Tips for a Successful End of the Year ReviewReviewing for regents exams, or other state exams can be overwhelming. There is so much content: labs, diagrams, vocabulary, and just facts to know. Students want to do well, but they are tired, and they often don’t know how to study on their own. They don’t want to listen to you lecture, and you don’t want to lecture, but they need direction.
When reviewing for state exams, in particular, it is critical to look back at past state tests and to see what has often been asked. For New York State those exams are available here. However, students quickly get bored and frustrated with simply doing past questions. This doesn’t give them a study tool, it often just shows them what they already know, or what they don’t know. Many students are not able to take this to the next level and use it as a study tool.
We as teachers want to help them succeed, and want to feel like we have done everything we can, but many teachers struggle with ‘what to do for review?’ or ‘how to structure the review to cover the right content?’
This is How I Structure My Year End Review
HomeworkFor my year end review I like to assign something fairly open-ended, with choice for homework. This is something that students can make progress on their own, and won’t be studying ‘wrong’ but will be learning some study skills. One choice would be this free Review Assignment (applicable to any subject). This also eliminates the problem of cheating on practice test questions assigned at home.
Break it upThis is also a good time to utilize games and puzzles to break up review after students get bored of lecture and/or practice questions. A very popular way to do this is the use of Tarsia Puzzles (also called Magic Squares).
The ‘Meat’ of the ReviewThe bulk of my review, however comes from this resource, which I have created. It is organized by main topics within the New State Living Environment Course (Biology). Each topic has one or two pages. It is in guided notes format, with key diagrams that need to be labelled, or bullet points that need to be filled in. It can be used in several ways.
Depending upon the group of students that I have that year, I may use this resource in several ways:
- Hand out the entire packet at once, or I may hand it out one topic at a time, or only use some sections and review other sections in other ways.
- I will often put students in partners (or on their own) to complete a short section, then regroup and go over it.
- I have also had them complete a short section, check with a partner, and then check their answers against the key.
- A teacher answer key is included, so it is a very easy option if you want to copy the answer key for students (or a portion of it).
- I have also had students lead, up at the board, going over the answers with the answer key.
It is open-ended enough that it keeps students actively thinking and engaged, but complete enough that it gives them a great study resource when they are finished.
This includes sections for the New York State Required Labs (Beaks of Finches: Evolution, Relationships and Biodiversity: Evidence for Evolutionary Relationships, Making Connections: Experimental Design and Homeostasis, Diffusion through a Membrane) as well as the following units of study:
- scientific inquiry
- classification of living things
- microscope, cells
- cell membrane
- photosynthesis and respiration
- nucleic acids
- mitosis and meiosis
- genes and heredity
- modern genetics
- human body systems
- and human impact on the environment.
What Else do I do In Class to Prepare them for the Test?I usually review a topic or two using one of the above discussed methods and then do some practice past state test questions that draw specifically on that topic. This allows them to see the relevance and value of the review, and to have more success with the questions by being active participants in the review.
I know the end of the year can be chaotic, but end of the year testing is still important to both you and the students and we all want them to do their best. This can even ben a time to try some changes to routines in preparation for next year, and to keep things fresh at the end of this year.
I find this review structure (with some use of games or stations periodically to break it up depending upon your group and your time schedule) to be successful because students know what to expect, and they can see the purpose behind it. It is important that students buy-in to the review strategy, and understand what that the plan is, and the reasoning behind what you are asking them to do. Sometimes I even kick-off review with a contract that I have the students create and sign regarding which actions they plan to take to ensure that they do well (study each night, stay after school for extra help, participate in review, etc). This makes it clear where they are going. They can feel success as they complete it, and they also have a study resource when they are finished. Instead of being bored, students actually look forward to the structure, knowing what’s coming next, and seeing some progress in their learning and their scores.
I hope you will head over here, check out the previews, and try it out for yourself if you teach Biology. Please let me know what you think!!