Teaching Tip #4 – Wrong Answers

How do you respond when students provide wrong answers?

This scenario certainly happens many times throughout the year – after all, making mistakes is a part of the learning process. However, responding appropriately to a wrong, or partially wrong answer is very important for the learning of that student.

Doug Lemov, from his book Teach Like a Champion, explains how to provide a positive, yet appropriate response, in a few important points.

  • Don’t “Round Up.” If a student is partially right, don’t affirm their answer and then add a detail of your own to improve the answer. This sets a low bar of expectations of cognitive thinking. Instead, prod or encourage the student to do the heavy thinking on their own.
  • Hold out for the student to finish. Use phrases like, “I like most of that…” or “We’re almost there, can you find the last piece?”
  • Be sure students are answering the question you asked. For example, when asking for a definition, don’t accept an example as an answer – recognize it for what it is, but work towards the learning you require of your students.
  • Use Responding to “I Don’t Know” to help with wrong answers from students.

Using these simple reminders, and being mindful of how the language you use can impact students, can help raise the rigor in your classroom and maintain high expectations for your discussions.

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