I've stopped passing out worksheets to help my students prepare for finals. Instead, I like to push my students to collaborate with each other by using online tools. I've tried a number of methods that require students to evaluate information, think critically, and solve problems. Here are five methods to try with your students when they're studying for finals.
Use Twitter to collect student knowledge on a particular topic, such as the causes of the Civil War. Start by asking a subject-matter question and giving it a unique hashtag—one that's never been used on Twitter. For example, rather than "#civilwarcauses," use "8thgradecwcauses." (The only tweets with this hashtag will be the ones your students post, which will help streamline the discussion.) Then have your students provide a 140-character answer based on evidence learned in class. Because Twitter limits them to 140 characters, their answers must be clever, focused, and concise.
Virtual walls or bulletin boards allow you to collect specific information in a collaborative, easy-to-access online forum. There are several virtual walls available to teachers, but my favorite is Padlet. Not only is it free, but it's intuitive to use for both students and teachers. The website and app allow students to drag and drop videos, text, links, or images to a board. This is a great tool for condensing and organizing notes and materials for finals, and you can also use it as an in-class study tool by posting a question, having students submit responses, and guiding their answers with your feedback. The colorful backgrounds and customization options let students add personality to walls, making studying just a little more fun.
If you want to help your students study with materials like crossword puzzles, cryptograms, and more, Discovery Education has a wide variety of free game templates that are easy to populate using the material your class is studying. You can also have your students make digital flash cards, which you can create on a site like Flippity or Quizlet, and turn the activity into a game. Split your class into two teams and nominate someone to be the team captain. Give the captain a buzzer or another device to make noise, and then flash each digital flash card on a screen in front of the class. The first team to "buzz in" and correctly answer the question wins a point and the team with the most points at the end wins!
Why not take things a step further and help your students study by creating an in-class game show? Kahoot! is a free game-based learning platform that doesn't require student e-mails (they log in with the class pin) and is intuitive to use. It reminds me of Jeopardy or Family Feud, but with a 21st-century twist. Start by breaking your students into teams and sharing a list of questions that will help them to prepare. On game show day, have students answer the questions as they appear on the screen in front of the class. Questions are timed—allowing only five to 10 seconds for an answer—so students who study the material are more likely to win. I have yet to see a class that didn't love Kahoot! Students work hard to prepare not only to win prizes but because their teammates depend on them.
When using class time to prepare for a final, you can use a program like Socrative to evaluate student knowledge. Whether you quickly assess students with prepared small interactive assessments or ask on-the-fly short answer or multiple choice questions, this site gives you insight into what your students understand. It also shows results in a visually appealing way, making the assessment process a little more fun for both you and your students. Before the final exam, you'll know exactly where the gaps in understanding are and you'll be able to focus on these areas.