Tuesday, August 20, 2013

SparkCharts for Previewing and Review

While you are pulling together this year's school supplies (for yourself or your student) you might want to consider adding SparkCharts -- from the same folks who bring you SparkNotes --  to your list.

SparkNotes have long been the love of many a student and the bane of many an English teacher. Their literature summaries and character/plot/symbol analyses are well-written, thorough, and spot on. While reading SparkNotes is never a substitute for reading a book or play, the resources on the site can be great study tools for students who need to preview the information in a text or review it after reading to ensure they understood the critical points. SparkNotes  also offers study tools for various standardized tests and for other academic subjects, like chemistry or U.S. history.

For students in high school, college, and graduate/professional programs, SparkCharts cover topics that go well beyond the offerings of SparkNotes. 

SparkCharts are sturdy, laminated charts that can be stored in a binder or taped next to a desk to display just about all the critical information one could need to know about a subject. Topics are diverse and include the nervous system, art history, C++, organic chemistry, macroeconomics, Latin grammar, civil procedure, and calculus, so older students are almost sure to find a chart applicable to them.

How to Use Them:

SparkCharts are wonderful tools for some of the most effective, but neglected, steps in learning: previewing and reviewing.


Before attempting to tackle a new topic, students who preview the material are able to set the stage for solid learning. Watching a video about the material to be studied or reading a summary are both great ways to preview, and a SparkChart provides another readily accessible source of information. Before going to class or opening a textbook to their assigned reading, students should find the corresponding section on the SparkChart and read over it, all the while reflecting on what they already know about this topic from other classes or their everyday lives. A quick preview can set a student up for optimal learning by helping them discern which ideas are most important as they listen to a lecture or read a chapter.


After finishing class or closing the textbook, students should attempt to answer questions, go over notes, or make a concept map of the material they have learned. A SparkChart would be a great tool for this kind of review, as students can access not only the information they have just learned, but also pertinent, previously learned information. A wise student might make up questions based on the information found on a SparkChart and quiz himself on the material.

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