“Reviewing” Strategies That Increase Student Achievement

Reviewing Strategies That Increase Student Achievement

How do exemplary schools use “Reviewing” strategies to increase student achievement? 

When reviewing for end-of-course tests or final exams, or even unit tests, there are several things to consider doing to reinforce the High-Yield Strategies you already use with students. Now is not the time to revert to the “old way” of reviewing. Students should not be given packets of worksheets, either on paper or on the computer, to complete as though it is new content, nor should they use the textbook to complete any review sheets you give them. Instead, students should have their notes, graphic organizers, and summaries to use as review resources. Students’ graphic organizers and other resources explain the content or processes succinctly and in their own words. Research shows that for students to internalize content well, they should stay away from the initial source (usually the textbook) after the first time they use it to glean information and from that point on use their more succinct organizers, notes, and summaries. 

Connecting Lessons and Reviewing

Your lessons and reviewing are not separate, unrelated items. If you taught using high-impact strategies and focused on the most important content and skills, the details should come back to students as you review. Remind students of all the resources they have in their notebooks—graphic organizers, reviews from other tests, notes, vocabulary organizers, formulas, steps in the process, etc.  Take the resources students completed earlier and go through them together, highlighting the things they will need to study for the exam.

Use your Advance Organizers, such as Concept Maps, Lesson Essential Questions, and Student Learning Maps for each unit as the basis for review. The details may not all be there, but they provide the outline for review. Reviewing Advance Organizers for the units studied during the semester/year will provide students with a good review of what is important and a sense that they are revisiting important content, not starting from scratch. A benefit of Essential Questions is that they lead students back to the most important points, vocabulary, and level of thinking in the lessons and units. An important review strategy is to have students organize their resources, creating and updating an index each time you do a review session.

After students understand the resources they are going to use when reviewing, use games to go through the important details of topics. For example, if you are using a Jeopardy format game to review for an exam, for each category, use Concepts from the Advance Organizer or Essential Questions. 

Students can also make great use of Word Walls or vocabulary journals when reviewing. Provide students with a list of examples or applications of the terms and then have them complete a sentence. For example:  This is an example of (the term) because ____________________.

Structure of a Review Lesson

In addition to the content of the review itself, remember to plan your review lessons the same as any well-planned lesson. You may have several Essential Questions as the focus rather than one, but you should pull the point of the review together with an Activating Strategy that will remind students how the Essential Questions fit together to form a bigger picture or have students look at the questions and with a partner come up with a general statement about what they learned from each unit, or have them brainstorm a list of ten important terms that they learned concerning each of the lessons/units, etc. The teaching portion of the lesson may include having students pull together and review the maps, organizers, and other important reminders they will need to go over and include distributed activities, collaborating, formative assessments, etc. The Summarizing Strategy may be to come up with a couple of good questions they would suggest for the exam or to make a list of the three hardest things they have to remember. Don’t forget to continue collaborating and talking with your fellow teachers to help each other come up with good review ideas, activities, and lessons.

Long-term Learning

Cramming for exams won’t enable your students to remember all those details long-term any more than you can remember all the tidbits and trivia you had to memorize for exams. More important is that they leave your class understanding the bigger picture of what the class was about and the bigger concepts they learned about. Use the research-based Learning-Focused strategies you used when initially teaching new content to review it, and you will see that your students really can internalize information long term and will reach their highest potential with your help!

Want to learn more about how exemplary schools use review throughout the year in order to build long-term memory and prepare students for the end-of-year assessments? We will have a session on this and other topics to support learning at our summer conference. Click here to learn more.

Don Marlett

Don has been an educator for 20 years. Before joining Learning-Focused he taught High School and Middle School Science and worked as a school administrator. Don has participated in school evaluations focused on the implementation of High Yield Strategies. He has presented at numerous conferences, including the Florida Association of School Administrators Conference, the Tennessee Principals Association Conference, and the Kentucky Association of School Administrators. Don leads product development, provides leadership training and coaching, and coaches educators in the implementation of the Learning-Focused Instructional Framework.

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