How can you help learners develop their skills in English and Maths?

Good Wednesday morning! I have another fun snippet from Terry Sharrock‘s ‘Embedding English and Maths‘ for you.


Here the text discusses how you do your marking can impact how your learners improve their English and Maths skills. Terry highlights the importance of encouraging your learners to develop these fundamental skills through changing the way you criticise, correct and clarify their mistakes.

How can correcting written work lead to improvement?

In looking at hundreds of pieces of marked work over the years, one thing that strikes me is how little improvement results from tutors’ feedback on written work. Post-16 educa­tors spend a lot of time going through work and correcting it but often without an effective 14 Embedding English and Maths

system to ensure that these corrections are adopted and lead to improvements in written work. Typically comments are ‘Watch your spelling’, ‘Be careful with capital letters’, or words that are spelt incorrectly are circled or underlined, possibly with ‘sp’ in the margin. Tutors spend a lot of time and effort on this, but does it lead to improvements? Ask learners what they are expected to do with this feedback and you might be surprised to find that you are met with blank looks. It is important to put time and effort into establishing a system for what learners do with feedback on written work. For example, you might want them to establish their own paper or electronic spelling logs. These can be referred to when writing. Chapter 3 looks at what works in improving skills such as spelling and Appendix 2 contains an example of a spelling log that you may wish to adopt. For now, try this simple strategy.

Practical Task

Next time you write ‘sp’ in the margin or underline an incorrect spelling of a word add the num­ber ‘3’ to it, so you might write ‘sp3’. Help learners out by underlining only the part of the word which is incorrectly spelt. Learners rarely spell whole words incorrectly. Look at the example from the computer animation student above. Even here, only parts of words are misspelt. Get learn­ers into the habit of knowing that when they see ‘sp3’ next to a word, it means that you would like them to find and write out – or add to their spelling logs – three words that end in the same pattern. For example, the learner above has written ‘improve’ as ‘inprove’. Using ‘sp3’ you might encourage her to find the correct spellings of three words with a similar spelling pattern. At first you could provide vocationally relevant words as she is on a computer games design course, eg, ‘import’. You might expand this to more general words such as ‘important’ or ‘impress’. As her confidence grows she may be able to find words herself when she sees the ‘sp3’ on her work. The point is that there is a system which is understood by the learners that records improvements in spellings.

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