A Review Session Worth Keeping

On Monday of this week, my students took a test. It didn’t go too well. It’s a pretty important concept (solving equations and inequalities), so it was more than worth it for us to take the week to review and cement some of the skills we needed. There were a lot of absences over the past couple weeks, including a day by me and 2 snow days, so this also served as a great chance to fill in some of the gaps individual students missed.

Tomorrow, we re-test. After 4 class periods of work, we’re ready. But that’s not what this post is about. That’s just teaching; it’s not blog post worthy.

This post is about our last class today.

We often do review activities before our unit assessments. We’ve done jeopardy-style games, practice tests, journaling. . .really anything we can do to review what we’ve learned and prepare to show what we know. Today’s last class was our review.

But today, I tried something different.

To start with, we put problems to solve on the walls. 20 in all. And they were all over the room.

Next, we had to equip ourselves. Calculators, paper and pencils, and our clickers.

Here were the rules:

  • Everyone answers every question, in any order they wish
  • When a student has answered all the questions, they are to see Mr. Wyzlic to see how they did
  • If they didn’t get them all correct, they are to go back and fix their mistakes

 

That’s still nothing worth blogging about. But there were more rules.

  • When a student gets all 20 questions right, they earn 2 points
  • They then are to go and help others
  • Everyone who helps another student earns a point
  • Everyone who accepts help from another student earns a point
  • Anyone who just “gives” an answer (even an incorrect one) loses a point
  • No students can earn points for helping until they’re finished

 

The person who gets the most points gets…I dunno, something. I think I actually said this in class. Then I said maybe candy or an extra credit point or something. We actually didn’t agree on a reward. Turns out we didn’t need one.

We talked about how to approach someone to help them, and how to accept the help. They were wonderful in practice. Then, it was time to let them loose.

It took a little bit, but once someone got all 20 right, they started falling like dominoes. Soon, I became busier than I thought I would be. I kept having students come up to me to see how they did, and then others coming up saying “Mariah helped me on two problems,” or “I helped Carson and Naomi.” Other things I overheard:

  • “This is easy!” — a student who often gives up before starting (it wasn’t as easy as he made it sound — he was just prepared, and it was a non-threatening environment)
  • “Finally!” — a student who all week was very vocal about not being able to do this, when she finished all 20 problems. Let that one sink in. She was so caught up in doing the work properly, that she was excited that she was finished. Getting all 20 correct was an after thought, like she expected to eventually get them all.
  • “Who needs help?”
  • “I need help!”
  • “James just helped Shelby, and Karli helped Trevor.”
  • Only mentioned once: “who has the most points?” They didn’t seem to care.

By the way, by the end of the hour, my 41 students had answered the questions at an 81% success rate. That’s over 30% better than they did on Monday. I’m excited for them to take this test tomorrow. But more than that, I’m excited for the culture of my classroom. We help each other. We build each other up. We’re in this together, and we’re here for one another. I could not be more proud of my 7th graders than I was today. Though I’m excited to see what they’ll show me next.

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4 thoughts on “A Review Session Worth Keeping

  1. Thank you for emphasizing cooperation over competition. Thank you for making a space where it’s OK for people to help each other. Those are powerful constructs for life lessons.

    So much of schooling is based on how to get ahead of other students. A rising tide lifts all boats.

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