So You Have to Hold a Review Session - Now What Do You Do?
Inevitably, you'll be asked to hold a review session at some time during your TA'ing career. And it often falls during your busiest weeks of the semester. So how do you structure a review that will be useful to your students, but won't drown you in extra work?
True, many students will be expecting (or at least hoping) that they'll come in to a review session and will learn everything they need to know for the exam - this is where your actions throughout the semester will demonstrate their importance. If your students have LEARNED the material and not just MEMORIZED it, the review should be just that - a review. If, however, students are still very unclear about the main topics/concepts and how to critically analyze them, a review session can be downright painful…for them, and for you.
Here are some different methods TA's often use for running a review session:
Run-through. The TA talks briefly about the major concepts, ideas, terms (one at a time) and then students elaborate on each. Often, this method leads organically from one topic to another.
Question-Answer session. Students ask questions and TA's answer the questions. A better method is to encourage participation from other students by steering and eliciting answers from other students.
Jeopardy-Game. If the exam requires a lot of memorization or if it is appropriate to have a more informal review, try making the review session into a game. Provide a list of questions/answers based around the areas covered throughout the course, and break the class into "teams" to play the game.
What NOT to Do
A hope of some students is that their TA will simply tell them what they need to know for the exam. Giving answers or indications of exam topics is very frowned upon, however, and seems to indicate a lack of care on the part of the TA. As a TA, your responsibility - as you've hopefully shown your students - is to help the students LEARN, not just get a good grade.
During the review, make sure not to give away what will/won't be on the exam. Try to gauge students' knowledge of the entire subject, not just on the areas you know will be on the test. Or, if the professor gives you the option, ask to not be informed of the exam question(s) in advance of the exam.
As with much of the interaction taking place in a classroom, trust is essential - not just between you and the students, but also between the TA and the professor. Do not risk harming the TA-professor relationship just because you want to help out a student.
(i.e. giving answers/indications of what will be on exams - yes, it happens all too often!)