Review sessions work best when students come with well-defined questions, but that doesn’t always happen. So what do you do when you’re faced with a bunch of students quietly, anxiously sitting in your Zoom room? Read on for strategies to get questions and discussion rolling.
Wait for it – question style
As discussed in an earlier chapter, Wait for it uses Chat to allow everyone to simultaneously respond to a prompt by asking students to wait to press “Enter,” until you tell them. This allows equal time for everyone to formulate their own first response without the influence of others and it’s not a problem if more than one student has the same response. In this mod, the prompt should be about students’ questions for the exam or specific content areas that the exam covers.
- Ask students what their top question is about the exam content or in a specific area of the exam content. If you use PowerPoint, Slides, Keynote, or another presentation software, display the question on the “slide.”
- Ask students to type their question in chat, but without hitting Enter/Return, yet. “We’re going to wait a minute for everyone to have a chance to think about this and type up their response.”
- Tell students to press Enter/Return. Give them (and yourself) a few minutes to read through the questions then begin address specific questions. (If multiple questions were asked on the same topic, that’s a good place to start the whole group discussion.)
Humans aren’t always adept at knowing what we don’t know. Sometimes things are quiet when questions are invited because students aren’t sure what they do and don’t understand regarding the topic. In the one-minute chatterfall, students are asked to type out “everything they know about x”. This task prompts them to recall key facts and/or to recognize they don’t have much to write and must have gaps in their knowledge. If there’s a specific topic that you know students tend to struggle with on this exam, that should be the topic you ask them to write about.
- Ask students to type for one minute everything they know about [difficult exam concept].
- After one minute has passed, everyone should enter want they wrote into chat.
- Invite students to ask questions that came up as they were writing.
- Clarify any misunderstandings you see in their responses.
Student shared content
Some course content or concepts are best explained with diagrams, tables, or charts. If this is true for the content on this particular exam, adjust the Zoom security settings to allow students to share their own screens. Invite students to share an image from (a) your slides, (b) the course text, or (c) their notes that they are finding challenging. The visual will anchor the discussion and allow for a deep dive into the specific content.
- Confirm or change the security settings in your Zoom room to allow participants to share their screens.
- Ask students to use the reaction of “Hand raise” to indicate they have a visual they would like to share.
- Indicate which student should start sharing so that numerous do not attempt to share their screens simultaneously.
- Once the student is sharing, ask them to explain what they are finding challenging about it.
- Clarify the content of the image and invite other students’ questions on the image/content.
A very serial explanation
Describing and explaining concepts in our own words encourages greater and deeper connections that lead to more robust understanding. Ask students to take turns (round-robin style) giving greater and greater detail into the why and how of a selected concept. If you’re using Immersive View in Zoom, you can move through the “room” as the order is static in Immersive View. When students reach a level of detail where their understanding is unclear or they get stuck, encourage another student to tag in.
- Identify a challenging concept or a concept that students commonly misjudge their understanding of.
- Ask students to take turns verbally articulating a why or how of the concept.
- Explanations should be limited to a single sentence before moving to the next student.
- When students have exhausted the explanation or reached concept saturation, summarize the concept and reinforce key aspects that will be on the exam.
Example question elaboration
For multiple-choice exams, students often request example exam questions. Beyond a quick knowledge check, these example items can be an effective study tool for identifying and reviewing important course concepts. Encourage students to articulate why the correct answer is correct conceptually and then, why the distractors are incorrect and/or why they were likely selected as distractors. Responding to these why questions encourage the students to focus on the conceptual understanding the item is assessing, moving their thinking beyond simply right-wrong.
- Identify a question (or a few) that you believe are particularly difficult (or let the students tell you which ones they found challenging).
- Ask students to write/type out (on their own devices) justification for the correct and incorrect answers individually.
- Once students have had a chance to write/type, invite students to verbally share their justifications and build on what their peers have shared.
- Close out the discussion of each question by clarifying any misconceptions and adding additional detail to the rationales the students offered.