@teachingcharlie has posed a series of questions to his twitter followers. One of which caught my eye when he asked the question; “if you could offer a piece of advice on how to reduce your workload, what would it be?”
What followed was some fantastic advice from a range of tweachers which showcased how brilliant twitter teacher networks can be. Below is a summary of that advice collated into common themes. A huge thank you to everyone that continues to share, network and advise- without you twitter would be very different!
Evaluate and Prioritise
Lots of the advice focused on deciding what to spend your time on. @Rosieprimrose tweeted “look at things that are taking up most of your time- what is the impact on the pupils and their learning in whatever form it might take? If you are taking up time with jobs that don’t have any impact then change them or ditch them! (That includes laminating displays).” @MsFordEnglish and @robin2reader stressed the importance of making decisions which are child focused and do tasks which are only going to make a difference. @Cherrylkid advised us to prioritise and re-prioritise regularly as often the agenda changes and @ChrsinteCouser encouraged teachers to check that the priorities are in line with the department and schools. There was also a stress on realising that teaching is a profession where you have to “understand that you will never get everything done. Forgive yourself in advance for not doing it all” (@inarcadiaego)
Routines and lifestyle
For many establishing effective routines and time management seems to be the key to balancing teacher workload. Top tips included:
- Start every day by taking a few minutes to write a list (@FloraBarton).
- Chunk up tasks (@flynnjon).
- Set a time limit on tasks (@e_greenacre, @CarlaGotcha81, & @080Belle).
- Set a time to go home (@Mr_R_Ferdy).
- Don’t link your work emails to your phone. Even if you don’t act on them they are a constant reminder (@jw_teach).
- Set up email folders to file emails, and if possive use inboc “rules” to help (@Skippity_doo, @mrsartytextiles).
- Follow #teacher5aday (@FloraBarton).
- Keep energy up through exercise and focus on YOUR health (@pickleholic and @bridportshakesp).
One of the major themes of advice from @zygote23, @Bigkid4, @KristianStill, @MrLeMasurier, @Dukeyjk, and @MrsSingleton referred to getting the confidence to say “no”. When asked to do something you don’t want to (or don’t have to) do, either politely explain why you are unable to do it. It is a very hard skill to master (and I think even harder for us teachers!) @Bigkid4 suggests trying to master saying no without actually saying the word ‘no’. Instead use phrases like “I’ll try to find time for that” or “I might get round to it”.
Marking and feedback.
Not surprisingly lots of the advice focused on marking and feedback. Top tips included:
- Mark during lessons. For example during a written task move round room with highlighter & identify problem e.g. homophones. Then teach skill from the front (@carole_XLIX, @FranNantongwe).
- Mark soecific key tasks and have a clear focus as to why you are marking it (@Beanylass).
- Establish effective self and peer marking (@pickleholic).
- Focus on feedback rather than marking (@ EnserMark). for more info see his blog https://teachreal.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/feedback-beyond-marking/
- Use checklists- get students to “find me an example of….” to help proof read work (@_sarahmc_).
- If you’re lucky to have 1-1 tech devices then Go Formative is great for immediate feedback (@sarahb292).
- Use verbal feedback (@simonpatchett1, @sarahb292).
Maybe it is just me… but I find mark schemes for level marked questions very vague and subjective. I might give it a level 1 but another teacher could justify a level 2. Like many teachers, I try and get my students to understand the mark schemes (even though us teachers struggle), but it was this idea, shared by Laura McQuade regarding her research using self regulation strategy development (SRSD) which has revolutionised how I get students to engage in mark schemes.
Simply put, students allocate scores to good components that you would expect to find in an answer. Here is how I have used it;
What to do:
1)Give students an exam question- allow them to answer it in pairs in a limited time on large paper.
In my first trial I used “Use a case study to describe the responses to river flooding” (an 8 mark AQA Geography GCSE question)
2) During a teacher led Q and A students feedback the criteria for a good answer
- Connectives – additional, also, another, etc
- facts and figures
- Naming the case study in the opening sentence
- 2 paragraphs- 1 on immediate responses 1 on long term
- using key words from the question – flooding/ responses
3) Students then gave each criteria a score. E.g. 10 marks for using describing connectives. 20 marks for facts and figures. I led them towards giving the most important aspects the highest score (e.g. if they don’t name a place they can’t get level 2 or 3- so gave this 100).
4) They then scored their answer. Every time they used a describing connective they got 10 marks. When ever they used a specific fact or figure they got 20 marks. Each time they wrote the place name AND they gave it a capital letter they got 5 marks.
5) Students reflected on where they gained and lost marks.
6) Students individually rewrote their answer- they tried to beat their original score
7) Final feedback task reflecting on what they had learnt.
This idea really helped students to see the important components of their answer. It put the mark scheme in simple terms and added an aspect of competition (which really engaged by middle ability boys).
Marking exams can always be a difficult process. There’s the emotion (for the teacher and the students) that grades aren’t where they should be and the realisation that students are still making the same mistake. It can also be very difficult for students to process any feedback other than the grade.
These ideas, courtesy of the fabulous @Laura_oleary allows students to engage with their feedback and close gaps.
When using either- I am very selective about which questions I give detailed feedback on. There is limited impact writing on every question what the students should have done to get full marks. Be selective and only give detailed feedback on a small number of questions.
The exam review sheet – how to use.
- Mark exam paper- highlight one question that the student will improve (throughout a class I will select no more than 3 questions that they will improve- this will make the resource making for point 5 easier to manage!)
- Students identify their target grade, their raw mark and how many marks they were off (or above their target) .
- They then do a question analysis to process individual question marks.
- Students then identify something they did well and something they did not do so well on (I might give examples, e.g. I attempted all the questions, I completed the case study questions well etc).
- Students then find their target question, and using resources I have made prior to the lesson they improve their answer.
- Finally students look at how their mark has improved.
Mock review sheets- how to use
This resource is great for larger exam
- students identify their target grade and read through the feedback given. I will give detailed feedback on a select number of questions
- The students then do a question analysis. The “how many marks lost by not attempting questions” is really interesting for students that this is an issue with.
- Students identify what they have learnt from the mock exam- this is usually skills/ technique focus (again I might give some examples).
- They identify a new priority for the next term/ year.
I first heard about marking sheets a few years back, but they were often used in conjuction with a mark book and purely for the teacher to see. Since then many of these feedback/marking crib sheet designs have floated around on Twitter- with the main difference being sharing this information with students. I first saw the idea from @MrThornton who (I believe) shared this idea first. This was then followed by ‘s version and I decided I had to have a trial and see what the hype was about. My version combines the two templates and works as follows:
- I carry out a book look through all the books- making notes as I go.
- In the heart shape I identify the names of students who have done very well.
- Identify those who need to finish work (and what the piece of work is).
- Check to make sure that there are not any misconceptions-if there are write an explanation of what that misconception is.
- List out the correct spellings of commonly misspelt words.
- In the “steps to progress” section list a number of tasks that students can complete to make progress- these tasks are differentiated.
- Photocopy the sheet for the class- give one to everyone.
- Students write out all spellings (I made everyone do this- practice makes perfect!)
- I made sure students who had unfinished work had the resources to complete.
- Students picked 1-2 tasks from the list and completed them. I told them to pick tasks that they felt challenged them, I checked which tasks they were completing and advised them to complete a different one if more appropriate. In future I might make a list of names of each student who should complete which task and display it on the board to ensure they are picking the appropriate ones.
+ it is definitely workload reducing- I “marked” 2 year 10 sets in one hour
+feedback can still be personalised
+ students want to be in the heart shape- it promotes positive ATL
+ students still make progress and close the gap in the knowledge/ skill they have not understood
– it can’t be used in isolation- students still need traditional feedback
– Next time I would definitely tell the students at least one task they should complete.
Having ready to go activities for those students who finish tasks quickly reduces the need to plan multiple extension tasks. I have already posted about how useful challenge cards are here and they have fundamentally made my teaching easier. Combined with this review boards are another great way to ensure your students are always kept busy and learning/ reflecting. The range of resources offer students some choice to try different plenary activities and reflect on their learning in the lesson. Some resources which feature on it I have designed myself from inspiration from the twitterspere (see below for downloads- huge thanks to all those who inspired them!), others have been taken from the fantastic resource www.thebadpedagogue.com who has some amazing resources to download for free. So if you have a noticeboard which is redundant or is not supporting teaching and learning, I highly suggest creating your own review board!
My Literacy Checklist
I wish my teacher knew that…..
Train ticket exit
Scrabble those key words
Review your learning
Twitter exit ticket
Peer assessment can often be an add on to a lesson, and can often result in poor feedback to students such as “write neater” or “check spelling”. To improve this students (like teachers) need to know what to look for when giving peer assessment comments.
One way to do this is to give students a criteria to look for. The criteria should be quite simplistic in the first cases, in language that is easy to understand and it should be easy for students to identify whether their peer has or has not done this. Below is an example from a piece of work where students were writing a piece on life in the Arctic and the criteria that should be looked at when peer marking.
The list is very specific and easily identifiable in peers work. Students then identify something the student has done from the list (the WWW) and something the student has not included (the EBI). To try and reduce the issue of a student “freestyling” and writing an EBI which was not on the criteria, if a student received their book back without a comment specifically from the criteria they had to give it back to the marker (there will always be that one student who “freestyles” especially in the early days of this routine.
The students then acted on their EBI by writing a short paragraph which described the missing aspect. This saved me a job, time and students demonstrated progress in their work.
In my subject area, students, especially at GCSE or A-Level, have to produce notes- these are pieces of work which they can come back to at a later date to revise from. They might not show significant understanding or analysis but, they must have all the content if they are going to have the knowledge in the future. These pieces of work can be quite time consuming to mark and often the feedback given is “you need to include….”
A solution to this is the use of checklists. These can be printed off and students can then go through their work and check off that they have all the basic information. They can also then add anything they have identified as missing. A quick once over from you as the teacher means you can then go on to providing feedback on something which shows a greater level of thinking or skill. While there has to be some time invested at the start to create them, they are quite quick to make and can be used in future years. We divided ours up amongst the department to reduce workload and have all noticed our marking time of these pieces of work to have sped up. We have also found that students are producing better notes because they know what they need to include.
Really quick and simple plenary/ review task which allows students to feedback, ask students to write a paragraph with the sentence starter “I have met the LO because….”. Give students a green mark or arrow to show how much you want them to write to prove it!
One of my resolutions for last year was to permanently have a green pen (we mark in green) in my hand during my lessons (or pen dipping as our English team call it). This means I can go around students and get them to correct spellings, punctuation and capital letters right there in the lesson. I got into the habit of “targeting” students who I knew had weaker literacy.
I took this one step further, we teach in mixed ability groups, this means when we do extended pieces I have extension tasks for those that finish quickly. Now, before a student goes on to an extension activity they must come to the feedback table, where I will “mark” the work, and give students feedback instantly- they will then instantly make the changes (in purple progress pens), before going onto the next task. This means that when I come to sit down to that pile of books, in some cases, half of the books had green pen in them (and the satisfaction of opening a book to see it already is marked…. sooo good!) This significantly sped up marking. I even got into the habit of planning lessons where I can do this, and would ask targeted students to bring books up mid work, so I could offer feedback to them- all the time writing brief (and very brief) comments about how to improve the work or what to do next to ensure progress.
What were the other students doing while I was marking individual books? Well luckily the expectations of what was to be completed was clear, students knew that if they did not complete the expectation that they would stay in at break/lunch/come back/ have a poor report etc. But what I did not expect was that some of my more distracted pupils, actually started working with a higher level of effort and motivation, so that they could receive this feedback and praise, immediately.