Friday, 21 October 2011 17:45

The Most Engaging Review Strategy Ever Devised (Teaching Tip #46)

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Many education authors have written about the importance of reviewing academic content with students to improve understanding and retention. In fact, an important principle states that when children learn new material during the school day, their understanding and retention of that material increases significantly if they have the opportunity to review the new learning at least one more time that day before heading home.

When I came across this finding, I knew instantly that building a period of daily review into our class schedule deserved to be an important priority, but our afternoons are usually so jam packed that I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find the time for it.

Then I discovered one of those rare ideas that seemed to offer everything. The strategy was quick, engaging, and effective. [Please contact me if you know who created this strategy. It is important to me to credit others for their original ideas.] It is now my number one favorite way to review material with students, and it is based on the classic TV game show “The $25,000 Pyramid.” When I was a kid, I loved watching the bonus round that occurred two times per show.

Horse racing fans like to say that the Kentucky Derby is the fastest two minutes in sports. That may be true, but the bonus round of the $25,000 Pyramid is the most exciting minute on television.

If you are unfamiliar with this show, I am pasting a YouTube link so you can see what all this fuss is about. I show this footage to my class on the first day we use this strategy, and my kids get so excited to try it themselves, it’s awesome.

On the TV show, two contestants are facing one another, and they must work together to complete six boxes in sixty seconds. One contestant faces a board showing the six boxes while the other faces away from the board. The contestant facing the board must give clues to help the other contestant figure out the words in each box. The contestants may not spell the words or use any smaller words or word parts found in the boxes.

In my class I adapted the game. Rather than arrange the boxes in a pyramid shape, I simply create vertical lists of six terms. I take these terms from the various subject areas we studied that day. I also like to mix in a habit of character or word from our mission statement.

On the days that we use this strategy, I make two different lists and ask my students to form pairs on the rug. With the kids working in pairs, each child has an opportunity to give clues and an opportunity to receive the clues. In other words, during the first round, half the class faces the board and gives clues while the other half faces away from the board and hears the clues. After the first round the kids switch spots for the second round.

I give each group roughly sixty seconds to see if they can answer all six parts. We’ll quickly debrief the words on the lists at the end of each round. The whole exercise takes less than five minutes, and the kids get an enjoyable review of the major concepts learned that day.

New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.