Yellow Light/Green Light: Avoid Practicing A New Skill Incorrectly

November 7, 2012


When students have been taught a new skill or concept, it is very important to provide a maximum amount of feedback as they practice to ensure they practice correctly.  There are a variety of techniques that can be used in the classroom to make sure students aren’t working on an assignment incorrectly, because feedback came too late.   For example, when math problems are assigned, students may work with partners to solve a couple of problems and then check their work against the work of another set of partners.  If both sets of partners have the same answer, then they may continue with the next 2-3 problems.  But, if there are discrepancies in their answers, then all four students either rework those problems together to solve, or request teacher assistance.  It is particularly important for students who are having difficulty to clear up any confusions early.  Working a few problems and then checking for understanding, working a few more and checking is key…until that high degree of monitoring and feedback is not needed.


Middle school math teacher,  Karen M. shared with me a strategy she uses for providing feedback to students while working on their in-class assignments, and helping to ensure they are completing the work correctly.  She calls it the “yellow-light, green-light” strategy, which she finds particularly beneficial for struggling students who need frequent and immediate feedback as they are practicing a new concept or skill.  When a lesson is taught and students are then given problems to work on in class, everyone is on “yellow-light”.  They are to work a few problems on the page, and then the teacher checks them.  Students who are on the right track and don’t need assistance are given the “green-light” to finish the assignment.  For those who are having some difficulty, she provides more instruction (herself or peer assistance), then tells those students that they are still on “yellow-light”, and to try a few more problems before she checks them again.   For those kids who are really struggling, she works alongside them.  They do the problem on their page while the teacher works the problem on her page; then they compare answers.  Students are told that there is no such thing as “red light”, because they are never to stop trying.


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