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Showcasing Doug Buehl and the "Line-Up Review"

"The line-up review is a variation of other teaching strategies I've experimented with," Wisconsin high school teacher Doug Buehl told Education World. "It is fast paced, involves engagement with a large number of classmates, and prompts students to verbalize their learning as they discuss information with a series of partners. The activity encourages students to chew on their learning as they engage in quick conversations with classmates."

Buehl is a reading teacher at Madison's East High School. His interest in helping students process learning through paired and group review activities led him to design the "line-up review."

"Learners need opportunities to deliberate and double-check their understandings in order to clarify their thinking," he told Education World. "Paired reviews and similar strategies encourage that synthesizing, which involves processing learning so it has personal meaning."

In Buehl's line-up review, students respond to a prompt, writing responses on index cards. For example, a prompt might ask students to "describe something important you have learned or read in class this week." On the back of the card, students explain why they believe the piece of knowledge is significant. They must express their thoughts clearly and write them legibly.

The cards then are shared with classmates -- one student at a time. "When they've completed their cards, students form two lines, so each is facing a partner," said Buehl. "First, students in Line A share their cards with their partners in Line B. Then, when the Line A students have finished discussing the information on their cards, the roles are reversed and the Line B students share."

When all pairs have shared, partners swap index cards, and everyone in Line B shifts one student to the left. (The Line B member at the end of the line moves to the opposite end of the line.) Each student now has a new card and a new partner. The review continues in that manner, with students verbalizing a variety of concepts and ideas with several peers. Buehl usually gives students the opportunity to work with eight to ten different partners and cards before he wraps up the review.

"The line-up review is an especially effective strategy for exam review," Buehl noted. "Students can be prompted to predict one specific piece of information they think might appear on an exam, describe it, and tell why it is important to know. The line-up allows students a chance to revisit a number of important concepts and engages them in summing up their understanding of those concepts."

Some of Buehl's favorite prompts include:

* If you were to share one thing you learned in our class today, what would it be and why do you find it important?

* Finish the statement "I didn't know that" on your card, and briefly explain.

* Write one thing about today's reading or lesson that you think might be confusing to other people or even yourself, and comment on what might make it confusing.

* Select a quote from your reading that you feel is worthy of discussion, and on the back of the card, briefly mention why.

To avoid the same material appearing on multiple cards, you can assign different sections of a unit or chapter to different groups of students, or ask students to think of something important that might not occur to a lot of other students.

Because it is such a break from typical classroom routines, Buehl's students have readily accepted the line-up review. The activity involves physical movement and is accomplished quickly, and students enjoy speaking with their peers. Buehl admits that during this type of review his room hums with activity, but says he finds it a refreshing change of pace.

"Line-up reviews promote careful listening because students realize they soon will be repeating the information to another student," Buehl reported. "Therefore, they also are encouraged to clarify what their partners tell them, to ask questions if they are confused about any details, or to assist a partner who is struggling with understanding a card."

According to Buehl, the strategy has the additional advantage of coordinated movement, as students must talk on their feet, and can provide a welcome active transition between class activities. To ensure that his students take advantage of the chance to verbalize, Buehl finds it helpful to set time expectations -- such as everyone shares for 30 seconds -- that each partner must fulfill. That forces students to dig a bit deeper into each topic.

"Opportunities for synthesizing abound in a classroom," Buehl added. "Teachers should resist temptation to do the review for the class; ceding the responsibility to students whenever feasible. Students gain valuable experience revisiting important content, and get practice summarizing learning, which is extremely valuable for long-term retention of ideas."

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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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