Lesson Idea: Consolidate learning with three levels of recap questions

Travis DixonUncategorized

While an industry favourite, the ol' stand and host a review session has pretty big limitations. I find that the basic activity in this blog post works much better.

If you like the CHACER lesson structure, or even if you’re just after a new recapping idea for the start of lessons, I like this activity because like all of my favourites:

  • it takes minimal preparation
  • has maximum student engagement
  • it’s differentiated and relevant
  • and it gives me some basic data on student progress

The basic premise is that in pairs (or threes), students try to answer a series of questions you pose on the board or projector. These questions should come from the previous lesson/s (as they’re for recap). The trick to the questions is to have them at three levels of difficulty (perhaps even mirroring our three levels of learning). I like to colour code the questions so students feel a challenge and a sense of achievement after they can answer each one and progress to the next “level.”

For example, when recapping lesson 1.2 (a) “Variables and Relationships” in my introductory unit I might have these questions projected on the board:

  • What are independent and dependent variables?

  • Why are they important in psychological experiments?

  • Could you conduct a study that didn’t have IVs and DVs?

I usually give about 5 – 7 minutes for students to discuss the questions.

What I like about this basic consolidation activity is that all students have a chance to think about these questions and discuss them. In my early teaching days I would have stood at the front and hosted an arms raised-athon as I asked these questions and had individual students answer. But after years of using that paradigm I realized that I was only checking the understanding of one student, and that student also could formulate an answer faster than other students could even comprehend the question, so it wasn’t even effective recap for the kids who didn’t answer. It was also based on the assumption that all students think at the same speed; by allowing them their own time and having a partner to discuss ideas with it increases the impact for all students.

A few notes:

  • If you struggle with disengaged students, you could say something like “after 6 minutes I’m going to randomly draw three names from the hat to offer their answers.” This gives some extrinsic motivation to get into it.
  • If a pair answers all three in record time they could tell you their answers and then use them as helpers to rove around and help others.
  • I have students recap without checking their notes, books or workbooks first. It’s only after they’re stuck that they can look through these materials.
  • I encourage students to ask questions of me during this time. So while I’m usually relaxing at my desk with my feet (literally) up, they know they can ask me to clarify things if they need it.
  • Like all consolidation activities, I also like to finish with an open Q&A based on these questions and anything else we’ve learned recently (or any question they want to ask, basically).
  • If you wanted to triangulate your data, you could have students write their answers to these questions to submit, but this just means more marking and I am not keen on that idea!

As always, contributions in the comments are always appreciated.