The end of the school year coincides with longer, sunnier, and warmer days here. Students and teacher spirits tend to be higher with the change of seasons and the winding down of hopefully another spirited and successful year.
However, one of the things which seems to run counter to this jovial feeling is the idea of an end of the year review.
I have never completely understood how “review” of material at the end or the beginning of the school year assumes the idea that students have forgotten everything. I mean, isn’t the whole idea of learning supposed to be retention? If they are not retaining, did they really learn it, or did they just memorize it–temporarily–to do well on a test? Well, that question is for another day, but let’s see if there are ways to make the review of math concepts to be a fun experience.
When compiling ideas for the end of the year review, it is important to leave students with the BIG ideas that summarize what they learned, and offers some link to what they can expect to see the following year.
Here are 5 Tips to help teachers with end-of-the-year review.
Make it Fun
There are so many review activities that incorporate some kind of game or puzzle as the goal. And, along the way, students have to answer review questions in order to reveal the answer to the puzzle. The questions or topics don’t have to be light, but the actual review process should be.
Make it Collaborative
Ensure that the students themselves are engaged in math discourse by sharing/explaining math concepts to each other. Again, these questions can be turned into a game, so that the teaching that occurs between students can be fun.
Allow Student Critique
We rarely ask for feedback about the math we teach, especially the content. It would be wise for teachers to ask their students for some honest review of the course–what topics did they like, what topics didn’t they and why, what topics were hard to understand at first, etc. Giving students a voice about the mathematics they explored will make them feel more inclusive in the review that will happen, and hopefully give them more of an active voice rather than a passive one.
Give Multiple Ways To Express Understanding
Too often we restrict ourselves in how to obtain mathematical understanding, limiting it to mostly worksheets and/or tasks that are not chosen by the students. Portfolios, projects, and presentations can help widen the scope of review and inflect it with a personalization that can galvanize the learning. It can also give students perspectives about others in how they see and value what has been taught.
Connect The Review to a Preview
Students often don’t see the larger and connected picture of mathematics–especially to content that they will encounter in the following year. Just like a good trailer for a film, try to find opportunities to give students a sneak peek at what is ahead of them by linking it to some of the review material. But, do it in a way that invokes curiosity and wonder–not something daunting or intimidating.
The end of the year is always a busy time for teachers, and consolidation of the material learned is an important idea. However, if it doesn’t attend to some of the ideas above, then the review will have limited value–especially in extracting all the discussions through the various learning styles of the students in your class. The review of mathematics at the end of the year is very important. However, we should not forget to stop and just smell the flowers, and enjoy the smiles and laughter of our students, who we won’t ever teach as a class again…