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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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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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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Sunday Panel: Assessment Review Strategies

What is your best review strategy for exams and other assessments?

LanguageArtsClassroomLauralee,The Language Arts Classroom: I have students make the review sheet. The class period before review day, I ask students to write a few pointers. I add those to my review lesson (incorporate them somehow, even if they were already on my notes) and emphasize that that is what a student brought to the review.

 

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 Ellen Weber:
One review strategy my students enjoy most involves a flip from verbal-linguistic intelligence where words abound, to engage their visual-spatial intelligence where images thrive.

Here’s how it works. They sketch ideas facts or numbers into simple pictures as they review for the test. These can be very rough drafts for less artistic learners. Students ensure their images remind them of key facts they wish to remember for a test and can share these with a peer as part of the review process.

Once the test begins – they re-sketch their rough draft from memory onto the test (or question) paper. Now they refer to it as a trusty guide to write related facts into test answers. It’s a fun way to remember and it offers a valid cheat sheet to assist the brain, by simply outsourcing facts to be easily remembered.

OC_BEACH_TEACHER_revised_finalKimberly, OC Beach Teacher:
Depending on the type of assessment, I have a variety of review strategies. Often I will play games before students take their vocabulary tests, which we have every two weeks. Sometimes we play bingo. It’s easy because I just give the students a blank bingo board to fill with their vocabulary words in any random order. Then I read definitions, synonyms, and antonyms and they just mark their board with whatever symbol (star, smiley face, etc.) we have chosen. We usually do several games.

If I have more time, I will play a game of Vocabulary Baseball with my students. I post bases around the classroom so that students can move to the appropriate base when they advance. I divide the class into two teams and they choose a “batting” order. As each “batter” has a turn, he or she chooses a single, double, triple, or home run after I have chosen a random vocabulary word. The student is required to give a definition, synonym, antonym, or use the word correctly in a sentence depending on the challenge he or she has selected. As each new batter has a turn, teammates advance one another around the bases to score. At the end of the game, the team with the most runs wins.

No matter what game we play, students are usually engaged and the practice helps them to be successful on their tests!

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Jackie, Room 213: When I assess my students, I want them to do more than regurgitate facts, so exam review needs to be about much more than simple memorization.  I expect them to understand the ideas presented in their texts, so they can use higher order thinking skills to apply and synthesize their knowledge.  I also want them to be able to demonstrate the skills they have learned and honed through-out the semester.  In short, I don’t have a traditional exam review, where I lay out all that I want them to “know” for the exam.  We focus on a series of activities that remind them of the important elements of our texts, and of the skills they have learned. These activities also activate the thinking skills they will need to do well on the assessment.
 

Low Tech, High Engagement Review

Students often enjoy reviewing games.  With cell phones, SmartBoards and clickers, there are a lot of new ways to add instantly visible reveiew results.  But not all classrooms have these luxuries– it’s a luxury in my room to have chalk for the chalk board.  Luckily, there are still some low-tech options available to keep engagement high during review.

WhiteboardsOne of the best investments I made for my classroom is a set of 8×10 white boards.  I purchased mine from a local Michigan company because The Markerboard People specialized in student boards (And I like to support local, small companies.)  They also have math, music, and specialized boards along with the plain classroom boards.  You can also turn any laminated paper or page protector into a dry erase surface– knowing my students, I opted for these purchased boards.  They’re one piece– nothing to pick at and nothing to break off if dropped.  (I did still put my name on the backs… and a few students were tempted by the opportunity to alter the surname Dickson, as only high school students will.)  Plus, I loved the little durable felt erasers.  To stretch my budget just a bit more, I bought so-called “Scratch and dents” which had no flaws I could detect.

Student answers

Showing their answers (using my first set of cheap, clearance boards from the store. Those boards fell apart in a few weeks, but my good boards are on 8+ years!)

So, marker boards in hand, I set out to create a review game.  Since the whiteboards are blank, I could conceivably have any type of answer written on the board.  Short answer, order of events (such as history), conclusions, or even grammar review.  Students could write however little or much was needed.  These could be used in class discussions to engage students uncomfortable with speaking before the class or practice work that doesn’t need to be submitted.  Lots of options for dry erase in the classroom, not limited to review games.

The next problem I had to tackle was the issue of speed.  Not all students think fast under pressure or in competition.  I wanted to give all students who would get the correct answers a chance to think and to get credit/ points for their efforts.  In my whiteboard review games students (or, more frequently, small groups) were not racing to get the answer first, but working to get the right answer.  When all answers were ready, students held their boards up for review and scoring.  There was still some competition to drive students to get the right answer, even if it took longer– hearing groups debate their readings and studies was always great, from a teacher-point of view.

Scoring the groups

They wanted to take a picture of me, since I had taken pictures of them. Only fair, I suppose.

At the end, the winning group or groups could choose between candy or extra credit points.  But most importantly, they could use that review on their short quizzes.  Students who paid attention to the review game, including when I reviewed answers, could score very well on their quizzes– along with greater retention overall.

Engagement doesn’t need to be digital or high-tech.  It just needs to have students actively participating.  And that is worth the investment.

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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