No regrets:  Skip the week of review

No regrets: Skip the week of review

August 14, 2020

Your students don’t need to review. Does that sound crazy? I’m sure it does, so let me explain:

Every time I have spent significant time reviewing old concepts at the beginning of a course, I have regretted it. Those regrets came in the form of kids being bored (and me having to shoot from the hip to engage them with something different), kids feeling bad if they don't remember or didn't learn certain things or stressing later because I was pressed for time.  Not you! Not this year!


As with all parts of instruction, we need to be sure to stop and ask ourselves what the purpose of any task is.  Wait...can I say that again?  We need to stop and ask ourselves what the purpose of any task is, but also how it will shape our students' communicative proficiency or intercultural understanding.  In the case of beginning of the year review:

  • What are you planning to review?
  • Why do you need to review it?
  • Are you reviewing something that they won't get through spiraled learning?
  • What do your students need that you feel you want to review?
  • Will it inspire them? Intrigue them? Engage them?

In a lot of classes, review is intended to be a place where we reinforce mastery. 

Does mastery have a place in the world language classroom?

Plus, it's pretty impossible to get through a few days of hybridizing your first unit and doing some getting to know you activities without having significant “review” inherently built in. For example, let’s say you are teaching second year Spanish. As you begin the school year, begin with your thematic unit, but also have activities that discuss favorite classes, likes and dislikes, what do you do in your free time that is different now that the school year is starting. If you are teaching third year, you will have the opportunity to do some spiraling of prior units from the second year as well. The deal is, we have to focus on input.  At the beginning of the year, we can expect output to be rusty, right?  So if we [formatively] assess that our students need to review based on output, we can expect them to appear to need it. 

When all is said and done, the only review your students need is input!

What we hear from students is that almost all teachers review for the first week or so of class and it’s super boring because they already know the material or it is marginalizing, making them feel like: 

“I didn’t learn that with my teacher!”

“If this is a review, then I should know it, but I don’t!”

Your best bet is to focus on spiraling, tons of input, and starting fresh with a new unit: Clean slate! If you really feel compelled to review certain concepts from the year before, try incorporating them with review games, team-based Kahoots, or homework choice boards that allow students to review only things that they don’t remember, or current event type activities that engage, rather than engaging in a blanket review for all students that may have tons of experience with the theme.

One of our favorite ways to build in input:  Music and meriendas.  Input heavy and totally engaging!

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