I’m always looking for ways to help my students study for tests that engage them, encourage independence, and don’t result in too much review-game madness. Keys to Literacy strategies are great for helping students study for tests both in class and at home.
I recommend setting up stations in the classroom a few days before a test and having students rotate between stations that encourage them to use different strategies. I might set up 3 different studying stations and have students spend 15 minutes at each. Other times, I might have 6 different stations and let students spend 10 minutes each at 4 stations of their choice.
The day before a test, I might require students to come in with evidence of having completed a Keys to Literacy study strategy. When students’ homework is “Study!” that can look like a free night to some of them, and requiring strategy use both makes studying an expectation and ensures that students are studying efficiently.
Here are how some of the KTL strategies can help for review:
If you give your students top-down webs to outline the major ideas of a unit, this is the opposite. Provide students with important terms—either on cut-out pieces of paper they can arrange or as a list that they can rewrite—and have them organize these into a web.
My students do this to study literary terms, with the term “literary terms” branching into categories such as “comparisons,” “sound devices,” “structural devices,” which then branch into more specific categories. While the definitions of the literary terms don’t appear on the web, students need to internalize the definitions, including their nuances, to place them correctly.
This activity can be performed with some teacher-provided categories already on the web, with all terms provided but not yet placed, or with students developing their own terms and categories.
If terms are provided on small pieces of paper, students can glue these on and keep their own copies, or they can simply take a picture to study from when finished, leaving the station intact for the next group. This depends on how much cutting you want to do to prepare—one set per student or just a few sets total. (Of course, students can also do their own cutting; this just takes a bit more class time.)
Categorizing can be used in the same way as a top-down web, with students placing terms into categories (either self-developed or provided).
I also like using categorizing to help students identify concepts that they have mastered, ones they need to review a little, and ones they need to review a lot. My buckets for these are labeled with emojis, :-) for mastery, :-| for some knowledge, and :-( for no familiarity, and students take pictures of the concepts they’ve put in each category when they’re finished. They then develop a plan for studying the concepts they need to focus on, and they can allocate their studying time effectively.
Working with two-column notes is a great way to review notes that pushes students beyond just re-reading and highlighting. Students can convert any content information that is not already in two-column notes format into two-column notes. If students already have two-column notes that just have phrases on the left, they can add main idea sentences as well.
Finally, students can test, consolidate, and share their knowledge by filling in parts of a giant class version of two-column notes. For example, before my midterm exam, I organized my whiteboard as a giant two-column note titled “Types of Characterization.” As one station, students filled in the types of characterization and their definitions on the left and reminders and examples on the right. As students entered the station, they revised and added to what previous groups had produced. By the time all students had rotated through that station, we had a complete set of notes that everyone took a picture of to study from.
When students develop Bloom’s Taxonomy questions to review for a test, they are identifying important concepts and thinking about how they will respond to test questions.
The key to using Bloom’s Taxonomy for test review is to encourage students to ask the questions that matter most. They should narrow in on the content that matters and develop questions about these topics. Students can each be asked to develop a full set of Bloom’s Taxonomy questions on a important single topic, so that they are exploring that topic in depth rather than grasping for topics that might easily fit certain question types.
Thinking about test content in terms of Bloom’s Taxonomy will also help prepare students to respond to critical thinking questions on the test. If asked, “What is the effect of comparing Scout’s education to a treadmill?” students need to recognize that question as an “analyzing” question, not simply as a request to apply and define a literary device. Using Bloom’s to study prepares them for this.
Finally, students’ questions can be shared with each other for review. If students are also given studying options as homework, a great one is for students to respond to the questions that their classmates have developed.
Study Habits and Independence
Possibly the best part of using KTL as test review is that students aren’t reliant on a teacher putting together a complicated review game or fill-in-the-blanks study guide. While there is preparation involved in putting together stations, most of that preparation simply involves matching content to strategies, setting out materials, and sometimes a bit of cutting. Students become more independent over time, and the eventual goal is for students to learn to select and use these strategies independently, even if the homework board just says “Study!”