Easy Tips for Setting Up a Skill Review Routine in Your Classroom
Time. Time? Time!!!! We never seem to have enough of it in the classroom. We are always looking for more time and ways to practice and review standards and skills. One way that we have been able to do this is with a 10-minute skill review time. This is easy to implement for all grades, subjects, and skills. We have seen an increase in knowledge and retention of skills after implementing this in our classroom. We answer all the important questions about what it is and how to set it up in this blog post.
What is a Skill Review Routine?
For us, a Skill Review Routine is a set of standards and skills that are presented and practiced the same way daily. For example, our math skill review has 20 questions or prompts for the week. Prompt one is always a counting skill (the starting and ending point and how we count – by ones, twos, fives, etc.) changes as the year progresses. Prompt 14 is always answering questions about a graph. Prompts 19 and 20 are always word problems. The students get used to the format and we do not have to explain what they need to do. Of course the prompts and skills are different for other subjects such as grammar or phonics, but the set up is the same. For beginning reading skills (e.g., phonics and phonological awareness), prompt four is always to identify the beginning sound of a picture. Prompt eight is to give the phoneme for the grapheme shown. Students can respond in a variety of different ways. They can respond orally, with a partner, on a whiteboard, in a notebook, on a provided recording sheet, or any combination mentioned or way that works best for your students.
Why do a Skill Review Routine?
Providing quick and focused skill review, allows students to practice the critical skills and standards they need weekly. It is an engaging way to provide spiral review. Since it is easy to differentiate the skill (extend or scaffold) by changing the prompt slightly, it hits the needs of most students even when done together as a whole-class activity. For example, if the prompt asks students to read a graph and determine which fruit more people like, it can be extended by asking how many people like apples more than grapes. We have found that our adopted curriculums move at a quick pace and do not always provide the spiral review most of our students need to retain the skills and standards necessary to progress to more difficult and complex skills. Our Skill Review Routine provides the practice students need. Included in our review are also standards or skills that may have not been introduced yet. This provides opportunities for our students that are ready for more advanced skills to be introduced to them at an earlier pace than the curriculum. Since we are guiding the skill review routine, it is very easy to scaffold these prompts and questions. This way all students can be successful.
When to do a Skill Review Routine?
A Skill Review Routine can be done as a warm-up activity before the main lesson of a lesson. We usually do our math skill routine before our math lesson. The review can also be done during the activity part of a morning meeting, as a “sponge” activity when you have a few minutes to fill, or even during a small-group lesson. We have 20 questions/prompts per week, so we usually do five questions per day. Since we only have 10 minutes, we set our timer and stop when it goes off. Sometimes we get through several questions and prompts and sometimes we only get through two or three. It just depends on the level of the prompt and the amount of differentiating we do.
Where to do a Skill Review Routine?
There are a couple of options on how to do this. When we first started several years ago, we sectioned off a part of our whiteboard using permanent marker and/or electrical tape to create boxes. We then used magnetic manipulatives (numbers, letters, counters, etc.) to set up some of our prompts and questions. We even made a few of our magnetic manipulatives by adding magnets to the back of pattern blocks, counting cubes, etc. We also printed pictures and hung them with magnets and drew templates with a permanent marker. We would try to keep the templates the same for at least a month. We would just change out the prompt or the other manipulatives weekly or as we finished a set of prompts. Our students answered all prompts orally or on a whiteboard. To save time and make it much less work for us, now we create a presentation that can be printed and shown on a document camera, projected from our computers, or used with an interactive whiteboard. We usually project the prompts from our computer. Click on the image below to see an example one of our Math Skill Review weeks we did for August.
How to create and do a Skill Review Routine?
10 Steps to Create a Skill Review Routine
- Choose the subject or topic you want to review (e.g., math, phonics, science, etc.).
- Choose a time frame you want to review these skills (over a month, quarter, trimester).
- Choose the standards or skills you want to review.
- Choose how often you want to change the prompts not the skills (daily, weekly, every two weeks, etc.)
- Using your above parameters, choose how many prompts you will have per time frame (e.g., 20 per week).
- Create your skill outline (1. oral counting, 2. writing a number, 3. which number is one more, etc.)
- Write your prompts based on your outline and the time of year.
- Create your presentation or paper outline (see sample below).
- Decide how you want students to respond (orally, on a recording sheet, on a whiteboard, or any combination you would like.
- Create recording sheet if using.
We started with math and decided to do a month at a time breaking it down by weeks. We teach kindergarten, so our skills and standards are pretty simple. We chose to include some standards that would not have been introduced in our curriculum yet, but are pretty easy for most students to grasp the concept. We also decided to keep the skill level for our first couple of months the same. Our skills and prompts look very similar in August and September even though the complexity changes. For example, we are doing the same type of activities (e.g., counting objects in random order, reading graphs, answering questions about sets) in both months; however, in August we work primarily with numbers to five. In September, we work with numbers to 10. We have created everything on a presentation that we project through our computers. We started by having students respond orally, then using a whiteboard to record on. Now we have the students respond on a recording sheet. If the response should be an oral one, we put a speech bubble on the recording sheet. We are still using a single recording sheet for the week, but plan on binding them into a year-long booklet starting next month. The students keep their recording sheets in their math bags.
Setting Up the Math Skill Routine in Your Classroom
- Decide when and where you would like to do your Skill Review Routine. We do ours on the carpet whole group as our math warm-up activity before starting our math concept lesson and math stations.
- Train behavior expectations during Skill Review Time.
- If using recording sheets or whiteboards, train explicitly how to get the materials, how to use the materials, how to put the materials away, what to do if a pencil breaks, etc.
- Train students on when and how you want them to respond to a prompt. If it is an oral prompt, we give the prompt, give “think” time, and snap our fingers or say snap when we want them to respond. For a written answer, we give the prompt, give “think” time, and have them record their response on their whiteboards or recording sheet. We have them “hide” their answers by putting it up to their chins and then, “Spin and Show.” They turn their boards around, so that we can see what they wrote.
- If the answers show a lot of misconceptions, take some time to scaffold the prompt and give it again changing the numbers, pattern, etc.
- To keep on track, set a timer. When the timer goes off, we finish the problem we are on. We start where we left off the next day.
- To keep transitions quick before and after our Skill Review Routine time, we play a quick counting song. The students know when they hear that song, it is time to get their materials and come to the carpet for skill time. We play a different song to clean up and put everything away.
We have been SO excited about the positive results we are getting from implementing a Skill Review Routine in our classrooms, we hope you get a chance to try it too. To save you time and make it easier for you to implement, we have created a monthly Kindergarten Math Skill Review that can be printed out and used under a document camera or used digitally as a presentation. If you would like to try it out, click on the sample below to grab a complete week FREEBIE that you can try in your classroom. To check out August and September (August could also be used in September), click on the images below. The rest of the months will be posted soon. If you have any questions, please comment below. We would love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have about implementing your own Skill Review Routine or anything else you would like to chat about.