Friday, April 27, 2007

Something I Tried Today...

...that didn't work out as I'd hoped, but that's ok because you've got to experiment. One of my goals this year has been to increase the efficiency with which I use class time, especially for review (going over homework, preparing for assessments, etc.). Today's lesson was the last before the STAR tests, so I decided to use all of the time for a final full-on STAR question review. Of course, for any given concept, there are some students who know it and some who don't. Some students need direct modeling from me, some need to work with their notes, some need coaching from a peer, and some need god only knows what. So I am always trying to design new activities to increase the overall value of the class time to the students.

Here was the plan today: students had a quiz of 25 STAR type questions to answer, due by the end of class. On the tables, I placed labels with the numbers 1 - 25. Students were told that they should start anywhere in the quiz that they felt they needed help on, and go to that table number. Students were only allowed to talk with other students at the same table as them, working on the same problem. If everyone at a table was stuck, they were told to call me over to explain. As students finished each problem, they were supposed to move on to another problem at another table. What didn't work about this is that students began to clump up immediately and then just didn't bother moving around. Essentially, they just formed work groups and then stayed with them for the rest of class. They were working, so the lesson wasn't time wasted. But there was no increased pay-off either (I was really hoping that I was on to something). I have some ideas about modifying this for the future, so if I end up trying them, I'll write about it more.

Has anyone tried anything like this, or have any ideas about efficient reviewing techniques or activities?


bogusia said...

Interesting concept. I find that whenever I plan something "fun" or "different", it hardly ever takes off! The simpler the better is now my strategy.

When I do exam review classes, I usually just give the students many of these types of questions (with the answers), and then give them ample time to do them (either on their own or in groups). When they have problems with them, I simply answer them directly and individually (since I walk around between the students all class, there are always questions). If two or more people ask the same question, I do it for the whole class.

I tried other methods, but never with much success.

Dan Greene said...

I have done plenty of review lessons like this, where students get some review problems, and then just work at them while I coach. It often works fine; however, my students need more help learning how to learn.

They will happily start at problem #1 of whatever review packet I give them and work straight on through, regardless of what they know already. Students who don't know how to do a problem will get someone to help them, and once the problem is "finished" will move on, feeling that they now know how to do that problem too.

They need to learn better strategies for reviewing, such as:
- figure out what topics you need to know for the test, and your comfort level with each of those topics
- don't spend equal amounts of time on the stuff you know and don't know
- when you get help to solve a particular type of problem, do more similar problems until you can get it completely on your own - only then do you actually know it

This stuff is second nature to us, but to my students it is like the riddle of the sphinx. I'm still working through this, and each year I try to push it a little further, developing my own practice. But I haven't cracked the nut yet, so to speak.

To that end, I keep trying a variety of review methods - some work well, and some (like the one in this post) don't. As I come up with things that I think are successful (and those that aren't), I'll keep on posting.

Anonymous said...

I have tried stuff like this and have found that it is a big waste. In general, I find that those who are working/thinking are the ones who I am standing near. The others are putting on a good show of looking like they are working while they are busy jacking around and enjoying social time.