It’s nearly test time again and everyone is nervous about the how they are going to perform–at least you are. You’ve got a copy of the test in front of you and only a lesson or two left before the big day. How do you know what your students know and what they don’t know? How can you best prepare them for the big day? Let’s take a look at some dos and don’ts for creating review games and, why not, I’ll even give you a few of my favorites.
What’s wrong with this picture?
It’s the lesson before the test and a TEFL teacher comes into a high level grade three classroom. There are some difficult vocabulary words on the upcoming test, and the teacher aims to make sure that the students know how to spell the words. This teacher thinks and thinks until finally they come up with an idea. “Ok kids, let’s play hangman!”
The teacher then proceeds to split the class into two groups and writes the appropriate dashes fort the word they are thinking about on the board. The teacher asks group 1 to choose a letter. One student says a letter. “No, I’m sorry. No letter ‘b’,” the teacher replies.
This game continues to engage four out of twenty students in the class and after five minutes, team 2 has guessed the correct word. The teacher then moves onto a new word causing the students to groan. Before looking at my list of things that are wrong with this type of activity for these students, why not think about it yourself. Ready? Ok, read on.
1. The teacher is the only one really speaking.
2. It’s too simple for a high level class.
3. It takes too long for each word.
4. Only one student is actively playing at a time.
5. It’s not focusing on the meaning of the word, just the spelling.
6. There are no skills being practiced.
7. The teacher doesn’t seem prepared, and this game is just wasting time.
How could you improve this review activity? Instead of hangman, why not just slowly provide letters. When students know the word, they yell “stop!” and finish the word. They then have to provide a definition in order to get points (or maybe have them write the definition as well). With this game, everyone has something to do, it’s much faster paced, it’s more challenging and hopefully, as long as you set it up right, it will be more exciting.
What a Review Activity Shouldn’t Be Like
Why don’t we start with what review games shouldn’t be like. The most important thing is that revision activities should not include a lot of new language. This seems obvious, but sometimes we teachers get so focused on the activity that we forget our aims.Keep it focused on already taught language.
Don’t make any one activity too long. This depends on age, of course, but don’t try and make one type of revision game last the whole class. Include lots of different ones focusing on different skills, grammar and parts of the test.
Don’t divide the teams so that it’s the strong students vs. the weak students. The last thing you want to do before a test is to completely destroy your students’ confidence. Creating the right balance for teams and pairs is a delicate procedure. Go into the class with a plan.
Most importantly, don’t try to do everything in one day. Revision and checking your students understanding should be an ongoing process. If you try to reteach everything in one day, you may do more harm than good. Revision lessons are meant to refresh students’ memories and give the teacher a chance to clarify points of confusion.
What a Revision Activity Should Be Like
Try your best to create similar tasks to what will be on the test. If there are gap-fills, make sure that whatever game you are doing has students filling in gaps. If the test has a listen and order in sequence section, try and create a revision activity including the same format.
Keep it focused on the language specific to the test. You’ve probably gone through loads of items that will not be on the test, but now is a time to focus. Get the test and have a thorough look at it. Decide what portions your students might have issues with and make them the basis for the revision activities.
Make it engaging. If your students aren’t focused on the activity, it doesn’t matter how carefully you selected the examples. It needs to be fun and inclusive. Like any activity, make sure that all of the students have a task and not just one student at a time.
Lastly, if possible, include team work. Revision days can be a good opportunity for your students to teach each other. If you pair a strong student with a weak student, the fear is that the strong student will dominate and the weak student won’t pay attention. If you pair two weak students together, they may never come up with the answers and it might kill their confidence to watch everyone else “getting it” except for them. Try to match students that will work well together and make sure that the tasks you create for them necessitate teamwork. If it’s a team doing a task that one student can complete, only one student will do it. Make it a collaborative effort (e.g. one student finds the correct word in the book and the other has to write it on the board).
With a bit of planning, review lessons can be a lot of fun and great consolidation for your students. For a few review games that work in my classroom, click on the link below.