Giving effective and impactful feedback

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to speak at the Pixl National MFL conference in front of around 630 talented colleagues.

Their enthusiasm has inspired me to return to my long-forgotten blog in order to share one of the resources I talked about in the conference: my tried and tested Universal Marksheet and the 20 Keys.

The Universal Marksheet is the marksheet that I use for all of my students, from years 7 through to year 11. It is a student-friendly amalgam of all the GCSE mark schemes that makes it very easy to give accurate feedback and grades any language produced by students.

The marksheet has the following advantages:

  • One mark scheme for KS3 and KS4. Students and teachers become very used to the criteria and how to apply it. They feel empowered.
  • One mark scheme and not many: It eases the cognitive load for students when trying to remember what makes great language. Students only have to remember one set of criteria.
  • It acts as a powerful motivator: students can see clearly what achievable, small steps they can take to move their grades further and further up.
  • It turns marking and grading a piece of work a pain-free automatic process for the teacher.
  • The criteria is clear for teachers and students alike.

The 20 keys are my idea of what types of language students need to include in a piece of speaking or writing in order to achieve the highest grades. The KS3 version of the 20 keys only contains the more accessible 10. Having a set of keys has advantages too:

  • Teachers can introduce the grammar and keep revisiting it in every topic, so that students become aware that grammar is transferable and can be used to create new language and are more likely to remember it.
  • They enable the notion that grammar can be conquered and is not infinite, therefore fostering a can-do attitude in students.
  • They act as a reminder that a wealth of grammar needs to be attempted.

How I use the mark scheme:


  1. Highlight errors in the student’s writing in pink.
  2. Highlight any examples of the 20 keys in green. Repeated examples only get highlighted the first time they appear. Every time one is highlighted, they also get highlighted on the 20 key list.
  3. Decide which band applies for communication and accuracy.
  4. Add of the number of Keys successfully attempted and select the appropriate band in the range and complexity column.
  5. Each of the bands has a grade associated to it. Calculate the average of the grades and write it in the grade box.
  6. Pick out a Key that has not been attempted successfully or at all and highlight it in pink. This will be the EBI sentence for the student.
  7. Pick out two significant words that are incorrect and write them in the correct box, correctly.
  8. Give 1 or 2 points to perfect.


  1. Copy out the words in the correct box three times and translate into English.
  2. Use their books to look through the words highlighted in pink and attempt to correct them. Ask for help if needed.
  3. Find what Key their EBI is and find a sentence on the board labelled with that key. Translate this in the EBI box.
  4. Complete the perfect box.
  5. Discuss what they have learnt from their feedback with a partner.

This takes some training but it becomes automatic very early in year 7, as the process is always the same. 

I have used this for years and developed my lessons and resources around this system. I have shared it with many colleagues who have found it incredibly useful and clear. My students swear by it. I hope it’s useful to you too and if you have any questions, get in touch.


7 thoughts on “Giving effective and impactful feedback

  1. Thank you very much for this marking aid. I particularly enjoyed your demonstration last Wednesday in London of highlighting the text as well as the rule, it signals so clearly the different elements. I have been using a student self-assessment colour-coding system but this coupled with the RR and 2 correct 2 Perfect is so very much in depth and so clear and easy to use.
    Gratefully yours.
    Anne Reeve.

    Liked by 1 person

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