Filling Your Strategy Toolbox

toolbox

Editors Note: This post is written by guest author Aubrey Trimble. The views expressed are her own. 

I have been very fortunate in my role as a Learning Consultant to see some awesome teaching and great classroom strategies that help reach our at-risk and special education students. I would like to share a few that I have found to be very successful in the general education classroom.

Summarizing Technique

In high school, we assume our students understand how to summarize a text, whether a fictional or non-fictional text. When I was teaching in the classroom I found a lot of the students understood what summarizing was, but not exactly how to do it; inevitably, the student would end up re-telling the story.

  • Have students read a text. Before the students read the text, ask the students to write down five to ten (depending on how long the text may be) words that are important to understanding the text.
  • Once all the students have finished, ask the student to write a summary that cannot be any longer than 4-5 sentences and must include all of the words they had previously identified as important.

This strategy allows the student to identify what is important while reading the text and stops the student from re-telling the story because they have to prioritize what are the most important ideas to include.

Teacher/Student Made Book Marks
This is a great strategy for teachers who perhaps are reading a novel that may have a lot of characters, changes in setting, etc. or for a science text that may have vocabulary that will be new to the students. The book mark allows for a “hint sheet” to the important pieces of the text so that the student has access to this information, readily and easily.

  • For a chapter book, create a book mark that outlines the important literary pieces of the text the students must understand in order to understand the book. The book mark can be filled previously before reading or the student can fill it in as they read.
  • For vocabulary purposes, create a book mark with the new vocabulary words on it where, again, they can be filled in previously or the student can fill it out as they go along.
  • For due dates in a chapter book, you can create a book mark with due dates for when chapters need to be read by.

This strategy is helpful because it is a tool all students can use and will have the important pieces of information the students may need to understand the concepts of the text or the text itself in a fun, easy to use book mark.

Test Corrections: What Does the Student Really Know?

This strategy is great because it addresses the information the student does not know so the student can address these issues before  moving forward without gaps in the understanding and potentially getting further behind.

Once the test has been corrected by the teacher, hand the test back out to the student. Have the students identify what questions they did wrong. You can:

  1. Create a t-chart and have the student look for patterns to the questions done incorrectly. For example, in math, are they missing a key step in each problem or on an English test, is the student only struggling with the vocabulary section of the assessment. The t-chart labels would be question type-mistake made.
  2. Have students write a reflection on what type of answers they did wrong and why. The student can also reflect on what steps did they take to prepare for the test and are they happy with the results.
  3. Have students make corrections and then write out why the correct answer is correct and why the answer they chose was incorrect.

This strategy allows you as the teacher to see the patterns of strengths and weaknesses within your students’ abilities and knowledge, as well as allow for the students to identify this. In this, students can begin addressing the areas they may need to strengthen when it comes to test taking, whether that is strengthen their content knowledge, slowing down when testing or using a better study method.

Students Create Test Questions

This is a great strategy because it will allow you to see if you and your students are on the same page when it comes to content coming up on a test. Even our brightest students can perform poorly on a test if they do not study the right material. Students who typically struggle in school, I feel, really struggle with test because they feel like every test has been created to “trick them” and they typically do not prepare for the test by studying sufficiently the days before.

  • Before a test, instead of giving the students a study guide, have the students create a test of their own. Challenge the students to think about what were the important concepts that were the focus throughout the unit and let that information fuel the questions they create.
  • Students have to create the same types of questions that will be found on the test. For example, if you are going to have some multiple choice questions with an essay question at the end, then the students must create the same.

This would be a great opportunity to discuss with students the different types of questions stems teachers use and how the student will see the same stem over and over again. After the students have created the questions, have the students share with the class and discuss what questions “sound” like questions that “may” be on the test and what questions they would not find.

This strategy allows students to put on their teacher “hats” and focus in on the important material that needs to be studied for a test. It also allows the students to see the process the teacher goes through to create a test, which takes some of the mystery out of the question, “What is going to be on the test tomorrow?”

Consider trying out a new strategy this coming year that you haven’t in the past.Have a great start to the school year!

Review, Don’t Cram!

cram We will be having a test over the Cell Cycle on Monday. Here is your study guide. Make sure to study!

The words, “We will have a test” and “Make sure to study!” can bring anxiety to even the most academically strong student. But for the struggling learner, they can be so overwhelming that the first response is just not to study. Or the student will study to the best of their knowledge and still be unsuccessful. Testing will most likely never end, but how we prepare students for classroom testing can. And how and when students start preparing needs to be well before the night before the test.

After our daily lesson, students are given time to ask questions on their homework, have a concept reviewed or preview an upcoming topic from one of their classes.To avoid the ever common slogan in previous years of, “I have no homework,” we implemented this past year #teamAC review activities.

These activities allow students to take information they have learned from one if their classes and review the material in various ways to help learn and retain what they have been taught. The activities are designed around lessons we have covered in class such as how to make flashcards or quizlet.com,  acronyms, creating  practice problems for themselves, using chapter reviews, rhyming and many more.  When students come to class and don’t have any homework questions, they take out their review sheets and pick an activity. For an incentive, each review part is assigned a point value. Once students reach 50 points, they can chose a reward such as a free iPod time or a treat as well as we provide them with a review activity certificate.
These straightforward review lessons have given students more ways to work with information. And the great part is they experience many different ways to manipulate the material, allowing them to learn for themselves how they best study. And all of the review Activities can be done at home too. Once students become stronger with the material, we move them to studying together with a partner as well as small group review sessions.

Consider the next time you tell your students, “Don’t forget to study!” that many students might not even know how to do that. Instead, consider ways to  integrate review tasks into your class to teach these skills.