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Why I Don’t Ask Students to Trade Papers

I am a BIG fan of students correcting their own school work. Not only does it subtract pages from the teacher’s grading pile, but it also gives students the opportunity to get feedback on their work in real-time. However, in order to make this beneficial for ALL students, students should only be correcting their *own* work.

The Worry Factor

Students who are correcting someone else’s paper are likely doing one of two things. They are a) worrying about how many questions they are getting wrong on their own paper OR b) wondering who is correcting their paper and what that person is thinking of them.  This serves no one. Sure, things are fine for the students who are getting their answers correct, but the students who didn’t comprehend the concept are now battling the reality of their poor score and the shame of someone else knowing about their struggles. 


Real-Time Feedback

When correcting their own paper, a student gets immediate feedback.  They know right away whether they are understanding the assignment.  If they are getting answers correct, they can celebrate in real-time.  Their confidence is boosted as they move on to the next task.  If they are struggling with the concept, they know it.  They can see what they wrote and what the answer should have been.  While getting things wrong never feels good, they don’t have to double up that feeling with the shame of their buddy knowing about their score.  

Keeping Them Honest

What about the students that aren’t honest with their correcting?  As teachers, we generally have a pretty good idea of who is struggling.  Ultimately, we need to be able to trust our students. But there are easy ways to help them along the path of honesty.  

Roam around the classroom as you are giving answers. Don’t stay at the front of the room.  

Ask students to put away all pencils during correcting time.  

Tell them to put their correcting pen in the air before you start to assure all students are ready to begin.   

And, ask students to volunteer answers.  

The Bottom Line

Letting students grade their own work can be a powerful reflection tool.  Paired with a 10 minute block of time in which the teacher is available for reteaching or help, students will benefit from the opportunity of correcting their own assignments. 

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