Tinkering with Second Attempts

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I believe teachers are always tinkering to see what works best.  I’m in the midst of doing just that with my NY/M strategy.  Near the beginning of the year I noticed that students would take quizzes and focus on the top third of the page.  Near the top, often right next to the assignment title would be a score.  That score would mean the world to the kid. Students would take a look at the point value and immediately make an evaluation based on that that score alone.   The internalization and analysis that I’d hope for wouldn’t happen.  So this year I decided to move a bit closer to a standards-based model with assignments.  Students would be allowed to redo an assignment for credit.

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At first this strategy seemed to make a huge difference.  Students took more risks and it seemed to curb some of their anxiety.  In the most positive cases, I’d write specific feedback on the students’ papers and place a NY at the top of the paper.  Students would redo the sheet and put it back into the turn in bin.  The less-than-perfect cases would involve me putting  a NY at the top of the page without additional markings.  In all honestly, sometimes the errors were careless mistakes and didn’t require much feedback on my part.  Regardless, students were turning back in the NYs and around 60-70% would receive Ms in return.  This was good news.  Although I was glad that this strategy seemed to be working, I started noticing a trend.

Some students would put less effort in completing the assignment the first time knowing that they’d have another opportunity.  Also, students would redo an assignment and not truly analyze what they did wrong in the first place, so they ended up netting zero.  This started to discourage me and that’s when I started tinkering again.   I asked a few different people on Twitter about the logistics behind retakes in their math class.  One person stated that her students fill out a form before retaking the assignment, while another mentioned that the student would be required to get extra help before the retake. I don’t believe there’s  a right or wrong answer to this.  I believe that there needs to be some type of reflection/feedback that occurs before the retake.  That could help students become more aware of what happened during the first attempt and prepare them a bit better for the second.  Being aware of where a hiccup happened is usually the first step in the reflection process.  So starting this week my students will be filling out the sheet below before retaking a quiz.

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I’ll probably continue to tinker with the wording, but it’s a start.  I want students to be able to analyze their first attempt and find the reason behind the retake.  Sometimes, the reason is because of a simple mistake, but I’d like kids to move beyond that as most reasons for the second attempt are mathematical.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this works during the last third of the school year.


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.

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