The Power of Study Guides

Study guides might seem a bit "old school" and with all the rhetoric on 21st learning skills, many educators seem to disregarding these resources for other media. I feel that I'm a teacher from both worlds, and know that in-depth understanding of topics require sound foundational content knowledge which is best built over multiple class periods and is assessed in a cycle where instruction and assessment drive one another. I've seen countless differentiated monstrosities of student work where student's couldn't explain the most basic learning outcomes afterwards. In short, if students are encouraged to be content creators, we must make sure that web tools redefine what is possible, not cover up gaps in the learning with flashy presentation tools. 

I favor project-based learning, but use lessons and assessment frequently in the background to make sure that students (and I) understand what was really understood during the lesson to help guide instruction and re mediate if necessary. 

What Study Guides Do
Study guides should be formatted to have the intended learning outcomes of the unit. As my units are nearly 2 months long, I have them broken down into "chunks" of two weeks of lessons that usually have 3 lessons and a formative lab. If you've ever done "Understanding by Design", it's basically taking the intended learning outcomes and making them understandable to the students. I like Google docs because groups can work on them collaboratively and share their knowledge before whole-class shares. 

What Study Guides Have
This is completely up to the teacher, and you may want to explore samples online through a quick Google Search and see how formatting best supports your content area. Here are some parts that I like: 
  • Target Vocabulary
  • Summaries of major understandings
  • "I can statements" 
  • Practice areas before quizzes or other assessments

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