Dealing with Failure: Strategies for Retakes and Redos

According to grading guru Rick Wormeli, “Allowing students to redo assignments and assessments is the best way to prepare them for adult life.”  In my experience, I agree with Wormeli in theory but am much more pragmatic and cautious when it comes to practical application and logistical gymnastics!

Consider Wormeli’s perspective in this video…

So what can be done to make the process less painful to manage?  In Redos and Retakes Done Right (Wormeli, 2011) suggests several tips for managing the process of redos in the classroom:

  1. Ask students who redo assignments to submit the original attempt with the new one and to write a brief letter comparing the two. What is different, and what did they learn as a result of redoing the work?
  2. Reserve the right to give alternative versions of the assessment if you think students will simply memorize a correct answer pattern or set of math answers. Don’t be afraid to make the redone versions more demanding.
  3. Announce to students and parents that redos are permitted at teacher discretionThis means that students and parents may not take the redo option for granted.
  4. Require students to submit a plan of relearning and to provide evidence of that relearning before work can be redone. This includes creating a calendar in which students list day-by-day what they will do to prepare.
  5. If a student doesn’t follow through on the relearning steps he or she promises to do, ask the student to write a letter of apology to you and to his or her family for breaking the trust.
  6. Require parents to sign the original,poorly done versions of assignments so they’re aware that their children have required multiple attempts to achieve the standard. (If there is neglect or abuse in the home, of course, remove this requirement.)
  7. After two or three redo attempts, consider shelving the push for mastery of this content for a few weeks. Either the student is not ready to reach the standard, or we’re not creative enough to figure out how to teach him or her. Take a break and pursue this content in a later unit of study.
  8. If the same student repeatedly asks for redos, something’s wrong. The content is not developmentally appropriate, there are unseen issues at home, or perhaps there’s an undiagnosed learning disability. Investigate.
  9. Choose your battles. Push hard for students to redo anything associated with the most important curriculum standards and less so with work associated with less important standards.
  10. Allow students who get Cs and Bs to redo work just as much as students who earn Os and Fs. Why stand in the way of a student who wants to achieve excellence?
  11. If report cards are coming up and there’s no time to redo something to change the grade, report the lower grade and assure the student that he or she can learn the material the next marking period. If the student demonstrates improved mastery, submit a grade change report reflecting the new, more accurate grade.
  12. For the sake of personal survival, you may choose not to allow any retakes or redos the last week of the marking period as you’re closing down the grade book and doing report cards. For eight weeks, you’re Mr. or Ms. Hopeful, but for that one week, it’s OK to protect your sanity and personal life. You can allow students to learn the material and have their grade changed later.
  13. Replace the previous grade or mark with the most recent one; don’t average the two attempts together. The A that a student earns on his fifth attempt at mastery is just as legitimate as the A earned by his classmate on the first attempt.
  14. Unless an assessment is complex and interwoven, allow students to redo just the portions on which they performed poorly, not the entire assessment. (To assist with this, consider standards-based grading on your assessments; record the standards or outcomes being assessed at the top of the assessment and provide a separate score for each standard.) Separating standards in this way saves time for both the teacher and the students. Some redos can be a 10-minute interview at the teacher’s desk while the rest of the class works on something else.

Considering Wormeli’s advice, what is working for you?  How do you manage retakes and redos?

Wormeli, R. (2011). Redos and retakes done right. Educational Leadership. November 2011.


About Dr. Corey Vorthmann

Supervisor of Secondary Education
This entry was posted in Practices and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Dealing with Failure: Strategies for Retakes and Redos

  1. Bob says:

    A good list to keep in mind as we plan our interventions to failures in our classes. I think #9 is so important for all of our interactions with students, parents and other staff. #14 helps make the redo manageable for the teacher to grade, but also for the student to focus on the learning they didn’t get.

    For me I use test corrections, review assignments as the new learning before a student gets a second shot at the assessment. No reason to just let them keep trying if I don’t know they can do better.

  2. Martha Bruckner says:

    This is a great list of strategies to send the message to students that there may be additional work required prior to making up an assignment. I like the fact that the teacher may used discretion about when and what. I think #11 is a strong point. We may want to announce to students that remakes or retakes (as directed by teachers) will not be allowed during last week – or that such attempts will not be able to impact the current trimester grade. Wormeli says it better than I am describing it.

  3. Tera Schechinger says:

    I stumbled upon this same video after your last blog post. LOVE IT!!!! I re-watched it just now and found something interesting that he also weaves into the aforementioned steps. That through hard work and effort students can achieve and learn. I think sometimes we want to throw in the towel because many students currently do not want or know how to put it effort and hard work BUT if we don’t teach them will they ever know how to? We can throw in the towel too and just give a passing grade or we can help them learn to persevere and achieve through hard work. His tips are very doable in any system of grading and can support all the hard work and effort that students need to put in.

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