Retakes at the Elementary Level


Over a week ago my fourth grade class explored discount using Amazon.  The lesson went well and the students explored discounts and percents.  Students turned in their task and were given a second attempt.  Some of the students decided to redo their project and improved their performance the second time.  This impromptu redo process seemed to give students another opportunity to show mastery.

On Monday my fourth grade students completed another task.  This task was related to discounts and sales tax.  This was a challenging assignment for fourth graders.  Students were asked to find a discount and calculate the sales tax.  Students worked on this assignment for about 15 minuets and then turned it in.  That night I reviewed the task and found around 30% of the students didn’t achieve mastery.  I decided to use the same strategy as I did with the Amazon task.  I wrote down questions and had students use that feedback to attempt the assignment a second time.  Again, the scores improved and I took the higher score.

I’m seeing potential in using a second attempt strategy.  I feel like it might be one way to move towards a standards-based grading strategy.  This can’t be done with all assignments but I used it with the last two tasks.  Actually, it might be possible to expand this but there are hurdles surrounding the idea of allowing retakes.  The idea of standards-based grading has been discussed in my district but it hast been fully implemented.  Some teachers at the middle school have used models with some success.  It hasn’t been discussed at the elementary level. This may be the direction my district is moving.  Personally, I feel like retakes have a place in elementary schools.  I’m planning on expanding a redo policy for the other grade levels that I teach.

I’m encouraged to see the benefits of using this technique in the classroom. This is all good but I’ve run into a few issues.   Some students that didn’t perform well decided to not take advantage of a second attempt.  They decided that a 1/5 or 2/5 was fine.  Also, I’m finding that timing for the second attempt is starting to become an issue.  Creating time for students to retake the tasks can be challenging.  Those that truly want to retake the assignment find time at some point during the day to make a second attempt. Other students need consistent reminders.  Another thing that I noticed is that some students want to retake the task a third time.  Is this reasonable?  These are a few points and questions that I’m considering while planning out the last third of the school year.

I’m interested in hearing your perspective.


Author: Matt Coaty

I've taught elementary students for the past 14 years. I enjoy reading educational research and learning from my PLN. Words on this blog are my own.

6 thoughts on “Retakes at the Elementary Level”

  1. Like the idea of a re-do but have a problem with the concept of mastery as I find it promotes mediocrity as opposed to keeping it more open-ended and dialogic process orientated. Your idea of mastery may be different! Like the short task-time before redo for this sort of task. How much collaboration was there?


    1. I’m finding that the term mastery is fairly new to my elementary kids. Most of my students associate achievement with traditional grades. My school is attempting to change this perception. This year I’m encouraging students to look beyond that and move towards mastery.

      Students completed both tasks on their own. They had a brief mini-lesson before the second attempt.


  2. I did once try teaching a (summer, college) course which had a built-in do-over structure. (Students could show they’d mastered a topic by homework assignments or by tests.) But then everybody ended up getting about the same grade, which I don’t think reflected the differences in how well they understood the material. I haven’t had the chance to revise the grading scheme and try again.


    1. I’d say around 80% or so received the highest possible score after the second attempt. Of course students wanted to improve their grade, but in doing so (and after a mini-lesson) they also improved their understanding of the concept.


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