We are getting ready for another unit test in Social Studies, which means it’s time to create a study guide. I’ve always created these for my kids for the first 3 marking periods, and then set them loose (now that they know how to go about it) to create their own during the last marking period of the year. This year, as I began to put together the most recent study guide, I thought, “why am I waiting for the last marking period to involve my kids, why not now??” So, on Tuesday, that is exactly what I did.
Just as I do for the study guides I put together, I asked my students to think of the unit in three sections:
- important people
- essential questions
Each table group worked with dry erase boards to look through their notes/text book/etc. and come up with important vocabulary we had covered. While this was going on, I opened a google docs page and got ready – soon they were calling out their contributions and I was adding these to our study guide. We learned to group vocabulary around ideas – to make studying them more efficient. Next, we used the same procedure to identify key people – again, grouping people together when possible (John Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams – for instance. So far so good.
The essential questions were harder, but this is where some real learning took place. “Little questions” were expanded or combined to create broad, “big idea” essential questions – this took a lot of conversation and thinking, but my kids were soon able to do this. There were great conversations about “big ideas” as they worked to create these questions. As I helped these conversations along, I began to realize that this sort of thinking was directly related to those Common Core standards I’m working so hard to integrate into my curriculum. Hooray!! The best part, though, was the fact that my kids were actually reviewing the unit pretty comprehensively as they worked through formulating these questions. A beautiful thing!
Although it was a time consuming and (let’s be honest here) messy enterprise, this is my new best thing: the class created study guide. We’re never going back to a teacher-generated format again!