Let Students Summarize the Previous Lesson
Students often think of class sessions as isolated events—each containing a discrete chunk of content. Those who take notes during class will put the date along the top and then usually leave a space between each session, which visually reinforces their belief that the concepts and material aren’t connected. But in most of our courses, today’s content links to material from the previous session as well as to what’s coming up next. A lot happens in the lives of students between class sessions, though, and if they don’t anticipate a quiz, how many review their notes before arriving in class? And so the teacher starts class with a review.
Having a quick recap is a good idea, but what about having students prepare and present that review? Let each class sessions begin with a three- to-five-minute summary of the main ideas discussed in the previous session, and let that summary be presented by a student.
It refreshes students’ memories—reminding them about content and topics from the previous session. It’s a low-stakes way to help students develop presentation skills. They have the opportunity to practice speaking in front of their peers, and they get feedback from the instructor. The quality of a prepared summary is better than if the instructor simply calls on a students and asks what happened last time the class met. Confronted with the pressure of having to do the next session summary motivates serious and detailed note-taking, followed by some review and analysis of those notes in preparation for leading the next review session. There’s a chance those two activities may show students the value of careful note-taking and review, and not just when they’re on deck.
The activity is a great example of a learning task that students should be doing, rather than having the teacher do it for them. It’s nice (and easy) for them when they get a summary provided by the teacher, but that doesn’t teach them how to create a summary and it doesn’t force an encounter with the content that reveals how much of it they do or don’t understand. Teachers do learning tasks like these for students, motivated by good intentions. Most students, certainly those who weren’t in class, aren’t going to summarize the session as well as the teacher can. The teacher’s summary will be accurate, well organized, and coherent. That’s a lovely gift to give students, but it’s not as valuable or enduring as the gift that teaches students how to do their own summaries.
(Indebted to various sources)