7 Effective, Engaging Review Strategies to Boost Your Students’ Success (and Scores!)

word wall review strategy example

In an ideal world, review isn’t just a pre-exam scramble! Instead, it is a thread that must be strategically woven throughout the school year, providing students with dedicated time for retrieval and practice, whether before end-of-year assessments or after a series of connected lessons.

But how do we ensure our review strategies and classroom time are meaningful? First, let go of what doesn’t work. Research has proven that “review methods” like worksheet packets or silent study halls must go! Instead, review with the powerful tools students have created throughout their high-performance learning experiences to make review sessions dynamic and effective.

If you need ideas to engage students, boost scores, and build on what you’re already doing, check out our expanded list of easy and effective review strategies from an earlier article, where we provided three strategies for effective reviews. However,  for this “blast from the past,” we have added four more exciting strategies that are proven to increase student learning:

Review Strategy #1: Leverage Concept Maps and Anchor Charts

Gather concept maps and anchor charts used throughout a series of lessons. While they might not have every detail, they are a fantastic outline for students to jog their memories. Challenge students to quiz each other on answers to lesson essential questions, relationships between concepts, or key vocabulary terms. Here are some great examples of Concept Maps and Anchor Charts:

Review Strategy #2: Gamify Review

After students have a grasp of the review content, introduce games to delve deeper into important details. For example, if you’re using a Jeopardy-style review game, utilize Lesson Essential Questions as your category titles. Or use a game like Pyramid to promote student discussion and explanation. This approach injects excitement and friendly competition into the learning process.

Download our Pyramid template here.

Review Strategy #3: Breathe Life into Word Walls

Instead of resorting to another list of learned vocabulary words, encourage students to interact with words on a word wall. For example, present students with a list of examples or applications of those terms. Then, challenge them to demonstrate their understanding by completing a task, such as: “This word is an example of (the term) because ____________________.”

Another strategy to try is 10 Questions, in which students answer a series of questions meant to help them identify a word correctly. 

  1. Choose one word from the Word Wall or Concept Map.
  2. Direct students’ attention to the displayed vocabulary words.
  3. Have them take turns asking yes-or-no, or one word answer, questions about the word.
  4. After the teacher’s response, the student asking the question may attempt to identify the word.
  5. The student who identifies the word correctly can be the next one to select the secret word for classmates to guess.
  6. Students can do this activity in teams or pairs, reviewing key vocabulary as they practice their understanding of the term.

Review Strategy #4: Reverse the Gradual Release Model for Targeted Support

Review sessions are all about gauging student mastery and providing targeted support. By flipping the script and starting with independent work (“You Do Alone”), we gain valuable insights into what students can do on their own. This allows us to tailor instruction to their specific needs, avoiding unnecessary reteaching. Remember, effective review should mirror assessment methods.

Excited to try this strategy? Learn more in our article: Rethinking EOY Reviews: Effectively Prepare Students by Reversing Gradual Release.

Review Strategy #5: Leverage Quizzing for Review

Regularly quizzing students on the material is a powerful learning tool. Many teachers conduct formative assessments, but the act of retrieving information from memory strengthens learning more effectively than simply reviewing it. In essence, the process of quizzing yourself enhances knowledge retention.

The good news is that incorporating quizzing into your teaching is simple: Dedicate 3-5 minutes each class period to a quick quiz, encompassing both recently learned material and topics from earlier units. Quizzes may take a variety of forms, including multiple-choice and true/false questions or recall of information, such as fill-in-the-blanks or brain dumping. Both of these latter approaches encourage students to recall information instead of relying on recognition. 

Here is a simple way to use quizzing with students:

Find the Clue

Put a reading sample and comprehension questions on the board and have students find the clues in the questions and in the text.  Give credit for finding the clues as well as finding the correct answer.

Review Strategy #6: Friendly Feud

“Friendly Feud” is an adaptation of the Family Feud game show students might see on television. The game is easy to adapt to almost any subject or curriculum topic.

Start the game by arranging students into teams. Determine the sequence in which teams will play and the sequence in which the players on each team will play. Have each team select a captain who will act as the team’s final decision maker and spokesperson.

After the teams are organized, prepare to pose the first essential question of the game. Questions are generated from previous lesson plans. In the first round, the captain of each team will be the only one who can answer the question. Read aloud the first question; call on the team captain who raises his/her hand first to answer the question. To earn a point, that captain must correctly answer the question within 30 seconds. If the captain who was called on does not answer the question within the time limit or if he or she gives an incorrect answer, the next team can “steal” the question. Members of that team can talk among themselves, then they must agree on the correct answer. The captain serves as the spokesperson for the team. If the captain says the correct answer, his/her team earns the point. If the answer is incorrect, the next team has a chance to steal the question and earn the point, and so on.

The team that correctly answers the question earns the first chance to answer the next question — which is posed to the second player on the team. An incorrect answer passes the question to the second player on the next team. A correct answer earns another point for the team and the first chance to answer the next question, which is posed to the third player on the team. The team can keep earning points until team members get a wrong answer or do not respond within the time limit.

At the end of the game, the team with the most points is the winner of “Friendly Feud.”

Review Strategy #7: Tic-Tac-Toe

Draw a tic-tac-toe grid on a board or chart paper. Choose the questions from the previously taught lessons. Arrange the class into two teams; Xs and Os. Flip a coin to see which team will go first. For example, if the X team wins the toss, pose a question to a student on that team. If the student on the X team answers correctly, he or she places an X on the grid. If the student answers incorrectly, the O team does not automatically get to put an O in that square.

To earn an O, a member of the O team must correctly answer the question. If the O player answers correctly, his or her team puts an O in the square and earns the first chance to respond to the next question. If the O team answers the next question correctly, they get to place another O; if the answer is incorrect, the question is posed to the X team. Keep track of how many games each team wins.

By incorporating these research-based strategies for teachers, you can transform review sessions from passive activities into engaging experiences that promote deeper understanding and long-term learning. Let’s move beyond rote memorization and empower students to see the bigger picture and truly grasp the core concepts we’ve worked so hard to impart!

Questions for Leaders:

  • Current Review Practices: How are teachers currently conducting review sessions in our school/district? Are there opportunities for improvement?
  • Professional Learning: Do we offer professional learning opportunities focused on incorporating retrieval practice and effective review methods into classroom instruction?
  • Collaboration: Are there structures in place to encourage teachers from different disciplines to collaborate and share engaging review strategies?

Action Steps for Leaders:

  • Communicate the Importance of Review: Highlight the research on spaced repetition and retrieval practice to emphasize the importance of effective review strategies.
  • Provide Resources: Share this article and other resources on engaging review strategies with teachers, including our webinar Structured Review.
  • Facilitate Collaboration: Organize professional learning communities (PLCs) or team meetings focused on sharing effective review strategies.
  • Highlight Best Practices: Showcase successful review techniques through teacher observations or school-wide newsletters.

Questions for Teachers:

  • Engaging Review Activities: What creative activities can I use to leverage existing student-created materials like concept maps and anchor charts?
  • Assessment as Review:
    • How can I utilize the “You Do Alone” approach to identify student needs and tailor review sessions?
    • Can I modify my assessments to serve a dual purpose: gauging student understanding and providing opportunities for retrieval practice?
  • Incorporating Retrieval Practice: How can I easily integrate short quizzes into my lessons to enhance long-term knowledge retention?

Action Steps for Teachers:

  • Review Materials: Gather concept maps, anchor charts, and other student-created materials throughout the unit for review sessions.
  • Start Small: Integrate short retrieval practice quizzes (3-5 minutes) into existing lessons.
  • Start with “You Do Alone”: Begin review sessions with independent work (“You Do Alone”) to gauge student understanding and identify areas needing targeted support.
  • Interleaving: Incorporate short quizzes into your daily lessons, covering both recent and past material, to encourage retrieval practice and enhance learning.

Lindsey Hampton

During her 20+ years in education, Lindsey has been an elementary and secondary classroom teacher, an instructional coach, and a specialist in teacher induction. She has collaborated with teachers and administrators nationwide to develop learning partnerships that focus on evaluating and implementing High Yield Instructional Strategies. Her instructional coach and specialist background have led her to the philosophy that improvement must be viewed as a continuum, a means to refine and adapt the improvement of instructional practices continually. She has presented this theme and many others on teaching and learning at numerous conferences in FL, KY, TN, NC, and PA. Her contributions to Learning-Focused include developing new resources and workshops, providing leadership and instructional training and coaching.

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