November 30, 2014

RRR Week always brings with it the challenge of figuring out what to do with/for students that will be helpful in preparing them for whatever final exam or capstone project is required in your course. Sure, anyone can encourage students to read, or hold an extra office hours or plain old review session. But, why would you do anything so mundane when there are other options available that can make the final push of the semester more productive and maybe even more enjoyable during a time of great stress?

Without further ado, here are your top five RRR week activities (please add more in the comments section!):

 #5 - Reserve a room for a “class study hall.”

Because sometimes just giving students a dedicated space and time to focus solely on your course content is helpful. 

Students can work in informal groups, or alone. You can choose to be there to answer questions. You can arrange this for the entire class, or can arrange separate rooms for “section study hall.”

 #4 - Re-do the midterm.

Because understanding the “WHY” of learning is just as important, maybe more important, than the “WHAT” of learning.

Put each problem up on an overhead projector, and walk them through three points for each problem: Why did I ask this? What were the big areas of understanding I was trying to assess? Why this particular question? What specific ideas, pitfalls, etc. were involved? What does a good solution look like? What needs to be commented on, what can be just written down, and what needs to be worked out? If there's more than one way to do the problem, walk them through the alternatives, show what a good solution looks like for each, and contrast the approaches. (Adapted from what Bob Jacobsen, Physics, does after his midterm.)

 #3 - "Three Questions for Students" 

Because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

Ask students to bring their graded exams to a review session, and then give them ten minutes to answer the following questions on 3 x 5 cards that you provide. What did I do well on this test and why? What did I do poorly and why? What am I going to do about this problem the next time? You can then take the remainder of the review session time to discuss with students ways to better prepare for and approach the material in the upcoming exam. This can be done by having them break into pairs or groups to discuss, or have the discussion with the entire class.

 #2 - Student teachers.

Because you haven’t really learned something until you can teach it to someone else.

In a review session, the first people to respond to students’ questions can be other students. Instructors then step in only when answers veer or no one can answer them. If no one can answer them, this should tell you something.

 #1 - Game Show Final Review.

Because learning and fun are not mutually exclusive.

In Chem 1A, Michelle Douskey uses a game show (with teams and prizes) that serves as a review for the final. It's patterned after "Win Ben Stein's Money," with tacky puns and segues and wacky categories (e.g., "If Beyoncé gains any more weight, they will have to change the name of the band to Density's Child."). OK, you might have to update those references from time to time.