It’s review season for AP courses! I have a love/hate relationship with the date of the AP Chemistry exam. On one hand, it’s SO early. On the other hand, because it’s the first exam, my students actually study for it (compared to later in the AP exam season when students are like, “I’m done. I don’t care anymore.”).
All of the students who take the course are required to take the AP exam in the spring. I don’t want to get on a rant here, but short story: I want my students to learn how to want something. Concurrent enrollment (CE) makes it (almost) too easy to earn college credit (when, dare I say it, it may not be warranted?). All in all, I see too many students who are afraid to take the AP exam because they have been conditioned to be perfect, and not brave (ok, this is just one hunch of mine…I know there are other factors). Not every student will earn a 5, nor do all students deserve a 5. I don’t know about you, but I learned a ton in classes over my life even when I did not earn an A. And the second time, the third time, the fourth time I encountered that content again, I improved. Looking at the long term, as some of my students pursue a career in science, they need to get that the best scientists not only know their stuff, but are ALSO brave. And taking the AP exam is showing bravery in a way, because I do not write nor grade the exam. Are there inherent issues in one 3ish hour exam determining the fate of college credit awarded? Yes. But if a student does not earn a 5, is it worth it for the experience and practice? Absolutely.
I digress - I’m sorry for that rant, but it needs to be said. Anyways, all of my students take the exam. So we prepare.
Where do I find inspiration?
I talk to people. I have collaborated with some awesome friends through the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation the last two years for resources and support (How do I grade this response with the rubric?).
I stalk...troll...whatever…. people on ChemEdX/Twitter. (For instance, here's Adrian Dingle's blog post on his review musings: https://www.adriandingleschemistrypages.com/apreview2016/)
I attend webinars. There are a variety of webinars to help give teachers ideas. For instance, here are some upcoming American Association of Chemistry Teachers Webinars.
AP Chemistry Exam Review
Date: April 6, 2016
Time: 7PM ET
Presenter: Paul Price
Topics: AP chemistry, advanced
What’s the big idea?
Date: April 26, 2016
Time: 7PM ET
Presenters: 30 teachers who joined forces on twitter
Topics: 30 teachers from around the country have joined together to create a review resource to share with fellow educators that is rich with videos, graphics and key material on the AP exam.
What do I do with my students?
There are lots of review books available for students to use. My students purchase David Hostage’s review book after doing some research and getting advice from friends. Over spring break (in Colorado it’s the end of March), they complete one of the practice exams. Really, no review book is 100% “updated” to the new exam.
In my classroom, throughout the second semester we have been hitting multiple choice questions pretty hard. This is my second year teaching AP Chemistry. My first group and second group are very different, and this year’s group struggles a lot more with multiple choice compared to last year’s group. So once a week, we have taken about 20 minutes out of class to practice multiple choice. They get 5-7 minutes to answer a question and then we check/go over problems right away. Here is a sample of what my students do. I’m trying to have students not only be reflective when we check and do an error analysis, but also be reflective as they work as they annotate what they are guessing. Where do I get questions? I get a lot from Aaron Glimme’s awesome site and his problems of the day. I find the questions pretty good - not quite as challenging as the ones on the exam, but kind of a nice gear up and review. As I get closer to the AP exam, I’ve been taking questions from the 2015 exam exclusively (and keep the 2013 and 2014 exams pristine).
We do full length practice exams. Back in January, my 20 students and I got out our calendars and set aside a Saturday morning full length practice exam - we met this past Saturday and had a potluck breakfast (I ATE SO MANY BAGELS!). This was advised at the APSI I attended at the University of Tulsa (which was great), and now I feel like I get the rationale better. I mean, why not just do a practice exam over a few days in class? The test is not just content, but can you persevere to do your best when you are just plain exhausted after 3 hours. Doing this on a Saturday helps students practice that aspect. We will do one more full length practice exam on a Thursday after school (which I had planned to split up over 4 class periods, but standardized testing is going on…). This second practice exam will occur two weeks before the AP exam. After each practice exam, students complete an error analysis and set goals for the next time (Example: “I was in the high 3 range...I want to shoot for a 4”).
The week before the AP exam, we take a collective step back. I am on my students’ collective behinds from early August until mid-April. The week before the AP exam, they have had 2+ full practice exams under their belts. The week before the exam in class, they may either work on their own personal goals (work through review books, old tests, etc) or submit topics for me to hold review seminars in class. Even though I’m writing a whole blog article about reviewing, spoiler alert: I actually HATE/DREAD/DESPISE reviewing for tests in class. I (almost) always choose the wrong topics from my data. I love this seminar approach, because my students tell me it’s way more helpful (argh- I’ve spent many many hours trying to craft the perfect review lessons). Even if only 2 or 3 students do most of the review seminar proposing, many students participate and find value because they realize that they should be asking those questions. Here’s what the sign up looked like last year to get an idea of how you might do this if you like the idea. I hear that this approach is like training for a marathon where you back off a tiny bit the week before...but I hate running so I have no clue.
Ok, so these ideas just come from two years of teaching this course… and I’m sure that there are SO many more awesome things out there! Please share!
Have a review book you recommend?
Have an activity or a series of things you do over time (like my multiple choice review) that students have found success?
Any other recommendations?
Please post them below!