New Learning for an Old Chore

To me, having students correct tests ranks right up there with making students take them in the first place…something that I know is necessary, but I just don’t like it!  I didn’t like testing as a kid, and I sure don’t as an adult.  Then to have to be retaught the information and given the same test (or type of test with different questions) back and have to take it again, well, it sure doesn’t do wonders for the self-esteem.  So I did a little research (a.k.a trolling Twitter) on what imaginative and forward-thinking teachers do with the feedback-loop we call retesting of big tests like the district benchmarks and other heavy hitters.  What I found was an amazing protocol my kids LOVED!  Here it is.

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Step one: Make your corrections.  You have to do this part on your own, but this step is so important.  If you do not bring your own thinking to the discussion, what are you adding?   By asking them to all make their own corrections (after purposeful reteaching!), I was asking them to bring what they thought was the correct answer to the next step.  This prevented relying on whomever made the highest score to simply impart this wisdom to the group! On a side note, I did not chose to group my kids by their scores, and I don’t know that I will for a while.  They were in new table groups, and I wanted this to be a team building exercise as well.

Step two: Discuss it with your group.   This is where it got good.  Really good.  I mean I love that accountable math talk, they are good at it, and it was just flying around in here.  “But I really thought it was 821.”  “That’s right if you add, but look right here at this word…” “Did you know we needed to convert right here? That one almost got me, too!” “I didn’t use any strategies, but you did. No wonder you got it.”  “Will you show me what you did?” WOW! They were challenging each other’s thinking and really diving deep.  I just love to hear kids disagree over a math problem, respectfully of course, but that discourse when they both are convinced they are right, is just amazing to hear.  There was a lot of that thinking going on.  That is not happening when a kid is sweating out a correction at home or during tutoring!

Step three: Regrade your test. I let them do this.  Instant gratification when they just went from a 40 to a 97.  Woo-hoo!

Step four: What new learning did we gain from this? 5 minute quick write I also added to this question, “Was this worth our time?” This reflection was powerful.  Sometimes during our quick-writes there are wandering eyes (“I’m thinking!”) and chewed on pencils, but most kids were enthusiastically recording thoughts quickly about the process. After the 5 minutes, of COURSE they had to share with me!

“My partner really rechecked his work.  He was good at it and I wasn’t.  His grade was better!  I learned I have enough time, I should recheck.”

“When we read together, we saw the error we made.  Next time, I’ll just read the problem twice like we did.”

“When we worked together and talked one person talked about one strategy that another person didn’t think of. That made us know we were a good team.”

“This was worth our time because we learned about our mistakes not just fixed them and moved away from them like on to the next thing in our books.”

“This helped me know about the strengths and weaknesses of my new partners. Now I will know better how to help them with the projects we are doing this six weeks.”

And it went on and on…the kids LOVED it.  I heard myself in their voices with strategies I had been teaching them, but learning this in their own way from their peers was so much more powerful and meaningful to them!  A few even asked, “Why didn’t we do this sooner?”  They understand me as a reflective teacher and know I take what they say to heart.  I told them thanks for making me better and making this so much fun.

“You can totally do this next year, Mrs. Stringer.  The other kids will love it and will learn so much!”  Oh, I think that is some pretty good feedback!

P.S. I really wish I knew who to give credit to for this idea.  It seems it was one of the brilliant high school teachers I follow, but I have no clue. If it was you, thanks 🙂