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4 Tips For Giving Rigorous Math Feedback During Remote Learning

When we first shifted to remote learning last Spring, I felt lost. With everything happening on the computer, I had no way to tell my students to “show your work.” I struggled to know what feedback to give, and I didn’t know how to help when students got a question wrong.

Fast-forward a year into teaching 5th grade math remotely, and I finally feel like I’ve found systems and routines that help my students learn rapidly. Here are the four things that help me and my students every day:

1. Find a way to see student thinking + give feedback

I love having students do work on pencil and paper. In middle school math, it just makes sense. Unfortunately, with so many online tools, all we see is the least interesting part of their work: the answer.

When we don’t see the work students did to generate their answers, we miss out on all the interesting parts that make learning happen: the misconceptions, algorithms, models and annotations.

My school uses EdLight to collect photos of students’ pencil and paper work during class. Once you can see work students do on paper, you can mark up the precise place you want them to revise their work, just like I would in class.

2. How to move from good to great remote feedback? Make it personal.

I follow up with as many individual students as possible in the moment, peppering them with positive comments to increase students’ confidence and make them feel valued.

When students know the teacher is taking time to consistently look at their work as an individual, they try harder. It’s important to reference previous wins, acknowledge accomplishments, and consistently praise student effort. Strong academic feedback builds relationships and motivates students.

3. Talk about student work as a class

One thing I do to increase rigor is have students look at each other’s work and make it better together. They can learn from one another by walking through mistakes. Students may learn different “tricks” by looking at different ways to solve the problem. I also find it sparks engagement by reluctant students.

Once I select a piece of work to share, I put it on a slide and share it with everyone. First, I give think time and a question to stop + jot about the work sample presented. Then, I cold-call 3-5 students to respond to the student work I showed. I mark up the work up in real time and stamp the key takeaway.

I find these discussions go so much better when I provide any “reference charts” I would typically have on my classroom walls alongside the student work. If there are certain academic vocabulary or phrases I want them to use in their answer, I post these alongside the slide.

4. Close the loop by requiring revisions

This process of revision shows the growth in student work, coming as close as possible to the in-class cycle of feedback and revision, but this isn’t happening remotely.

Students will be more engaged when you follow up from work submissions and make an effort to support them in the process of correcting their work. A great thing you can do here is to build in tutoring time in class that assists students in completing their revisions on work.

EdLight makes this workflow simple by sending work back for revision, but there are various ways to accomplish this that close the gap in learning.

If you try these tips out, let me know!

Written by Michelle Dorsey, Education World Contributing Writer

Michelle is in her fourth year teaching and in her second year as a 5th grade Math and Science teacher at Veritas Prep Holyoke in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Michelle is also the content lead for the 5th grade STEM team at Veritas Prep Holyoke. Michelle has her professional teaching license in the state of Massachusetts. She did her undergraduate studies in Elementary and Special Education and Mathematics and Computer Technology at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, graduating in 2015. Michelle also completed her Masters in Education at Springfield College in 2017.

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