Got to Teach!: January 2017

The Benefits of Daily Spiral Review

The benefits of daily spiral review
I can vividly remember the spring of my first year teaching.  A very well-intended colleague put a stack of review packets into my mailbox since testing season was just a few weeks away! Sweet!!! I flipped through the pages with confidence and satisfaction as I thought to myself "my kids know all of this!" Well, so I had thought.  The next day we used a few of the pages in class and I was shocked. So many of my students struggled with concepts that they had nailed way back in October, November, and even just the month before! I felt like I had failed my students and began to frantically try to prepare them for the test. We spent the next few weeks in "fire drill" mode as we reviewed the test-prep materials ad nauseam (my poor students). These weeks were definitely not my proudest moments as a teacher, and I vowed to never again put my students through test-prep boot camp.

I needed something that would keep concepts fresh in my students' minds throughout the year. Something that would allow them the repetition and practice they needed, without adding a lot to their workloads. After doing a little research, I discovered the concept of "Daily Spiral Review".

Daily Spiral Review consists of 3-5 daily (M-Th) tasks that cycle through all content standards on a weekly basis. This means that students are getting exposure to all concepts on a regular basis all year long.  This was really a game-changer for me and my students!

The Benefits of Spiral Review:

1. "Perfect Portions": Daily Spiral Review tasks are "bite sized" pieces that are easy to fit into your day and do not overwhelm your students. 

2. "Preview Power": Since Daily Spiral Reviews cover all standards, students are exposed to concepts that they may not have had formal instruction on. This presents a great opportunity for you to build background knowledge and assess where your students are before you even teach a specific lesson; that is POWERFUL!

3. "Unfamiliar Content": As mentioned above, students will encounter concepts they are unfamiliar with.  This is a GOOD thing, I promise! Not to get too philosophical, but life is all about facing unknowns. We don't always have the answers or know the procedures to solve problems.  It's healthy to expose students to "unknowns"; they become less sensitive to the uncomfortable feeling of "not knowing" and are less likely to panic.

4. "Improves Retention": The repetition and consistent work throughout the year ensures that your students will not forget things taught in the fall (or even the week before;-).

5. "Confidence Booster": After just a few weeks they become much more confident and sure of their own math skills. It's really satisfying to see students get so efficient with the review.  

6. "Ultimate Assessment": Talk about having your finger on the pulse of all your students! When you use consistently use a spiral review with your students, you REALLY know their strengths and needs.  This valuable insight will allow you to perfectly tailor your instruction to meet the needs of your students.

7. "Bye Test-Prep": No more kill-and-drill test prep!!! Your students will be prepared and confident when it comes to high-stakes testing.


Getting Started with Spiral Review:

1. "Create Content": If you're going to make your own daily spiral review, you'll need to find content.  When I started out, I used the content standards and made a question and/or task bank for each standard.

2. "Organize it": You don't want to have more than 5 questions/tasks a day, so map out which standards you want to cover on what days and then plug in what you created from step 1. If you need a starting point, you can download some free Daily Spiral Reviews below. 
FREE 3rd Grade Language Spiral Review - 1 Week
FREE 3rd Grade Math Spiral Review - 2 Weeks
FREE 4th Grade Language Spiral Review - 1 Week
FREE 4rd Grade Math Spiral Review - 2 Weeks
FREE 5th Grade Language Spiral Review - 1 Week
FREE 5th Grade Math Spiral Review - 2 Weeks
FREE 6th Grade Language Spiral Review - 1 Week
FREE 6th Grade Math Spiral Review - 2 Weeks
FREE 7th Grade Language Spiral Review - 1 Week
FREE 8th Grade Language Spiral Review - 1 Week

3. "Model it": I find that the best way to use this is to begin with whole group lessons where you model and discuss each of the activities. This takes a bit of time, but it is well-worth the effort. This process can take 3-5 weeks, depending on your students. Soon it "clicks" with your students and they will take off.

4. "Transfer it": After a few weeks, the students really start grasping the format and you can begin to transfer the workload to them. Eventually, when the students are working independently on the review, you will simply spend time correcting and discussing their work in class. At this point you can use the review for centers, homework, morning work, bell-ringers, exit slips... etc.

5. "Discuss it": If your students are completing these independently, you MUST carve out time during the day to correct and discuss their work.  This is when they will get valuable feedback from you and will allow you to assess student learning. Daily feedback is important, and I always left Friday open to review any particular concepts the students struggled with during the week.

You can check out all of my 36-Week Daily Spiral Reviews below:
3rd Grade Daily Spiral Reviews
4th Grade Daily Spiral Reviews
5th Grade Daily Spiral Reviews
6th Grade Daily Spiral Reviews
7th Grade Daily Spiral Review (Language Only)
8th Grade Daily Spiral Review (Language Only)

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