Friday, May 23, 2014

Studying for tests with concept diagrams for science and history

Tools for studying for content based tests for science and history. Another useful tip I'm using in my classroom for my middle school students. Sign up for more tips like these from Stowell Learning Center.
Teachers tell students to study for the test.
What they don't often tell them is HOW to study for the test.
And most students have no clue about effective studying.
In fact, most students use one of these strategies:

  • Read the chapter over and over, hoping it will sink in
  • Ask parents to read the material and quiz them
  • Hope (not really a strategy but it is what they do!)
Have you ever felt your student knew the right answers but then failed the test?

Typically that can happen when students work hard to memorize their study guides or practice questions word for word.  They think they know the material, but when it appears on the test, stated in a different way, they don't recognize it as being what they studied and end up being disappointed in their grade.

Below you'll find a strategy for studying for content type tests.  When you need to know the material, this will work well.
Concept Diagramming Makes Studying More Fun and
Test Grades Better

This strategy takes a little bit of time up front, but helps students really understand the material and makes studying much more interesting. Test grades improve because students are really thinking about the information instead of just trying to "ingest" it by rote.

It's called Concept Diagramming and is great for use with content areas such as history or science. It is a good tool to use when studying in groups or with a partner (or parent).

What to do
The student should:
  1. Put important events, dates, vocabulary, and names on 3x5 cards.
  2. Organize the cards in some logical way, and then orally explain why it makes sense to group the cards in that way.
  3. Then mix the cards up and group them in a different (still logical) way.  Again, orally explain the new organization / connections.
This process may show students that they don't really know the material. Memorizing a date is not the same thing as understanding a date and why it's important. If the student really does understand the material, it will be fun to come up with multiple ways to organize/group the cards.

After each test, save all of the cards, labeling them by chapter or section so that they can be used again to study for unit tests and finals.

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