"If a child can't talk about it, they can't write about it. If a teacher can't talk about it, they shouldn't mark it."
There's been a lot of silence on my blog over the summer period, but that doesn't mean my brain's been off education completely. This post is really a throw-out idea to see what you think - please do leave a comment or drop me an email with any kind of feedback.
Allow me to begin - Verbally Marking. Make of the name what you will - at least it's not another acronym. Let me give you the background (if you're not interested, skip the next two paragraphs).
Back in my school days, I used to love getting my marked work back. Literacy was my favourite because, rather than a somewhat meaningless list of arbitrary ticks, there were comments throughout. Things like 'wow', 'a superb intro', 'this paragraph creates wonderful tension' and 'your handwriting needs to be neater'.
Occasionally, the teachers would talk to me about my written work. Occasionally, they'd read a section to me and explain why it was good, or they'd read a section as they would have written it - highlighting more appropriate adverbs or styles. But that was the problem - it was all occasionally.
Halfway through the last academic year I made a conscious effort to mark as much Literacy work as possible with the child present, or go and speak to the child after marking their work to ask questions and tease out improvements. This wasn't too different to normal, but I ensured that the verbal interaction had impact. So, what did it offer...?
- The child was able to justify choices which showed them to be greater writers than I had considered.
- The child could hear a better suggestion (if I had one!) and it made sense to them, or they could ask for clarification.
- The child could identify and correct errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar that they had previously missed, should they notice them during the conversation.
- (and this one is the selling point for me) The child could see excitement and pride in my eyes as I read from, and discussed, their work.
Of course, the idea of Verbal Marking is more of a dream than a guaranteed reality. If we had the time to mark and discuss each single piece of work with the child present, I'm sure we'd all take it? If anything, I was only 'testing the water' - trying to see if verbally marking a piece of work had anything better to offer over written comments (do you even know that your written comments are read?).
Does written feedback really benefit students of a young age? Is it just to please parents? OfSTED? Visitors? Does written feedback belong back in the 90s?
There will always be a place for written feedback and it does carry some weight, but is a verbal approach (I guess I could use the term 'discussion approach') the better way forward in a 21st Century classroom?
Perhaps you do this already? Maybe your policy is to offer verbal feedback on all work where an answer isn't 'black and white'? There's a possibility that you've done this for years - so tell me more! But however you work, try it out in this next term and see if you find great power in it. That excuse of not having time to do it - you're a teacher. Make time.