Helping Students Prepare for Finals

a Photo-Calendar-page-turning-img-no-140044189-Aug-21-2013My students and I have about three weeks left together.  As always, the semester has flown by at a rapid pace.   Now, thanks to many storm days, we are engaged in a juggling act, trying to get the curriculum covered while making sure real learning happens in the process.  It’s tempting to rush through it all, but not the wisest thing to do.  I have to stop and remind myself that it is the skills they learn that are important; if I have to drop something, that’s ok, as long as I’m teaching them how to learn.

One question that always come up in the last few weeks of class is this: “When do we get a review?”  When students ask this, they usually want to know when I am going to go over all the stuff they have to “know” for the final assessment; in other words, “what do we have to go home and memorize?”   They want a handout with all of the information they need, so they can spend a few hours pouring over it, only to regurgitate and forget it immediately after the assessment is over.  It’s not my idea of real learning.

First of all, I like to give final assessments that ask them to demonstrate the skills they have learned throughout the semester, using the content as a vehicle to do so, not as the end in itself.  Because of this, my “reviews” ask them to focus on the skills I want them to  use; I also like to put the review process in their hands, not mine.  I want them to be active participants in the process, not passive ones.

Below, you can get copies of a process I use to get the students to think about the important content in their texts–it allows them to discover both what they know, and what they still need to learn:

exam review blog

exam review blog2



If you would like to see more ideas for an exam review that focuses on real learning, you can check out my Exam Review. It, as well as my Process-Based Final Assessment are available for half price, this weekend only.

Enjoy the last few weeks. Summer is coming!



Chasing Your Dreams

This mother’s day is a little sad for me, because it may be the last one for a while that my daughter is home with us.  She’s heading off toblue Toronto next year to chase her dreams; she’s going to be studying musical theatre at Randolph Academy and after that, who knows where she will be, what stage she will be on.  I am bursting with pride and excited for her that she is finally getting to study what has been a passion of hers since she could walk and talk.

peterpan-124When she graduated from high school she was top of her class, and could have gotten into any school she wanted to get in to.  Instead, she is heading off to pursue a very challenging career, one that will not likely bring her a lot of financial success.  Many people–friends, relatives, colleagues–were surprised to hear of her choice.  One co-teacher even said, “Well, maybe she’ll change her mind.”  The spoken and unspoken words centered around the same thought:  she’s so smart, why would she do that?  My answer is always the same: because it’s what she loves to do.  She is well aware of what the life she has chosen entails, and yet she is running happily toward it, with no illusions.  Just excitement.

I’d like my students to think about their future in the same way: to consider their passions but to keep their eyes wide open.  Too often they mindlessly choose majors based on what others want, or what will bring them financial success, instead of what will make them feel fulfilled.  On the flip side, sometimes they make unrealistic choices based on their fantasies.  I’ve come up with lesson that takes a balanced approach, and asks students to reflect on the pros and cons of following their dreams.  If you’d like to see it, you can find it here:

what will your verse be preview cover


Another Reason to Love Google Drive

I’ve written about my love for Google Drive before, but last week I discovered another awesome use for it.   I was out sick for several days with a bad cold.  The second day, I almost went.  It was one of those days.  I felt terrible but I knew it was going to be hard to have a sub do what needed to be done in one of my classes.  We were finishing up a play and the next step was for me to correct the final questions they had been working on.  The next day a test was scheduled.  I was going to go and drag myself through it..but then I had an idea!

I booked them into the computer lab and then shared a document with the class on Drive.  I assigned two students to each question they were given, and told them to write up a well-developed response to the question.  They had previously been assigned critical thinking questions, but had been told it was ok to answer in point form in their notes.     Now, I wanted fully fleshed out answers.

So, once they got to the lab, each pair of students worked on writing up the answers.  I hovered, as I lay on my couch, and gave them suggestions or encouraged them to develop their answers further.  Once all were done, each student was encouraged to read over all the answers and add more, or ask for clarification.  In the end, they had a lovely document they could use at home to prepare for the test, and I was able to rest and help them at the same time.  Win-win!!

Here are some screen shots of the process.  My comments are in red.

inherit drive


inherit drive 2