March 22, 2017
The end of the year is quickly approaching, leaving teachers with a common growing concern; what to do for SOL review. While teaching to the test is not what we desire, or a part of the lexicon of “best practice” for teaching and learning (Nicholas & Berliner, 2007), the pressures of preparing students to pass the SOLs are all too real, and right around the corner. SOL reviews take many forms such as whole class games, individual quizzes, and worksheets. Whatever is planned for upcoming SOL reviews, it is best to design them so each student has many opportunities to respond, preferably at least three per minute (Scott, Anderson, & Alter, 2012), and students are motivated to engage. Daniel Pink (2011) found when we are asked to engage in cognitive tasks we are motivated the most through autonomy, mastery, and purpose. While some SOL reviews might not seem like the most rigorous of tasks, they still demand students exercise their minds to understand, relate to, connect, and finally learn content and skills. Students are more likely to engage with reviews and connect with the content if given autonomy on how and when to complete their reviews, provided the necessary feedback to obtain mastery of content and skills, and offered assignments and activities with a clear purpose (i.e. not busy work). Below are three tips for developing reviews that encourage student motivation.
3 Timely Tips
1. Create a Menu of Choices for Students
Most of us have heard of, and used, this strategy before, but its value and impact cannot be overstated. This begins with developing a multitude of options valuable to encouraging students’ understanding and retention of material. Some options could include the following:
- Create a podcast (publishing is optional) explaining a set of topics/concepts/stories/events
- Develop a series of comic strips outlining previous content; Toondoo.com is a great resource for creating digital comic strips (requires a free account).
- Create a five minute lesson to teach a partner about a certain topic (partners can be rotated for each student to teach their lesson multiple times, and to hear different lessons)
- Complete a collection of review quizzes
- Create your own test for others to take
- Develop concept maps for a set of topics/concepts/stories/events
Each item could be worth a certain amount of points, and students choose which items to complete as long as they total a predetermined point goal. This option gives students the autonomy to decide what to do and how to do it, and each assignment/activity has an identifiable purpose…beyond busy work.
2. Utilize Co-Teaching Strategies
SOL reviews are a perfect time to use co-teaching strategies like parallel teaching, station teaching, and alternative teaching to increase student engagement. Develop reviews where the class is divided into two halves or stations, and each co-teacher is responsible for different parts of the review. Dividing the class into smaller groups allows for more opportunities to respond per student, increasing their chance for understanding. SOL reviews done this way can be games, reciprocal teaching, concept map building, skill mastery, etc. The goal is to allow students to participate as much as possible and not be drowned out by the louder and more outspoken students.
3. Feedback, Feedback, Feedback
The second item identified by Daniel Pink (2011) as encouraging motivation in students is mastery. Mastery of content and skills are only achieved if we know what we are supposed to do, how we are doing, and what we need to do next to get better (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). No matter what is selected for SOL review, providing feedback to students should be central in the classroom. Feedback should be timely, positive, relevant, and actionable so students see themselves as capable, the goal as achievable, and they have a clear direction of how to improve. “Good job,” and “you are very smart,” provide no direction, and are subjective to the person saying them and the student hearing them.
2 Teaching Tools
1. Test Prep and Review Strategies
The National Educators Association (NEA) has curated a collection of test preparation and review strategies for grades K-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12.
2. Review Activities and Assignments
Rachel Lynette is an author, former educator, and blogger who offers a variety of free and fun review activities and assignments.
“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”
- Frank A. Clark
Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.
Nichols, S. N., & Berliner, D. C. (2007). Collateral damage: The effects of high stakes testing on America’s schools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Pink, D. (2011). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York: Penguin Books Ltd
Scott, T. M., Anderson, C. M., & Alter, P. (2012). Managing classroom behavior using positive behavior supports. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.