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Revive Reviews With
Student-Created Study Guides


Reviving Reviews: 
                          Refreshing Ideas Students Can't Resist

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Brief Description

Note-taking and outlining skills are applied as students create unit Study Guides for their classmates. All subjects!


Students will

  • work cooperatively in small groups.
  • practice note-taking and outline skills.
  • use critical thinking skills as they decide the most important points to be included in a Study Guide.
  • create a Study Guide that their classmates will use as they study for a test.


Study Guide, unit, test, preparation, note, note-taking, outline, outlining, Civil War, cooperative, research, draft

Materials Needed

  • textbook (optional)
  • other text resources (optional)

Lesson Plan

This activity is a good one for reviewing major concepts at the end of a unit, before a test. It puts responsibility on students for summarizing information learned as they create a Study Guide for their classmates to use as they prep for the final test.

Note: This lesson also serves as a lesson in note-taking. The process/structure of the lesson is created to mimic the process of student note-taking. It requires that students select key words, concepts, and ideas; review those ideas with an eye to narrowing their selections to only the most important/essential information; and preparing those notes so they are a helpful Study Guide.

Note: If you are in a time crunch, this lesson can also be used as a structure for covering material that cannot be covered in a month-long unit. In the example provided below -- the Civil War -- you might use this basic lesson structure to cover the entire unit in a week's time. (The schedule calls for four days, but you could build in an extra day for research, since you are not presenting most of the information in classroom lessons.)

Before the Lesson
Before doing this end-of-unit activity, make a list of the four or five major concepts you want students to learn/know as a result of this study unit. Once you've made the list, create five or six questions that get at the most important points students should take away from the unit.

For example, if you have just completed a unit on the Civil War and Reconstruction, you know it is not important for students to remember every fact, person, and date; but there are some facts and ideas you do want them to know. With those in mind, you might propose to students the following review questions:
  • What caused the Civil War? Narrow your list of causes to the five that your group agrees were probably the most important causes. Explain why each cause is on your list.
  • Which three battles do you consider the most decisive of the war? Why?
  • If you had to select five people who were the most important figures of the Civil War era, who would those people be? Explain the important role they played. (Note: At least one of the five people should be a woman or an African American.) Unlike most previous wars, the Navy played a key role in the Civil War. Explain four events in which the Navy was involved.
  • After the war, the United States underwent a period of "Reconstruction." What were the three most significant results or ramifications of that period of time? Explain the importance of each.

The Lesson
Arrange students into groups of 4-5 students; mix student ability levels within each group. Assign each group one of the review questions you created that highlight the "essential learning" that students should carry away from the unit just completed. Provide students with four class periods to write a Study Guide summarizing the most important information about the question/topic.

The schedule is flexible. Adjust/adapt by merging steps if you want to shorten the time period. If the activity is replacing a unit that might normally be presented in two weeks or more, you might add a "research day."

Explain to students that you will present each group with a "big question" related to the topic of study. Their goal is to create a Study Guide of no more than a single page presenting everything their classmates "need to know" about that question.

Note: If you have instructed students in the skill of outlining, you might require each group to submit their final Study Guide in outline format.

Given that assignment, you might break down the class periods into the following stages:

Day One

  • Share (10 minutes): Students share in their groups their "first response" ideas to their question. This activity is completed without referring to books. One student in each group records the students' responses.
  • Research (30 minutes): Students work on their own to supplement the group's "first responses" to the question. They can refer to textbooks, class notes, or other key resources for more information.
  • More Sharing (10 minutes): Students share the results of their research.
  • Homework: Each student in the group is responsible for writing a paragraph to support each of his/her responses to the group's question. Note: The students have not yet narrowed their group's responses to the required number, so this assignment presents each student with an opportunity to offer their best thoughts/responses to the question.

Day Two

  • Homework Discussion (15 minute): Students determine the most common responses. They consider any additional responses presented in the homework assignments. They agree on the responses they will include in the Study Guide.
  • Drafting the Study Guide (35 minutes): The group produces the Study Guide. List the final responses; beneath each response include three or four points to justify its inclusion. Each student takes his/her own notes.
  • Homework: Each student uses his or her notes from the Study Guide discussion to write a final draft of the Study Guide sheet the group will present to the class. Each student should write three or four solid statements support his/her decision to include each response.

Day Three

  • Homework Discussion (15 minutes): Students pool their responses/support statements. They discuss and select the four support statements that make the strongest case for each response. Each student in the group adds notes to his or her Study Guide to reflect the group's final decisions/choices.
  • Presenting the Guides (35 minutes): Each group has 5-7 minutes to present its Study Guide to the class. Each group selects a person to start the presentation. (You might moderate the presentation to ensure that each student in the group contributes; for example, after one student has presented the first response and support statements, you might say something like, "Thank you, Sara, for presenting the first response. Maybe Robert can pick up your group's presentation from that point") As each group presents, the rest of the students take notes. After each group has presented, if students in that group have missed what you consider to be an essential point, this is the opportunity for you to share that point. Students might include your point in their final draft of the Study Guide.
  • Homework: Each student creates a final version of the group's Study Guide. The Guide must be created using a word processing program or in their neatest handwriting. The Guide cannot be longer than one side of a single sheet of paper.

Test Day
Students use the Study Guides they created as a tool for studying for an end-of-unit test. (You might even use them as the tool for creating the test!) Students might even have the Study Guides at their side during the test. In that way, the test is also a test of students' note-taking abilities; it emphasizes the importance of taking good notes. You might present a variety of questions on the final test/assessment.

For example, using the example of the Civil War introduced at the top of this lesson, final assessment questions might include the following:
  • Multiple-choice question: What caused the Civil War? Following are six reasons. Circle the ones that you know to be actual causes of the war. (Note: You will include causes that were discussed as well as two or three "decoy" causes that are not actual causes of the Civil War.)
  • Matching question: Match each person listed in the first column below with the statement in the second column that describes one of that person's significant contributions to the Civil War.
  • True/false-and-explain question: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? The Navy played a key role in the Civil War. Explain your response.
  • Vocabulary: Write a definition for three of these terms: Reconstruction, 14th Amendment, Emancipation Proclamation (Note: Select terms that were presented in the Study Guides students have in their hands.)
  • Essay Question: Which one battle do you consider the most decisive of the war? Why? (This question requires critical thinking on the part of students; they must narrow the information they have about several battles, select the one they think is most decisive, and offer concrete information to support their choice.)



Refer to Test Day section above.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins


This activity can be adapted for use in almost every subject and for almost any skill.

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Originally published 03/28/2003
Last updated 04/30/2017