How to save time marking and giving feedback

SMART marking – quick ways of assessing and giving feedback

Twitter Quotes SMART Assessment 2

I often speak to private and public sector workers who get paid overtime and work to a standard set of hours.  Many get paid an additional increment for working overtime, evenings or weekends.  The idea of spending their own free time planning lessons, building resources or working on any other task is unacceptable.  Their jobs include the luxury of having time to eat their dinner, use the toilet at their own freewill and ‘switching off’ when they go home.  They work their directed hours and then enjoy relaxing during the evening, weekends and holidays.  If their employer introduced a new policy that would increase their workload, they would expect to be paid for the extra hours that they worked.

Nicky Morgan has said teachers should not be expected to work past 5pm.  She said teachers shouldn’t have to answer emails or mark homework after that cut off point to ensure that they were able to use their time focusing on “what they are passionate about”.  Unfortunately, OfSTED do not accept “I couldn’t finish marking my books before 5pm” as an excuse and I am pretty certain that Nicky Morgan wouldn’t support schools that used the curfew as a reason as to why they weren’t ‘OfSTED proof’.  The root of this problem is that Nicky Morgan has no empathy for teachers and their workload because she has never worked in a school.

Back in the world of reality, we have compiled a list of practical ways of helping you to reduce the time you spend marking and giving feedback.  These are from a variety of subject areas, but the time saving principles are transferrable across all departments.  The main categories are:

  • Two ticks
  • Highlighters
  • Sticker and stamps
  • Pre-set marking criteria
  • Technology

Two ticks

A simple idea which was shared by Mrs Holt is two ticks.  This is very similar to highlighting because multiple ticks, removes the need for writing a comment; in this particular method it is used for written praise.  A core principle of saving time is exchanging written statements with codes.  One tick is good, two ticks means excellent and you could expand this by having three ticks which translates to outstanding etc.


There are lots of articles on Twitter about the use of highlighting and giving feedback.  It is a great way of reducing the time you spend assessing and a great signpost for pupils to develop their work.  Here is a variety of ways that we use highlighting:

Highlight the question and then link it to the answer – our PE department used highlighting as an assessment method for GCSE theory.  Parts of the question were highlighted in a specific colour and then linked with colour coded parts of the answer.  This was also connected to an assessment sticker (see RE stickers below).  Highlighting in this way can be done as a peer assessment activity, an alternative to the teacher marking.

PE Highlighting

Highlighting errors – our MFL department has used highlighting extensively.  One simple method is to highlight errors, which is extremely useful in a language subject.  The error is highlighted and the response to feedback is written by pupils in green ink to make it clear and visible (green pen as a response to feedback is a school policy).

MFL Highlighting

Stickers and stamps

Stickers and stamps have been bundled together as they serve the same purpose; they create a template that can be used for assessment and feedback.  The general rule is that stickers can be customised, coloured and are more cost effective in the short term.  Stamps are initially expensive to buy, cannot be adapted but are more cost effective long term.

Stickers Stamps

Assessment stickersMrs Burton developed assessment stickers for our RE department which have helped to raise GCSE grades as well as significantly reducing marking time.  The stickers have a table which contains the GCSE marking criteria which it ticked by the teachers.  There is also a section for the pupils to tick.  Highlighting can also be added to identify the improvements in the answer and signpost the response to feedback.

RE Stickers

Extension stickersMrs Timmis adapted the extension stickers that we found from @mrthorntonhistory.  These stickers helped differentiation in the lesson because they provided a generic set of activities which help to extend and consolidate learning.  The stickers can be given to individual students as they finish the main activity in the lesson or can be used by the whole class as a plenary activity.  The stickers are helpful as they can provide a clear signpost for responding to feedback (providing that you choose an activity for the pupil that extends their learning).

Extension Stickers

Ext stickers 2

Marking stickers for practical subjects – Our Art department used assessment stickers to help assess the large volume of pupils that they teach as a practical subject.  The stickers have a standard what went well/even better if marking criteria.  Response to feedback is check and then verified by a signature and date from the teacher.  This method could also be used as a peer assessment tool.


Marking stamps Miss Newton from our RE department uses a feedback stamp to signpost pupils to where they need to make improvements.  The advantage of the stamp is that it is quick and easy to use.  It also stands out boldly on the page so that areas for improvement can be easily identified by the pupils.  They can then make the improvement to their work and the teacher can check that the pupil has responded to the feedback.

RE Stamps

Pre-set marking criteria

Pre-set marking gridsMr Williams from our RE department combines a pre-set marking criteria grid, green pens and assessment stickers to create high quality diagnostic assessment which is not too onerous on the teacher.  The pupil or the teacher can identify areas for improvement by ticking the target on the pre-made grid, improvements are added using green pen and then peer assessment takes place using assessment stickers.

Matt 1

Matt 2

Matt 3

Matt 4

DIRT sheet – our English department has embedded dedicated improvement and reflection time using a yellow sheet which stands out in their book.  This is a flexible reflective activity which can be teacher, peer or pupil led.  Pupils identify, implement and justify improvements to their work which is then verified by the teacher.


Tick list mark criteriaMrs Lowe from our History department has created a what went well/even better if tick sheet which helps to reduce marking and feedback time.  There is extra space for additional comments and a literacy target.  This method helps the teacher avoid spending time writing the same or similar comments and targets.

History WWW

As a team at @TeachingGroup, we have responded to the workload challenge of more marking and feedback by working SMARTER.  We have also collaborated together as a team, sharing good ideas, which has benefited everybody.  We would also like to thank all of the people who give up their time to share ideas on social media and also those who retweet and favourite posts, which not only motivates authors to share more but also shows an appreciation for all of the hard work from our fantastic teaching profession.

Join us and share smart marking!  Post your ideas to #smartmarking.

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