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Rick Wormeli on Redos and Retakes

If you considering how to make (or if you should make) redos and retakes a part of your classroom, you really need to spend some time listening/reading Rick Wormeli's thoughts on the subject.  He has a knack for combining the philosophical and the practical.  Here are some of his thoughts copied from an article he wrote in Ed Leadership back in November 2011.  A link to the entire article is included at the end:

When it comes to deciding whether to allow a student to redo an assignment or assessment, consider the alternative—to let the student settle for work done poorly, ensuring that he or she doesn't learn the content. Is this really the life lesson we want to teach? Is it really academically better for the student to remain ignorant?

This practice is not acceptable. To be adequately prepared for college and career, students need to learn the content and skills that society identifies as important. Whether a student was initially irresponsible or responsible, moral or immoral, cognitively ready or not is irrelevant to the supreme goal: learning.

There are far more effective strategies for teaching responsibility than to simply label a student as immature and deny that student learning.

14 Practical Tips for Managing Redos in the Classroom

  1. Ask students who redo assignments to submit the original attempt with the new one and to write a brief letter comparing the two. What is different, and what did they learn as a result of redoing the work?
  2. Reserve the right to give alternative versions of the assessment if you think students will simply memorize a correct answer pattern or set of math answers. Don't be afraid to make the redone versions more demanding.
  3. Announce to students and parents that redos are permitted at teacher discretion. This means that students and parents may not take the redo option for granted.
  4. Require students to submit a plan of relearning and to provide evidence of that relearning before work can be redone. This includes creating a calendar in which students list day-by-day what they will do to prepare.
  5. If a student doesn't follow through on the relearning steps he or she promises to do, ask the student to write a letter of apology to you and to his or her family for breaking the trust.
  6. Require parents to sign the original, poorly done versions of assignments so they're aware that their children have required multiple attempts to achieve the standard. (If there is neglect or abuse in the home, of course, remove this requirement.)
  7. After two or three redo attempts, consider shelving the push for mastery of this content for a few weeks. Either the student is not ready to reach the standard, or we're not creative enough to figure out how to teach him or her. Take a break and pursue this content in a later unit of study.
  8. If the same student repeatedly asks for redos, something's wrong. The content is not developmentally appropriate, there are unseen issues at home, or perhaps there's an undiagnosed learning disability. Investigate.
  9. Choose your battles. Push hard for students to redo anything associated with the most important curriculum standards and less so with work associated with less important standards.
  10. Allow students who get Cs and Bs to redo work just as much as students who earn Ds and Fs. Why stand in the way of a student who wants to achieve excellence?
  11. If report cards are coming up and there's no time to redo something to change the grade, report the lower grade and assure the student that he or she can learn the material the next marking period. If the student demonstrates improved mastery, submit a grade change report reflecting the new, more accurate grade.
  12. For the sake of personal survival, you may choose not to allow any retakes or redos the last week of the marking period as you're closing down the grade book and doing report cards. For eight weeks, you're Mr. or Ms. Hopeful, but for that one week, it's OK to protect your sanity and personal life. You can allow students to learn the material and have their grade changed later.
  13. Replace the previous grade or mark with the most recent one; don't average the two attempts together. The A that a student earns on his fifth attempt at mastery is just as legitimate as the Aearned by his classmate on the first attempt.
  14. Unless an assessment is complex and interwoven, allow students to redo just the portions on which they performed poorly, not the entire assessment. (To assist with this, consider standards-based grading on your assessments; record the standards or outcomes being assessed at the top of the assessment and provide a separate score for each standard.) Separating standards in this way saves time for both the teacher and the students. Some redos can be a 10-minute interview at the teacher's desk while the rest of the class works on something else.

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