Friday 8 November 2013

Stampers in Action

My previous post explained why I use stampers.  Below are some pictures of the stampers I use, with short explanations of how I use them and why they're effective for me; sometimes for formative feedback, sometimes to save me time and often for both reasons!

Firstly, here are some group shots (!!) of the stampers I have in my trusty marking box! See below for the stampers in action in order from most formative to least formative (in my very humble and inexperienced opinion!).
Personalised Stampers
Pre-Inked Stampers
Stack-N-Stamp Stampers

1) Let's chat about ______ on M Tu W Th F

The red pen shows how she thought she did in the lesson and the blue shows her comments after I "chatted" with her about carrying.  I try and tick the stamper when I've "chatted" with the child but obviously I forgot to here.  With many things in education, it's important to make a habit of checking whether children have this stamper in their books OR make the children get into the habit of always requesting to chat!

This was purchased from Primary Teaching Services here. Please be aware that with these personalised stampers, Comic Sans font is the best - others can smudge.

2) Well Done! Your next step is:

This is so simple but it helps children know where they're going and also helps me group the children for the next lesson according to their next step.  I tend to move groups around all the time so there's no talk of "moving up" or "moving down" a group.  Every few lessons they move into "the right group" with children who are doing the same activity and learning the same thing.

This was purchased from Primary Teaching Services here.

 3) Verbal feedback given.
I don't use this one very often, but it's so useful when I do.  This stamp comes into its own if, as I'm floating around the class giving mini-inputs to groups or individuals, I come across children who have had a go but are totally stuck and very wrong. I stamp where they have got up to, explain where they are going wrong, model the skill again and then they carry on.  That way, when I come to mark their books later, I ignore what was done above the stamper as I have already seen it and know that it's wrong and I can focus on what they did after my input.  Thus saving me time and reminding me who I helped and when.

This was purchased from Primary Teaching Services here.

4) Teacher assisted work. / TA assisted work.
There aren't any pictures for this one but it's fairly self-explanatory.  This isn't for the children's use but for the use of any adults who look at the books (including me!).  It helps when it comes to completing summative levels - I can tell what the child can do independently and what has been done with help. Simple, effective, time-conserving but not particularly learning-based.

This was purchased from Primary Teaching Services here (Teacher) and here (TA).

5) Practice makes perfect! Repeat ___ times:

I made this stamper in my second year of teaching as a way of quickly getting children to practise spellings without me having to write more than the word.  I was writing the same thing over and over again so, hey presto, I made it into a stamper! This one is mainly effective in saving me time but, without it, would I have the time to get them practising their spellings if I had to write that all out: NO!

This was purchased from Primary Teaching Services here. Please be aware that with these personalised stampers, Comic Sans font is the best - others can smudge.

6) You've achieved your learning objective. / You're working towards your learning objective.

A no-brainer - it's simply to save me time when children have "got it" and perhaps we are moving onto a new topic.  It gives me time to focus on children who haven't "got it" and spend more time explaining in their books:

This was purchased from Primary Teaching Services here (achieved) and here (working towards).

7) Checked by your teacher.

This stamper is so useful for homework diaries, reading records and anything that you have to check! Bang, stamp, DONE! This photo shows how I sometimes use it in lessons.  I think here I asked children to tell me if they had done it before, how they found the learning and what they'd like to do next.  Obviously, all the questions were asked to the class as a whole so I didn't have to write them down - lazy, I know, but easy! 

This was purchased from Primary Teaching Services here

8) Headteacher's Award (I know the stamper has no apostrophe - it annoys me too!!)

Just a simple stamper in a totally different colour which I use for amazing pieces of work.  The kids love opening their books and seeing a red stamper and wander off to the head's office, rightfully proud! A quick note on the highlighters - this is what we use for more detailed feedback.  Pink = tickled pick = I love this.  Green = Grow me green = this needs improving.  We highlight over work that is skill practice and write it under for neat pieces of work.  As you can see, this child has thanked me for her "tickled pink" comments and has ticked to say she has gone through and checked (and hopefully corrected!) her spellings. 

You can buy one with the correct apostrophe here (black) or my grammatically awful stamper here (red).

Please do let me know if you have any other stampers which you find particularly effective - I'm always in the market for a new stamper or two.  Also, leave me a comment if you think there are any stampers that you use in a different way - I'm always up for magpie-ing other people's great ideas! 

Thursday 7 November 2013

Stamper Snobs and Me

Recently, I blogged about my favourite assessment stamper.  Many people on Twitter commented that they liked the idea and could see the benefit, some even purchased their own and have kept me up-to-date with their use of it.  There are teachers, however, who look down on the humble stamper and, while pursing their lips, exclaim "I don't believe in stampers".  Claims like "the children don't read them", "they ruin work" and "they show laziness" flow from the mouths of these educators who I like to call the "Stamper Snobs".  One of the most frustrating things about these teachers is that sometimes they thrust their snobby attitude to stampers on their colleagues.  I would find it very difficult to work with a Stamper Snob and they would cry looking through my books.


Anyone who's read "The Lazy Teacher's Handbook" will know that laziness can lead to effective learning, independence, meta-cognition and, the holy grail of all teachers, a better work-life balance.  For me, assessment stampers help me in my quest to become the ultimate "Lazy Teacher".

During my NQT year I found myself working late into the night, every night, and almost all weekend, yet I was still behind on my marking.  When I was assessing children's learning, they weren't reading it, let alone responding to it and so its effectiveness was very low, probably zero. That was, until I discovered the humble stamper.

The first stampers in my collection were "You've achieved your learning objective" and "You're working towards your learning objective."  Nowadays, these are among my least-used and least-effective stampers, however at the time they saved me many minutes a night writing the same thing on many children's work.  It allowed me to look in more detail at work where children hadn't achieved the learning objective.  I felt it was important not to have a "You've not yet achieved your learning objective" stamper because that wouldn't save me time or encourage or help the child.

Not long after making my first purchase, I realised I was writing the same phrases over and over again on children's work.  Having found that the first two stampers had saved me so much time, I invested in a few staple stampers.  They cost around £5 each and often I would buy them when there were % off deals but I knew I would reap the benefits as they would last a long time and save me so much time.  Why bother repetitively writing long phrases when you can stamp them?

As I learned more about effective assessment, brilliantly guided by an amazing mentor, I began to understand the value of pushing children on in their learning.  The next few stampers said "Great learning today! Now try this: " and after the stamper I would write a short activity for them to complete which moved them forward in their learning.  There was also a "Well Done! Your next step is: " stamper.  This one not only saved me time during the marking process but it also meant that in the next session, I didn't have to tell each child what they were working on; they already knew.

The inspiration for my favourite stamper came from my Headteacher at the time who used "Let's chat" in books to give detailed verbal feedback.  I really liked this as it was less aggressive as "See me" or "Please discuss".  Thus I created a "Let's chat about __________ on M Tu W Th F" stamper for me to fill in so I had a record of any discussions and children had a place to respond to their new learning next to the stamper. So lazy and yet so, so effective in moving children forward.

By the end of my time at my first school, I was two years into my teaching career and I was spending much less time assessing children's work.  There was still a lot of improvement needed in the effectiveness of all my comments and most of what was needed was down to the children.  I was putting in a lot of work and money to make these assessment stampers effective, but many children were still not responding to or even reading what I had put.

Enter the Gel Pen!

Armed with a class set of gel pens, and probably a few more stampers, I started in a new school.  This is the year I promised myself I would be a lazy teacher. I vowed to make the children work harder than me and, for effective assessment to reign, I created an important learning habit from day one.

The school policy states that children should write a title and the date at the top of their work for the session but, to achieve my goal, I added a twist to this.  Before my class do the title and date they need to use a gel pen to do 3 things.
1) Do any corrections from last lesson.
2) Read and initial comments (which often included stampers).
3) Respond to any comments or stampers.

This has transformed the learning ethos of my class. The children now have clarity in their learning; they know where they have come from, where they are at and where they are going to. They have become more independent and in control of what they are doing and this has meant they request my help when they have any misconceptions.

The children love having the stampers in their books and know what they all mean. Comments like "Thank you", "Ok Mrs P" and "I'll try" show me that they've read and understood them and occasionally they use a gel pen to tell me if they think they should have had a stamper (normally if I've forgotten).  The effect that the stampers is having on the children's learning has also been noted by colleagues and SLT.

The stampers I have help to guide me to give formative feedback.  They allow me to focus on giving the most effective comments.  They help my children to understand how they are doing and where they have room for improvement.  They stop me from writing the same thing over and over again and save me the frustration of this.  They help me to alter the next lesson most appropriately. They mean my comments are neater and more concise.  But most of all, they have given me time.
And, as any teacher knows, time is a rare and precious gift.

See photos of how I use the stampers I have and links to buy them on the next post.