Did you find yourself at some point his week with a HUGE pile of books to mark? When you opened them, did you need to look back over several lessons that you had forgotten you’d even taught? I really hope not!
If you did, there are ways to avoid such a backlog such as only ever setting a written task for a purpose. If you asked pupils to write a page of work but you have just returned to it to mark it now, what were your reasons for them writing it in the first place?
You should plan the tasks that you expect pupils to complete knowing that you are going to assess the outcome for pupils’ developmental needs. For example, if pupils are writing an essay, I will be assessing that essay and using the results to inform the next lesson. You must be organised with time and make sure that you avoid finding yourself swamped with marking. Plan when bigger tasks, which require more time to mark, will take place. Other techniques such as developing a culture of critique (example of how you can do this here) can also help lighten your load.
However, if you have found yourself in the aforementioned position of having a backlog of work, think carefully about your next move. Personally, I would avoid writing comments on every page to make it look like you marked the work in the first place. This will only give you writer’s cramp and the lack of progression from your comments might lead to you repeating “use apostrophes correctly” a number of times, highlighting ineffective assessment in a book scrutiny.
Instead, find a blank page in your planner or sheets of paper for each class to fasten into your planner as a record of this assessment. Read the student’s work from the date it was last marked and look back over your last comments to see if they have read them and made any improvement. Give them a plus sign if you see improvement, equals for a mistake which they have made again and minus for deterioration of their work. This is a simple technique (see plus minus equals post for example and explanation) and they can learn to adopt it in peer and self assessment too.
Finally, write a kind, specific and helpful (a trick learned from Darren Mead and apparently some bloke named Ron) comment at the end of their work and plan for pupils to act upon it when you first return to school. Throughout your reading of their work, you should be noting down any mistakes and misconceptions on the blank page to refer back to later.
As you work through the books (at a faster pace than if you were commenting on every page but perhaps not as fast as a pointless tick and flick session) you will begin to notice similarities in pupils’ misconceptions or mistakes. There is no need to repeat what you’ve written; keep a tally by the side of each new comment to build a picture of what your classes can and cannot do. Your classes’ immediate needs should become clear.
Even though you have not commented on every mistake made by your pupils, you have a note of them and this knowledge will be disseminated to them in lessons. I sometimes give them the list of common mistakes and get them to identify them in their work, encouraging self assessment. Your pupils will only need to act on their own personal target in that first lesson back but as you have such detailed notes to inform your planning, you could be acting with their needs for weeks to come.
If you have reached the end of your massive pile of books and you are feeling that huge sense of relief but then you remember you still need to use this weekend to plan, feel also a huge sense of relief that your planning is now well informed.
Note to self…avoid this situation in future.