Going ‘green’: rating your effort

Posted on 11/06/2011


During an AfL session on a recent CPD course, a simple idea was put to us. If you have an ‘in’ tray where children stick written work/books that need to be marked, think about having three such trays instead. Make one red, one orange and one green and get children to put their work into the tray which best fits their confidence and understanding of that piece of work. Nice, I thought. Quick, easy AfL. Just by looking at the in trays I can get a quick and clear picture of the general understanding of that lesson.

The other day, without thinking, I asked them to put their work in the tray that best described their effort instead – I am currently reading Ian Gilbert‘s Essential Motivation in the Classroom and I think it’s having a big impact on me. Anyway, altering the question very slightly from understanding to effort, changed the whole process dramatically.

If you don’t feel confident with what we’ve just been working on (Venn diagrams, if you’re wondering) but you know you gave it best shot, then you should probably go green. If you feel like you really understand Venn diagrams, but you know you weren’t putting your full effort in, then perhaps you need to think about amber or red. Think just about your effort.

Together we described our effort scale like this:

  • Green: you tried your hardest and made a really good effort.
  • Amber: you put in a bit of effort, but didn’t try your best.
  • Red: you really didn’t try very hard at all.

This required real honesty from them and I could tell some felt uneasy about their ‘truth’. I explained this wasn’t about being ‘told off’, it was just to get them to think about how they had approached their work and to imagine what putting in a ‘green’ effort looked like to them. I also admitted that everyone has their amber and red days including myself, which I think helped many to be honest with themselves.

So at the end of that lesson, there were books in the amber and red trays that had never been anywhere near them before, but I think they got something invaluable from it. And I have to say, so did I. As their teacher, if there is a lot of work in the red or amber trays at the end of a lesson, then why is that? Why have some very able children not put in their best effort? Have I given them the opportunity to do that? What can I do to help and encourage more children ‘go green’?

By asking the children to rate their efforts, I am also thinking more about mine.

Posted in: AfL, CPD, Thinking