Following Twitter has both been informative and challenging. One of the first things that grabbed my attention was a hash tag ‘#RAG123’ and so I followed it and read some tweets about how it had changed the way teachers were marking their books, which is obviously a massive issue for all teachers. This led me to a blog by KevinLister@ListerKev.
Sounded really good until I realised that the aim is to mark every students’ books following each lesson. I was stunned! A ridiculous idea! I have struggled with marking all throughout my career and I think it is fair to say, marking is one of the least attractive aspects of a teachers life. As I continued to wrestle with this idea, it became clear to me that the time to mark books would be less, the focus would be on the lesson and it would allow me to target specific students who may be struggling with the content or not fully engaging in the process so even though it seemed impossible, there were many positives to the idea.
I shared the idea with a number of staff over coffee and the response was rather negative and I was amazed by the most common response – that’s not possible, I don’t have the time. I shared a number of tweets with Kev and Damian Benney@benneypenyrheol who directed me to further blogs and provided lots of encouragement and advice and how to avoid some of the pitfalls. Their blogs are really valuable resources.
I adapted the RAG123 coding system to suit me and decided to have a go with all classes from September and see how things went. And for the purposes of this blog, I would just like to share some points in the hope it may inspire any readers to look further into #RAG123 because I don’t think I can now go back to any other way of marking.
1. To my surprise and contrary to the views of staff, it is possible to mark every book after every lesson. It focusses the mind of the teacher on the learning and progress going on in class following every lesson. Marking is frequent!
2. It has forced me to consider deeply the objectives or aims of the lesson – What skills, content, understanding and outcomes do I want from this lesson? #RAG123 helps me to evaluate how well the students have progressed against this. This has further developed my practice to introducing #DIRT and Close the Gap marking (subjects for further blogs). Marking is linked specifically to the objectives.
3. Students love it! It has taken time and patience to make the process meaningful as some reflections made at the end of lessons were a bit bland and not really developing their reflective muscles. I then introduced some sentence starters to help and within a matter of weeks the students were reflecting back to the objectives and writing reflections using the assessment criteria being used. They also value having instant feedback and identification of misconceptions quickly. Marking is responsive and engaging!
4. I now find it very difficult to plan the next lesson until I have marked their books because this feedback to me allows me to gauge whether we need to cover something again or whether we are ready to move on. Marking is planning!
5. The process keeps students on their toes and working to the best of their ability. It is much easier to pick up students who may be distracted, not engaging or struggling within a lesson. I love giving verbal feedback as I give out the books and students are always checking their books to check their written feedback. Marking inspires excellence and determined effort to improve further in content, skills and understanding.
6. I can easily differentiate the system for different abilities and adjust the expectations – so the code can be given relative to ability. Marking is individual, differentiated and targeted.
My journey with #RAG123 marking has only just begun and I have to admit that marking is more enjoyable as I can see lesson by lesson the progress being made and the process has led to other ideas and initiatives that are effective. After 15 years of teaching, I have found a way of making marking effective and meaningful for students.
In my next blog, I will explain the system I have been using in more detail and hopefully show how it has been adapted to suit the needs of my students and school setting.