Farewell red pen…

The pandemic has brought about massive changes for us all. It’s hard to believe that, apart from one Year 12 lesson, I have not done any face to face teaching since March. I am looking forward to getting back into the classroom in September. However, one thing that won’t be returning is my red pen. Remote teaching and learning in lockdown has shown me that it is possible to be paperless. I intend to continue this in September for health reasons (reducing risk of virus transmission), practical reasons (not lugging around sets of exercise books) and educational reasons.

In my experience, feedback which is fast is most valuable to both students and teachers. It stops mistakes being embedded as well as giving students a real sense of progress and achievement. In lockdown, I have been using Google Forms to do this. See my previous post about this here. Very often, these can be set up so that they are self-marking, giving immediate feedback. However, even if there are answers which need to be checked, I can quickly click through and check these easily.

I have set speaking work via Google Classroom. I have given students some sort of framework and asked them to provide a recording of them saying their answers. This is something I have done in class before, spending ages trying to listen to each individual student. Listening to their recordings on Google Classroom, I was able to click through a whole class in about 15 minutes. Listening to them in such quick succession meant that I noticed common pronunciation mistakes. I then made an audio recording of myself saying these correctly which I could share with students. My colleague, Bella Bennett, has used Flipgrid to do the same thing.

During my career, I have sat through many an INSET session about getting students to respond to marking (I have probably even led some myself). This is a classic teacher dilemma: you spend ages marking work and then have to get the students to engage with all your comments. During lockdown, I have had to mark longer pieces of work using Google Docs. To remove my edits and comments, the student has to click on to them, hopefully noticing what I have done. You can choose to receive email notifications telling you when students have resolved comments. Instead of ending up with a piece of work with red scribbled all over it, the student has a piece of work which is correct and legible. This is also useful in encouraging students to redraft work. My Year 11 class this year had some documents that went back and forth between me and them over the whole GCSE course.

So, the red pens will be staying in the drawer!