Saturday, September 09, 2006

Reviewing Angst

Since I've started teaching older students (ones that I picture closer to college age than middle school age), I've become more reluctant to use a whole class period to review material for an upcoming assessment. My thinking is that I warn them a week in advance. I tell them what will be covered. I expect them to study at home and ask me questions if they have them. I've even started NOT handing out review sheets for them to do at home. Right. Apparently, I live in an ideal world where everything goes as it should, and all students are well-rested and don't work jobs and do their homework consistently, etc.

I still feel a time crunch and want to use class time for practice and new material. But on the other hand, I can think of a "review" day as just an extra practice day. I could even think of a "review sheet" with answers provided as extra practice. I wouldn't even have to refer to the sheet unless a student was proactive and asked questions about it. Maybe that's what I'll do in the future. Provide practice/review sheets with answers a few days before the test. ..... I still think of it as enabling, but maybe that's MY problem.


  1. I totally understand where you're coming from. Do you specifically say, "Review your notes for the test. THAT'S your homework."? I say it all the time, but it seems go in one ear and out the other. It's like it's not the students' responsibilities to learn the content.

    We have these quarterly assessments the district gives us, and just before one of them the admin starts harping on us to spend a few days in review. I've just spent the quarter teaching the content and have given my own graded assessments. Either they know it or they don't. And in most of my classes, the students pretty much know it, so there's no way I'm wasting days of instruction for a few. But then I'm at the middle school level, and although it's an accelerated program, I still have to hold the students' hand and specifically give them remediation. "So, here you go, work through these exercises at home and see me after school if you need assistance. And for goodness sake--review your notes!"

    But you know, to some that's just not enough, is it? And one of these days I'll probably have to be called on the carpet over test scores. Oh, yea. Been there done that. Ah the live of a teacher trying to resist enabling.

  2. Right. I guess that's one of the things I'm worried about: "What! you don't review in class? Shame shame shame".

    Ms. Cookie

  3. For my students, a large part of the studying problem is that they don't know how to review their notes. I've seen them try: it often involves opening a binder or book, flipping through some pages at random, and saying, "yeah, I get it". They don't know how to target their studying on what they don't know, or how to actually ensure that they fully understand a topic.

    Our department has recognized this problem for a long time, but it is very hard to address. In Algebra 1, we have tried a variety of structured study sheet making, which usually involves telling students what topics will be on the test, and then having them go through their notes and old quizzes to find similar problems, self-assess their ability with those problems, and put the most difficult stuff on the study sheet.

    We've had some success with this, but I think it is a process that must be scaffolded out over the 4 years. Now that our Algebra 2 students (10th graders, mainly) have a better note-taking system, I'm hoping that we can create some more advanced activities for them to learn to study.

    In the past, I've always done the "review day" also. I'd like to modify it to become the "study day". I don't yet know how I'll set it up, but I think it will be some kind of guided study group activity (i.e. I'll provide them with an outline of what should happen during a good study group session). Ideally, by the time these students are seniors, they should be able to run a successful study group on their own (and, of course, take the initiative to do so!).

    I'd love to hear any ideas about how to teach students to study effectively.

  4. Yes, I agree. I can't remember how many times a student tells me they study by "looking over my notes". I try to tell them that if the test was just reading notes and checking off your understanding, then that would be great. Otherwise, recreate the testing situation.

    I also take some time in class to mention ways to study. I haven't assessed yet whether it's affectively helping more kids. I'm guessing not.

    Dan, I like your scaffolding idea. Maybe something along the lines of a sheet that is like the following:

    1. read through your notes and list the current topics we're studying.

    2. for each topic specify a past homework problem that addresses it.

    3. redo each of those problems from scratch.

    4. check your answers against the homework (corrected) answers.

    5. If you got it wrong, try another.

    6. come in for tutoring if needed.

    Hmmmm, maybe this will be my next "review" sheet. That they need to hand in for homework credit.

    Ms. Cookie

  5. Anonymous6:34 PM

    I too have been struggling with the same issues. One thing I'm doing this year is to have them have summary sheets. It's bascially a sheet with 5 boxes on it and each day for the last couple minutes they have to sum up what we did in class--what concepts we talked about, formulas, types of problems, etc. AND any questions they don't want to forget to ask me later. After they have done 5, they will turn them into me for grading and they will be returned. My idea is that they will then have them to study from come test time and they will be able to see what they need to know based on what we have covered.

    I also am planning on setting up a review sheet that will be REQUIRED for everyone for homework with a bunch of sections (my list was extremely similar to Ms. Cookie's) and as the year goes on, I'll let them figure out what works best. I think that maybe for the second test (and/or randomly in the future) I might let them actually use this sheet on the test as a motivator to do a good job. Just a thought....

    The kids seemed to respond positively to the summary sheet when I presented it to them on Friday.

  6. Oh, I like that summary sheet idea. It goes along with them reflecting on the day's topics and hopefully absorbing a little more what was important for the day. Thanks for the idea.

    Ms. Cookie