Differentiation through Reteaching and Retesting

By Mary Rush

Imagine if you were the child sitting in the classroom at the end of a lesson. The teacher tells all students to prepare for an exit exam. You know that this is going to be a grade, but you really didn’t understand the lesson today. You take the exam and just as you expected, you failed. Many times this is the end of the story. You go home feeling defeated. Your teacher goes home feeling defeated. Then, you both come in the next day and hope for better results.

However, the story doesn’t have to end here. What if teachers can create an environment where students feel confident and secure? What if we could set up a system where students can be given the opportunity to learn the content in a different way? What if we can do this while providing differentiated instruction over multiple learning targets?

After teaching science for over 10 years, one of the things that continued to elude me was how to address students who do not master the content. With the demands of high stakes testing, teachers have an overwhelming pressure to “cover” all the content being tested. Many times this leads to rushed delivery of content. It always bothered me to move on to the next topic knowing that 15-20% of my students hadn’t truly mastered the content. I wanted to teach my students the importance of persistence when learning new things. I wanted them to develop a growth mindset. My partner, Kristin Eastham, and I decided to use technology to help streamline the process. In the past, classroom management has been an issue in reteaching days. Trying to give individualized attention to students over many different topics can be challenging. By creating the forms embedded with teacher explanation and practice problems, students get their needs met without strenuous demands on the classroom teacher. It is almost like having an extra teacher in the room.

Through the inspiration of other colleagues and online lectures, we embarked on a journey of creating reteaching video clips. We then paired the videos with practice problems using Google Forms. The following is a link to an example form. The forms allowed us to further specialize instruction for our students. Using Google Forms’ capability to allow different paths, we created questions to allow students to practice before retesting. This process helps students learn the importance of learning from their mistakes and continuing to be persistent until success is achieved. We utilized this process in two units. We found that of the 15-20% of student who failed the initial assessment 10-15% passed on their second attempt. Of the remaining 5% who did not master the learning target, 4% still improved upon their previous performance.

Steps to creating video/practice Google Form

  1. Create a short video clip reviewing the content (I recommend Screencastify for beginners)
  2. Upload the video to YouTube.
  3. Create a quiz using Google Forms Blank Quiz
  4. Add your video to the Google Form
  5. Place practice questions in the form (make a new section for each question)
  6. For each question, select the option to “go to section based on answer”
    • This is what allows you to create different paths for students when they choose the wrong answer.
  7. Create short video clips to address misconceptions.
  8. Direct wrong answers to the section that explains these misconceptions.After watching that short clip, students will be directed back to the original questions to try it again. If students get the questions correct, they are directed to the next question.

(I have created a tutorial video with step by step instructions for the process)

After implementing this program in our classes, we allowed students to provide feedback using a survey. The student survey results were very interesting. Students reported feeling more confident and improved understanding in their science class. Students were asked how it made them feel now that they had the opportunity to reteach and retest over science content. One student replied, “Good, because I can know how to fix my mistakes so that I don't continue to make them.” Another said, “It makes me feel comfortable because I know that if I don't understand a learning target the first time, having a second try to master a subject makes me feel safe in the topic.” These were only a couple of examples of the positive feedback we received. This truly strikes at the heart of what we wanted to accomplish through this process. My students may not remember much of the specific content I taught them in 7th grade science. However, if they learn from me how to keep learning, keep trying, and keep being persistent, then that is a skill that will serve them throughout life. I believe we are teaching students not to give up after initial failure. We are hopefully developing lifelong learners. This reinforces the principles of persistence and practice when faced with a challenge.

Technology is an excellent tool to utilize when providing differentiation and remediation for students. The process of developing reteaching videos and practice Google forms is time consuming initially. However, the payoff in class is huge. Also once the videos are made, they can be used year after year. The time investment will pay large dividends in the future. The video library created by the teacher can also be used to help students who have been absent. They can also be used to help keep instruction moving forward when teacher must be absent. The uses of this process are only limited by the teacher’s imagination. So the next time you are wondering what to do to help struggling students, consider this method.

I am currently a science teacher at Boyle County Middle School. I have been teaching for 17 years. I have received my BS in Biology Teaching from EKU and MA in Instructional Leadership from EKU. I plan to pursue my national board certification beginning this fall.