The English Department uses assessment for learning strategies to help raise attainment across all year groups.
During Key Stage Three, the Department has agreed on key items of assessment that are completed by every pupil in each year group. All written work is completed in purple exercise books. This work is marked by the teacher, feedback given to pupils and the work is then subjected to ‘fix it’ time (see below). This work is marked according to the whole-school marking policy, as specified in the following list. Each half-term, every pupil completes an average of one ‘special’ APP assessment, which is completed in the classroom, in examination conditions.
At Key Stage Four, the marking of exercise books is the same. However, pupils have two exercise books at this Key Stage – a small purple book for Controlled Assessment preparation and a large blue exercise book for the development of skills and for examination preparation.
- Extended writing tasks will be marked in detail. This may well be a homework response but there is an expectation that every page in a pupils’ exercise book will be read by the teacher (and acknowledged as such by a green tick or more thorough marking).
- Red and green pen is used – red covers areas to be developed while green covers positive aspects of the work. Pupils appear to respond well to the system of using two colours as they believe the comments from the teacher stand out.
- Work is annotated throughout extended responses, using the necessary colours.
- Annotation may well be in the form of questions asked of pupils (especially how / why questions) as these will help to develop thinking skills and help pupils to make progress.
- At the end of the response, the teacher uses a + and – system in the form of a table. Again, red and green pen is used and at least one positive and one target identified. This should be based on the targets identified in the previous piece of work.
- The target (the comments expressed in red ink) will relate to the success criteria issued to pupils and will enable pupils to make progress towards their target grade / level. Such targets might start with the word ‘remember’ or the phrase ‘next time’ to stimulate further progression.
- All comments written by staff will be specific to the task, the learning objective and the pupil’s target grade.
- Literacy codes will be used, as appropriate to the ability of the pupil.
- Comments written by staff will be accessible to pupils (language will be appropriate).
- Pupils are given time to develop key items of assessment based on specific targets set. This can take place in a future lesson or as a homework task. For example, where questions are posed in the marking, a pupil may be asked to respond to such questions in a future lesson / homework. Alternatively, a pupil may be asked to produce a supplementary paragraph, in which s/he addresses the targets set at the end of the previous piece of work.
‘Fix It’ Time
All members of the English Department recognise the importance of allowing pupils sufficient time to address the targets set/questions posed/literacy errors. Schemes of work take into account the need to allow pupils time to develop their work in the direction specified in the marking completed by the teacher. Assessments also ensure that skills are assessed on more than one occasion, thus allowing pupils to demonstrate progress in a specified area in subsequent assessments. Changes to work in the form of corrections or improvements are made in pencil, to allow the teacher to recognise that such steps have been taken. The teacher may then choose to remark the work or add comments that recognise the effort made by pupils.
Development tasks may take on many forms. For example, a pupil may re-draft a paragraph (by making changes to the actual paragraph rather than re-writing the entire paragraph). A pupil may be placed in a pair within which the strength of one pupil is the area another pupil has to develop. Working together, pupils help each other to address their targets. Having an ‘expert’ in the pair / group helps a pupil to understand ways to develop.
In terms of Key Stage Three assessments, work produced by pupils is moderated and an overall level (including sub-level) is awarded twice each year. Due to the fact that levels awarded are to be based on a body of evidence, it is not possible to award a level to an individual piece of work. Following the moderation process, pupils complete a grid attached to the inside front cover of their exercise books, which charts their current level of attainment. From this, pupils are able to see the progress they have made (in terms of sub-levels). Ideally, pupils will be judged to have progressed at least one sub-level each time their work is moderated.
At Key Stage Four, where possible, GCSE grades are awarded to individual pieces of work. However, this will not be possible for every item of work completed because not all tasks are in the form of examination questions.
Where a judgement is being made on individual pieces of work at Key Stage Three and non-examination tasks at Key Stage Four, a grade will not be awarded. The purpose of this is to encourage pupils to read (and act upon) the comments written by staff (i.e. the positive aspects of the work and the areas for development). It is felt that pupils do this more effectively if a grade is absent as it prevents pupils simply looking at a grade, not the comments.
Self and Peer-Assessment
Schemes of work include opportunities for self and peer-assessment. This may be used as a main part of a lesson (not just as a plenary), thus demonstrating the importance that is attached to using self / peer assessment to enable progress to be made. As pupils are familiar with success criteria (see below) and they regularly assess models provided by the teacher (see below), the outcomes of self / peer assessments are effective in highlighting areas for development.
Departmental Target Sheets
All pupils are given a target sheet which is included at the front of exercise books. It includes information such as prior attainment, current attainment and target levels. It also provides information on the various ways in which they are assessed for reading and writing.
As is the case throughout the school, learning objectives are normally displayed at the start of every English lesson, using a standardised yellow board involving the acronym WALT (We Are Learning To…). The WALT learning objectives form part of every lesson and are displayed throughout the lesson. This enables pupils to track their progress in meeting the objectives set.
Sometimes, creative ideas are used to incorporate learning objectives into lessons. For example, key words can be omitted, to be added by pupils at some point during the lesson; a ‘red herring’ can be added so pupils can identify what they have not learnt; a question mark can be used on the WALT board, to be replaced with information on what pupils feel they are learning at a particular point in the lesson; objectives can be removed at the end of the lesson to establish whether pupils remember what the focus of the lesson has been; pupils can set their own learning objectives at the end of the lesson (to be used in a subsequent lesson), based on their individual learning needs.
The learning objectives are written in accessible language and displayed in a visible area. The learning objectives focus on the learning that is to take place in the lesson, not the tasks that are to be completed in the lesson.
It is important that the learning objectives are explained to pupils and form an integral part of the lesson. For this reason, key words in the objectives are underlined and the underlined words form a basis for class discussion. Where possible, key phrases are used by staff and are highlighted in the learning objective. Examples of possible key words that are common to English lessons and other areas of the curriculum include the list of verbs below.
- compare / contrast
- develop / improve
At the end of the lesson, reference is made to the objectives and the teacher determines whether progress has been made. The extent to which the learning objectives have been achieved is considered and used to aid future lesson planning.
Following the return of an assessed APP task, pupils are provided with an opportunity to offer written feedback on further areas they would like to develop. In most English lessons, this is done through the use of post-it notes although, occasionally, pupils use pieces of paper which are then put in a tray on leaving the classroom. Pupils are also encouraged to write questions (either requesting clarification on a certain area or one in which they feel further development is required). Involving pupils in their learning in this way helps to provide the link between learning objectives and lesson planning.
Use of Success Criteria
In relation to key items of assessment (whether KS3 or KS4), pupils receive success criteria which highlights how to achieve at least their target level / grade. The success criteria will:
- be specific to the task set;
- be specific to the ability level of the pupil;
- be written in suitable, accessible language;
- contain achievable steps.
The English Department values the use of success criteria as it encourages children to think about how to improve their work, thus enabling pupils to achieve their potential. For the success criteria to be effective, pupils must be able to understand what they need to do to be successful, to reflect on their success and address any gaps in their knowledge. Other positives that arise from the use of success criteria include allowing pupils to be focussed, thus improving motivation and promoting the development of independent learners.
Use of Models
Pupils regularly receive model versions of the piece of work to be produced. These are used in conjunction with the success criteria, where the class use the success criteria in order to decide on the level / grade to be awarded to the model, highlight positives and set targets in order to progress to the next grade / level. As with the success criteria, the models are specific to the task and ability of pupils. This exercise is completed prior to pupils starting the task themselves as it helps to ensure they understand the task and the mark scheme being used to assess their work, thus enabling pupils to achieve their target. Sometimes, model responses may be those written by pupils. This serves to increase levels of confidence and for a ‘live’ script to be utilised in the classroom.
Questioning in the Classroom
Schemes of work incorporate ways in which questions requiring higher order thinking skills are included in lessons. Members of staff in the English Department recognise the importance of incorporating questioning in lesson planning. Teachers plan to include questions requiring application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation (thus requiring pupils to think). Knowledge and comprehension based questions are used in lessons but staff also aim to incorporate more complex questions in all lessons.
With regards to questioning techniques in the classroom, members of staff are also eager for pupils to give extended responses to questions. Therefore, the following techniques are used in English lessons:
- wait time is used after a question;
- pupils are given the opportunity to consider the answer to a question in pairs prior to the teacher requesting the answer: think-pair-share is used to encourage listening skills and extended thinking time;
- ‘talking chips’ are used as a means of ensuring all pupils are involved in discussions;
- the teacher makes use of wrong / partially correct answers to encourage pupil responses;
- pupils are given the opportunity to ask each other (open) questions;
- a pattern of dialogue that is ‘basketball’ not ‘ping pong’ is encouraged;
- pupils are encouraged to share their partially formed ideas.
The English Department is constantly developing and improving wall displays to ensure all classrooms are learning spaces. Model responses, mark schemes (success criteria), key words / definitions all features on classroom displays. Each room has a different focus but the following items are present in all classrooms:
- VCOP prompt sheets: vocabulary, connectives, (sentence) openers, punctuation;
- spelling strategies;
- reading strategies;
- key words;
- rules for effective presentation;
- list of topics to be studied across the English curriculum.
It is hoped that such information will help to support work completed in lessons.