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.


Computation and a Growth Mindset

Encouraging growth

This past week my third grade class started to use multiplication and division strategies to solve world problems.  They’ve used arrays before and are now applying their understanding of multiplication and division.  That practical application can be a challenge for some and I feel like it’s partially because students aren’t yet fluent with their facts. In an effort to collect a bit more data on what particular facts students were struggling with I gave the class a short 17 question Kahoot! quiz. The quiz was related to multiplication and division facts.

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Click picture for actual quiz

In the past I’ve used Kahoot to review concepts and skills in a game-based format.  I’d estimate that the majority of Kahoot quizzes have a limited amount of time and points are scored.  This is fine and I’m not against using this format, but it didn’t work for my purpose.  I wanted students to take their time and diligently pick an answer.  So, each student grabbed an iPad and completed the quiz on Wednesday.  It took about five minutes or so and students reflected on how they thought they did on the quiz.  The class then reviewed multiplications strategies and connected how multiplication and division are connected.  The homework for that evening also reinforced some of the computation strategies that we’ve been practicing in class.

The next day students were given the same Kahoot quiz.  The question order was changed and students were allowed to take as much time as needed.  I printed out both the first and second quiz results for the students to see the difference between the scores.  Students glued both sheets in their math journal and were asked to respond to the journal prompt below.

“Was there a difference between your first and second scores?  If so, why do you think the results changed?”

Some of the responses are below.

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As you can see, some of the students are connecting the idea that improvement, effort, and growth is important.  I’d say this is a move in the right direction.  This year my school is emphasizing the idea of Dweck’s growth mindset.  Teachers are encouraged to use terms like persevere, not yet, and effort fairly frequently.  Students are hearing this type of speak and even being asked by administrators questions related to having a growth mindset.  By doing this activity I feel like students are starting to internalize that effective effort helps produce better results.  Instead of just talking about growth mindset and the benefits, students need to be able to make a meaningful connection between effort and achievement. I feel like preaching that effort alone will reap success isn’t the whole story.  I feel like students need to be able to document their journey and internalize the connections. I’m hoping to continue to use these types types of reflection activities throughout the year.