A New Take on Midyear Exam Review

Margaret teaches the highest level of Algebra 1 at our school, and I teach Pre-Calculus at the same level.  At the beginning of December, we both had conversations with our classes that began something like this:

I am not going to give you a review packet for your first semester exam…

**anxious/borderline angry looks exchanged around the classroom**

…instead, we’re going to do something better!  You’re going to write the exam review yourselves.

Wait, what, you’re asking?  Last spring before finals, Margaret and I decided that we were done with giving our upper level students an exam review packet or problem set and spending a couple of days in class going over it, as we had done in the past.  So, we decided to try something new, and we thought it was valuable enough that we both decided to try it again for the midyear exam that is coming up in a couple of weeks.  This year, iPads are making the workflow much easier for all involved.  

This is what the process looks like:

1)  We created a skeleton Google Doc with an outline of the topics to be covered on the exam.  We intentionally broke the topics up into a number of subsections equal to the number of students we each have.   We shared this document with our students specifically so that we could hold them accountable for their work via the revision history.

2)  On the day we introduced the project, students accessed the document via the Drive App on their iPads and claimed the topic they wanted.  Then, we gave them a day in class to work on researching their topic (going through notes, the text, old quizzes and tests, etc). and draft 2-4 questions that would help classmates review the topic.  We required that at least one question be conceptual and one question be computational.  

3)  Students entered their questions into the original Google Doc.  They used the built in equation editor to enter any equations.  If they wanted to use a graph or other image, they drew it in Notabilty or graphed it on Desmos on their iPad, took a screen shot, uploaded the screenshot to Drive, and then inserted the image into the review doc.  The limitations of the Drive app were such that most students did this step on the web-based version of Google Drive on a regular computer.

4)  Margaret and I reviewed the questions, made comments, and students used our comments to edit their questions into final versions.

Here’s a copy of my pre-calc review in its almost finalized version.  In order to write these questions, students needed to figure out what they need to know about a topic AND come up with questions whose solutions demonstrate that information.  This forced them to think a bit outside of the box, especially for some of the conceptual questions.  I think its so much better than completing a review packet!

5)  Once questions were finalized, students created solutions to each of their problems in Notability on their iPads.  These solutions are supposed to include a worked out solution to the problem with step by step explanations.  Students uploaded a screenshot of each solution to Google Drive and submitted a link to the image to me via a Google Form.

Directions for Creating a Solution

6)  Once all solutions were submitted, I made the response spreadsheet available to all students.  Each entry in the spreadsheet includes a verbal description of the topic, the number of the associated review problem, and a link to a solution.  When students are studying, they can go to this spreadsheet, find a topic they want to know more about, and then see a comprehensive explanation by one of their classmates.

7)  Once all the solutions are in, students are required to evaluate each other’s work, use the commenting feature on Google Images to share their evaluation.  The owner of each solution is then responsible for replying to the comment with an answer to a question or a resolution for an error.

Commenting Guidelines

This whole endeavor is still very much in the work in progress stage.  Stay tuned for a follow up post after exams about how we thought it went, how our students thought it went, and what we would do differently next time!