A user story written by Dr. Chris Martin from Sevenoaks School, UK

About our guest author

Dr. Chris Martin is former Head of Science and current Head of Chemistry at Sevenoaks School in the UK. He is an experienced author with various IB DP Chemistry publications to his name, including SMARTPREP IB Chemistry.

Learn more about Chris

Flash cards as a learning aid have been around for a long time. After all, what teacher doesn’t keep at least a few in their handout folders? And what student hasn’t resorted to creating their own?

Being tried-and-tested does not mean that flash cards can’t be innovative in their own right. It wasn’t until 2016 that flash cards written specifically for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP) became available through SMARTPREP, first in print and now as a web app, which offers possibilities for resource planning and teacher-fronted activities. In my experience, the web app can be as effective as past papers to review core concepts with the whole class.

In this blog, I will review the ways to use the SMARTPREP IB App for active study routines during class. I hope these ideas will inspire teachers to try these techniques and observe how their students respond.

Topic review:

I use a projector (ideal for IWB users, but any set-up using computer stations or tablets will work). The beauty of the web app is its interactivity. It allows you to track and record how a group progresses through topics in real time. You can capture class discussions and annotate the more difficult concepts by adding your own notes to any card. This prevents skimming over sub-topics and helps draw attention to the links between different topics.

Tiered learning:

This works particularly well for subjects in which calculations are required, maths or physical chemistry, for example. I preselect flash cards by topic and order them by type, first the card that deals with definitions and the explanation of formulae (this might be a fill-in-the-blanks or true/false card), then a card featuring a worked example of a typical calculation, and finally a card that presents a problem for students to solve using the knowledge gained from the previous ones.
This approach can easily be transformed into a circus activity by setting up stations around the class with gradual exercises: introductory cards on one station, worked example cards on the second, and then the harder, exam-style questions on the third. Students work from station to station as the challenge increases. This can be done in groups to promote collaborative learning and as a timed activity to add a competitive dimension that students enjoy.

Individualized practice:

During class, I often direct students to access the app on a mobile device and pick a topic of their own choosing. Students work quietly, adding their own notes while I circulate and monitor how their progress bars are changing through the lesson (offering help if I see slow progress or red lights). This is particularly useful in classes where ability varies widely.

Paired or group review:

Towards the end of term, the app provides good opportunities for students to work more independently. As exam time nears, I ask students to write down the three topics they feel most unsure about. I then pick out flash cards and group together (max three) students who want to review the same topic. Students then work through the cards as a team, discussing explanations or solving calculations together to improve their ability.

There are myriad other ways to use the web app, and I have only focused here on ideas to promote classroom dynamics and collaborative learning.

I find that using the SMARTPREP IB App in the early stages of preparing for exams is more beneficial than past paper practice. This is because cards give not only the answers, but also the thought-processes behind the answers –and almost always in a more condensed and easily digestible manner than textbooks do.

On a practical note, ManageBac users will find it simple and easy to deploy the SMARTPREP IB App as a fully integrated resource, including setting SMARTPREP Exercises for groups or individuals.