Adventure Specialists' Advice

September 29, 2016

Rick Wormeli: The Right Way to Do Redos

Adapted from Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom by Rick Wormeli. Copyright © 2006, Stenhouse Publishers. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

By Rick Wormeli

In a successfully differentiated class, we often allow students to redo work and assessments for full credit. There are a number of stipulations and protocols that make it less demanding on teachers and more helpful to students, however. Let’s take a look.

All Redone Work Is Done at Teacher Discretion

Redoing work is not to be taken for granted. In my classes, I ask parents to sign a form that outlines this and other protocols for redoing work at the beginning of the school year. This serves as due process, and I can reference it when a parent complains that I did not allow his or her child to redo an assignment.

If I get a hint that the student has “blown off” a four-week project until the last three days, or boasted to classmates that he or she will just take the test the first time as an advance preview and then really study for it next week because, “Mr. Wormeli always let’s me redo tests,” I will often rescind the offer and discuss the situation with the student.

I use the word often here because one, universal, always-respond-this-way declaration is inappropriate in many grading and teaching situations. In many cases there are extenuating circumstances, and in differentiating classes, we do what’s developmentally appropriate for students, not just what the rules dictate.

If it’s a character issue, such as integrity, self-discipline, maturity, and honesty, the greater gift may be to deny the redo option. We have to weigh that choice every time we consider allowing students to redo work.

Also, if a particular student is asking to redo work more than twice a grading period, there may be another problem that needs to be addressed. We may need to modify our instruction, coach the student on time-management skills, confer with the parents, look at the student’s schedule outside of school, or get some guidance from a school counselor because of a difficult emotional issue the student is experiencing.

The rule of thumb, then, is to consider the extent to which students abuse the policy by becoming chronic redoers. If they abuse the system or repeatedly ask for a redo, we need to modify the system.

On most occasions, however, our first response is to be merciful. One of the signs of a great intellect is the inclination to extend mercy to others, and all successful teachers are intellectual.

How We Would Want to Be Treated as Adults

This is another criterion to consider. There are many times in which we’ve had something due for a committee, an administrator, or a graduate course, but we were too overwhelmed, tired, neglectful, or immature in our planning to finish the task in time.

Good reasons or not, we are very grateful for that committee chair, administrator, or professor who smiles and says, “I understand; that happens. Have it for me Monday, and we’ll be fine.”

As long as we don’t make such delays habitual, it’s usually not a problem, and we’re still held in high regard.

The world can be an unrelenting whirlwind of criss-crossing priorities and urgencies. It’s getting harder to make the most efficient choices and stay in good health, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Offering compassion to others in the midst of this is not only effective, it’s refreshing.

Ask Parents to Sign Original and Request Redo

This keeps them aware of what’s going on. It also prevents the student from begging, “Please let me study this during lunch then retake the test in the afternoon. I can’t take this grade home to my Dad.”

The earliest moment students can redo tasks or assessments is the day after receiving the original assignment or assessment. Such a time period helps you decide how you want to conduct the redo, and it forces the student to form and execute a plan of studying.

Reserve the Right to Change Redo Formats

There are times when it’s not worth students’ going through the whole project or assessment from the beginning for a redo. For time and sanity’s sake, we may just want to assess the student orally and record the new grade right away.

Instead of a student redoing a large, complex culminating project on the use of imagery in poetry, for example, I might call the student to my desk and ask him or her to find five uses of imagery in each of two different poems, then to explain how the poet used the imagery to invoke feelings and thoughts in readers’ minds. I might ask the student to give me the technical terms we use to analyze poetic imagery, then I might ask him or her to generate a few lines of poetry that incorporate two of those types of imagery.

In ten minutes, I’ve reassessed my student, and I record the new grade in the gradebook.

A Calendar of Completion Will Yield Better Results

It is disrespectful to you and to the student for him or her to spend considerable time restudying the material only to get the same grade or lower. If you can, sit down with the student for a few minutes and work out a successful study plan.

Get practical, too: “What will you need to do on Thursday so you can turn this in to me on Friday?” After the student responds with several suggestions, you continue, “What will you do on Wednesday so that you can do these steps on Thursday so you can turn this in to me on Friday?” Always work backwards to the present day.

Most students don’t have the time-management and task-analysis skills to finish the redo material while keeping up with current work. They need adult guidance. It’s developmentally inappropriate to give students a deadline of three days from today to finish the work to be redone, as well as the current work, without guiding them on how to do this, and then admonish them for being irresponsible when they show up with only a quarter of it completed.

“You should have used your time more wisely,” you scold. “All the rest of these assignments are zeros.”

This response is abusive. Most students need interaction with an adult to create a successful calendar of completion. This is also true for students who were out sick or on vacation and are doing make-up work by a certain date. Compassion goes a long way and isn’t soft. It’s tough and requires serious thinking.

Creating a calendar of completion means we set a date by which time the redone work is submitted, or the grade becomes permanent. This is usually one week after the original assignment is returned in my classes, but extenuating circumstances can change that.

Redos and Grades

If a student studies extensively yet still earns a lower grade on the redone work, we can take several actions.

  • Reconsider the student’s earlier, higher grade. Was it a fluke? Was it a valid indicator of mastery? Something is wrong when a student’s mastery decreases over a few days’ time. In such cases, we need to investigate what happened by reexamining the responses on the earlier assessment and interviewing the student.
  • We may need to reteach the material to the student, while also assessing our lesson plans to make sure we’re teaching so that students carry the correct information forward. It’s not enough just to have presented the curriculum. We don’t just admonish the student for not studying and move on.
  • When it comes to what grade to record in the gradebook—the higher or lower one—choose the higher grade. In most of life, we’re given credit for the highest score we’ve earned. Many lawyers, driver’s license holders, accountants, teachers, and engineers appreciate this policy.
  • Don’t average the first and second grade together, either. This is not an accurate rendering of mastery. An analogy with the Department of Motor Vehicles works here: Imagine I’m going for my driver’s license in a state that requires a grade of 80 percent correct on the written exam in order to pass. On the first attempt, I earn 20 percent. This isn’t very good—stay off the sidewalks, I’m driving!
  • After studying a bit, I go back and earn 100 percent on the written exam. I’d get my license, correct? Sure. If we averaged the two scores, however, I wouldn’t get my license, and I’d have to muddle through a string of 100 percents to finally get my license. We don’t do this to stable, secure adults; why should we do it for humans in the morphing?

No Redos During Last Week of Grading Period

This is another suggestion that helps as well. It is completely arbitrary and has no pedagogical basis; it just saves teacher sanity. Students usually get worried about their grades and pester their teachers during this time, but the teacher needs the week to finish grading anything outstanding and to determine final grades for the report card. It’s difficult to keep up with students redoing work while preparing report cards, so give yourself this guilt-free time.

Keep the Original and the Redo Together

Ask students to staple or attach the original task or assessment to the redone version. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember where individual students are in their redo journey. Seeing the original materials helps us determine student growth and keeps gradebook accounting clear.

Our World Is Full of Redos

The decision to allow students to redo work that is poorly done or missing is a tough one. Teachers debate the merits of allowing redos in schools around the world. If we’re basing our decision on the “real” world outside of school, then the answer is clear: Allow students to redo work.

This may run counter to some teachers’ assumptions that in the real world you don’t get “do-overs.” Yet we do.

Pilots can come around for a second attempt at landing. Surgeons can try again to fix something that went badly the first time. Farmers grow and regrow crops until they know all the factors to make them produce abundantly and at the right time of the year. Movie directors? They invented it.

Our world is full of redos. Sure, most adults don’t make as many mistakes requiring redos as students do, but that’s just it—our students are not adults and as such, they can be afforded a merciful disposition from their teachers as we move them toward adult competency.

Related Rick Wormeli resources:

Rick Wormeli: Redos, Retakes, and Do-Overs, Part One(YouTube)

Rick Wormeli: Redos, Retakes, and Do-Overs, Part Two(YouTube)

Rick Wormeli: On Late Work (YouTube)

Rick Wormeli: Standards-Based Grading (YouTube)

Important Dates

October 4: MS Concert, 7 PM (Grades 7 and 8 only)

October 5: End of Q1

October 6: Last Day of Q1 X blocks

October 7: MS Drama (During All MS Activities)

October 10: Grades verified by 8 AM

October 10: Combined Staff, 4 PM

October 10-14: School Safety Week

October 12: Parent-Teacher conferences; Students dismissed at 12:30

October 15-23: Mid-Semester Break

The Power of Two

The last few weeks I’ve been discussing thinking tasks and giving some ideas for how to assure the integrity of the thinking task without compromising on creativity and engagement. Today I want to talk about an essential ingredient for putting these ideas into practice. This essential ingredient ranks in the top 10 of what teachers can do to improve learning in their classrooms. It is powerful and yet very easy to overlook. What is this mystery ingredient? Collaboration.

We teachers spend a lot of time on our own during the day. There are many days when I’ve felt like something I did in class didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, and I would love to have someone else to talk with to help me figure out how to improve it. I end up talking to myself about it, but I know another person’s perspective would be helpful. As I was thinking about the best way to encourage us all in developing strong thinking tasks, I realized that collaboration is the essential next step. We can’t have another adult with us all day, but we can take the time to stop a colleague and ask them to help us think through various thinking tasks we’re using in class. Research shows that this short brainstorming conversation with a colleague is actually one of the most valuable things we teachers can do. Collaboration brings fresh perspective and insight, and it will help to improve the overall quality of our classrooms.

My challenge for you this week is to take time for a 10-15 minute conversation with a colleague. Share about a few of the thinking tasks you’re doing in class and ask them for feedback. I guarantee it will be fruitful!

Susan Allen

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