Between backpack and recycling bin

When you review tests, worksheets and problem sets your child brings home from school, of course you commend his efforts. Do you also help him re-work any questions he missed until he understands how to get the correct answer?

When teachers give this kind of corrective feedback to their students, “average” scores soon exceed 84% of the scores of students without such feedback.* However, it can be difficult for teachers to have time to give this kind of attention equally to all their students.
Assuming your brood is smaller than a typical class, here are some specific strategies you might use with your children:

  • If you find similar problems they solved correctly, point those out and ask if they can now see how to correct the missed question.
  • If you don’t know how to get the answer the teacher was expecting, encourage your child to discuss it with friends who answered it correctly. Ask her to teach you how to think it through tomorrow. This way you share your own intellectual curiosity with her.
  • If you see a pattern of missing a certain type of problem or question, send the teacher a note asking to discuss it with him. You don’t want to contradict what the teacher is teaching, but then again he simply may not have picked up on the pattern. A couple of years ago I realized my first-grader was getting every subtraction problem wrong by just one. In asking her to show me how she figured these out I saw that she was using a numberline and was confused about where to stop. We needed to get out actual objects to work with.

*Source: Benjamin Bloom (1984, June/July)  The 2 Sigma Problem: the search for methods of group instruction as effective as one-to-one tutoring in Educational Researcher. See also August 17, 2006 post.

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