Review Sheets vs. Review

“Can we have a review sheet?” To me this is code for “Tell us what is on the test”.  It takes the engagement out of the process. Students just want a list of what to review. They don’t want to have to think about what they’ve learned, what the standards are, and thereby what the key understanding are.

So, I’ve developed a technique for putting together a review sheet:  the students do it. For pupils new to the process, we take a class period and begin going through the text and class notes together. I help them identify the key standards and understandings focused on in the course. We discuss how different activities helped them gain necessary understanding and they begin making their own list of what to study. Often they make connections they hadn’t yet made. Then, their homework is to finish the review sheet. For students more advanced in the process, the assignment simply comes as a homework assignment leading up to the review day.

Recently as I outlined the assignment, students responded immediately with, “Can we have one of those whiteboard activities for review?” For me that involved setting up a set of review questions in a PowerPoint that addresses each standard and stimulates review conversation.  Over the next couple of days a set of questions is refined that will meet my criteria. Multiple-choice questions often have several “correct” answers that reveal deeper levels of thinking when chosen. Short answer clarifies thinking processes. Prompts to draw or sketch provide additional methods of assessing necessary content.

On our review day students enter the classroom with an air of excitement. They retrieve their “whiteboards” and sit in anticipation of the review to come. Then, they tackle the question set with those markers and whiteboards, holding up their answers for me to see after each prompt.  Great dialogue ensues and students furiously add notes to their review sheets. It is also clear to me who has taken my review sheet assignment seriously. They are able to think through all of the questions and generate thought provoking analysis that leads to solidified and deeper understandings. Most importantly, I see where the class is at in their mastery of the standards and some necessary refining can still take place!

It’s a process so much more satisfying and effective than cranking out some review sheet. We’ll see how they do on their exams!