I’ve been meaning to write about an interesting series of events that occurred a couple weeks ago, but I was a little distracted by the dash to spring break and coaching.

Anyway, here’s the set up: My 6th honors class (7th grade material) was working with finding the surface area of different solids. Throughout the unit, I stressed a reasoning approach and encouraged students to draw pictures to visualize different faces of objects. After we covered all of these preliminaries, I wanted students to wrestle with a bunch of multi-part application problems that required precision and reasoning. I wrote a packet of problems that progress from simple to complex. You can find a pdf of the problems I wrote here.

I planned for students to work together on the packet for one block after walking through the cylinder problem together. By the end of the period, I knew students needed more time to process the information and reason with the problems. Most students were on the right track and I heard a lot of good math being spoken, so I wanted to give students more time the following day to resume their work. The following day, students worked on the packet for the entire shortened block (40 minutes instead of the normal 80) and turned in the packets for me to “grade.”

What I observed was really uplifting. While students were making some mistakes, I could tell many students worked hard on the packet and tried problems multiple times leading up to their correct responses. I pulled an idea from Michael Pershan’s playbook and highlighted student mistakes because I knew this packet was a prime opportunity for some revision.

I handed back the packets to students who were slightly confused when they did not see a grade at the top of the page. I explained that I graded their rough drafts and I wanted them to revise their work before turning in a final draft the following class. A couple students seemed a little ticked at the assignment, but I told the class I liked what I saw and wanted everyone to build on their strengths.

When I graded the final products, the work was astounding. I’m hesitant to post work examples, so I’ll summarize. I saw students create sketches of solids, pictures of faces, labeling, and a really high degree of organization. For some students, the difference between the rough draft and final draft was small details, but I could tell other students made leaps in understanding!

I passed back the graded packets the following Monday and I commended students on the work I saw from everyone. I asked students if they liked the rough draft/final draft cycle and to tell me why if they did. Most students preferred the revision cycle and some reasons included, “I understood everything more at the end,” and, “I learned what I got wrong, but I needed to fix it myself.”

While I definitely cannot use problem packets and revision all the time, this experience and other revision activities I’ve used this year have shown me tangible and valuable ways for students to learn from their mistakes.