20th January

Hello Maths,

I hope you’ve all had a great week.

Thank you to everyone for putting your results into Go 4 schools this week.  I know some of you at Wollaton and Aspley are ready for the year 9 assessment 3 (year 10 as Beechdale). It is now on the site, along with the markscheme.  I haven’t had chance to have it proof read – so please do check before you photocopy, and let me know about any errors.  Don’t worry if you aren’t ready for this assessment just yet – the deadline isn’t until Friday 10th Feb.

I was at the Secondary Maths Conference hosted by our two local Maths Hubs today. I ran a workshop on Feedback and Marking and it was really interesting to hear about the range of policies that different schools have for marking and feedback (there are some schools you should NEVER work at!)

The aim of my session was to look at how efficient and effective our marking is and to investigate other ways of gaining information that can inform our planning.  We looked at how we could make sure that what we do actually used to adapt our lessons to address what has been found.

We looked at three different ways as an alternative to writing comments in books:

Diagnostic Questions

From the ever reliable Craig Barton of MrBartonMaths fame, we now have the great completely free resource https://diagnosticquestions.com/learn. Some of you may already be using this in your lessons or for homework.

It is  great way to identify misconceptions – it also has feedback from everyone who has ever answered the questions as to why they answered that way. Schemes of work can be uploaded so that they automatically send your students the questions every week on the topic they are studying.  The best thing is they have teamed up with AQA to create questions for every topic on the new GCSE here.  The questions are great for revision, and perfect for practising the multiple choice questions.

You will need to sign up to access the site, but have do have a look and see if it’s something you would like to try.

The idea can be used without the website though –

  • You could write diagnostic questions together as part of a collaborative planning session on a new topic.  Working together in this way can help in planning questions when teaching the lesson to bring out these misconceptions
  • Students could write a set of diagnostic questions to show their understanding. Choosing common misconceptions for the wrong answers is a difficult skill.

Entry Tickets

Towards the exam season, teachers can get really bogged down with past paper marking, particularly if they have multiple exam classes.  One way to reduce this burden is the use of entry tickets.

The process goes like this:

  • Set homework (maybe 3 exam questions – not too many) giving the answers out at the same time (not working out)
  • The homework is to complete the questions and to check that their final answer is correct.
  • If they get an answer wrong, they are expected to try to find their error and correct it before handing it in.
  • If they really can’t find the error, they hand in the slip (below) into the document wallet or box by the door on entry to their lesson.
  • The teacher quickly puts these tickets into piles to see which questions they struggled on.
  • Any questions that appear several times will be addressed in class by the teacher. The teacher can see other students individually to go over their questions.

entryStudents still have to bring their completed work so you can see it has been completed and marked. If you think they will just tick any box without actually doing the work, you could just pick out an entry ticket at random and ask them to bring their attempt up to show the class under a visualiser (if you have one)- “What have they done wrong? How would you help to improve this answer?”

“Read all the books”

The following idea is taken from Michaela School in Brent. They don’t write comments in any books, but have a great way of getting information from the students’ work to use in their next lessons.

This is from one of their English teachers, but this could easily be transferred to maths lessons.

“I read my pupils’ books once or twice a week. I teach four classes, each with between 28 and 32 pupils, so it is about 120 books in all. I read 60 books in 30 minutes.

As I read, I make notes: spellings lots are getting wrong, things they’re all doing well at, and the main issues they need to improve. I note down anyone whose paragraph is amazing to reward with merits or show the class; I note down anyone whose work is messy to give a demerit to. It looks something like this:”


Read the full blog here.

Notice that this isn’t a template – its use is only intended for the teacher herself – to remind her who to talk to and what needs to be addressed in the next lesson.

Another teacher explains:

“When reading their books, you put a tick in the margin of a sentence you found especially impressive, and note their name and a trigger word on your feedback sheet. You can then say, ‘Elena, can you read your sentence on alliteration?’ It is lovely to celebrate the impressive responses of pupils, while also helping others see what they ought to be writing about:”

I love this idea. It’s definitely something I will be trying.

All the schools who came to the workshop signed up to trial either one or more of these techniques to see if they were a more time efficient, but still as effective (if not more), as writing comments in books. If you would like to trial any of them and would be willing to share your findings with the Maths Hub, please complete the attached form  and send it back to me. (The last two sections are how you plan to feedback and how you plan to collect student feedback).

Have a great weekend,