Second Attempts and Error Analysis


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I’ve been thinking about student math reflections this week.  That reflection can take on many different forms. Giving students a second attempt to complete an assignment can give them an opportunity to reflect on their original performance. This is often (not not always) part of a standards-based-grading approach.  Some teachers allow students to redo particular assignments.  Some teachers have their students complete a paper form of a reflection and/or redo sheet when they didn’t meet the original expectations.  Students fill out the sheet, redo certain problems that need a second look, staple the sheet and finally turn the work back in.  This process has worked well during the past year, but I’m noticing that students are starting to place general statements in the blank lines.  This NY –> M process was starting to become more paperwork than individual reflection.

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Students would avoid writing simple mistake like the plague (since it explicitly says not to do that :)), but they’d write comments that were very general.  I mean VERY general.  Students would write

  • “I didn’t write the answer correctly”
  • “I had trouble with fractions”
  • “I didn’t write the problem right”

Most of the responses were general, and some students wouldn’t even thoroughly review their work before attaching the second attempt sheet.  Don’t get me wrong though.  The sheet was helpful, but I wanted students to delve deeper into their work and become better, or more aware, of where they didn’t meet the expectations moving forward.  Over the summer I was able to attend sessions and workshops related to student goal setting and student error-analysis.  I believe student reflection and error-analysis can be powerful tools for students as well as teachers.  Knowing this, I revamped the second attempt sheet this week.  Here’s the new look.

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The blue circles were entered on the sheet based on the most common errors that I found on quizzes.  I made sure to model this with the class before students filled them out.  I gave examples of why someone would check each box.  After a number of questions, students felt more comfortable in deciding which circle to check – some even thought that multiple circles could be checked.  Why not?  I noticed that students would determine which circle to check depending on their perspective.  Check out the three submitted sheets below.  They all are for the same problem, but fit different categories.


This is interesting because students were starting to analyze their results with a more critical eye.  This is progress, positive progress.  Even with that being said, we have a long way to go.  I need to be more clear on how students should differentiate between a simple mistake and directions.  I also need to clarify and give more examples of what a strategy issue means.  I think some students have been using the updated sheet with integrity, while others might not be using them as well since their perception of the categories isn’t clear.  I believe this is more of a teacher and modeling issue than a student issue.  I’m looking forward to creating a few different activities for next week to help students becoming better at categorizing their errors and misconceptions.  At some point I’d like that awareness to lead to action and eventually goal setting.  One step at a time.

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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