The Importance of Spiral Review for Effective Student Learning

SCREEEEEEEECH!!! That’s the sound heard in many classrooms as the teacher is forced to hit the breaks on teaching engaging lessons and creative activities she knows are beneficial to her students because it is time to spend WEEKS preparing for whatever test her state or district has decided her students must take.

This was the problem I faced each year in my third grade classroom and was something I was hearing was an issue in classrooms all over the country. 

To make things worse, I found that although my students would demonstrate proficiency in a skill or concept at the time it was formally taught, they would often show misconceptions when we would review for the standardized tests in the spring. I knew this stemmed from those skills being taught in isolation. 

I needed a solution and am very happy to say I found one: SPIRAL REVIEW!!

Spiral Review takes place when skills that have been previously introduced and taught resurface regularly throughout the school year {and even into future school years}.

  • Spiral review is an opportunity for students to revisit and interact with concepts so they remain proficient in the foundational skills needed for higher level work.
  • It provides them with a chance to strengthen areas they might not have completely mastered.
  • Spiral review enables teachers to see where each student is currently performing so that instruction can be planned accordingly to best meet the individual needs of their learners.
  • It greatly reduces the amount of class time that is used for test prep each spring.
  • Have your students design games as a culminating project to a unit. Make these games available throughout the remainder of the year for additional practice. As an added benefit this is a fabulous activity for your advanced students and early finishers.
  • Incorporate content area word walls into your classroom decor/design. Use these boards to play games which will enable your students to regularly access important vocabulary and will help them to internalize it.
  • Designate a container to house any pages you had copied during a unit and planned to have your students complete, but didn't get around to doing. Use these pages when you have spare minutes to fill, as independent work during math workshop, or when you are planning for a substitute teacher.
  • As you find online games that are great for reinforcing specific concepts write them down on popsicle sticks and place them into a cup. Start or end your time in the computer lab by randomly picking a stick and spending some time playing that game.
  • If you are teaching a lesson and are interrupted by the phone or a visitor instruct your students to "turn and talk" to a neighbor about everything they remember about ____. You'll want to practice this a few times, but once the expectations are established it'll be a great way to make productive use of time that would be wasted.

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