so on. Let’s say you get to the end of term and you have marked a total of 10 pieces of work, a student who is up to date would have the numbers 1 to 10 on the front of their book, all marked and up to date (gold star!). If a student has missed a piece of work, let’s say numbers 5 and 7, these numbers are missing from the front of their book (I draw an empty box), so I know instantly when going around the room talking to students, or when taking in work, that they owe me work.

Ticks indicate when student have improved work

Empty boxes indicate students missing work

I have extended this further by adding a “Therapy” line under the numbers to indicate when a student needs to “up level” or improve marked work. Students tick this when it is complete. You quickly establish who is missing work and who is not. Now I hear you cry “why don’t you just look in your mark book?”, well yes, I do, but do you always have your mark book in your hand? Do you always carry it everywhere? Well I don’t, and a quick glance across the table during a conversation tells me who I need to chase.

Also, if you need to catch up with marking and you have a pile of books in front of you, do you have time to check every name on every book against your mark book to work out which ones to mark, or do you just flick through the pile and find the ones which don’t have a number 9? I know which one takes me less time.

I originally set this system up for my own use, it was not intended to benefit students directly, it was just a system to speed up my monitoring of completed and marked work, but student voice has suggested that students also appreciate this system so that they can stay organised and check whether they owe me work.

One issue when I started this was that the numbers were meaningless, if you are missing the number “5” that doesn’t necessarily tell a student what they owe me, so recently I have written the names of the pieces of work above the number so that students know what I am looking for.

Recently I have asked students to number the pages in their book so I can direct them to work that needs improving (actually I number them most of the time, stops them missing pages or getting the numbers wrong, I only number every other one as I check each page). If you number the pages, you also have a visual reference as to where you got to the last time you marked their book. I have added a row onto the front of their books so they can go straight to that page when they are looking for marked work, or work they need to improve.

I can’t remember where I stole this idea from, so I think it’s mine, and in the world of marginal gains, this is a big margin.

Marking Crib sheets

The history marking crib sheet created by Greg Thornton (@MrThorntonTeach) allows teachers to write their feedback in one place. This is then photocopied and given to students. Previously the information might have been written on individual student work, repeated many times over and taken up long period of time. The sheet is broken up into different sections which scaffolds feedback so that it is balanced and provides all the aspects of feedback which helps students move forward with their learning.


As the same information for each piece of work is written in the same place, it is easy to see trends in student understanding such as strengths and areas of development, and it also gives one check point for teachers to consult in when planning for the next lesson.

The method comes with a caution however, the use of student names on the same sheet for all to see could be problematic. You need to consider carefully before using with specific groups. Some students might be mortified if you highlighted aspects of their success or areas of development in front of others. Some students might feel comfort knowing a number of people still owe a piece of work, or that others have also failed to describe some concept or other which they need to address.

The up-leveling or recovery work which links to the feedback has been added to the sheet. Also aspects of presentation, spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG) are added to the sheet to provide more detailed feedback. I like the “Polaroid Moments” section Greg has added on the bottom for students to inquire of each other or get praise for different aspects of their work. The praise section highlights what student have done well and, as Greg has used student names, he can see trends across the class.

my crib sheet

Above is my version of the same thing. I have used student initials rather than names, although students will still be able to work out who is who. As this was my first attempt I typed mine as my handwriting is appalling (for a teacher). On reflection, this was an error as typing it took too long and I have a tendency to faff around with formatting for an inordinate amount of time, reducing the impact of the technique to free up time. Think I just need to practice my hand writing.

Hinde house

The photo above is a wall of a classroom in Hinde House School, Sheffield. Teachers write the codes on the wall (e.g. WWW3, EBI7) next to pieces of which saves writing out the same feedback comments every time. Students simply look up the codes meaning. If teachers wish to write a more personalised comment then they can use WWW10 or EBI8 and write it in. This definitely cuts down on the number of times you write common statements on work.

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