For teachers, to prep students for finals can become another balancing act. Teachers have to make the most of limited class time while also determining how much help can be given to these students. Studies showed that 68.8% of students study for less than 5 hours, and only 2.5% of students study for over 10 hours.
As the end of the school year comes, exams and finals are not too far behind and quickly approaching. The stress, the preparation, the revision, the paperwork, the race to covering the curriculum in time. This is as tough of a time for teachers as it is for students. So we’ve come up with some ways to help teachers prepare their students for finals and reduce the amount of stress along the way.
1 - Keep Students Informed
Teachers must learn to balance the constant need to help their students be fully prepared for exams, and the need to teach them the ability to study independently before they graduate into the real world. This is why there is a difference in how much help teachers provide students depending on their age. When it comes to exam preparation, a 6th grader will be more likely to receive more help from teachers than a student who is in his senior year.
However, regardless of their age or grade, teachers should always keep students as informed as possible, in order for students to maximize their study-time. This can be done by ensuring that all students are aware of the main topics that will be covered in the exam, because it’s always helpful to provide students with a clear view and understanding of what they need to be studying for.
2 - Gamify your online classroom
Students love games – who doesn’t, right? Integrating games into revision time is an effective strategy for teachers to capture students’ attention and increase their engagement when preparing for exams. Keep in mind that this can become a slippery slope to a time-waster.
You can find yourself spending most of the time explaining the rules, maintaining order and reducing chaos among your students in your virtual classroom. So make sure that you only play review games that don’t divert from and are more focused on the topic at hand – the review questions! Here are some effective review games that are commonly used to shake things up and maintain your students’ interest in learning.
Effective review games
- Game show: Don’t fret, even though this game is similar to Jeopardy, it doesn’t have to require a lot of pre-class preparation. Granted, you do need to set up some kind of game board, but aside from that, all you have to do is select categories based on the topics of your review material. If a student asks for a specific category for a low number of points, you can ask them an easier question (eg: Verbs for 200). Alternatively, you can also ask them a harder question when they choose a category for a high number or points (eg: Fractions for 3000).
- Un-wheel of fortune: In this game, you can also divide your students into 2 teams. This game is just like “Wheel of Fortune” – but without the wheel! Have a key term or phrase or concept that is included in the review material. Ask each student a question, alternating students you choose from each team. For every correct answer, give the student 1 point and allow them to choose a letter. Reward the student with additional points for every letter that’s revealed. For instance, if a student chooses the letter “A”, and it appears twice, then the student receives 3 points. 1 point for the correct answer and 2 points for the 2 letters. The same student can then try to solve the puzzle. The team that solves the puzzle receives 5 points. Sum up the points each team receives at the end of the game and award a prize to the winning team.
- Kahoot: Students love any excuse to take out their phones during class. In addition to that, they get to participate in their own classroom game-show by answering live and timed questions on their own phones. You can create an account as a teacher through kahoot.com, and can choose to use a fellow teacher’s kahoot quiz or create your own, personalized for your students or the material you covered so far. Pass on to the students the game pin number you receive, so that all students are able to play the same quiz game at the same time.
- Group work contest: Divide your students into groups and assign a group of questions or problems that each group needs to answer within a certain time. The group with the most correct answers wins the contest.
- The point system: Divide and conquer! You can divide students in your virtual class into 2 groups. In a hybrid learning environment, you can also choose to divide your class into online and in-class teams. Then, you can start asking questions related to the review material. Whoever raises their hand first gets the chance to answer the question. If they get it right, their team gets the point. If they get it wrong, the other team gets to answer for a chance to win the point. The team that gets the most points at the end of the game wins a prize.
3 - Tips that'll do the trick
Sometimes students just need that extra bit of help, and as teachers with more knowledge, wisdom and experience, you can provide that extra help. You could share some tips that have helped you study when you were once yourself a student. You can share successful study methods of your previous students, provide helpful videos, revision techniques that fit their learning style, among many other tips. Some students prefer note-taking over reciting Not only will this help the students, but when students notice that you’re actively doing more than the norm, you gain their trust and that in turn increases their self esteem and confidence.
Effective revision techniques
- Mind palaces: Are you a fan of Sherlock? In case you aren’t, Sherlock also uses mind palaces to beat his opponents every time. The memory palace can be used to memorize huge amounts of information. The best part is that you can always and consistently expand it, because it all comes down to your sense of imagination. Here’s how you can take advantage of this technique:
- Mnemonics: the concept is extremely less confusing than the spelling! Mnemonics involve translating information into an alternative form that you’re more easily able to remember. One way of doing this is by taking the first letters of a string of information that you want to memorize and then using them to create a more memorable phrase that you find easier to remember than the original information.
- Rhyming: Putting information into a rhyme can make it easier to memorize or remember. This is more helpful in remembering larger amounts of information
- Setting facts and figures to music: An extension of rhyming techniques is setting your review notes to musical ones! Once you do, all you need is to remember the tune and the words will come flooding in. To make it easier, some sing-a-long to tunes they already know.
- Making up a story: To help your brain absorb large amounts of information, you can break down the information into smaller chunks, and make up a story that links all these smaller parts together.
4 - Practice makes perfect
Provide worksheets or practice exams that review the material that will be included in the exam. It is also recommended to encourage students to practice in groups. Another form of practice would be testing how familiar they are with the learning material through a practice exam. Nearing exam day, sit your students down for a practice run – a short, ungraded practice test with questions similar to the ones that could be in the actual exam. You can then go through it with them in the second half of the class. This will allow students to test their knowledge and be aware of how prepared they are for finals.
Moreover, in-class discussions can help encourage independent and analytical thinking in students, which can boost their confidence in their abilities and assigning homework between revision classes can increase their motivation to begin revising early on as opposed to the day before the exam.
5 - Empower through positivity
Exams can take a toll on students’ physical and mental health. It is known that one of the most common fears students have when entering their examination hall is forgetting everything they’ve studied or revised in preparation for this exam. The fear of their minds going completely blank when it comes down to the wire. To help your students manage their stress during finals, as well as stress in the exam room, you can acknowledge when there is a problem.
Moreover, while 60% of students in a recent study conveyed that there were no symptoms of depression, 7.5% of these students had depression. Test anxiety is a very real thing that many students over the world go through, especially at the end of the school year. Understanding what it is that students go through will allow you to help your students that are struggling with it.
In addition, especially when it comes to younger students, if you let the stress of teaching get the best of you, they will take notice, and it will also have an effect on their own mental health and well being. Younger students often follow their teacher’s lead and they look to you for model behavior, especially since they see you for most of their day. So if you let the standardized testing stress get to you, you will notice that your students have somehow mirrored the same type of stress. Be positive, especially around your students and encourage them to stay mindful, remind your students that you believe in their abilities and empower them to keep doing their best at all times and emphasize on the process, not the results.
Exam time can be pretty intimidating for students and very hectic for teachers. Consequently, students should be consistently focused on their studies throughout the school year. However, revision classes nearing the end of the school year do help them prepare for their exams. Teachers need to reassure their students that their minds are more than capable of storing a variety of information as well as comprehending it and remembering it.
With these helpful tips to prepare your students for finals, you can make it easier for them to grasp and understand more than they normally would during these stressful weeks. Remember that it all comes down to effectively communicating with your students, especially during finals week, to ensure that they are aware that you are here to help and guide them towards success. At the end of the day, communication is the true primary component to getting through to your students and better communication leads to better education.