Frederick Drake and Lynn Nelson, in their book Engagement in Teaching History, share a useful strategy that provides a quick and easy way for kids to review content, “talk” with other students and practice high level thinking skills.

I call it a Station Content Review. It does require a bit of prep on your part but it’s worth it.

  1. Divide your students into groups of two or three.
  2. Create a series of prompts for your kids that encourage them to interact with the lesson or unit content. These should be questions that force the brain to go beyond low-level Bloom types of activity. You should create the same number of questions as you have student groups.
  3. Post the questions on butcher paper and paste on the walls around your room.
  4. Give each group a different color pen or marker.
  5. Tell kids that they have two minutes to read each prompt and respond as a group by posting their answer on the butcher paper.
  6. After two minutes, have each group move to the next prompt, read and post a response.
  7. Continue the process until every group has rotated back to their original prompt. They should then review the list of responses and create a summary of the information posted.
  8. Have the groups then rotate through each station again to review the written summary.

Some sample prompts for a US Civil War unit:

  • If Civil War experts could put the most important people, events and ideas of the Civil War period into a box, what would be in the box?
  • The Civil War is like an iceberg – people, events and ideas appear “above” the surface. What is below the surface? What might have been less evident to those who lived through the war?
  • There are many ways to explain how much you know about how the Civil War started. Write a thesis statement you would use in a written essay that would do that.
  • There are many ways to explain how much you know about how the Civil War started. Create an image that illustrates how the Civil War started.
  • What are some key ideas that all Americans should know about the Civil War?
  • Fill in the blanks: The Civil War is like (an animal) because (explain).
  • List skills and qualities that a Civil War leader needed to be effective.
  • You’ve worked with a variety of primary and secondary historical sources. List the source that is the most important to this unit. Explain why your group believes this.
  • List positive ways that describe how primary sources tell us about the past.
  • List problems that we have with primary sources when exploring the past.
  • During the Civil War, tension existed between liberty and security. List events when the balance between the two shifted.

Other suggestions:

  • Provide a graphic organizer that they could use to “summarize” the summaries.
  • Encourage kids to take cell phone photos of each completed prompt / summary instead of using a graphic organizer to collect the data.
  • Use WallWisher to create digital prompts instead of butcher paper.
  • Use the strategy as a pre-learning activity for a lesson or unit to measure and activate prior knowledge.

Have fun!

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