A green pen method – a key to students’ success?

What colour of a pen have you been using every time you mark your students’ work? I’m assuming it may have been red? There have been a lot of contradicting opinions whether teachers should use red pens at all. This is often associated with students feeling uncomfortable and ashamed, as well as negative perceptions of teachers who give feedback. As a result, students may lose interest or become demotivated. Since there is not definitive answer, let’s look at the Green Pencil Method that was introduced by Tatyana Ivanko and focuses on highlighting only parts of a task which have been done or completed correctly. Why is it useful? It’s simple!

  1. It promotes positive habits and routines. Students will start associating green comments with a praise and they will want to succeed again.
  2. It increases confidence levels. Students will feel more confident and will think more positively about their achievements.
  3. It encourages self-assessment. By underlining correct examples in green you automatically point at model examples. This could be used as a starting point for differentiation and challenging students to correct mistakes by looking at those done well or communicating with others to find model examples. When we use a red pen, there is no clarity in relation to where to look for good examples.

Of course, you can also mention mistakes and say how to correct them to improve, but do it later, when a positive relation is established between you and a student. Building your feedback on positive emotions and good examples will increase chances for long-term achievements.