My #RAG123 Journey – Part 2

This is Part 2 of my #RAG123 journey.  You can find Part 1 here.

Step 1 RAG123 sheet for each student and to display. Here are the sheets we have been using – click RAG123.

Step 2 Students have 5 mins at the end of the lesson to reflect on lesson objectives and code their work. We also ask students to write a short reflection to explain their choice of code.

Step 3 Students are given 5 mins at the start of the next lesson to reflect on any feedback, respond and correct any errors highlighted in their work. They are encouraged to ask questions if they are unsure about anything and short discussions take place.  If we identify common misconceptions or misunderstandings for the majority of students, then we may use this time to clarify and offer further examples and explanations.

This is the basic approach we have used to introduce ‘RAGing’.  Initially we noted that the written reflections were not linked to the lesson objectives or referencing the assessment criteria. Rather, they would make comments like, ‘I enjoyed the lesson’ or ‘Don’t get it’!  To address this issue we accepted the students needed more help and support to think about what they were learning each lesson and how to reflect and judge whether they were making progress.  We should not have assumed the students would be able to do this straight away.  They needed time to practice and gain mastery over the process.

At this point it also became clear to us that the whole process would not work unless the objectives were given using the specific language of the assessment criteria and skills. I had to be careful how I worded the objectives for the lesson and ensure they reflected the content and/or skills being developed during that lesson.  An example might be:

Use a variety of verb forms and connectives when speaking so that you can extend your responses to questions.’

With this approach and frequent reminders of the importance of reflecting on the LO’s, the students were writing reflections such as ‘Used 3 verb forms and extended my responses by adding extra information’ and ‘Need to learn more verb forms – I only know 2’.  I also developed additional slides with various reflection questions and sentence starters to use and guided classes to specific questions to reflect on that lesson and can be found on the RAG123 link above.

The advantages of introducing #RAG123 marking were clear to me and I have recorded some of them below.

  • Students were developing a much deeper understanding of the subject and their thinking about thinking and learning.  Progress and meta-cognition.
  • The quality of the work being produced improved.  More students became motivated to want to achieve the highest code.  They were motivated to do better and hungry for ways to improve further.  They were beginning to set challenges for themselves and getting competitive about it.  Independent Learning.
  • The biggest surprise and very positive and welcome outcome was in the quality of presentation and handwriting of the boys. This could be because they knew I would be checking at the end of the lesson and wanted to be rewarded or genuinely liked the instant feedback. Attention to detail, presentation and handwriting.
  • Misunderstandings were dealt with instantly and the discussions at the start of lessons became far more subject specific and meaningful with the group or individuals. Instant feedback lesson by lesson.
  • I developed a much deeper understanding of each student. Data could not provide the information I was gathering and I am now able to challenge and offer support at an appropriate level based on this new information. Informed planning.
  • Marking and planning have now become one! Rather than treating them separately, I now adjust my planning according to the marking and mark to evaluate the quality of my planning.  I have became much more focused as a teacher, constantly reflecting based on the evidence from marking. It becomes addictive as you strive to improve the effectiveness of lesson planning to encourage progress.  Teaching and learning, Learning and teaching.
  • Very pleasing to come into school each day and know that anyone can walk in, pick a book and it is marked up-to-date.  In first 1/2 term, I had marked Y7 books 15 times. Satisfying.
  • As time is very precious, I was able to differentiate the marking by targeting those students who needed the support.  If the work was of a good standard and clearly the student has a good understanding of the work – no comments/additional feedback required so motivational stamps used with positive verbal praise given.  This allows time to target the feedback where it’s needed.  Focused marking and targeted feedback.
  • Instant identification of students not engaging with the curriculum and intervention planned.  Setting targets for improvement became more effective as the progress could be checked frequently and positive praise given. Quick interventions.

There have been some issues we needed to address and I mention these below to offer light and shade and solutions we have introduced.

  • You have to commit fully to the process. Depending on your timetable, it can be difficult to get the job done – particularly full teaching days.  However, I have had to develop a mindset that understands that marking, feedback and planning are the most important things I do and it makes perfect sense that most of my time should be spent at these activities.  I now only use PPA time to mark. If it’s a busy teaching day – I will mark at lunch.  If I am really pushed for time, I will skip marking for a lesson.  I always get the students to hand their books in open on the relevant page to save a bit of time. I do not date sign and date the books.  I use stamps for motivational comments. I only write feedback if it’s needed.
  • When we are preparing for assessments following a block of teaching, we stop RAGing.  At these times, we use D.I.R.T feedback (click here via Amjad Ali@ASTsupportAAli)) activities to promote self-peer assesment.  This leaves time to focus on assessment feedback to promote the next steps.  RAGing continues with new work. (Key assessments are deep-marked)
  • Sometimes it’s impossible to get all the books marked – that’s fine.  If a lesson in skipped due to other pressures, the RAGing continues from from the next lesson.  It is important to be flexible and realistic.  If a few lessons are missed there and there – so what?  In the grand scheme of things, I am still marking the books very frequently.
  • When deep marking SPaG work, more time is needed.  Introduced pink highlighter to identify errors.  During reflection time, students correct or ask if they do not understand the error.  More meaningful discussions, lessons and learning opportunities taking place.  It is also possible to target specific tasks/activities for SPaG.  The reality is that RAGing promotes self-checking of work and allows for really good peer-marking opportunities too.
  • Work monitoring via SLT outcomes highlighted we were not satisfying the school policy in terms of detailed feedback (although this is true of key assessments but not frequent enough).  Introduced the idea of a STAR or WISH when RAGing and although this meant a little more time marking, over a half-term, students were given more detailed feedback over time than ‘binge’ marking.

In ‘My #RAG123 Journey – Part 3’ – The Future, I will be collecting examples together and gathering the views of students, departmental staff and SLT to judge the impact of the approach.

For more information, just follow the #RAG123 hashtag.


8 thoughts on “My #RAG123 Journey – Part 2

  1. Thank you Barry for a fascinating blog.

    The commitment to improving standards through appropriate and sensible feedback such as you describe is vital. We have spent a lot of time at RCCS talking with pupils at our school- and other schools too at our collaborative council- about this topic, and as you point out it is the frequency and quality (definitely NOT quantity) of the feedback which counts. There is also an argument for consistency across the school, but our research has shown this seems more to be a desire held by school leaders and inspectors than by the pupils themselves… And there must be room for flexibility. Nevertheless we are striving for consistency; we have taken over 12 months to develop an effective marking and feedback policy which has been developed by all staff under the leadership of a Faculty Leader. As the HT (and in truth the teacher in the school who has the least marking to do) I have taken a back seat on this. We have been trialling a number of things over the last year, much of which is included in your blog (time for reflection is crucial) and the new policy kicks in properly in September.

    There’ll doubtless be something on our blog, RCCS Teaching and Learning, some time over the next academic year!

    Thanks again Barry for this, and for your other posts and tweets which I follow with great interest.

    Diolch yn fawr iawn.


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