By Craig McKinney, AVID Staff Developer
It’s everyone’s favorite time of the year: the time when we all get to put aside new learning and focus our efforts on helping the students get prepared for the joy that is better known as final exam week. In our haste to finish the semester, we should, of course, never forget the importance of AVID’s WICOR strategies (writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading), so I am compiling a little color-coded list to help you plan your review activities...
1. Teach your students how to read multiple-choice questions and essay prompts effectively. Spending some time talking about the language used in testing in your subject area will help them become more effective test takers.
2. Write your own exam questions. One good study technique is to ask students to predict questions that they might encounter on their exams by writing questions (either multiple-choice or short answer) of their own. Writing multiple-choice questions might also give students some insight into how questions are written, which could translate to greater insight on exam day.
3. Have students form in-class study groups. Give each person in each group a job (e.g., scribe, task manager, researcher, questioner, etc.) and spend some time beforehand talking about how effective study groups work. You could give each group a topic to review and present their findings with the class. The students will find this collaborative review to be a welcome break from the sit-and-get that they’ll have in most of their classes during review week.
4. Levels of Questions: Using Costa’s or Bloom’s, discuss the various levels of questions on the exam. Have a class discussion to brainstorm the various ways to prepare for different types of questions that they may see on the exam.
5. Ask your kids to write explanations about what they have learned in your class. If it’s a history class, they can write a monologue from a famous person who they’ve studied. In biology, they can write a dialogue between an onion cell and a cheek cell. In math, they can write an explanation of how to simplify a polynomial. Share the students’ writings with the class. You might even be able to turn this into a “Who Am I?” game, where the class has to guess the topic after the student reads his or her paper.
6. Help students think about the material on their exam in a variety of ways by creating graphic organizers or analogies. This is a great group assignment. Give each group a broad topic (e.g., figurative language, mercantilism, symbiosis, reactions) and a large piece of paper (or a computer with presentation or drawing software available for use) and ask them to come up with a visual organizer or metaphor to explain the topic to the class.
7. Matching Card Sets: I’ve used this before with material that required Level 1 knowledge (e.g., lists of terms, vocabulary, people, events, etc.). One day in class, I put the students into groups and gave each group a pile of small squares of paper or cardstock (about half the size of an index card). On one-half of the cards, the students wrote the term, person, event, etc. Then, they created a second set of cards by writing clues or definitions leading to each word on the other set. On the back of each pair, they put a number or letter to signify that the two should go together. After the entire set was complete, the students could lay the cards out on the floor, face up, and match the pairs. They could check their answers by looking at the backs of the cards. I had the students leave their sets in the classroom so that all students could use them for independent review before or after school during exam week.
8. Skimming the text can be a great way to remind oneself about the content of a book prior to an exam. Teach this skill to your students, so they can learn how to reread quickly by searching for key ideas and reviewing major concepts, while not getting bogged down in picky details.
9. Create a quiz show. Split the class into several teams. Distribute note cards to the students and ask them to write review questions (as well as provide answers) for students on other teams to answer during a review game. Tell them that the questions should not be too easy, or the other team will get all of the points. However, you might want to also make a rule that if the question is too hard, you—as the head judge of all that is reasonable for students to answer—could penalize the team that created the question. Use the questions to conduct a game in any manner that you prefer.
10. Another collaborative review game that my students enjoy is the tag-team review. Split the class into two teams. Then, split each team into pairs of students who will work together to answer a question in front of the class. [Before class begins, make a set of cards containing broad topics to discuss or essay-type questions—ones that require a longer explanation, rather than one precise answer (e.g., “What was the Columbian Exchange, and how did it affect Europe?” “What are three characteristics of Romanticism?” or “How do you plot a point on a graph?”)] Begin with a pair from Team A. Ask them to draw one topic from your set of cards. Give them one minute to huddle and then one minute to stand in front of the class and answer that question or explain that topic together. (I usually let a pair from the other team draw their topic and have their huddle time while the first group is explaining in order to keep things moving along efficiently.) After the minute is up, award the team 0 to 5 points based on the quality of the explanation or response. Sometimes, I add unpredictable bonuses based on speaking ability (i.e., the first group not to begin speaking by saying, “Okay,” gets a 5-point bonus). The tag-team review is a fun—albeit, a bit pressure-filled—way to review big-picture ideas and concepts before the exam.
11. BONUS TIP! Talk with your students about time management, prioritizing study tasks, creating a tutorial schedule, and all of the other organizational skills that will help them succeed as they prepare for exams.
I hope that some of these WICOR tips help to make your exam week interesting and productive for you and your students. Hang in there!
For more on AVID, visit http://avid.org/what-is-avid.ashx.
Craig McKinney is an English Language Arts Instructional Specialist for Plano ISD. A Dallas-area native, Craig attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, where he received degrees in English and Sociology. He earned his master’s degree at the University of North Texas. During his 22-year teaching career at Shepton High School, Craig taught English, Humanities, Latin, and the AVID Elective. He also bakes a mean loaf of sourdough bread, serves as an officer of his university’s local alumni association, and loves herb gardening, attending cultural events, and playing board games.
Want to read more blogs from Craig? Check these out!
Do Your Students Know How To Ask Questions?
Your Teacher WICOR Summer Homework
A Brain-Based Paradigm Shift
In the Classroom: Setting House Rules
Giving Thanks: A Reminder