Today during the #SCCMI15 Conference held at Rich South High School I had the pleasure of learning about a great QUICK strategy to give students authentic feedback that moves learning forward rather than just look at mistakes through the rearview mirror.
The technique involves giving students a task that is open ended enough to elicit a variety of responses. The task we used involved finding the equation of a parallel line when given an original equation and a new point. It was embedded in a larger task but we focused on this particular question and the associated student work. We sorted the student work into groups according to what students understood versus their common misunderstandings. For instance, one group we decided had a good understanding of the relationship of the slope of the new line (that it should be the same slope as the old line) but did not understand that the new line would have a new y-intercept. After you have sorted the work into more manageable groups (we decided on 4 groups for our work but the suggestion was to find about 4-6 groups. We then “told the story” of our class by describing what each group COULD do versus where they were struggling. This was set up on a matrix (see below – excuse the incomplete nature, I didn’t finish, but you can get the idea).
Then on a separate matrix, we determined a prompt for each group to move their thinking forward and a new problem to assess whether this moved them forward. Each group was assigned an icon. At that point, you can write the icon on each student’s paper (remember they are already sorted so this task is VERY easy) and return work to students. Then their task is to respond to the prompt and answer the new problem. Then post the icons, prompts, and next problem(s), not the category name, for students to see and respond to. (again – see below and excuse the incomplete nature)
I loved this activity because it differentiates the “diagnosis” for each student based on their ability and moves them toward understanding as opposed to the tactics I, unfortunately sometimes, employ (WHOLE class prescription and hoping that most students will get something out of the lesson, repeating the same lesson louder and slower, or just moving on to “cover” what I need to cover). This is much less work than writing the same “comments” on each and every student’s paper. Also, the requirement for students to respond to the prompt and do a new problem requires MORE work from my students than it does for me and will provide me with great “data” that I can use for future planning. I am excited to try this in my classroom as I believe that my students will respond well to the activity. Each day they will get a new icon so they will never know if the “star” was a good thing or not and it places the emphasis on how to move forward (even for the best students) as opposed to who was “right” or who had the best work.