Give students the answer...This is definitely a huge difference from what I normally say. I'm usually preaching about redirecting students' thinking and being sure to NOT give students the answer when they ask. So, let me explain what I'm saying.
Years ago, when I taught second grade I really enjoyed setting up activities that required my students to express themselves and their creativity. I really loved having tasks in place that allowed for multiple solutions to openly show the many different ways that my students thought. During one activity I was planning, I could see where my kids thinking would go all over the place and result in them missing or noticing what was needed to teach that particular skill. I thought to myself, "I need to put a cap on their thinking." The image I actually pictured was an empty bottle with a lot of room to think and move freely, but the top was on it to make sure the thinking didn't go out and just wander too far. ( I know...Interesting image, but I really am a visual person in the head.) Over the years, I started to realize that was a great way for me to strategically help students productively struggle, but avoid unproductive practice. It was the best way to self-check. So for instance, on new problems we were learning I would go ahead and give students the answer and they would be graded on the work that supported my answer. It was amazing! My top three reasons are:
1. It eliminated unproductive practice. I view unproductive practice as practice that students do for a period of time without realizing that they are incorrect. So that would be 20 minutes a student may spend on problems of the same type and all of them are incorrect. Students having the answer eliminates that unproductive practice and shifts to productive struggle. Having the answer allows students to self-check as they go along and continue to try to make sense of the problem and adjust as necessary.
2. It put a heavy emphasis on their thinking and the process. Although many classrooms are successful with putting emphasis on student work and not just the correct answers, many classroom still lack that. Providing answers for students and requiring them to show how its the answer, lets students know that getting the correct answer isn't the only important thing. This helps build students' confidence and value their own thinking and errors even more.
3. Great for homework! Homework is out here causing real problems for many students and families. Math looks differently to many parents. Many parents do not understand why or how the work is done the way that it is. This leads to frustration and tension between families during homework practice. Often times, the parent ends up just telling the child to do the work the way "they were taught." The way they were taught is typically the algorithm, and if the algorithm is shown too soon, it misses the conceptual understanding. Sometimes the student is doing it incorrectly, which leads to time at home wasted on unproductive practice. Giving a few homework problems on a skill with the answer and requiring students to show their work helps alleviate some of the problems mentioned above.
This is great for all subjects!
One day in 2015, it was observation day. I was ready. I had all of my materials together. When it came time for me to pass out my students ELA sheets, I noticed I had accidentally printed off the answer keys instead of the original sheets. It was too late to change and I needed those sheets, so I improvised and decided that student practice would be for students to see the answer and support the answer by telling the location in the text that supported the correct answer. That worked so well! From that one time, students became better with the skill (Supporting Details, I think). It became a regular that I did that in ELA as well.
So give it a try in your classroom! Set the expectations high with examples of satisfactory work that could be shown. In Math, I often tell my students that their work should be sufficient enough that if I pretend as if I don't know the question, I can follow their work to know what the question is.