Friday, June 12, 2015

Student Led Corrections

Thought inspiring administrators are imperative to successful teachers and schools.  Administrators that can pose a question about your teaching without judgement or evaluation, and get you to genuinely reflect on your teaching are the reasons why my pedagogy has improved over the years.

One instance dramatically changed my correction process on assignments.  Whether the class decided that they want to correct every problem on an assignment, or a select few, I used to be the one at the board showing the work and explaining the math.  I used formative assessments during this process to check for understanding, but it was usually me at the board.  Then my principal asked me during a post-observation meeting, "I know you can do math, but do the kids really know if they can do math when you are at the board?"  In pondering my response, I thought about my formative assessments.

I was able to figure out which students had understanding and which did not, but were the students getting the same feedback for themselves?  Do they need validation from me? Do they need validation from each other that they understand?  Were they learning that mistakes are good and help us learn, or were they merely fixing their work?  How could I get less of me, more of them, still be safe to make mistakes and maintain a learning focus?

Student led corrections are a staple of my classroom now.  At the beginning of the year, it takes a lot of training and practice, but after 5-6 weeks, the learning and engagement level during corrections is well worth the time and effort.  Here how it works:

1) Select the problems to be corrected.  This can be entire assignment if it's not too long, or can be a few intentionally chosen problems picked by you or the students.

2) Assign the problems to groups of students in the room.  I have eight small groups of four students in my room, so if I were assigning 8 math problems, each group would be assigned one.  They will send one student to the board for that problem. The next day the student that goes to the board must rotate around the group and one student cannot correct at the board for a second time, until everyone has taken their turn.

3) Give them one minute to discuss the work and explanation in their group before sending their representative to the board.  I have four largish whiteboards in the front of class.  The first four students can be writing their work on the board at the same time, then when #1 finishes the correction process, #5 comes up and starts their work while #2 is explaining their problem. This rotation of problems keep the class moving forward and we do not have to wait for work to get on the board.

4) When student #1 has their work on the board, they grab the microphone (our district has classroom speakers that has really improved listening) and explain the steps and mathematical reasoning of their problem.  Expectations for the explanation will vary from teacher to teacher.

5) Once the student at the board has finished, every single student should raise their hand to be called on by the student at the board.  If called on, they have only 3 possible things to say:

  • "I agree."  By saying this, the student called on is claiming that the work on the board matches what is on their own paper, or that the work may be slightly different, but mathematically is equivalent. They agree with the work and explanation.
  • "I disagree because on line __, I think ____"  The phrasing here is important.  The student is disagreeing with the work and says so by saying the line of work they see an issue. Disagreeing with work is safer than disagreeing with a person.  It feels less like an attack on the student. This also gets students to focus on the steps, math reasoning and accuracy more than just the answer.
  • "I did not complete my assignment."  Students will take ownership of not doing their work and realize they still need to participate in the correction process in order to have a better understanding.  These students will not be writing anything down during this time, as the hope is that they do it on their own eventually.
Having three options of what to say makes this a safe process for the student at the board and safe for the student being called on as well.  Instead of just saying, "I got ___."  They can speak about the work.  All math teachers that I have spoken to do not like the "I got..." game that students like to say, and this definitely helps alleviate that issue. 

6) Once the student at the board has three "I agree" statements in a row, they can return to their seat as long as no one has a question for them.

The repetitive nature of this correction process also means I do not need to assign as many practice problems because students see and hear the math so many times.  At the end of the process, the students that were at the board feel good that other students agreed with their work.  They view mistakes on the board as an opportunity for the class to learn.  And at the end of the process, I know who can do the math and more importantly, the students know for themselves. 


  1. Great post! I also was encouraged by my admin to get students more involved in explaining the problems and showing their work to each other. One of my favorite tools is the document camera. Students can take their own work in their notebook, on their paper, or worksheet and project it under the document camera. No time used to copy work onto a board.
    I really like your explanation of how students respond to each other's work. That will help me guide my students interactions. I totally agree that my favorite part is that the students can talk directly to each other. Their conversations don't have to come through me anymore.

    1. Diana,

      I definitely use the Doc cam when we are working on investigations in class and I want to show how some groups are working through the problem. During corrections, I feel using the Doc cam with student work is not as safe for the students to put themselves out there. Many students don't want their paper under the cam because there might be mistakes on other problems that will be seen. When they put their work on the white board, they may have made a correction to their work already, but that does not need to be seen by everyone. Plus the Doc cam is one problem/student at a time, where I can fit four at my white board at a time. We only wait for the first problem, about a minute, and after that the rotation ensures no more wait time.

      Thanks for the comment and feedback! If you have not read any of Fisher & Frey's work on student interactions, I would give it a look. That's where I got some of the sentence stems I try to train my Ss on.

      Thanks again,

  2. I have had students who were reluctant to show their work under the document camera. I never considered the whiteboard as a way to show edited work. Thanks for the insight.
    By the way, in addition to being a middle school math teacher I am also a doctoral student studying math teaching blog readers and writers at
    Thank you for your consideration.