An easy collaborative review structure

I never feel like I’m particularly good at reviewing for things.  I always feel like I’m missing some crucial piece of the puzzle that would unlock everything and make the experience more worthwhile for my students.  I don’t like review games, much.  Ideally, students would come in full of questions that they wanted answers to.  That doesn’t really happen in any major capacity.  So…what to do…

One thing I really DON’T want to do is spend class time having students take exams (at least not until closer to the AP exam).  All of that can be offloaded to home.  While we’re in class, let’s use the time we have to do something more worthwhile.  Sure, I’ll spend the first half of the day fielding questions as we review the course sequence, but that get’s old.  What can we do during our other period?  Let’s build useful structures.  It’s from this perspective that I have hit upon the structure I’m about to explain:

  1. Before she passed away, a tremendous colleague in the AP Biology community had developed a few interesting review structures.  She had made cards that asked students to respond to particular prompts within the larger context of course themes.  She had put a bunch of vocabulary with common prefixes and suffixes on a bunch of similar cards.  She had also asked students to compare particular things across different lineages (e.g. gene regulation in a human vs. gene regulation in E. coli).  These are great structures, and I have used them for a few years now in their analog form. 
  2. It was easy to take this material and put it in to a series of google docs.  I have a laptop cart every day for one period, so access is all set.  
  3. That accomplished, the only thing left to do was to run off a copy of each doc for this year’s group, open it up to editing by the class, post the link in the class forum, and explain the criteria:
  • Each student claims a specific number of items on the sheet for a particular day.
  • Each student responds fully to their claimed prompts.  
  • I indicate my satisfaction or lack thereof with student work.
  • We repeat for eight days.

The sheet is opened up right before class, and stays open for contribution through midnight of the day that students are assigned the sheet.  They remain available past that point as publicly viewable docs for ever.  Students can make copies for their own usage for the purpose of studying, revision of responses they don’t love, etc.  

It seems to be working well.  Here’s a published copy of the first day’s sheet as an example (it’s the published doc, students have access to the copyable document on the google doc backend).  

It’s certainly better than whatever else I would be doing with that half of my class time.

I like the bones of this structure a lot.  Hopefully, in a few years, computer access will be so saturated that I can implement similar sorts of things across the board in my courses.