Finding Mistakes

I love that getting a new group of students reminds me how far the group of students I had the previous year grew over the course of the year -even if it didn’t feel like it at the time!  There are numerous times in those first few weeks (even months) of school that I find myself thinking, “Oh my gosh, that’s right!  I was intentional about teaching them that.”

One of the things that has stood out to me the most with my 8th graders this year is how when looking at a worked out problem that has a mistake in it, they struggle to see the mistake, whether it’s their own or someone else’s work.  Not all students know how to look at a worked out problem and process through what was done to solve it.  If there was a mistake in their own work, they often don’t even try to look for the small mistake, rather they just erase their work and start over.

At first, I didn’t remember this being as much of a struggle for last year’s group.  Then I remembered I was thinking of my 8th graders last spring -not my 8th graders last fall.  That group of 8th graders struggled with this too, but by the end of the year they had improved in this area so much.  It caused me to stop and think about what things I do throughout the year that helps them grow in this area.

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I use Find the Flub pretty regularly for our warm-ups at the start of the year.  This is one of the first experiences students have looking for mistakes in an already worked out problem in my classroom.  I like that it’s low risk in that students aren’t looking for a mistake they made.  It’s someone else’s mistake.  I’ve found that adding numbers to each line of the problem gives students a good way to talk about the mistakes they see.  “From line 1 to 2, …”

My Favorite No

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This is another warm-up activity I use from time to time.  I tend to use My Favorite No more often, but I still like this one as it provides me with information on how each of my students are doing with a concept.  I put a problem up on the board for students to do.  Then I collect all of their answers and pick my favorite mistakes and put that work up on the board and have students figure out what was wrong with it.  I usually combine mistakes from a couple different students.  I originally saw this idea on the teaching channel, and I talk about how I use this in this post.

Spiral Worksheets

Another big way that students get practice looking over already worked out problems for mistakes is by making corrections to spiral worksheets.  This is the only one of the three that I have already helped students find the mistake, but they have to figure out why it is a mistake and fix it.  I wrote about that process in this post.

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I would love to hear other ways that you help your students improve in this area.

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Spiral Review

The idea of reviewing concepts throughout the course of the year is nothing new, so nothing is this post will likely be anything new.  I’ve fallen into a routine with how I review concepts throughout the year in my classroom, and overall I’m happy with it, so I thought I’d share what works for me.

Part 1:

The first day of the week students get a Spiral Review Worksheet that has anywhere from  8-12 problems on it.

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At the start of the year these are review problems from the previous grade -things that in my first couple years of teaching I spent time reteaching.  I’ve found that by putting them on these review sheets and encouraging students to Google them if they don’t remember, I don’t have to spend much time, if any, reteaching these concepts, and it gives me an opportunity to help students through the process of Googling things and how to use their resources to figure out a problem.

As the year goes on, the problems are mostly things we’ve covered this year.  When I know students will need a previous concept in an upcoming unit, I will make sure to include it in a few worksheets leading up to that unit.

The worksheets are due on the last day of the week, and I correct them by highlighting their mistakes.  I know I’m not perfect at grading this way.  I miss things, but I’ve found that when I use this method of grading more students actually look at their mistakes in the problem.  The  video in the link above explains what I do.  Overall, I try to highlight the first time a student makes a mistake in the problem.  I only highlight things after the initial mistake if the student made another mistake beyond the initial one.

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When I first started creating the Spiral Review Worksheets, I typically put the problems in order on the worksheet based on when we covered them in class with the newest problems at the end.  However, I’m now intentional about mixing them up so that students have to jump around from various concepts.

Part 2:

I didn’t start doing this part of the spiral review worksheets right away.  It took me a year or so for me to realize that this part of the process was possibly more important than reviewing the problems to begin with and to come up with a system that worked for me.

Then the second week, instead of getting a new worksheet, the assignment is for students to make corrections on the Spiral Worksheet from the previous week.

I have students make these corrections on a separate sheet of paper and turn in the corrections along with the original worksheet.  For the assignment to be counted “complete” in the grade book, students need to get most of the problems they initially got wrong correct.  It takes a little bit for students to get used to this system.  Some of my middle schoolers don’t understand why an assignment shows that it’s “missing” in the grade book when they turned in it, but after a couple times of doing this they understand the process.