Why You Actually Don’t Need the Answer Key(s)

For the past fourteen years, Renay sometimes wished for the answer key for certain activities. Sometimes, ultimately though, academics is not about the answer. For example name a river in Europe that changed lives for all who lived along it? We can guess you reached for a search engine to find the answer.

We assure you the answers are actually important. So let’s look directly at modifications of academic subjects and why you shouldn’t need the answers.

  1. The questions are literally over the student’s head. If the kid isn’t reading or seriously struggles with reading the assignment is too hard for the student to do independently. Things to help get some students over the hump: highlight keywords that will be found in the text to answer. Remove questions that ask for inference answers or ask those questions orally and scribe for the student.
  2. You should be modeling looking information up. For all students, and especially those students with the most severe of disabilities: looking up information either in the textbook or using the internet is the skill that will most benefit them long term. Formal assessments can capitalize and ask students to use their resources to look things up.
  3. The action of writing things down is a useful skill for most students. Even for the student who may have dysgraphia, highlighting and working on key words can help a student work on skills they could be working on for OT.
  4. When you have an answer key you refer to, you’re sending the value that answers are more important than action. You deny the intelligence that a student may have to help solve the problem. Should you have a vague idea? Certainly. If the lesson is asking about doing two step algebra you probably shouldn’t introduce the finer points of Chinese History.
  5. You don’t have time because the student has all this other work to do. Yes, during the day the student may have had a pull out for PT or a visit with a counselor, this has bumped their math progress or some other class. But here’s the story: the points are made up and it’s just school. Those extra services are more important than academics. It’s okay. We promise you the students you support won’t be bad people for not knowing what lessons of the day.
  6. Because you modified the assignment for the student and it’s super rough, but the student is going to use something else to find the answers. Sometimes you spit ball and just try to see if the student can do something. And you don’t know what will come out of the student’s mouth, it just sometimes may be an answer.

The answer key does not make you a more efficient paraeducator, nor does it make you a strong teacher. It may certainly relieve your mind of the chaos of switching from subject to subject, but the ultimate rule of thumb is to provide students with skills beyond the doors of academics, even if they will grace the halls of a university or college one day. If you’re hitting the wall and need the answer key, take a step back and look at the whole student and progress. Not everything needs to be done. It’s okay not to know the answers. That’s why you’re there to help.

While I have you here…

ParaEducate is coming to a campus near you. Listen for our travels coming soon!


Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

About paraeducate

ParaEducate is a company run to help reach out to paraeducators or paraprofessionals in public K-12 schools, giving advice, talking about publications that ParaEducate produces, and other useful information regarding working in public school settings.

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