3 of my Favorite Ways to Review a History Unit

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3 of my favorite activities to review a unit

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I like to keep myself and my students on our toes by not getting into an activities rut.  Today I’m sharing 3 of my favorite ways to review a topic.  You can read about some of my other go-to “get students engaged” strategies and ideas HERE and HERE (both prior posts), and my post from last week on 3 of my favorite ways to introduce a unit HERE.

1. If there are 30 students in the class, I will print out 6 images from the unit. I cut the images into 5 puzzle piece type pieces and mix all 30 cut up puzzle pieces in a box/bag/hat. Each student picks out one puzzle piece without looking, and when all the puzzle pieces have been picked, the students walk around the room trying to find the other pieces to complete their image.  Once each image has been put back together, the group has a few minutes to brainstorm what they know about the image, and how it played into the unit they just studied. They then present their image and its significance to the rest of the class.

2. Every few units I group the students up and have them make sample tests. I tell them that I will choose one or two questions from each review test to include in the actual test. When the tests are completed (it usually takes a whole class period), the students exchange their group’s test with another group and they attempt to answer the questions. The original groups then correct the tests and they all get turned in.

3. One of the other more popular review tactics I’ve used is to have students cast and outline a movie for a given a topic such as The War of the Roses. The students are grouped up and (as a sample) have to address:

a. who would be cast as the main characters in a movie about the topic
b. which historical events/people/themes would the plot focus on and why
c. which worldwide locations would you use to film the movie
d. would there be any unexpected plot twists; what and why
e. in what ways would the movie become more “Hollywood” than “History”
f. what kind of reviews would your movie get from critics and from the general public, what about from historians

I also love having my students make pamphlets because they can be so personalized, and a new favorite is Historical Hollywood Bus Tours!  Do you have a go-to review activity?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

My Top 3 Tips for an Organized Grade Book

I tend to treat the first day back after Christmas break like the first day of school.  For one thing, if I’m teaching semester long classes, I will I have whole new groups of students so for them it really IS their first day with me and we need to do the whole classroom procedures/expectations/intro to class type stuff (I’ll spend a few days on all that).

If I have a year long class, inevitably half my kids will have brain dumped over break so I use the first day as a refresher for our procedures and my expectations.  I will specifically discuss what went well the previous semester, what they should work on, and to be fair, what I’ll work on…like giving them more time to answer questions, speaking slower, whatever it is that given semester.

I also take the opportunity to re-organize my files/plan book, revamp activities and projects, etc.  Thankfully, courtesy of the teacher I student taught for, I never have to worry about my grade book getting out of whack.  She had refined her grade book keeping techniques over more than 20 years of teaching, and I thought it was such a great system I’ll be using it until the day I retire.

I should note, I personally choose to keep both a physical grade book and the school’s digital grade book so that I have a record of my students’ grades no matter where I am, and having two sets of grades is essentialy a self-check system.

Here are my top 3 tips to keeping my grade book organized:

1) highlight the grades after you input them into your digital grade book–if you’re like me you’ll appreciate the visual satisfaction of getting things done, but also, you don’t have to waste time figuring out which grades have been entered and which haven’t, and if a student asks you a question about his or her grade, you can say the grade is completely up to date, or you still have to input the test grades, or whatever the case is.  I find this step most helpful with missing grades, I’ll have all the assignment grades highlighted except for the 3 that didn’t get turned in, and it’s easy for me to count for students and tell them how many assignments they’re missing.

2)  if a student doesn’t turn in an assignment when it is due, draw a diagonal line through the grade entry square–when it gets turned in, write the grade on one side of the line–if it never gets turned in you can easily make it an x and put a zero in the digital grade book.

3) if a student is absent, outline the square of the grade box in pen so you know not to count it as late when he or she comes back to class (if they turn it in when you expect them to…if it is past your “absent work deadline policy date” then use the diagonal line and go from there).

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As you can see in the picture, there is an X in the bottom row because the student never turned in the assignment, and the square next to the X is because the student was absent the day it was due.  I also include in my grade book records the dates we are in class (even if there’s no assignment that day), the name of the assignment, the total points possible, then the points the student received.  This is a mock version I created to protect my students’ privacy, but it should give you the general idea.  While we’re on the topic of organization, if you want to read about how I keep my master files for lesson planning organized you can find that post HERE, or you can read about how I deal with absent students and work getting turned in HERE.

Do you have a grade keeping tip or trick?  I’d love to read it in the comments!