A New Review

For as long as I've been teaching AP Bio I've struggled with how to best help students review for their AP Exam. It sucks that they only have one shot at receiving college credit for a class in which they have toiled tirelessly for 9 full months, but that's the way it is. Over the years I've spent a couple of weeks doing full review lectures, I've held after school sessions, I've given practice tests, I've put students in charge of the final review weeks. This year I am trying a more diffuse, yet targeted, approach. Eight weeks ago I grouped the class into teams. Each team has been responsible for getting together to review for at least forty-five minutes per week. I'm not sure that much can be accomplished in forty-five minutes, but it at least ensures that the students are thinking about the material from last semester. Every team was responsible for developing its own review plan and for submitting weekly meeting notes and proof that they actually gathered. In addition to their weekly meetings we've had weekly team review challenges. These challenges have ranged from math, to free response questions, to old multiple choice questions, and model construction. Through each of these challenges students have been able to earn fight club points (our ongoing class competition).

This past week has been spent focusing on the material on which the students have demonstrated the greatest weakness. It would be quite impossible to adequately review every single topic we have covered this year. So, I decided to take a more targeted approach. When I write tests for the students I tag every question with one of the Biology Framework Learning Objectives. After each test I enter the students' individual performance on each learning objective into a very large and very colorful spreadsheet. Though the process is terribly laborious and time consuming, at the end of the year I have a fairly complete picture of the strengths and weaknesses of each student and of the class as a whole. Using this data I have been able to identify the topics that need the most work during our short time of in-class review. We've focused on these topics through a combination of review questions, model building, and of course, competition. I feel like the approach has worked, guess we will find out in July.

Consider this an awkward transition to our latest edition of the week in review. This week we have Shahriar, Michelle, and Jasmine submitting their thoughts on the past couple of weeks in class.

Shahriar Writes:

This week in AP Bio involved finishing up the course material. Ecology is a much easier unit to study than most others so it wasn’t too bad. However, there were still plenty of assignments to complete while also thinking about a school social event most of the class has went to known as prom. With the ecology unit coming to an end, it was interesting learning about the trophic system. Much of it was a review from basic biology and Ap environmental science for some people. The final video, changing the earth, was beneficial in that it taught about how Nitrogen, Toxins, etc. can be harmful to the environment. It also talked a little about the commonly known factors affecting the health of the earth, global warming and the ozone layer. The past week also involved working on a lab. This mostly consisted of taking measurements, however it was interesting to see the algae substance change. Along with the algae, the daphnia grew in numbers so reproduction occurred. What I am really looking forward to is the field trip that awaits us on monday and also finishing up the course material for Ap Biology with our last test on monday. From now on our class has to make sure to focus on remediating for the exam.

Jasmine Adds:

Last week in my AP Biology class we engaged in a host of learning activities. Mr. Kite had my classmates and I do a lot of assignments that were essentially designed to help up prepare for our AP Biology exam. He has assigned us groups that we study in on a weekly basis. So, most of the week, we were studying for the AP Biology exam within our groups. With the exception of Monday. On Monday we visited the company of Biogen. We proceeded to do a lab. Also, on Thursday during our class period we built hydrogen bonds, nucleotides, carbohydrates and much more. Also, on Wednesday Mr. Kite did the most generous thing in the world and gave world our Ecology test part two. But, for the other days of the week we focused on AP Biology test preparation.

Michelle Concludes:

This week in AP Biology began with a trip to Biogen Idec in RTP. There we carried out a case study on hemophilia. We were able to see how PCR and electrophoresis are applied to real life situations. Even though we had already had a similar experience at the Brite Building, this was a good reminder of these techniques. On Tuesday, we played jeopardy. Don’t we all love a little bit of competition? We split up into our review groups and the game begun. Surprisingly, I knew less than I thought I did. Either way it was a fun way to review for our test, which was the next day. Sadly, our team ended up losing by one point. We finished jeopardy earlier than expected, so we were able to relax for the remainder of class. Wednesday we took our second ecology test. UGH, it was much harder than I had expected it to be. Thursday came along, quicker than usual. It was our first day of review for our AP exam, which is on May 11th. We built several different chemical compounds with the molecule kits. These are always fun to use. Afterwards, we discussed the differences between amino acids, nucleic acids, lipids, and proteins. Luckily, for those going on the senior trip this was the last day of the week. Friday, I spent the day at Universal Studios. Hooray! Well, that concludes this week in AP Biology.