It is best to review often throughout the course to keep material fresh in students’ mind and especially before major exams which cover a lot of topics. Reviewing will help students feel more comfortable with old material and give you the opportunity to combine topics which may have been studied separately.
If there is a particular warm up activity that you always use to start your lessons, you can do that but there is generally so much material to cover during a review lesson that a warm up activity is not necessary.
For certain classes a study guide may be appropriate. In this case, provide students with a study guide which summarizes what they have learned and what will be covered in the exams. Include the target structures and key vocabulary from each chapter and any diagrams or maps that they should be familiar with. This does a lot to build student confidence because they have a hard copy of what they should review and what sections of the course you feel are most important. The study guide should include every type of question students will encounter on the exam, all directions such as “Circle the correct answer”, and any additional material you would like them to review but may not necessarily be on the exam. Sometimes simply the format of the exam confuses and frustrates students so this guide will help them with that and they will be better equipped to perform well. When using a study guide as the basis for your review lesson, ensure that it is interactive. Have students translate the vocabulary words on the sheet, leave blanks in target structures for students to fill in, and list only the questions of a model dialogue so students have to write down their answers. This way, the study guide can serve the purpose of helping students with their individual review as well as structuring the review lesson. Have students speak as often as possible throughout the lesson as the exam will most likely be a test of their writing, listening, and reading skills.
Some classes may be very confident with the material on an exam or perhaps you have set aside two class periods for review activities so, if there is time, you can conduct a Quiz Game as a fun review activity which will take an entire thirty to forty-five minute period. To conduct this activity, prepare five categories with five to six questions each. The categories, for example, may be “Vocabulary, Translation, Classroom English, Answers, Questions” where students have to translate words or phrases for the first two categories, explain or act out classroom English phrases for the third, answer questions for the fourth, and provide the question for the answer that was provided for the fifth. For scoring you may choose to award only one point for correct answers for the first category but five for correct answers for the fifth category. To play have students form groups of three to five, explain the categories and scoring, choose the first category, and the first group to correctly answer the question gets the points and is allowed to choose the next category. The game ends when all the questions have been answered or the class ends and the group with the most points wins. As an incentive the winners might receive a couple extra credit points on the exam or something similar.
Conducting a review lesson or two before every exam will give students a better idea of what to expect on the test and make them more confident with that material. Reviewing topics frequently throughout the course will put less pressure on you and students in these major review lessons. Larger writing activities allow students to draw upon all their English education to complete the exercise, games such as the Quiz Game described above can give students a break from learning new material halfway through the term to review what has already been covered, and short quizzes on older material can highlight what points need special attention during a big review lesson. If students enjoyed playing a particular game or doing a specific activity for a topic when it was introduced, conducting the same game or activity as a review later on would be appropriate too.
There are so many methods of conducting both long and short review activities and using a variety of them will go a long way towards assisting all your students with their English acquisition.
Tara Arntsen has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.
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