Friday, May 28

6 Tips For Exam Essay Marking

It's the holidays for me but an exam paper marking nightmare for many others. ***haha~~ poor baskets!***
I have marked all my papers & discussed them with my classes.
I am a very strict teacher & an even stricter marker. If I do not give you a certain grade, don't you dare to challenge me or I will drown you with 101 reasons why you do not deserve the grade.
Fortunately, I have yet to meet a small eyed slouch following me around with an umbrella bent on squeezing every mark he can out of me. ***based on a true story***

To help you in your plight, here are 6 Tips For Exam Essay Marking for those of you who are new to teaching, open to new ideas or struggling through your skyscraper high pile of horrigible unintelligible scribble.
**This is written by a PMR English language teacher & may not apply to all situations**

#6 Review References & Keep Them Nearby
The references mentioned here are the scoring criteria & answer schemes.
You need to know what keywords to look for & how to appropriately score the essays.
I have my scoring criteria & answer schemes printed out & kept in full view whenever I am marking.
I usually refer to them about once per 2 exam papers.

Please do NOT mark blindly without reference.
You must have a reason for awarding a particular score.
The best reasons are related to the scoring criteria supplied by the ministry & the answer schemes for the particular exam.

#5 Form by Form with the Best Class First
If you are a teacher in Malaysia, chances are you teach at least 4 classes of various forms & proficiencies.
I teach 2 Form 3 & 2 Form 1 classes.
I mark these classes in a specific order.

I will mark my best class first.
Then, I will move down the proficiency ladder until I finish the whole form.
Only then will I move on to the next form.

As I move down the classes, I know that their scores will not be higher than the better classes.
I would also advise you to finish marking the whole form before moving on to the next one to avoid keyword/answer/format confusion.

#4 Best Students First. Then, Shortest to Longest.
If you pay any attention or have the littlest concern for your students, you will have a general idea of who will do well in the exam even before they take the test.
I will mark the best students first.
Then, I will mark the shortest essays & then move on to the longer essays.

I mark the best students first because this gives me an idea of what the better essays should be like & will prevent me from awarding too high a score to weaker essays.
I mark the shortest essays first because they often deserve a low score & I know that the next essays will more or less have a higher score.
Marking the shorter essays first will also allow you to work faster & motivate you to continue marking until the end.

#3 Do Not Read Between the Lines or Correct
As a new teacher, my attention to detail has always caused me to correct the exam essays.
In the end, the essays would have improved due to my 'tampering'.
Thus, limit your marking to a few symbols like ticking & underlining.

Also, do NOT read between the lines.
Come on, let's face it... Students are not all that brilliant.
They are not Shakespeare so don't force yourself to understand what they are 'trying' to say.
Mark the essays for what it is & give a score for what is there.

#2 Note Down Mistakes & Merits
I think it is very important to give students feedback on their evaluations.
Furthermore, they will be more receptive because it comes from an exam that counts for something.
I have a notebook where I note down the mistakes & merits made in their exam essays.

I make it a point to give them a loud lip-lashing before making each of them copy down & recite each of these points as if their lives depended on it.
They will also have to do the necessary correction drills like making everyone write each grammatical & spelling mistake from my notebook 20 times.
Somehow I manage to force it every time.
***snickers with pleasure***

#1 Do Not Care
It is strange. No matter how horrible the students are, a teacher will tend to feel bad about his/herself when they do not do well.
Allow me to be the devil's advocate & give you a valuable piece of advice... DO NOT CARE!
In fact, get angry. Really really ANGRY!!

Any teacher who cares enough about the students to actually feel bad when they do not do well would have done these few things before the exams:
- exposed students to answering techniques
- exposed students to sample questions
- given students lots of exercises
- told students what to study
- even dropped a few wink wink hints

Therefore, if they do not do well...
Get righteously ANGRY & bring out the candy-cane for a nice whipping.

Hope this helps!
Do leave a comment if you have your own tips to share!
Do your best! Remember to eat lots of chocolate & drink lots of tuak! =)

Wednesday, May 19

The Katibas Global

adapted from the New York Times logo

The English Language Society has several teams working on different year-long projects.
One of them is the Newspaper team or, as named by the founding students, The Katibas Global team.

I have always believed that no school is complete without a newspaper by the students reporting on the students for the students.
This year, we have an outstanding bunch of high proficiency Form 1 students.
It is unsurprising that many of them were drafted into the English Language Society.
They have a rare gift considering the school's interior locality.
I was clearly delighted when they raised their hands to volunteer for the Newspaper team.

Every month they meet to come up with a new edition of The Katibas Global & report on the previous month's events.
Through the newspaper, I want to give them an opportunity to use their language skills in an authentic situation as well as expose them to computer word processing.
They also learn to conquer their fears & swallow their pride when I force them to interview teachers & students on their own.
They're so adorable.

So far they have come up with 2 editions. The April edition & The May edition.
I am very proud of them & I can see this newspaper going very far.
I strongly encourage you to start a newspaper team in your English Language Society.
Design a simple logo, a basic newspaper template & get students to write about events involving the school.
Don't forget to include relevant pictures & student written articles on current events!

The April Edition (select 'view image' to read)
The May Edition (select 'view image' to read)

Monday, May 10

Building the English Language Society I Never Had

Ever since I was appointed the Head of the English Language Panel in my school, I've been put in charge of the English Language Society which was previously pretty much dormant & abandoned.
I spent many nights having wet dreams fantasising about what I could do with all these young innocent unexposed minds.
There were a lot of possibilities!
My mouth watered at the thought of all that I could do with my new found power.

One thing was for sure....
I'm going to build the kick-ass English Language Society that I never had & currently only have in my wildest dreams.

These are my foundational principles to building the English Language Society I never had:
Only the Best Students
I cannot emphasise this more.
Only the best things can come from the best students.
The best here means students who are most able to follow instructions. Language proficiency is secondary.
There are no heroes or divas here. Only people who are willing to learn & labour.
They are the foundation of my society.

My English Language Society is strictly invitation only.
English Language teachers chose the best students from their classes.
They were then given a specially designed invitation letter.
Everyone accepted the invitation. =)

Nurture Student Leadership
Like any organisation that will live beyond the founder, the members have to lead themselves.
This is not easy for a school like mine where the students are accustomed to being spoon-fed & waiting on their teachers' hands & feet.

Thus, I'm taking things step by step.
First, I have identified & are building up leaders from those who are most eager & malleable.
When they carry out their activities, I have to give specific instructions & monitor them closely.
If they stumble, I have to make them aware of their mistakes, explain the consequences & suggest corrections.
I will also have to give a post-mortem after every activity so that they can build on their strengths & improve on their weaknesses.
Eventually, they will gain the experience that will allow things to run without me.
Then, I can show them how to teach others like I have taught them.

I also involve the students in as much of the decision making process as possible (if not all of it).
Teachers usually only have to monitor or give consultations.

Exceed Expectations
The students were not born yesterday. They've probably seen most of what I have to offer.
The challenge for me is how to exceed the expectations of the school.
How can I reinvent something they have experienced before to make it better?
They need to open up their minds, broaden their horizons & be inspired.
So I have to constantly think & live outside the box.

For example, school activities lack the 'cool' factor.
My mission is to make the society 'cool', exclusive & desirable.
After all, which student does not want to be associated with 'cool'?

It begins with an image. The logo of the society will have to be 'cool'.
I got the students to discuss the year's insignia, colour & motto.
From that, I designed a 'cool' logo with the help of another teacher.
This logo will be incorporated in notices, banners, the t-shirt & lanyard tags of the society.

don't you think this logo has the 'cool' factor?

Extend Beyond the Society
It is important that my society lives for those outside the society.
The purpose of my English Language Society is to promote the English Language & facilitate activities involving as much of the school as possible.

Many activities were planned for this year & some have already been carried out.
Next week, I will share the plans for Teacher's Day.
We've also got the exciting English Language Week coming up in July. Lots to share about this one!
You will be enriched! Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 1

The High Speed Boat Chase

In the last 2 days, I spent 16 hrs on 6 different boats.
I had to travel to a school more ulu than mine for the inter-school Public Speaking competition.
It was an amazing experience.

The principal & the teachers of the school were very hospitable & warm.
I was the chief adjudicator & 1 of 2 participants from my school got 3rd place.
Honestly, I think that they could have done better.
Every participant has a long way to go to be a good speaker.

Anyway, that's not the story I'd like the share.
Here's an amusing story one of the teachers shared with me about his exciting life as a teacher at the school.

A few years ago, there was a Form 1 kid who didn't want to go to school.
After a while, his father had to bring him to school & beg the principal to take him back.
The boy stayed on his father's boat because he didn't want to meet the principal.
When the principal finally agreed to accept the boy, they went to his boat with a few of the teachers.

When the boy saw the principal, his father & some teachers coming his way, he panicked, started his father's boat & sped away leaving his father dumbstruck on the jetty.
The teachers, however, were quick-witted & promptly got the security guard to start his boat & give chase.
They had a good 30 minute high-speed boat chase on a rapid river while dodging floating debris, waves & stones.
Imagine two boats side by side & knocking into each other.
One with teachers trying to grab hold of the other boat while the other trying to manoeuvre away from them.
It must have been quite an exhilarating chase.

Unfortunately for the boy, the guard's boat had a bigger engine so he was soon forced to a river bed.
He was relentlessly stubborn & still refused to return to school so one of the teachers got on his boat while the others returned home on the guard's boat.
A teacher, a boy & a boat.

The teacher asked the boy to bring him back to school because there was no other way for him to return.
The boy thought about it, consented & drove back to school.
On the way, the teacher got to know the student better & tried to reason with him.
The boy agreed to come back to school.

After a few weeks of school, the boy disappeared & was never seen again.

Who said teaching was boring?

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