How to work in the holidays

Option 1: Don’t

Option 2: After doing three poorly attended two hour holiday revision sessions, completely re-write the whole of y7 8 and 9 schemes of work for next term, including the latest pedagogical nuggets and tips you have picked up from twitter, blogs and that excellent just-published book by the Professor of intricate and unnecessary classroom practice. Then edit and adapt in detail the perfectly decent scheme of work for y10 your colleague wrote last summer. Enthusiastically email them your suggestions and tweaks, receiving no reply – ever. Blog the feck out of all your efforts and tweet to death the link to your blog, hoping someone with 10 times more followers than you re-tweets it.

Option 3: Promise yourself to a) mark those 3 classes of books that somehow escaped your green pen for the whole of the last half term (or ‘term’ if you are under 26) b) get at least the bones of the first week’s lessons for the new GCSE planned and c) find out what you are teaching for the morning’s lessons up to your free on Monday which is either period 3 or 4. Or maybe just the first half hour of the day – after all you can plan the rest of Monday’s lessons if they are busy for 20 minutes in lesson 1

No one needs help with option 1, I have no experience at all with option 2 so you’re on your own there. As for the final possibility, the best way is to bring your marking home and leave it in the boot of your car so you don’t see it until the day you tackle it. Then do it one day with the music turned up loud and reward yourself with chocolate, or whatever floats your boat, every 15 books or so. Leave the planning part until the day before. This will help you focus your mind and you will spend less time faffing about looking for a good picture for your opening powerpoint slide (unless you work at Michaela). Then put out your work clothes for Monday morning, find your shoes and classroom keys and finish for the day.


Pissed off by a poster

I know I should let it go, move on and worry about bigger things. But today this cheery poster got my goat.

First of all I will say that some bits I can go with:

  1. Pupils going out into the world to do wonderful things
  2. Imparting knowledge
  3. Listening without judgement (though this last one for me is an aim not an accomplishment)

But the rest are ridiculous and plain old exploitative . Look at these two

  • To be magnificent inspite of late nights and early mornings
  • To give meaningful feedback even if my pile of books seems endless

If these things are happening, then you need to be speaking to your line manager about workload or finding out if there is a shortcut you are uninformed about. Worse still, if you put up these statements in your class or staffroom, then you are normalising overwork and promoting the idea that teachers should put their job before the rest of their life.

I love teaching but that doesn’t mean people should take advantage of me and expect endless piles of books in my care to receive detailed written feedback nor should they demand I sacrifice my sleep for it. If you want me to “fulfil my side of the teaching and learning partnership” then give me conditions that help me do my job more effectively and more skillfully, don’t heap on the work and ask me to sign an allegiance saying I will complete all the work thrown at me no what impact it has on me, my partner, my family, my life or my health.

People who do or expect this are people who say teaching is a vocation not a job. And people who say such a thing are more likely than most to herd and harass teachers out of the profession.

This is an awful poster.

Talking about Progress

Dont tell anyone, but i find marking SO boring.

I think this is often reflected with how my pupils receive their books back. The first thing they want to see is what mark/grade/level/percentage they got. Then the second thing they want to see is what mark/grade/level/percentage their friend got. Maybe they will then look at the comment and target I wrote – maybe. Unless of course I put it on a previous page to where their mark is. There is no way they are going to be bothered to turn back a few pages to look for something they are not interested in and might not even be there.

And so the lesson starts and, without anyone noticing it, we have all silently agreed that there may be a target in their book but we will not bother referring to it again.

How then do my pupils or myself actually know if they are making progress

So this year I thought we could change things a bit. I have 3 aims: 1) Improve the response to the targets I set 2) Improve my monitoring of these responses and 3) Not increase the amount of time I spend marking (see opening sentence)

So I have drafted this table to put in the front of their books at the start of the year. I would appreciate your thoughts as to the viability and effectiveness of this tactic.


  target Level at the time (if given) Page and date My reply Page and date for proof Teacher’s response
1 You need to describe geographical patterns in more detail 4c 12 and 10/10/13 Please see my comments on the map 16 and 29/10/13 Well done you have definitely got a level 4a now



Thanks to twitter suggestions, I am considering the following changes:

a) Speed the whole process up so pupils respond to original comment quicker. Maybe by setting the next homework as this task

b) Ditch mention of levels

c) Try it with only one year group and review at October half term ( I would prefer y8 I think)

still open to more suggestions though 🙂

Lazy Marking

This year the timetable has given me 4 Year 9 groups. I am in the middle of marking their books for the first time this term. I want to set them some early year targets, so as to focus their minds on making progress. Last year I started to use a target sheet, where they could choose from a list of possible goals to aim for. However, I found that this took up to 15 minutes in lessons; explaining what they had to do and for them to write them down.

So this year I am trying a different version of this. While marking their books I noted the things that overall had gone well and more importantly the aspects of their work that needed improving. I restricted this to a list of 8 targets. I based these around NC level descriptors, but made no mention of levels in the targets as I hadn’t done so when setting the work. These were numbered.

The list is here ……Early Y9 targets

Under the comment I wrote in their books, instead of writing out 2 different targets for about 120 pupils over and over again, I just wrote down 2 numbers instead. In the next lesson I put the list of goals on the board and the pupils write these down in their books themselves. In fact, since it is the beginning of the year I have borrowed a colleague’s idea and have had the pupils write them down on the inside cover of their books. Therefore, if SLT or anyone else, should ever come into my lessons and ask the pupils if they know how they can improve their work…….

I like setting the targets like this because it has the advantages of:

  1. saving me a LOT of time when marking
  2. allowing me the chance to explain what some of the targets mean to the whole class, so pupils don’t just ignore them
  3. Because pupils write them down themselves they have to spend some time reflecting on what they mean
  4. It is quicker than giving them a choice
  5. they all start the year with the idea of improving being high in their minds (hopefully)

If anyone has any similar or different methods of target setting and lazy marking I would to hear them. In the meantime, please feel free to use these targets if they are of any use to you.

Lazy Marking in Geography

Its not an original thought I know, but I HATE marking. The only bit all year I enjoy is adding up the scores for my pupils’ mock exam scores and even that isnt really the marking part.

Additionally, the younger the pupils the more I struggle to motivate myself to mark. I think that’s because they are more likely to just regurgitate back what I said in the lesson or they read in the book or from the webpage. So this means I am even more likely to have to write the same things over and over again.

Then there is the question “Do the pupils read what I write?” Even when I remember to set aside some time in class for them to do this I am not sure if they do. Last month I read part of Dylan Wiliam’s “Embedded Formative assessment”

In there he quoted research to say that if you give a grade/mark/level and a comment then the pupils only look at the grade and ignore the comment. I have to say this backs up my personal experience.

So I have developed a plan to get round these two problems of me wasting time marking and pupils not reading what I write. I only use this for the more major assessment pieces where I am likely to give them a level. I dont think for more run of the mill marking it would save me time. Also It would then start to take up too much timje in the mere 90 minutes a week i have with KS3.

The Lazy Marking in Geography Technique

While I am marking their work I don’t write down any targets for improvement. Instead I collect these targets and put them on a document. This I then sort into levels and hand out to the students next lesson. All I write on their actual work myself is a NC level and a positive comment on something they have done well.

Then in the lesson, they read their work and look at the level I gave them. Then I hand out the target sheet and ask them to choose targets that they wish to aim for. I don’t limit them to the ‘next level up’ I tell them they can choose any 2 they wish.

I make them write these targets in the middle of a new page and then draw a simple unadorned box around them. nothing else goes on the page. that way it sticks out in their book and can be easily seen by pupil, parent, tutor and of course me. This target can then be referred to any time over the next half term. After that I find it becomes a bit repetitive.

I have attached below the various lists of targets I have set out over the last 18 months. You will notice there is much repetition in them. The trick is to find targets that relate back to what has just been covered AND to the next topic as well. all the below are my own.

Please steal and adapt them if you wish. If you have any comments or would like to tell me if and how you used them and how you improved them i would love to hear back. The only resource that is not mine is the “Geography Ladders” powerpoint. i cannot remember where on the internet i got this from. If you recognise it and know the author please tell me.

I am sorry they are in no order and their names dont tell much about them. I originally only wrote them for myself

early Y9 geog targets

end of unit targets africa

end of unit targets fashion


level targets start of tectonics topic y9

targets at the start of the topic

targets.topic detail TRF

Term 5 Geography Target Setting

Y9 targets end agricult topic

Year 7 targets before school geog lessons