Every classroom has them. Students who rush through their work. These students often turn in poor quality work laced with frequent incorrect answers and sloppy handwriting. These careless mistakes really make you nervous when it gets closer to test time because you worry if they will take the time to do their best. Are they guessing? How can you help students who are rushing through their work?
Not all students who rush through their work have incorrect answers or make careless mistakes, but it is still a bit concerning. Students need to take their time and do their best. Below I have a few strategies to help you help your rushing student.
Strategies to Help Students Who Rush Through Their Work
1.) Consider the Reason. Observe your rushing student and take note why he or she is rushing. Is your student rushing through the work because he is challenged by it or bored with it? Some students, such as students with ADHD, rush because the thoughts move so quickly in their mind that they need to put down their answer before they lose their train of thought. Other students rush because they don’t have the energy to focus and just want to get it done. Perhaps your student is rushing through his work because he wants to do other things. I had one student who loved to read so much that completing work just interrupted reading time. He was always in a hurry to finish it so he could return to reading. Another possibility is that your student wants to feel smart and by being the first one done, that helps accomplish that for him.
2.) Get to Know Your Students. Just as I mentioned in the blog post Helping Slow Moving Students, it’s very important to know your students and their learning style. This will help you understand a bit more about your students’ choices and motivation. Perhaps the student is struggling a bit with confidence and is feeling defeated. By knowing your students you are able to know their needs better. You can find an interest and learning style inventory for free at this blog post.
3.) Teach a High Quality Mindset. Create the mindset in the beginning of the year that you expect students to not rush through their work, but instead create high-quality work. Demonstrate to students what this looks like, sounds like, and how to even check their work afterwards. Continue with this mindset throughout the school year.
4.) Provide Self-Checking Tools. Some students who rush through their work may need self-checking tools such as a checklist or a rubric of what to do when they finish an assignment. Students could initial next to each piece of the rubric or checklist stating they have done it, if desired. This could be specific for each subject area, or very broad. Some examples for a checklist would be:
- Did you read the directions? If so, place a star next to them.
- Did you place your name on the paper?
- Did you check for spelling errors?
- Did you write in complete sentences?
- Can your teacher read it or is it too messy?
Kady, from The Teacher Trap, has taught her students a “tool” for when they are finished. They aren’t allowed to say things like “I’m done,” instead they have to say things like, “How can I make this better?” and “What can I fix up?” You can read about that here.
5.) Provide more Critical Thinking Questions. One way to get students to stop rushing through their work is to provide more open-ended, critical thinking questions. These questions require students to stop and think about what the question is asking and how to respond to it. It’s a little harder to rush through these type of questions, unless they are “B.S.-ing” you – which in that case you can do #6.
6.) The Redo. If it’s too messy to read or there are too many errors, I have actually stopped grading a paper and have given it back to the student to redo. Since the rushing student is often in a “hurry” usually because they’d rather be doing something else, they aren’t going to want to do it again. I like to make sure I mention that it’s important to take their time and do it correctly the first time, so they don’t have to do it again… and again.
7.) Teach Time. One method that is really effective is to teach all students about time. For instance, tell students just how long something should take. Write the estimated time on the board. Refuse to accept papers before a certain amount of time and that all students should be working on the assignment during that entire time. Consider using timers in the classroom for all students, not just your slow moving student. This will help the fast moving student realize they have plenty of time and perhaps slow down. It may also help your fast moving student see that “oops, that only took me one minute, I better go back and check it.” (well, we can dream). It can help your students who have no concept of time understand how much time they have spent on each problem. Students with ADHD are often unaware of this. Finally, you could have students write a start time and a finish time at the top of their papers for a while for both you, your student, the parents, and if necessary, the child study team to see. This makes great documentation.
8.) Stop Before It Starts. Why wait until a student is done with their work before you step in? We know who our rushing students are. Try to slow him down in the moment. As your circulating the room, head to your rushing student as you notice and ask questions like “Are you doing your best work?” or “Will I be able to read that?” When done enough times, this could help your student start to think this on his own.
9.) Speeding Tickets. On Teachers Pay Teachers there are a plethora of “Speeding Tickets.” These average around a dollar, but there are some that are free. They range in what they say and do. Some just simply acknowledge that the child rushed through his work and needs to either redo it or clean up the mistakes. You can find speeding tickets here.
10.) Work with the Student. Finally, based on your observations (found in #1 above), you may need to make some modifications. For instance, you may need to break the student’s work down into small chunks to help teach the student to work in a slow, steady pace. You may need to work on boosting his confidence or teaching the foundational skills. I have seen students who have rushed through work because they felt that they were going to “fail it anyway” so why put any effort into anything. Understanding that meaning makes a huge difference.
Sometimes it really just comes down to helping a student see what quality work looks like, but other times it’s much deeper than that. Not all students rush through their work because they are anxious to get it done.
With these ten strategies you can slow the pace of your rushing student and feel a little more at ease. Share this post with a teacher friend you know who has a fast finisher. She’ll be happy you did!