Make Review Fun and Individualized

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I do a lot of whole class review, both teacher directed, student directed, and whole group and individual. However, sometimes I want to teach students study skills that they can use outside of class or make the review more self-paced.

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Many of my students don’t study much outside of school, and don’t know a lot about traditional study skills, nor is it easy to get them engaged enough that they are likely to continue outside of class.

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I have used reviewgamezone.com to help combat this. On this website students can play their choice of popular games, but they are tied to review questions. You can set up your own review questions or choose from the MANY games already established. The possible games students can choose from are shown below. The questions are the same, but they are dumped into different game interfaces.

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As a teacher, you can search the games by subject, keyword, etc. to find games that target what you want to test. You can even search by state so that you may find games and questions aligned to your state test. Each set of questions has a number, so you can create a list of game numbers for your students to study from.

The site even includes a teacher study guide sheet that you can print and hand out to your students with student instructions. All you need to do is fill in the game numbers that you want your students to use.

Limitations:

  • You can’t do constructed response questions. This site is basically only multiple choice.
  • You have to make sure that you carefully choose questions sets to target what you are looking for, or create your own.

Pros:

  • Students are engaged, and go back on their own to continue studying
  • The way the website is set up, they are repeatedly asked questions that they missed until they get them correct.
  • It is easy for a teacher to use — you can search from pre-made quizzes, print out directions, create your own, etc.
  • Students have choice over which game they play.
  • I have only used science, but there are many subjects to choose from.

To me, the pros outweigh the cons, and this website has been a big asset in my classroom. I hope it helps you as well.

profile pic2Tara is a science teacher from upstate NY. She has taught General Science, Biology, Environmental Science, and Earth Science.
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Sunday Panel: Study Tips for Students

Sunday Panel StickyWhat study tips do you give your students?

profile pic2Tara, Science in the City:Many of my students, I believe, don’t really know how to study. I try to use some of the review time in class to introduce and practice study skills. These include websites with practice questions, use of quizlet, creation of a study guide. I also have put a big emphasis on close reading and annotating of test questions, and have given bonus points to students who annotated on their test.

CDickson Profile PicClair, High School English on a Shoestring Budget: To trust themselves.  My students consistently demonstrate they know more than their test scores reflect.  During review games, I praise how much they know, to try to build up their self-confidence– they DO know this.  In my classroom, I also have the luxury to keep testing low-stakes.  It’s unfortunate the so much of teaching is turning into testing– after school, there are no test sin life.  No one-off chances to prove what you know.  Jobs rely on hard work, application, and frequently include the opportunity to try again (with little or no penalty.)  So, I also try to remind my students of that– life is not about taking tests, but about demonstrating what they can do with the information.

LanguageArtsClassroomLauralee,The Language Arts Classroom:Students need to study every night (or almost every night) – not cram before the test. They don’t like to hear that, but it is true.

I try to help them model it. I ask them to take out their notes, maybe with five minutes left of class. I ask them to read over the notes, and suggest that they do that every day. Once they are familiar with the material, they can focus on individual points before the test.

Consider Your Review Strategy

There are a lot of factors to consider when planning a review, including whether a game would be useful or not.

  • Game, activities, or questions: It seems the most common choices are to do some sort of review game, to do some review activity that tries to both reinforce and apply, or to complete a set of review questions, like a list of terms or types or problems that may appear on the test.  The benefits of games and well-designed activities is that they can engage the student, reinforcing learning rather than just reviewing for the sake of going over it one more time.
  • Solo, small group, whole class: Which is going to have the biggest benefit to individual students?  Especially those that need the review most.  I was subjected to a great many review games that pitted the whole class against each other, with the fastest thinking (the one who raised their hand first, as determined by the teacher).  I’m not the fastest thinker, especially when faced with first processing an oral question (probably my weakest modality).  So, my role in those reviews, like many of my classmates, became, at best passive.  At worst, well, I could hide the GameBoy under my desk and play Tetris until the bell rang.
    • I advocate for smaller grouping that reduce or eliminate anyone just being a passive participant.  Something should keep them paying attention and engaged.  Just listening to my classmate(s) give answers was not effective or engaging.
    • Another factor is how to measure engagement.  Some students are content to let group mates do the work (i.e. do the review) while some students really get into the chance to work together and discuss (great for those interpersonal intelligence students).  Do you give everyone a job, like recording answers or monitor informally or let them make their choices?
  • Cooperative or competitive: this may actually change with your class make up.  I’ve had some classes where several highly competitive students were willing to learn ANYTHING for our bi-weekly review games, just to win.  I’ve had other classes that just didn’t like competing and either wanted to help each other or gave up because they didn’t like the “pressure.”  (And this is without pressure of fastest being first.)
  • Modalities/ Intelligences: Are you being fair to students who learn or process differently?  As noted above, I was subjected to a lot of speed-based review games that relied on the teacher reading a question outloud.  Can you display the questions so visual learners have a better chance?  Work in groups for interpersonal intelligences?  Remove ‘speed’ for those that can get the right answer, but more slowly?

A good review, that fits with the classroom and covers the concepts effectively and engagingly can be a great help to students.  What’s your favorite and least favorite ways or games for review? 

 

CDickson Profile PicClair Dickson, high school English teacher, likes free eTexts and Project Based Learning to stretch her meager budget.  Visit her store High School English on a Shoestring Budget to stretch your budget.
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Do Review Games Improve Student Achievement?

Last week, Dawn from Algebra Simplified wrote that review games rarely get prime time in her class anymore because they aren’t leading to her desired assessments results (read her post here). This struck a chord with me because I have often wondered if games could lead to student achievement. In fact, for several years of teaching, I rarely used games. I felt that games would mislead students into thinking that we only ‘played’ in class. Besides, with the Common Core’s emphasis on rigor, games didn’t seem to fit with the new curriculum.

However, after too many classes where students sat passively and unresponsive to class assignments, I decided to try using games again on a biweekly basis. The most popular game with them was Trashketball, which I used to engage them in their grammar lessons. Besides being fun, Trashketball games incorporated cooperative learning, active learning, and provided an opportunity for all of my students to be successful.

Clip art from Image Boutique

Clip art from Image Boutique

But, the question still remained: Do games lead to improved test scores? This school year, I decided to answer this question when developing my Student Learning Objective. As part of my annual evaluation, I am required to show student growth on two objectives. For one objective, I stated that students would improve their ability to identify verbal phrases including gerunds, infinitives, and participles. At the beginning of a three week unit I gave my students a 30 item diagnostic assessment, and they scored even worse than I expected; the class average was 12%! My goal was to have 85% of my students score a 70% or higher on the post assessment or improve by 25%. In a class of 16 students, that meant that if just two students didn’t meet the goal, I could be considered “ineffective.”

Each week I introduced a new verbal phrase concept through a lecture and power point. I followed this with short guided practice and then independent practice. Finally, after I had provided instruction for all three verbal phrases, I reviewed the concepts again with my best-selling Trashketball game before the post-assessment. Although students worked in groups, I held them all accountable by requiring each student to write his/her own answers. And it worked! On the post-assessment, the students in the class increased their scores by 65%, and the average score was 77%!

No doubt, games don’t always lead to student learning, but if used in conjunction with other lessons and activities, I have found that they can be a fun way to help my students achieve success. In fact, my Trashketball games are popular with both students and teachers, so I’ve created many to review a number of grammar concepts. If you think you would be interested in learning more about these games, just click on the image below!

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OC_BEACH_TEACHER_revised_finalKim, the OCBeach Teacher,  is a National Board Certified English teacher who is currently teaching American Literature and AP English Literature and Composition.  She shares classroom ideas and tips on her OCBeachTeacher Facebook Page.
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The Sunday Panel

How do you help students handle test anxiety?test anxiety

profile pic2Tara, Science in the City: My students definitely struggle with test anxiety. I try to boost their confidence by lots of practice prior to the test with similar looking questions, and practice interpreting questions. During the test I try to give them a ‘pep talk’ and teach them the strategy of going through the test and doing questions that they are more confidence about first.

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Kimberly, Kimberly, OC Beach Teacher:
With the all of the emphasis on standardized testing these days, students and teachers both get anxious. To help my students (and colleagues) deal with their anxiety, I just remind them to keep perspective. I tell them that they have many qualities that make them great human beings; a test doesn’t define who they are. If they’ve prepared and studied, they should just do the best that they are capable of doing. In the grand scheme of things in life, a test is pretty minor.

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Jackie, Room 213: As with anything, preparation is key.  The more prepared the kids feel the less likely they are to feel anxious.  My regular academic students don’t write standardized tests, so the few tests I give them are all skills based, with little regurgitation.  So, if they have been working all along on the skills I will be assessing, they don’t have much anxiety.  If they haven’t been working, well, that’s another story, and maybe they should feel anxious 😉

My IB students are another story.  They write some very high stakes exams that are externally assessed, so we are all feeling anxious in May when they write their exams.  The other IB teachers and I work hard at reminding them that they have been preparing for this for three years and that they have to trust themselves and their abilities.  It’s just like a marathon runner who has been working hard and training for that one big race–s/he has to believe that all those early morning runs and days at the gym will pay off.  It’s still a very stressful week, though, and we just have to be there to support them during the two weeks when they are writing and to remind them to get some sleep and exercise so they can be focused and energetic when they write.

Reviewing for Results

Who doesn’t love a great review game? Search for Gold, Trasketball, Eggspert, Group Fai-Tao — share your game ideas, and make my list grow. Kids are engaged. Excitement is high. Academic content swirls through the air. If my role in the game is low key, these are the days I leave with a light step. Game Day = Beautiful Day.
Yet sadly, review games rarely get prime time in my class anymore.

In spite of my review game adoration, I finally had to admit my students’** test scores in the last couple of semesters failed to be positively impacted by a full period, day-before-the-test, review game.  Perhaps the application-level test content is to blame.  Maybe it’s the batch of students.  Perhaps students get a false sense of being prepared and then fail to study at home. Perhaps on the day before a test critical time is lost on the game elements or on questions students may not need to practice. Maybe I just stink at game administration. I wish I knew. (Send me your tips or action research.)

In the mean time, if boosted assessment scores are the goal, a day of pure skill-based differentiation has proven effective with my students**.  Differentiation is such a broad topic, taking a million forms in the classroom. This particular recipe for disaster results calls for three to four main groups completing tasks tailored to their deficits/strengths.

Differentiated quadratic reviewDifferentiated Review Day was yesterday; the skill set: Solving quadratic equations using multiple methods.  A formative assessment provided the baseline data to create the tasks and assign a portion of the groups.  The rest assigned themselves by matching academic needs to the options given. The highest tier self-paced through a SAS Curriculum Pathways interactive applet (great resource for tons of subject areas).   The feeder group worked autonomously on a Quadratic Equations Practice Guide.    Group 3 started with a Quadratic Formula remedial worksheet and eventually joined the feeder group.  Others joined a pull-out session at the board working on student-identified problems.   As these students became more proficient, they bailed and advanced to the practice guide.

Now,let’s be clear.  Differentiated Day = My Headache Day.  Talk about earning your money!

Here are a few standards of operation for survival:

Demand student buy-in before ever starting.  Differentiation is by nature difficult; without student cooperation it hits the level of nightmare.

Pull-out groups have to be a student’s choice.  Remove student choice and waste time convincing students of the placement and need to embrace the help. When I remove the stigma of being designated low, most students I would have chosen for the teacher tutorial group place themselves there.

Set a priority.  The pull-out group always gets my priority.  Already confused and frustrated, they deserve my time and full attention.  If I try to meet everyone’s needs while differentiating, I start hopping from student to student.  It’s the pull-out group that gets disjointed explanations and completely shafted.  Other students can find alternate sources of help or pick up the next worksheet on their own, because I …

Set-up a system that removes some of the teacher roles. Why not let technology or a well-designed worksheet with a built-in answer system give students the immediate feedback that they need? Depend on (and trust) student cooperation for classroom management. Set boundaries that promote a successful learning experience for all.  Redefine the boundaries mid-stream if the water seems a little turbulent.   Two minutes of solo work for all but the tutorial group works wonders. (This is normally followed by a request for 90% solo work.)

The end result: Test results that don’t give me a second headache.  May the day of effective review games return to my classroom soon.  Until then, the Differentiated Review Day will get some stage time.

**in my subject area, in my current school, for my classes


AlgebraSimplifiedIconDawn is a secondary Algebra teacher in Maryland with a B.S. in Secondary Mathematics Education and a Masters in Information Science and Learning Technologies.
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Making Review Fun

Play “Heads Up” to engage your students during review time!
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Use the blank task cards that I have included at the end of this post.  You will print off multiple copies to play this game (or just use scrap paper!).  On each one, write the name of a character from your texts, or an important theme, symbol, etc.

Students can take turns squaring off: two students will come to the front of the class and one of them will draw from your pile of cards (put them face down so the word is not visible to the student who draws the card).  S/he will hold the card so the other student can see.  That student needs to get his/her partner to guess what is written on the card without using any of the words on the card.  For example, if the card said Atticus Finch, the partner might say, “Jem and Scout’s father”.  (To make it more challenging you could tell them they can’t use any names: in this case, the student might say, “He is the lawyer who stands up for what he believes in”).  Each pair of students has sixty seconds to see how many cards they can go through.

Alternately, put students in pairs, and have them write the names of characters, important themes, symbols, etc. on pieces of paper.  Each pair should come up with ten.  Put them all in a hat/container and pairs will take turn drawing from the hat.  One partner guesses during the first round, and they switch for the second round. Keep track of how many each pair gets right during the minute to see who wins in the end.

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black T logoJackie, of Room 213, teaches high school English in Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow her at Real Learning in Room 213 and on Facebook.
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