Collaboration Concept Maps

We just finished final exams at my school (though my grading is far from done….). I usually dread the days leading up to exams because I find that the kids are as bored with reviewing as I am, though it is a necessary evil. I’ve tried review games, but find that the kids don’t really get as much out of them as I’d like. But this year I found an activity that I really like!

I’m always shooting for the application end of my content, not just memorization of facts. So on those review days, I handed each student an index card as the walked in. I had marked each card with a colored line (I had 4 or 5 colors). Then each student chose 5 words to write on their card. They had to choose words from the section of the study guide that was due that day (I had not collected the study guide yet). I advised them to choose words they understood since they were going to have to use them.

Then the students were grouped according to the colors of their card. They compared their lists and replaced any repeats. Then each group was given a posterboard and created a concept map using their words. Creating the map itself is tough for them when it’s from scratch and there are no bubbles to fill in. But the struggle is worth it.

poster 1

The next day we started the same way with new cards for everyone. This time they were in different groups, so when it came time for the concept map they had to choose a random one that was started the day before and figure out how to fit today’s words in it. This was a lot harder for them since they may not totally understand the words that were already on the poster, but it was beneficial for them to see what they really did and did not understand. They also had to not only know the meaning of the words (memorization), but be able to relate those words to other words (application).

poster 2

The third day was the same routine; card, 5 words, groups, concept maps. By the end, students were comfortable explaining words or concepts they understood to their group members that didn’t. And I always feel like they’re more willing to learn from their peers than from a teacher. This was, in my opinion, a much better use of review time!

poster 3

How do you review for finals?


2 thoughts on “Collaboration Concept Maps

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  1. In my classes, “Jeopardy” is a perennial favorite. I put students in pairs and allow them to consult with their partner before answering. Penalties for giving a response in the form of a statement rather than a question are stiff – this is important because it provides emotional cover for students who are less prepared, levels the playing field somewhat, and goes a long way towards keeping a wide range of kids involved. I use this game as a way to show students what sort of information I want them to know but I am always very specific that just playing an in-class game is not a substitute for at-home studying. I also give extensive study sheets with open-ended questions such as “What evidence do scientists have that suggests that the interior of the Earth contains distinct layers? Describe these layers.” I find that the study sheets help students avoid feeling overwhelmed and keeping the questions open-ended helps prevent it from becoming a shallow exercise in memorization.

    I like your idea of having groups of students create concept maps.

    1. I find that jeopardy is so much work on my end for what the students get out of it. But one year our tech teacher (who is across the hall) had students create jeopardy games from power point as an assignment, so we collaborated and they had to make bio jeopardies!
      I like your ideas for taking some of the “in front of the class” pressure off of your students. Good work, thanks for sharing!

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