Checking: It’s one thing you can save for after school. But should you? Javon Miller believes the immediate feedback of checking student work in class is worth the time it takes. He explains the benefits of checking in class, and offers guidance or avoiding potential problems.
Chris: Javon, as a teacher of four grades, your time is valuable. So I noticed today that you checked some of the students’ work in class. So you’re taking class time, you could be teaching a lesson, and using that for grading. What’s your rationale there?
Javon: It saves me time as far as I don’t have to check ten students, fifteen students’ work, but it does cost them some of their time and it does cost us class time like you talked about. So anything we do in class we have to decide what’s valuable. And the reason I check in class largely is simply for the fact that I can provide immediate feedback. So if I check their work in the evening and give it back to them the next day, if they have a question about it, they’re not as likely to ask as if we were sitting at the class table and I see that hey, there’s a problem here, and then we can solve it right away.
Chris: How have you addressed the thing of trust? Or maybe age? If they’re too young, do you assume that they’re honest? They grade another student’s work. How do you know that they are marking the correct ones?
Javon: It’s a little tricky depending what type of students you have for sure. But the way I have that set up, I can kind of look over what they’re checking. So if I am checking, reading off answers, occasionally I’ll just glance at their books just to make sure things are going… And occasionally I’ll catch a mistake or something. But with exchanging books generally, it doesn’t seems to be much a problem, because one student is not necessarily gonna give this other student a bunch of grace.
And that’s something else that I think is somewhat beneficial. I’d say it carefully because it can get out of hand, probably did when I was in school. But the whole thing of competition: So you check in class and yeah it gives them some feedback right away, but it also builds a little bit of competition. Because your classmates see, “Hey, he got this grade,’ or “She got this grade,” so where am I in relation to that? And so there’s a sense of competition and so some of the checking, they’re looking pretty hard for mistakes I think.
Chris: So what are some dos and don’ts for other teachers who are thinking about trying this?
Javon: The whole thing of exchanging books. Not that I don’t trust my students, but there’s always that opportunity for something that’s a little bit of a gray area, not to count it or something. So with checking I like to have them exchange books obviously, so that would be one.
Another thing that I require is that we just check all the work first and then if they have questions about the checking, they ask those after we’re done checking. So as we are checking, they just put a little mark by it or something. And that really helps to save time in checking.
Something that I find students enjoy doing is writing in each others’ books and so that’s something I found that just—right upfront I just established that, that that’s not something that should be done.
I always do it the same way. So the first thing we do when we come to class is we check. And so they come with their pens and they… immediately once we get to the class table they open their books and we’re ready to go. And so cutting down those transition times I think is huge because, if not, that’s soon going to cost a lot of time: having a student run back for a pen, or going getting their book or their speed test, or something like that. So doing it the same way every time, would be something I’d highly recommend.
So it does take time to check in class obviously. It takes time but in my opinion, it’s worth it.
Unless otherwise noted, you are free to use this work under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
CONTRIBUTOR: Javon Miller