Book Look Part One

Since taking on my role at MCHS I have not failed to be surprised by some of the ways in which things that are done in schools nationwide are done here…Book “scrutiny” is no exception. I have, in the past, seen book “scrutiny” or “monitoring” as something done to me and one in which I have very little part to play. However, monitoring of pupil’s exercise books/work here at MCHS allows the teacher to showcase the best of their marking and to really show off the things that they are proud of, sharing the ideas they are trialling. Over the course of the next few weeks there will be a number of blog posts related to this, collating some of the amazing work related to marking and feedback that is taking place here at MCHS. “Book monitoring” is based upon a series of key questions, with staff being given the opportunity to explain where necessary and to photograph examples of their best practice, really demonstrating where their feedback has had a real impact on pupil progress.
The first two departments that I will start with are maths an English and one of the nicest things about reading the book monitoring is that staff have the chance to really show where they think their feedback has had the biggest impact, and the quotes below are just a few taken from the English departments:
“Students respond to feedback more independently.” – Jordan
“Students correct SPaG errors automatically or with little prompting and they help themselves to dictionaries in order to do this.” – Katie
“Spelling is improving and students are becoming better with proof reading.” – Marie
“The use of model answers to allow students to set their own targets.” – Sarah
“Students are becoming more independent learners as they are able to identify their own mistakes through self-assessment.” – Laura
“The use of DIRT sheets for self-reflection and improvement is really helping to move students forward.” – Rachael
“Students are engaging with set targets from a previous piece of work.” – Hannah
“The use of modelling is really supporting progress in year 8 – ideas taken from Katie’s Breakfast Jam.” – Lisa
The maths department, whose marking is entirely different to that of English have also shared the areas that they feel have had the greatest impact on learning and these extracts demonstrate not only their opinions but those of their colleagues:
“Prior knowledge tests are already making teachers think about their planning and the range of students. The development of schemes of learning to include LAT’s style questions will prepare students well for the final exam. I really liked the experiment with the yellow square as this could have a massive impact if the students then follow up with their own improvements.”
“Regular use of challenge questions is encouraging further resilience amongst the students and helping to develop their learning in maths.”
Clair’s comments on Beth’s books…”It is obvious from your planning and marking that your students really care about their progress. You are doing everything in your power to help your students become more resilient learners, with the Miss K’s challenge questions and GCSE reasoning questions.”
Jen commented on a number of areas she liked in Clair’s books…”chapter check-up, the marking between STAR stickers, the negative numbers LATS and the prior skills tests.”
“The use of the A and E arrows are really making the students think about their growth mindset and how they tackle their work in lessons.”
Clair commented on Zoe’s contribution to the whole department’s marking…”Your idea of the A and E arrows has helped the whole department manage their marking and the students really like having immediate feedback. This year you have also bought in DIRT worksheets that have helped the students reflect/revise what they have learnt so far. Many students mentioned in their books that they feel these have really helped. “
Jen loved Fran’s… “Effective use of the A and E arrows and the fact that the students take real pride in their books.”
All of the English department have identified within their self-assessment of their marking that students are not making as many basic errors as they had been doing, as they are spending more time drafting work and proof reading, with the aid of a dictionary and thesaurus to develop spelling and vocabulary use. With the increasing impetus on SPaG in not only GCSE English, but across all subjects, this has been a huge focus for the department since September. Hannah has devised homework which is linked to SPaG tasks and it has become a common starter in all English lessons. All members of the team noted in their self-assessment that the number of basic errors that students are making is decreasing as a result of the constant reinforcement of SPaG and the increasing onus being put onto the students to proof read as well as peer assessment to check for errors. It was lovely to read that students are becoming increasingly confident to develop their vocabulary through the use of a thesaurus and this was evident in the feedback being given. Highlighters have also been used across the department to identify certain errors so they become even more familiar to students, making them really stand out. Both Katie and Jordan noted the impact that this has had. Laura has also been developing SPaG flags to enhance pupil understanding and reduce errors.
One of the real strengths of the department is the consistently high expectations set for all students reinforced through both modelling and feedback. Students in lower band sets are being exposed to what an A* response looks like and this is important in terms of the development of aspiration and growth mindset. Across the department there are many examples of where this has had an extremely positive impact, with students achieving consistently above their expected target.
In line with the development of independent learning students are also tracking their own bronze, silver and gold levels linked to assessment feedback in order that they are clear on what they need to do to progress. Evident in all books is the intrinsic link between feedback and BSG/GCSE criteria and the extensive use of modelling to develop student responses. It was great to see Katie share all of the great modelling work taking place in English in one of our Breakfast Jams and then going on to try out an idea shared by Greg in the same session. Katie referenced the positive outcome from using rotation squares for modelling in her book monitoring.
Peer Assessment is also a real strength of the department and is being trialled in a number of different ways by the team. Katie notes that she felt her student’s use of peer assessment had really developed, with year 10 set 2 identifying a quote for their peer to analyse and then setting a task to be answered to further develop a piece of work related to a text. Growth mindset is a constant priority across school and it is great to see staff using the language of GM in their feedback to students. EBI comments in English are often posed as a question to complete so that students can push themselves even further. Jordan has been developing her “killer challenge” questions as part of this, raising the aspirations of all.
One of the biggest areas, with regards to feedback, being trialled by the English team is fast marking using marking codes. This consists of a series of codes which are used to abbreviate WWW/EBI comments. For example, ‘P’ as WWW feedback would mean that the student had written for purpose or ‘A’ would mean that they had considered the audience. Students use their DIRT time to look up the codes on a grid in their exercise books and then fill in the WWW/EBI comment in full.

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These marking codes are also being used for peer and self-assessment and the team noted that the students had found these useful in helping to focus their feedback.

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This has also fed into the tracking process as the codes can be easily recorded and tracked within an excel spreadsheet. This allows Sarah to see where the issues are across a whole year group and to target interventions accordingly.

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The maths department are trialling a number of new ideas at the moment and you will have read about this in previous blogs. With regards to marking Zoe’s “A and E” arrows are now being used across the department as a method of fast feedback.
The “A&E arrows”
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Alex’s example here shows how it can also be used as a way for students to self-assess and for this to be verified by the teacher. Jen’s example shows how it has also become part of STAR marking, used across the maths department. These codes are also a valuable part of our GM drive and Jen noted in her book monitoring that this is an area that they wish to develop further. The arrows have become a valuable part of instant feedback to the students and they articulate well the meaning of the arrows.
Alongside the arrows the department are trying out a number of new ways of marking and Beth, who has shared many of her ideas over the last term, has developed the use of stickers from her work in the learning hubs. This is something that the rest of the department are also trialling and Clair commented that she feels this is a priority for the department. Beth has also been working on adapting the 5 a day to include command words and also a DIY 5 a day for students to write their own questions for each other. She shared these at a recent Breakfast Jam.

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All of the department have been trialling the use of LATs as part of their interleaving research and there were some fabulous examples of this in the book monitoring. This is something that the department feel is really moving the students forward as they learn to deal with the greater demands of the new GCSE.

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In addition to this the department have really been developing their use of STAR marking with questions set for students to reflect the level of challenge and hints and tips given where necessary. The questions set as part of the action are all checked after the response, which gives a real sense of dialogue between student and teacher within the book. The fortnightly use of DIRT time for reflecting on homework and completing the STAR tasks is really showing progress in books and having a big impact on learning.
Bl 12There is clear evidence of self and peer assessment across the department and Jen showed off the way they are giving students set key words to use in their peer assessment so they can target their feedback most effectively. It was great to see some more examples of Sheila’s rally coach in books, after seeing it in action during a lesson. The STAR marking is not confined to teacher feedback as students are also given the task of self assessing using STAR.
Fran showed off the way students have set themselves their own questions as part of this process. Clair shared her use of peer verification when students checked answers to questions against their peers, leading to discussion and debate around their working out and problem solving. It was great to see Beth’s book showing students setting questions for each other, answering them step by step and then the peer checking each step.
It is always great to see literacy in action in maths books and Beth, through her DIY 5 a day, based around command words, has really pushed this. All the team showed how they are exposing students to longer, more problem based questions which require them to extract information and apply method. Marking codes are being used by Zoe to highlight literacy errors and students are then reflecting upon these and making corrections.

The maths and English departments have also been using the student’s exercise books to gain feedback from parents at the end of a term. Alex shared with me the examples below from some very proud parents.

AW parent comments 5  AW parent comments 8

Overall my first taste of book monitoring here at MCHS has been a wholly lovely one, with an opportunity to see the impact that feedback is really having on learning in maths and English….other departments coming soon.

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