While designing a lesson with a very good high school ELA teacher we got to the Review portion of the lesson. Responding to the essential question for the review components of the lesson, “What needs to be reviewed for this lesson?”
The teacher said, “I have been reviewing literary elements every day but they still don’t seem to have them.”
I asked him to describe the process he used to review the elements. He said he had a list of elements that was posted on the wall, and everyday he would tell the students the definition and give examples for each of the elements. And, even though he had been repeating his review process for weeks and weeks – the students still don’t understand the elements to the degree the teacher thought was warranted.
So he continued to “review” them everyday by telling the students the definitions and examples of the elements. With the same result that students did not understand the elements to the degree they should. The issue was not that the material was too difficult for the students. The issue was not that a sufficient amount of time was devoted to the material.
This example is very common in that when we think of a teacher reviewing material, we think the teacher is the teller and the students are the receptors of the information. The issue was a simple misunderstanding of what it means to review material.
Effective review is not the teacher telling the students something. Effective review is the teacher asking the students something. Asking the students a question, asking them to perform a task, asking the students explain something, that is the beginning of effective review. Why? Every time we retrieve information from our memory we relearn it. Learning, and relearning is an active, not passive, activity.
Like a new lesson, an effective review is data driven. The teacher asked the students to perform some task, answer questions, solve problems, explain something, etc. If the answers are correct, the teacher can move on. If the answers are not adequate, the teacher re-teaches or re-explains. And then asks re-asks the review questions so the students can relearn the information.