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Showcasing Carol Gibson and "Green Light"

"I needed a way to catch the kids who were making mistakes in math before the mistakes became permanent," recalled Carol Gibson. "It seemed that even walking around checking, I always missed someone. When I started using green light, though, I caught early mistakes. I could do individual mini lessons and be assured that when a student went on to the rest of the assignment, he or she would be doing it right."

After Gibson has taught a math skill to her fourth graders and answered their questions, she assigns 5-10 problems at the beginning of the lesson as "green light." Her students at Prairie View Elementary School in Devils Lake, North Dakota, raise their hands to signify they've finished the work, and she quickly checks the handful of problems for accuracy. If the work is done and accurate, the student receives a "green light" -- a note written in green marker, a green sticker, or green treat -- and he or she may go on to finish the entire assignment.

"I try to write green light in green marker with a big smile!" reported Gibson. "I often provide something small and fun when I first start this technique with a class. I don't always give rewards later on, but bring small tokens as an occasional surprise. I also vary whether green light has to mean all correct. It usually does, but sometimes the kids can correct their answers on an especially difficult assignment and still get green light. The added bonus for them is that I always give one hundred percent credit for those problems when we correct them the next day. That's a real boost for some kids' grades."

Gibson's students enjoy the "green light" technique. They love the treats, but they're also very proud of each "green light" they earn.

"Another fun twist is that the kids who get green light often will offer to help check others for green light, and that allows a little more teacher time for the kids who are having a hard time," Gibson explained. "It's important to make sure all kids get green light sometimes, but my kids know that math isn't everyone's bag, and they readily accept the help from their peers."

The green light approach has worked best for her math classes, but Gibson also has used it in other subjects. One of her favorite aspects of green light is finding neat green surprises for her students!

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Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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