Pivotal Bloggers: Reviewing in Modeling Chemistry

November 11, 2021

Chemistry teacher Scott Milam shares how he reviews for assessments in his Modeling Chemistry class

The way that I used to review for tests was not the best. I used to send the message to students that if you didn’t learn anything for two weeks, that I would bail you out the day before the test by sending answers out as much as possible. “Pay close attention to these questions, you might see something similar on the test!”

When I do review now, I try to make sure that the work being done to prepare for the test is done by the students using their materials that they’ve accrued over the past two weeks of instruction. One way that I particularly like for this is by assigning “The Model Thus Far” posters. 

I start by passing out a set of assessment standards. For unit 1 there are 9 standards that I believe that I have taught them and those 9 standards will be what I assess on their test. They take those 9 standards and must put them together into a creative set of connected images. I want a central theme that is creative, and then as many of the 9 standards should work with that creative central theme. 

Here’s what I like about these assignments. The students do all of the work. I can clarify a standard, or answer a few select questions. But for the most part the students are working in group to think about what the standards are, what they’ve seen in class, and how they might connect them with their central theme. This means that as we progress through the unit, they are responsible for their learning. When we make a key point in a discussion, they should note it for their review (and assessment). When we struggle through a question on a worksheet, they should note that as well. 

This also allows me to keep a record of our story about matter. As we move from unit 1 to unit 2, we go from particles to having particles that move. That story gets recorded as we learn new things. In unit 3 we discuss energy of particles, and in unit 4 we look at different types of particles. Since I keep 1 poster from each unit, we have a record to refer back to things we didn’t have complete knowledge of earlier. 

With these first set of posters I was pleased with the creativity of the central themes. The students selected artistic designs that could incorporate several components of our standards. But I would have liked to have seen more connections to problems that we did on worksheets and key landing points in discussions. They will receive this feedback after the assessment as well as prior to the 2nd set of posters we do for review in unit 2. 

Logistically this assignment is engaging and the day before the test. This allows a teacher who is overwhelmed with work some time to prepare the next unit before they get inundated with grading from the test. The students are occupied most of the hour and the grading of the posters is quick and easy (if you choose to grade them).