Reviewing for TestsAs a second year teacher I find myself growing weary of the games and review techniques I use frequently in the classroom before vocabulary and literature tests. I am looking...

Reviewing for Tests

As a second year teacher I find myself growing weary of the games and review techniques I use frequently in the classroom before vocabulary and literature tests. I am looking for new, fresh ideas.

Also, how much in-class review (if any) do other teachers usually do before tests, quizzes, and midterm/final exams? What are your views on giving study guides? What makes a good study guide?

Asked on by howesk

17 Answers | Add Yours

thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I firmly believe in study guides because I believe that there is so much excess information in the texts that it is impossible for anyone to know what any particular teacher is going to find important.

So I give study guides when I assign each chapter.  I do that so the kids will know what I expect them to get out of the chapter.  That way, I can assume that they know a certain set of information when they come to class and we can start class discussion and such from there.  (Do they always do it?  Of course not.  But at least they know exactly what I expected them to know.)

I also do study guides before tests in addition to the reading study guides.  They'll cover the main points from class discussion/lecture and they will ask the students to think about connections between various facts that they've learned.

 

I hope you are talking about textbooks not literature here. I would hate to think of Shakespeare's soliliquies or Greek choruses as excess information.

I also am concerned that you are harming your students' abilities to read through entire books and learn how to judge relative significance of information for themselves. Part of what school teaches is not "the name of all the characters in Homer" but much more how to read Homer for yourself and judge what are the important elements of the work.

Study guides and exam reviews seem at times ways of getting the students to pass tests by doing all the thinking for them.

 

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pirateteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

I too find myself using study guides in my literature classes, but I often find myself worrying that my students become to dependent on study guides.  They were ignoring the lessons until the last minute when they can be spoon feed the most relevant information from the unit. I know that many of them will not receive these guides once they graduate.  Instead, I work to teach students how to focus their notes, handouts, etc throughout a lesson.  Sometimes this means taking notes off their notes, but this practice usually helps them solidify the information in their heads. They also learn to study throughout the unit as opposed to just the night before a test.

 

trophyhunter1's profile pic

trophyhunter1 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

A pre-test marked by the students can be effective. Or, a re-test can be a good tool, after the students correct the answers on their first exam that they got wrong, for extra credit. I like to do a powerpoint presentation as a review sometimes to pull a unit together. Or, a review sheet which has each possible topic that will be on the upcoming exam can be effective, especially when the students use their textbooks in small groups to complete the review sheet. They show it to me for credit and I return it and tell them, "congratulations, you have just generated your own review sheet!" By actually inputting the information themselves, the learning is more meaningful. The more times you write something, read something, repeat it, etc, the better you internalize it. Good luck.

booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Something I started over the last two years for vocab. retention and review, was providing students with words and definitions at the top of a page (from which they would study), and placing a grid below. If there were 10 words, there would be 10 blocks in the grid, and so forth. Students were to write the vocab. words above, one into each box (spelling it correctly, with no capitalization for common nouns), and draw a picture above the word that would help them to associate an image with a word.

For example, if the word were diminutive, they could draw (in a box about 1 inch square or 1 x 1.75 inches) a big tree and a small tree next to it with an arrow pointing to the small tree. If it helped to add a speech 'bubble,' they could.

Just as an example, if the word were pursuit, they could draw a stick figure calling out, "I'm afraid I'll get caught." Some of the kids would put a lot of work into it, coloring the pictures or adding a great amount of detail. For these kids I would give them an extra point. It was generally worth 10 points total, and was VERY easy to grade. Often while students read a free read book at the start of class for about 10 minutes, or reviewed for a quiz on what we were reading, I could grade, record and return them.

Usually I would provide one example (picture) myself, and the kids would do the rest. It was something different. Preparing it one year means it's still usable the next year.

mizzwillie's profile pic

mizzwillie | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

One method a teacher used which I observed was to put the names of people, dates of events, or whatever you wanted them to remember on a 5x7 index card with each card containing one piece of information.  The teacher then taped one card on the back of each student.  The student wearing the card had to answer questions from other students which were designed to help the student figure out what the card on the back said.  As they answered questions correctly, students sat down.  When all were seated, each student explained the piece of important information to the rest of the class.  Whichever student sat down first was given a prize as was the last student for not giving up.  I found it fascinating as a review method as did the students. You also could have the students create the cards.

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Lots of things will work for review based on the type of material and the type of exam. What I do notwant to do is give students everything on the test and expect them simply to memorize and regurgitate. To be honest, many of them beg me for such a thing, but I refuse. I don't want to trick them or blindside them in any way; however, I do want them to have to work, synthesize, and produce. Whatever accomplishes that task is what I use.

lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I like putting the review back in the hands of the students.  Putting students in groups and having them collect evidence about characters, themes, motifs etc. and then reporting out to the class works well -- sometimes even a high school students gets excited to the "arts and crafts" supplies out on the table, so I will require some sort of creative visual that ties the ideas together some way -- they are usually laughing and talking about the book at the same time.

howesk's profile pic

howesk | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

Thanks for all of the suggestions. I think that I may use the dice game or an in-classroom scavenger hunt for quotes, both of those ideas seem active and interesting, which I always try to achieve!

I agree with lrwilliams in that I find students sometimes depending on review for vocabulary especially. I try to review sporadically so that they never know when we are or are not going to do in-class review and therefore usually study on their own. I haven't come up with a good way to go about solving that issue yet.

lrwilliams's profile pic

lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I think that we have to be careful with reviewing for tests and using study guides. If we are not careful we end up with our students not learning the material but simply waiting for the review and then cramming for the test. I am not sure of the best way to avoid this.

scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I review for tests and use a variety of methods. I do use games sometimes, and I have a Smart Board in my room; so that is very effective in tailoring review practice to be stimulating and helpful. I do use study guides, but sometimes I use puzzlemaker.com to make them more interesting. My students really like word searches for which I create application-focused questions about rhetorical strategies, argument fallacies, etc. that they have to answer and then find the clues in the word search.

kiwi's profile pic

kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I try to make revision a physical process as well as a mental one, having watched my students go from class to class just before exams doing the same thing. We wrote quotations on windows, floors and walls and played true/false by standing up or sitting down to a question. We also had treasure hunts for quotes around the room, then a dash to organise them chronologically from the text. We will not know for a while how they managed in the exams, but we had more fun than last year!

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I like to give my students post-it notes at the beginning and end of each class to see what they've learned and/or retained each day.  Their job at the beginning of class is to write down the one or two things they remember from last class or from the homework.  It gets them thinking about the material, and I use it as the segue to the next lesson or point.  The exit slip is for the learning target of the day--what did you learn today? 

When we keep them actively thinking about the material, then review games become less tedious and frustrating. 

One game I play for review requires two dice.  I have large, foam dice that I use for this purpose.  The first die is cast to determine which category the question will come from; the second die is cast to determine the level of the question difficulty.  My categories include vocabulary, grammar, literature, literary terms, characters, authors, period notes (for lit classes), etc.  Then I always have questions on difficulty level 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 (three levels).  Questions for higher levels are worth more points as they are usually multi-layered questions.  It's up to you if you play teams and allow "help" from teammates.

Winners of the game get 5 points added to their test grade.

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think formative assessment methods are very important. I am not happy giving a class a test or assessment that will actually go towards their grade without having a rough idea in my mind of how they do. I don't actually think it is fair on me as their teacher or on them to give them an assessment without some kind of informal assessment before hand.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I firmly believe in study guides because I believe that there is so much excess information in the texts that it is impossible for anyone to know what any particular teacher is going to find important.

So I give study guides when I assign each chapter.  I do that so the kids will know what I expect them to get out of the chapter.  That way, I can assume that they know a certain set of information when they come to class and we can start class discussion and such from there.  (Do they always do it?  Of course not.  But at least they know exactly what I expected them to know.)

I also do study guides before tests in addition to the reading study guides.  They'll cover the main points from class discussion/lecture and they will ask the students to think about connections between various facts that they've learned.

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Frustrating, isn't it?  We're often evaluated on the basis of these test scores, but teaching to that test involves some of the least effective, least significant ways for students to learn.  I find the same issue with AP exams, in that there is a huge volume of material--rote memorization--and I spend a decent amount of my time just getting them to remember the events and people, which doesn't leave a lot of time to teach analysis, writing or historiography.

I have a few tricks.  I run an after school academy where students can get extra tutoring for my subject.  Those who fall behind on either skills or content can get some one on one help that way.  I also give them plenty of examples of good analysis and writing, with plenty of opportunity to practice those.

I do believe in study guides, and a good one, for me, tends to include content terms, level 3 (synthesis) questions, and solid outlines.  I give out a few dozen per year in my US History class.

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