To Grade or Not To Grade: Homework in Math Class

Click here to submit your MS Sunday Funday post!


Next week:  Blog about Spiraling Review from Past Math Topics

I Let Them Grade Their Own Tests – And They Loved It

Well, most of them loved it.  A few did not.  I got this nifty idea from my great peeps on Twitter (thanks @pamLpatterson and @park_star).  I make them do quiz corrections now, but I noticed they don’t do a very good job.  Often, they have a difficult time correcting the problem.  I offer Work Time and after school help to work on quiz corrections, but not everyone takes me up on that or they are the students that need help with the new material that we are covering.

Enter, Grade Your Own Tests day.  I had them take a test like they usually do, but also had them transpose their final answer (with no work show) onto an answer sheet.  After I took everything up, I graded just the answer sheet right or wrong with no partial credit.

The fun part was when I then handed back ONLY their tests with not a mark on them.  They were confused.  I explained that I had already graded their answer sheets but I only graded them right or wrong, with no partial credit.  They were to grade their own tests in order to earn their partial credit.  I gave them each a colored pencil and a copy of the key with all of the solutions worked out and the possible points for each problem.   They had to check each step against the steps on the key.  For each step they missed, they had to write the correct step in colored pencil.  Then, using a few guidelines I created, they had to decide how many points they missed on each question.  (My guidelines were -1 for losing a negative or making an arithmetic error, and +1 for writing the correct equation but missing the answer).    We worked on it for about 15 minutes in class so I could help guide them and answer questions.  They were to finish grading for their homework that night.

Once they turned their graded papers back in I re-graded every one to make sure they gave themselves the correct credit (and to compare it with their original answer sheet to make sure they stayed honest).  I was very impressed that most of my students did an excellent job of grading their own papers.  I  only had to correct a few papers.  A couple of students turned their papers in with just the answers marked wrong and no corrections.  I gave them back and told them they had to earn their partial credit back by showing all of the corrections.

This was actually a lot more work for me as I had to grade their answer sheets, then guide them through grading their own papers, then check their grading.  But, it seemed like a very valuable exercise.  The funny thing was that a few students thought they were saving me work by grading their own paper for me.  I surveyed the students and an overwhelming majority liked it and wanted to grade their own papers again.  The few that did not enjoy this seemed to be the ones that had a difficult time understanding how to give themselves partial credit or still didn’t understand how to do the problem, even with the key.  If I do this again, I will work more closely with those students at first and offer extra help time to work on the corrections individually with me.

We recently took another equation quiz, and overall their equation solving skills dramatically improved so I feel like they learned from this activity.  I would love to do this again, but would like to know if there is a better way (that is less work for me).  So, if you are doing something similar but better – please share!

Here are the students comments from the survey:

What did you like about grading your own test?

  • that you could go back and see your mistakes and know where you need to improve.
  • that I got to see what and where I went wrong
  • that you could go back and see your mistakes and know where you need to improve.
  • That i could go back with the answers, see what i did wrong and see how to actually do it the day after the test/quiz
  • I got to see clear mistakes that i had and wall able to correct them.
  • What i liked about grading my paper is that i got to learn from my mistakes and get better at what i got wrong because if we got the problem wrong when we are correcting it we are supposed write out and explain what we got wrong. That helps.
  • “knowing exactly what i did and seeing my score
  • “I liked it because you can defiantly see your mistakes.
  • i liked it because u could see what u were doing wrong
  • I liked trying to be A Teacher for the first time
  • I like that i kinda fell better if i get a good grade and i grade it myself i do not know why though.
  • I liked grading my own paper because we got to see what we got and how we were supposed to get it if we didn’t get a problem correct.
  • being able to give myself at least some credit
  • I like to see what kinds of things that i messed up on.
  • I liked being able to see what I messed up on. I looked at it more and got a good understanding of what I got wrong.
  • It was easier to see what mistakes I did make and how to correct them. I thought it was a good way to understand the material better – reworking the problems.
  • It was fun because you could really understand what you did wrong and understand what you needed to do to help fix it.
  • I like that you can see your mistakes and understand completely what and why you got a problem incorrect.
  • I liked it because i could redo what i was missing and look over my paper more.
  • I like being able to see what I did wrong. Seeing my own mistakes helps me learn what to do a little better. If I just got everything right whats the point? You wouldn’t learn anything!
  • I liked being able to correct my own mistakes.  Interacting with what you did wrong helps you learn it for the next time.  Usually you just see what was wrong and you go ok but you never really learn how to fix it unless you do it yourself.
  • I liked getting an idea of what you did wrong when grading it and getting an idea what my grade will be ahead of time before the teacher grades it.
What did you NOT like about grading your own test?
  • knowing how many mistakes you got.
  • Having to face my mistakes
  • seeing how many mistakes you made.
  • ???
  • All the mistakes that i had to correct was embarrassing
  • What i did not like is that i felt bad when i got a answer wrong because of a silly mistake that i made.
  • nada
  • It takes some time to finish grading the paper.
  • i didn’t like that it was a little confusing for some people like me to understand how to do it at first
  • I did not like that i had to see my grade  i think i got wait another day and get my real grade.
  • I didn’t like grading my own paper because it was extra work when instead we could’ve been learning.
  • it was hard and very confusing i didnt understand most of what i was supposed to do.  It was easier when you just graded my tests.
  • I don’t like grading my paper because it makes me really nervous.
  • I wasn’t exactly sure how to grade it, and how many points to take off, but I got it eventually.
  • I wasn’t always 100% how to rework them – even with the answer key. I really liked grading my own paper overall.
  • Nothing.
  • I kind of like that moment when you get your paper back with a grade on it; it’s really exciting and sort of scary. Like a rollercoaster, a little? But a math rollercoaster? I don’t know, it’s just fun.
  • I also thought it was a little harder because I had to find exactly where I got it wrong and felt like it was a little hard.
  • What I didn’t like was how it can tempt you to break the honor code by correcting an answer that you got wrong just to boost your grade.
  • The only thing i didn’t like about grading my own paper was that as i went through the problems it was more pressure because i did not want to have one wrong or correct one wrong.
  • I did not like grading my own paper because I’d rather just get the teachers grade. I get a little aggravated when I’m not sure if this is the grade that I will really get when it is graded by the teacher.

My Mini-SBG Experiment

The thing that I love the most about SBG (Standards Based Grading) is that both I AND the student will always know exactly what they need help with.  As soon as I realized this – I was hooked!  And, as much as I would love to jump head first into the SBG waters, I have a few obstacles in my path this year.  First, I am at a new school.  The other teachers and administrators do not know me yet, so I can’t go changing up their entire grading scheme before I even teach a day there.  Second, I am teaching a whole new grade level.  I have not even begun to plan all that I need to for this year, much less add SBG to the workload.  And third, I am a perfectionist.  So, no matter how much I read, until I really figure out this SBG for myself I just can’t commit.

But, I could not stay away either!  So, I decided to do a little mini-SBG experimenting this year.  That way, I can figure as much of it out as possible, ask lots of questions, and have so much more time to really get ready to launch!  What’s a mini-SBG look like you might ask?  Read on to see what I am implementing in my classes.

1)  I came up with my concepts list for each class.  I have approximately 50 concepts.

2)  I created (copied) a blank Concepts Checksheet for the students.  I took Dan’s and tweeked it some to work for me.

3)  I give them a pre-test on each chapter to see where they are.  This helps me condense sections they already  know large parts of and helps me focus on what I need to really work on with them.

4)  I score them from 1 (Beginning) to 4 (Exemplary).  This goes along with our rubric grades.  I only used 1 – 4 initally, but my fabulous middle school director suggested the B – E.  I like that so much better than the numbers 1 – 4 because I am VERY stingy with 4’s.  I give a 3 if you do not have the concept done perfectly.  For me, a 3 is almost got it!  But I am afraid they see a 3 as 3/4 (75%) and I don’t want that.

5) For each quiz and test I give them a concept grade for each concept covered on the assessment AND a number grade (95%).  The concept grade does NOT go into the “gradebook”.  It is just for my files and for their files to see what they know.

Yes, it is double the work because I am recording the concept grades AND the numerical grades.  However, I have already gleaned such valuable information out of this in just the first week that I feel it really is worth it.

Where My SBG is Different:

  • We make notecards as we take notes in class on key concepts.  I have them put the concept numbers on each of the notecards that they make so if they have a low score on a concept they know what to study.
  • I am using B, D, P, E instead of 1 – 4.  Still, I love it!
  • I am not re-testing.  But, I am including the concepts on each quiz and test several times so each concept will have at least 2 entries.

Kids loved seeing an improvement in the Concept Checksheet – even if they didn’t get as high of a score on a test as they would have liked.

Progressive concept questions are progressively harder.  So sometimes students go from a P down to a D.  They don’t like that.  But I tell them it is only temporary.

I need to organize extra work for the students (with answers) so that they may do additional work on the concepts they need help with independently.  Any idea?   Yes, I will help them.  But, then they need to know what to go and practice without me having to make up a million new practice sheets.  My MS director suggested the teacher’s edition practice workbook that goes along with the book.  I like that idea!  But, would love more!

My students are just figuring out the concept thing but so am I!  Plus, there is so much new stuff thrown at them at the beginning of the year that I doubt they have had time to absorb it.  After the first chapter I think everything will make so much more sense to them – and me!