PreRequisite Knowledge/Review (Blog Challenge #4)

Whew! I made it, the last blog challenge “blog”. I will be continuing on this journey; however, the last few weeks of school have just been very hectic. So, here I am, giving the last blog challenge.

During my teaching career, I have done a lot of thinking and talking with colleagues about what to do with prerequisite knowledge and/or review. Should I review previous concepts? If so, how long should I take? It seems a good chunk of the first part of Algebra II is review from Algebra I. During my first few years, I taught with a wonderful lady who used to say we needed to identify a set of skills for each class that we want the students to know solidly when leaving the class. This made sense to me, but of course, it never matriculated. That was in a different state. Last year, as we started discussing the new CCSS and the transition phase, this came up again. How were we going to raise our expectations, the “rigor” we keep hearing about if students do not come in with what they need?

So, we developed a list of skills that we are using a basis for our required bell ringers. I did this myself last year in PreCalculus. I would do a skill or a few of skills per week or unit. Then, they would see a few problems from the skill(s) on the test. I am not one for taking up papers and having a lot of papers to grade, so this does a few things. First off, most of my students do their bell work because they want to know how to do it for the test. It minimizes having to review concepts that students have learned in the past. When I got to the hard logarithm problems last year in PreCalculus, my students had almost no trouble with them. In fact, for most of them, it was their favorite thing. I really questioned this at first because usually, that can be a tough area for some of my students. When thinking more in depth about it, I realized it was because they knew the skills needed to solve logarithm problems because we had been doing so much of it in bell ringers. It is important to make bell ringers meaningful. We do not need to create busy work for the students to do during that time.

This year, I am doing this in all of my classes. Algebra II will no longer have any repeat from Algebra I. I refuse in an honors/gifted class to teach skills they have already seen. So, I am doing my review this year as bell ringers and in every course, I have dove right in, head first into the water. We are not spending weeks before reviewing old content. We are going to do it as needed with bell ringers. But, I am curious, what do others do for review? Do you spend a few days at the beginning of the year doing that? Do you do a summer review? This is something I am actually considering and have considered in the past. I taught at a school that implemented a summer review for a special PreCalculus course, basically the course that led to AP Calc. No matter what, I am done reviewing concepts for the first six weeks. This is something I feel will tremendously help my students. It won’t only help them in my class, but in post secondary education.