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(34 Posts)
MsMermaid Wed 16-Mar-16 19:19:22

There is a bit of a debate raging in our school currently about how useful and necessary markbooks are. Feelings are strong on both sides of the debate and I'm really interested in seeing what opinions are in the wider world.

So do you have a markbook that you fill in regularly?
If you do, how often do you record something in it for each child? Daily? Weekly? Termly?
What do you record? Is it homework marks? Test marks? Specific assessed pieces?
How useful is that data? Do you look back at it a lot or is it more of a paper exercise for management/Ofsted?
Do Ofsted look at it, really? They didn't ask for mine last year, but I'm not sure if that's the norm.

I hope you don't mind me asking questions and not giving my answers just yet. I have no idea how I could get to 12 years of teaching without realising how many different opinions there are on this, and how strongly people feel about their own method.

MsMermaid Wed 16-Mar-16 19:27:17

Sorry, that reads a lot like an interrogation. It's not supposed to be, I'm just trying to win an argument interested in how other people do things. I'm mostly interested in secondary teachers opinions but primary viewpoints would be interesting too.

kaitlinktm Wed 16-Mar-16 20:00:17

In 23 years at my last school Ofsted never once asked to look at my markbook (or my planning - apart from the plan for the observed lesson.

I know I am old school about it, but I am a bit anal about my markbook. I divide it into sections and cut away the spare parts of pages so it is like and address -type book. I record information about the pupils in it (in coded form) - pupil premium, SEN info, GAT etc. I record marks for each skill (reading/writing/listening) at the end of every unit. I used to record homeworks separately (not now as I am in Primary and not a core subject so don't set homework).

I look back at it when completing progress data - I imagine someone (a parent?) questioning the level I claim their child is at and justify it to myself according to marks I have in my book.

I don't use an electronic one as I like to have it in front of me on paper and I have ever found one which does exactly what I like it to do.

Flanks Wed 16-Mar-16 20:00:39

In my opinion, a teacher should not set meaningless work or tests. So whether it is homework, tests or an assessment, if they are being set it should be set for a purpose.

If the work is meaningful and for a purpose, it should be marked and that mark recorded.

My first response, is that if someone is opposed to this then the chances are they set a lot of meaningless work for students to do.

I have always kept a paper mark book for my own ease and reference. It is quicker to keep track in this way, and every week or two I can 'bulk' update the school computer system with homeworks/whatever in one go. I do it this way because I find that if you update it one mark at a time while marking it massively drags out the time it takes to mark. However, if I get going in a 'batch' it is a more efficient process.

As for the use, that probably depends on the teacher.

One mark on its own tends to be fairly meaningless, unless it is an end of unit assessment or an exam.

A collection of marks over time can be quite useful, as it gives a more 'quantitative' measure of a student's progression which we can marry up with our gut feel about a student. If our gut does not match our marking, then this is something we should spot and be curious about when we next mark.

Such marks are also useful if a situation arises for that student which would require a more focused look at them. For example, if their attendance suddenly falls off, does it coincide with a fall in marks just before their stopped attending? Do they tend to do better on certain types of tasks than others? Is their group work better than their solo work? You would never have time to track this 'on the go' but if you are looking back over a student's learning experience for a period of time it could be quite enlightening.

This can only happen if the work is meaningful, marked and recorded.

For the sake of clarity, I actually set very little work of this type and have had 'discussions' with teachers in the past because of it. I believe work should be meaningful, and so I have often refused to set homework 'for the sake of it' just because of a school homework policy.

I like to think that my students appreciate the work I set though, more than they might otherwise at least, because it is purposeful and I put the time in to marking it quite thoroughly when I ask for it. I couldn't do this if I set work willy nilly, and because the work being set would be rubbish chances are any marking/tracking of it would be also!

I hope I am on the 'right' side of the argument here! Either way, a long answer should give someone ammunition in the debate I am sure ;)

Jaimx86 Wed 16-Mar-16 20:05:45

Never had a mark book or a diary... was brought both by a previous HoD and they stayed blank.

The grade is on the child's work on their books, and added to the school data system once a term.

MsMermaid Wed 16-Mar-16 20:43:56

Thanks for the opinions so far.

Nobody involved in the discussion objects to recording marks from tests or data about pupil premium, sen, etc, we all have that.

In my subject, maths, our levels/grades are based entirely on test results, so it is difficult to argue that my markbook would help justify a level.

Those who think markbooks are pointless, including me, set a lot of homework due to school policy, and mark it closely each week. We do not set homework to assess them, we set it so they can practise the methods and skills they have learnt recently. We then mark it, as formative assessment, so that we can help those pupils who need it, which we do during the following lesson. If the point of the homework is to ensure pupils who are struggling with that topic receive help, then I don't see what difference it makes whether that mark is recorded somewhere, as long as the pupil is given the help they need to improve.

noblegiraffe Thu 17-Mar-16 00:06:52

I'm a maths teacher too, and I don't think mark books are pointless.

Mine is electronic, and I use it for homework marking (we don't mark classwork, the kids do that). Each homework I mark their books with comments, not grades. In my markbook I give each student a red, amber or green depending on how well I think they've grasped the topic, green is pretty good, amber ok but some errors, red a disaster. If it's late it's an L, if they do the wrong question it's a Q, if it's perfect it gets a star. I can also write short comments in my markbook like 'messy' 'no working' 'incomplete' 'copied from Harry?'

Persistently late homework gets an after school detention so I've got a record. I can also pick up on persistent issues like no working or not recording homework correctly. It's also useful when it comes to deciding set changes to see whether the kid who did well in the test is also doing well in homeworks, whether the kid who did poorly was having a bad day. Consistent star homeworks suggests help from a parent or tutor.

Also useful come parents' evening. 'What is Johnny struggling with?' 'Well he found fractions tough' 'He doesn't show his working clearly' etc.

MsMermaid Thu 17-Mar-16 00:59:32

I don't think they are pointless for everyone I apologise if it sounds like that, clearly a lot of people like them. I (and quite a few other people in our school, not all mathematicians) just don't think they should be compulsory, and struggle to see the time spent on updating a markbook as being useful for me to improve teaching and learning. If you don't mind me asking, how long do you think putting things in your markbook takes for each set of books, on average? I've been told it "only takes a minute", but I can't even find the child in the list in 2secs so it'll definitely take longer than a minute per class.

I know which topics each child struggles with, I may not have it written down but I can give detailed feedback to parents at parents evening and in reports. I check each child has done their homework in the lesson and issue detentions there and then. Homework that is not up to scratch has to be redone, so there are very rarely repeat offenders on issues like not showing working (generally our kids are pretty eager to please). I make a note of kids who need more help with that topic, and any questions everybody struggled with so we can go over it.

Flanks Thu 17-Mar-16 07:49:02

We will disagree here MsMermaid.

I believe that any student, parent or HoD is entitled to say 'prove it' about any view you have on a pupil, and a markbook is one of the most essential pieces of evidence for your integrity.

Notes don't cut it, because they are more 'in the moment' and more susceptible to being missed or lacking in content.

melonribena Thu 17-Mar-16 10:58:50

I use a mark book every day.
I teach year1.

It's used to
Record when they change their books
Record when I or someone else hears them read
Spelling test and maths tests scores
Their house point scores
Who've I've chosen for pupil of the week and what they were chosen for

MsMermaid Thu 17-Mar-16 18:00:32

So how often do I need to write in a markbook for it to be acceptable? The dfe have a document that says "formative assessment does not have to be recorded", they think the important thing is that it is acted on.

I have worked under 5 different hods and 4 heads, been observed by Ofsted, nobody has ever wanted to see my markbook or asked me a question about a child that I can't answer fully. Test results (remember we do tests every half term) have always been enough proof about any questions about ability, and questions about attitude/effort are best answered by showing the child's own exercise book as then the effort is evident throughout.

If I am required to keep a markbook that records every piece of homework I mark then obviously I will do it, but I genuinely believe that it will be paperwork for paperwork's sake, rather than to improve my job performance.

Forgetmenotblue Thu 17-Mar-16 18:15:22

Love my mark book. Use it for all sorts of check lists. (Teach EYFS). For example, number of observations and when, for each child. Book changed. Heard read. Changed book level. Gave out new key words. Checked key words. Checked phonics. Been class helper. Seen parents at parents' evening. Rang parents about an issue (for when someone claims I never told them X or y or z). Each time extra support session is given (eg planned to do 3 weeks of intervention for X children on SALT) what with one thing and another it turns out that 4 of the sessions didn't happen (class assembly, church service, sport relief thing) and need to be caught up.

It's like having all your lists in one place. I always have it to hand in parents' meetings and I think (hope) it make s me look organised and on top of each individual's needs/responses etc

noblegiraffe Thu 17-Mar-16 19:54:15

So you're making a note of who hasn't done homework, making a note of who struggled with it, remembering which topics kids need to work on to tell parents at parents' evening (do you only teach 5 kids??!) and so on.

Why not just make these notes against a list of the students names, all stored in one handy place for reference? That's what a markbook is.

Jaimx86 Sat 19-Mar-16 10:12:07

Isn't that all recorded in the students' books though? I'm always baffled when I see staff at my school writing down grades that are saved in the school system (that can also be accessed at home).

kaitlinktm Sat 19-Mar-16 10:29:44

The grades on the school system are what I have decided based on the clusters of marks in my mark book. If anyone asked me to justify a grade I had given, then I would refer to my book. Our grades are not accessible at home.

Recorded in students' books? Well, as I say I have only done primary for 18 months, but 25 years in secondary taught me to put no trust into the pupils' books - they get lost, or damaged far to often for them to be reliable evidence.

kaitlinktm Sat 19-Mar-16 10:30:28

sorry - too often

pinkflowerbluesky Sat 19-Mar-16 10:30:59

I've never used one

Leslieknope45 Sat 19-Mar-16 10:35:37

I use idoceo. I keep their data on it like PP SEN and also I attach their SEN profiles to it. It has a seating plan.
I keep records of attendance, whether homework has been done (not homework marks though) and their NC levels in assessments.
I do think the levels is helpful because we only input to the school system once per term. The rest of it is helpful to have all in one place, but not necessary.

noblegiraffe Sat 19-Mar-16 11:10:05

Stuff being recorded in a student's book is useless if you are sat at home writing their report without it to hand. Shouldn't a teacher have an overview of their pupils' progress without having to ask them to hand their books in and hope that they haven't lost them/left them at home/got a new book because the old one was full? That's not just test scores on the system, but whether their homework was late or poor or they didn't understand it.

Jaimx86 Sat 19-Mar-16 15:26:22

Fortunately, I don't write reports. If a student hasn't done their homework I address it that lesson, and if it happens again in a close proximity I call parents.
It's fine if people want to do it, same if they want to having a planning book/diary, but I don't think management should be asking people to.

noblegiraffe Sat 19-Mar-16 15:32:59

How do you know if it happens again in close proximity if you haven't got a record of homeworks?

You have to report to parents even if you don't write reports, surely? Behaviour/effort grades?

MrsGuyOfGisbo Sat 19-Mar-16 18:14:35

Amazed that people use markbooks. I came to teaching late after a business career and so am used to do everything electronically, so just created some spread sheets and fill those in with what is useful to me. Can't get lost or damaged (or found)

noblegiraffe Sat 19-Mar-16 18:21:47

Er, my mark book is electronic. Like a pp, I use idoceo.

V useful when creating seating plans to be able to overlay test/SEN/PP data from my mark book as I move kids around the room in the app.

Missanneshirley Sat 19-Mar-16 18:34:55

I teach in Scotland and have never even heard of a mark book! Could anyone link to an example? Intrigued and think I like the sound of it!

Jaimx86 Sat 19-Mar-16 19:16:16

Noble I'm just able to remember - only teach six classes as I reach a core subject so that may be why.

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