Feedback: ‘closing the gap’ in MFL

There has been lots of great work going on in my school this year on feedback and how to ‘close the gap’ in our students’ learning effectively. Shaun Allison made feedback one of his ‘Big 5’ alongside challenge, explanation, modelling and questioning ( Andy Tharby came up with a great strategy for marking his students’ work in his blog ( and shared it with the rest of the school during an INSET. Inspired by these two, we decided to change the way we mark our books in MFL. Here are the things we have used this year. Feel free to download these resources and if you have any suggestions on how to improve, let me know.

First we decided to come up with a list of the common things we normally write in books. We divided them in 2 categories: positive comments and ways to improve. We gave codes to these common comments (a letter for the positive and # for the way to improve). This is how we came up with the KS4 and KS3 DIRT codes sheets.
Impact: Students are now more involved in the marking process. They have to read and write what was good about their work but also how to improve. In the past we had students reading the level or grade but ignoring the strategy to improve. It has also reduced the time spent marking the books. I think that my marking is now much more focused and useful for my students.

KS4 DIRT codes


On the first lesson after our marking, our students are given DIRT (Directed Improvement Reflection Time). During this time they change our codes into the actual comments, and then, most importantly, spend time improving their work. They do the task we gave them (#). The way to improve (#) is linked to a slide that we display during DIRT, where it explains in more detail what to do to improve their piece of work. Students then have to highlight the improvement they have made. The highlighting makes it obvious for me or anybody else looking at their books that they have effectively acted upon my feedback.

DIRT slide

Impact: Thanks to this we are now effectively ‘closing the gap’ in our students’ learning. Moreover it is clearly visible and measurable to see the impact our marking has had.DIRT4

QR codes:

After a while I realised that most students were sometimes struggling to do the DIRT task (‘add some past tense’ or ‘add some connectives’…). To improve this my wife and I (she is an MFL teacher too!) decided to set up another blog ( where we uploaded lots of help sheets about different aspects of language learning. We then linked all these help sheets to QR codes. I now stick a QR code next to my marking for the students to scan and use to help with the way to improve. The students are now increasingly using this website, they have started to use it to get some support when doing their homework.


Impact: The QR codes have given the students a greater autonomy. They are now able to improve their work independently. It has also brought an element of ‘coolness’ to the feedback and DIRT process. They are all very excited to get their phones out and scanning it. For students whose phones don’t work, I keep a paper copy that they can use in my classroom. Students can also access the website at any time to use the help sheets.

 Controlled assessment tick sheet:

I wanted my students to always be able to refer to the assessment criteria and compare their work against it. Therefore I produced a tick sheet to use during the stage 2 of the controlled assessment, where, as they go along, students tick the things they have included so far in their speaking or writing assessment. Obviously these tick sheets had to be different for high achievers and average achievers. So I did one for A/A* students and another one for C students.

Tick sheet sp ATick sheet Sp C

Impact: These have been great to make the students aware of what an excellent piece of work normally contains. Most students have used it very frequently and are now much more confident with what to include in their work in their work. It has also been a good way to include some self-assessment.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, feel free to use these resources. I am more than happy to share. It has worked really well this year for me. Obviously you might think of ways in which we could improve this, do not hesitate to contact me (via blog or twitter) with any suggestions.