5 Tips to Mark Less and Live More

Marking seems to be the necessary evil of teaching. I am finding that to be particularly true when teaching Grade 8 math. Every question we work on in class gets a chorus of “are we handing this in?” if the response isn’t a yes, half of my class doesn’t even bother to do it. I want them to be motivated, but I ended up with a stack of papers to mark that took over my desk. In despair, I polled other math teachers today for advice and their tips could be used for a variety of subjects. These tips are not revolutionary, but they are things I am going to be trying in my class:

  1. Take it up in class:

I have done this one before, but I found I got answers from the same students, and was busy writing on the board and wasn’t able to move around the classroom – and so many students likely didn’t complete it. The suggestion was to have a student write the answers on the board/lead the discussion and for ME to walk around and make note of completeness or areas of confusion (either whole class, or particular students)

2. Completion Checks:

Instead of marking every answer and checking if they got it all right – instead look for completeness. This could be done in a quick check, or after taking it up in class/after getting peers to mark it – that way you just look to see if they are done and where there were issues.

3. Peer Marking:

Have students mark each other’s work – this could be a “pass to your left” situation, or you could pass them out randomly. I would suggest taking it up for the answers, or telling your ‘markers’ that you will be collecting and looking at their work as well – what is their feedback like? Did they help the student find the correct answer or find where they went wrong? That way you can check over it, but it isn’t an all consuming task.

4. Alternative Activities:

A great way to increase engagement and check for understanding is through alternative activities – centres, games and team challenges are all fun ways to learn. They are also an easy way to touch base with struggling students, have a chance to make observations or to give the class a chance to practice skills before moving on (look to our lesson plan and review posts for ideas!)

5. Random Hand Ins:

Have students complete work in class, then on Fridays (or whenever) choose ONE activity from the week that they have to hand in. This way, they need to make sure they have completed all the work but you don’t have to mark all of it – you could pick something challenging, or a new topic that was introduced.

The best part about teaching is never the marking – but students need timely feedback for their learning and growth. Give them what they need, but don’t spend all of your evenings and weekends marking when you really don’t have to. Good Luck!

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