When you reteach a concept, assuming that a student did not learn it or retain it, what are you telling that student?

Scary question!

When you reteach a concept, assumingThe reteaching of topics often happens at the beginning of every school year. It is a horrible disservice to our kids! It creates a classroom where the expectations are low, the students do not feel valued, and we struggle with the question, why do we need this? (Especially if the next teacher is going to bore us with it anyway?)

How to avoid this mistake:

  • Be familiar with the previous year's curriculum. Whether this is to browse through the textbook, a discussion with a colleague, or an exciting read of the curriculum, be sure you know what kids were exposed to and taught.
  • Do some pre-assessment. My personal preference for my class is an activity that creates discussion and allows me to get to know my students. You will find in the very first week an activity called "Shapes of Algebra." The investigation is not a graded assignment, but a way for me to get an idea of what they learned (and more importantly, retained)
I have heard arguments about starting with "Shapes of Algebra, " and I hear you. Yes, it has concepts from the whole year of algebra 1. But remember, we are not assessing on this right now. We are taking a look at our students and giving them a chance to show us what they bring to the table. Can they plug and chug through these problems? Do they get a bigger picture? Do they know what a parabola looks like on a graph? A growth? A decay?
  • Give a survey. Create a survey to your students. Ask questions that will help you understand what they know and what they want to know. You can download mine here. It was created using Google Forms. (If you are not familiar with Google Forms and their grading capabilities, please let me know. It is a great time-saving tool.)

So how do we handle gaps?

  • Embed reteaching into current lessons. I do this one most often. I like to work on skills during warm-ups or bellringers. I will purposely put questions into lessons and classwork time. But I am very careful that skills mastered previously are not the main lesson within the first three weeks of school.
  • Use extra people for one on one help. Student assistants, student teachers, parents, para-pros, RTI specialists, coaches, etc. Sometimes students only need to be told they are doing it right to keep going. Often a lack of confidence is my primary battle for success with students. This immediate feedback brings me to my next tool.
  • Use online tools that will move forward with a student's ability. For this one I like Mangahigh.com. The problems get harder for those getting them right and easier for those getting them wrong. Once they get the medal in the desired lesson, it is easy to assign a harder lesson to those that are ahead. It is easy to see where everyone is at one time up front from your computer or individually as you walk around. I can help those that need help without them having to ask in front of the class. I try to fit this important day in at least once during each unit.
  • Ask other content area teachers for help. If the gap is in graphing, ask your history teacher to reinforce your vocabulary or concepts with their next lesson where graphs exist. This will be a win/win giving the kids context and deeper meaning in both history and math. I will also be working with the biology teacher in my school. You can find our first round of brainstorming here.

Make a Plan.

  • Make a list of prerequisite skills you "wish" your students had mastered. You can find my Unit 1 list in this blog post.
  • Find a way to assess this. Create a bellringer and add a practice problem or add it to an in-class activity. But I would encourage you not to assume kids don't know it. Remember the value of wait time.
  • Based on what you find, add questions as they fit into the lessons. You will notice that everything I include on highschoolmathteachers.com is editable. This is for a reason. It is on purpose. Make it your own without creating from scratch. Add those questions, put in an extra slide, do what it takes to bring kids up to speed without spending a whole lesson on it. Remember things are learned faster the second or third time around.


Take a walk down memory lane and remember how you felt when the first three weeks or months were spent reviewing. Did you feel valued, respected? We must change this. There is a reason for looping kids. They gain a semester after two years. The teachers don't reteach everything. We can no longer assume that because we did not teach the content to them that they do not know it. We must move forward. What tools do you use to keep kids engaged when we are trying to get kids on the same page? Please leave a comment below. I would love to hear what you have to say.

(Updated 7/8/18) Some new thoughts:

I recently shared an old blog post, "In Algebra, be careful what you reteach". The comments have been amazing and I absolutely love them! I will be on live this morning to discuss some of them and add a few thoughts. I hope you can join me.

If you missed it, here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/algebra1teachers/posts/1719808448067806

Let's discuss reteaching

I recently shared an old blog post, "In Algebra, be careful what you reteach". The comments have been amazing and I absolutely love them! I will be on live this morning to discuss some of them and add a few thoughts. I hope you can join me. If you missed it, here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/algebra1teachers/posts/1719808448067806https://highschoolmathteachers.com/in-algebra-be-careful-what-you-reteach-how-to-start-the-year-off-right/

Posted by High School Math Teachers on Sunday, July 8, 2018