Honestly, I never look forward to reviewing before exams. We have a dedicated review day at our school and I have never found it particularly engaging or effective for students. A few students have a list of specific questions to ask, and they benefit from the answers and discussions, but many do not.
This year, in Honors Physics, the calendar was such that we ended up having three days to review for the semester exam. My colleague had a great idea: create the Über Physics problem (also known as the problem that never ends). Our goal was to review every one of our twelve more-challenging standards. We brainstormed on a sequence of events that could be woven into a story. At the start of class, we introduced the story for that day and then left students to work through the problems with each other, ask questions about needed information, and check answers. The next day, we would summarize the previous day’s events, associated standards, and solutions before introducing the next “chapter” of the story. For the past three days, students were the most engaged during review that I have ever witnessed. They were interested in the story and excited by what the next “chapter” might bring. These problems were challenging which I believe also contributed to the interest.
Some simplifying assumptions were made but the students weren’t too critical. Unfortunately, I made a calculation error that affected the third day’s problems. When the error was corrected, the final coefficient of friction was ridiculous. I’ll have to adjust the story if I do this again next year.
While much of the story was conveyed verbally, I’ll share the rudimentary pictures that I drew and some of the specified variables. Each page corresponds to one day’s part of the story. The perspective of the diagram changes at times to show the necessary information. The answers are written in green or red and were provided one day after that part of the story was presented.