INTRODUCTION: As a Learning Specialist at Shippensburg University, I work primarily one-on-one with students who are study-skills deficient. My colleagues and I lament our students’ resistance to learning study strategies. We’ve tried workshops, “Success Enhancement Groups,” and mandatory tutoring, but when students don’t believe they need this help, they lack the buy-in necessary to learn new skills.
I set out to find a way to make studying both fun and effective, and reveled in discovering www.Quizlet.com: an online program created by a high school student tasked with memorizing French vocabulary words. This free site allows students to create “sets” of terms and definitions, and for each set it generates games, tests, and even printable flashcards. Once word got out that my students were actually having FUN studying for tests, three professors asked me to teach Quizlet to their students. Quizlet can be taught to groups, as described below, or to individual students in a conference or tutorial session. I’ve even taught Quizlet to my 12 year-old who loves computers but hates studying, and now he independently makes a Quizlet set every day after school to reinforce lessons in history, science, health, and English.
Quizlet is a great way to create active learners, and can be taught with hands-on practice in less than an hour. Use it to help students learn virtually any factual information (e.g., historical dates, plays and playwrights, the periodic table, or vocabulary definitions). Your students will love you for introducing them to Quizlet!
- Promote students’ desire to learn a fun and effective new study strategy
- Illuminate the advantages of active learning versus passive studying
- Teach and entice students to independently use the online study tool: www.Quizlet.com
- Computer lab with one computer per student and a projectable computer for the instructor
- Projector and screen
- “Study Habits Feedback,” one for each student (Appendix A)
- A printout of 5-7 terms and definitions that you want your students to learn.
- “Assessment Form,” one for each student (Appendix B)
- How to Make Studying Fun Using www.Quizlet.com,” one for each student (Appendix C)
- Create a demonstration Quizlet set using 5 terms you’ve recently taught.
- Create a slide to project containing the three questions in Step 1 of the Directions
- When students enter the room, the computers should be turned on, but the monitors turned off.
1. Hand out the Study Habits Feedback form (Appendix A). Say, “Please complete this form. Your answers will remain anonymous. When finished, turn to a neighbor and share your answers to these 3 Study Strategy Questions:
- What study strategy has been the most effective for you?
- What strategy hasn’t worked very well?
- Why do you think one has been effective and the other hasn’t?” [7 minutes]
2. Get everyone’s attention by saying, “Perhaps you’ve noticed a difference between passive studying (when you just read something), and active studying (where you do something with the material). What are some examples of active learning strategies?” (Elicit responses such as making flashcards, quizzing each other, etc.) Ask, “Do you find studying fun? Something to look forward to? Would you be more likely to study factual information, such as vocabulary, if you could play games to help you learn and remember definitions? Well, let’s see what we can do about that.” [4 minutes]
3. Open www.Quizlet.com and pull up the demonstration set you created. Say, “Take a look at how you can use this website to learn 5 vocabulary words you’ll need to know for your next quiz.”
Show students what happens when you click on each of the following:
- “Flashcards” (creates a printable set of flashcards)
- “Familiarize” (helps you learn the terms using on-screen flashcards)
- “Learn” (type in the term when prompted with the definition)
- “Play Scatter” (drag the term over its correct definition to make it disappear as fast as you can)
- “Play Space Race” (type the term to make the definition disappear before it runs off the page)
- “Test” (show how it generates a test, and how you can tailor the questions to be true/false, multiple choice, matching, fill-in-the-blank, or any combination) [<10 minutes]
4. Have students turn on their monitors, pull up the internet, and type in: www.Quizlet.com. Say, “Click where it says ‘sign up’ and create a username and password. I recommend using the same ones as your email account so you’ll remember it.” [4 minutes]
5. Do the same thing they’re doing so that the projected screen looks like theirs. Hand out the new vocabulary. (Note: If you have more than an hour, I recommend having them look up their own definitions.) Say, “Let’s see how quickly you can learn these words using Quizlet. Click ‘Create a set.’ Type in your terms and definitions. When you’re finished, click ‘Create set’ at the bottom. Now try out all the options I just showed you.” Walk around, monitor progress, and assist as needed. [15 minutes]
6. With about 10 minutes remaining in the class period, have them stop. Show students how to email a set and, if you like, give them your email address so that they can send one to you. I assigned the creation of a new set as homework to be emailed to me by a certain date. [3 minutes]
7. Pass out the Assessment Form (Appendix B) to complete. (It asks if/how they might use Quizlet and includes a checklist of understanding for each of the features shown.) Walk around and see what they’ve checked. If anything is left unchecked, show them how to find/do it right then. [10 minutes]
8. Solicit verbal feedback: “So, what do you think of Quizlet?” Ask for a show of hands for how many students think they’ll use Quizlet as a study tool. Tell those who do, “That’s great–I’m looking forward to seeing how well you all do on your next test!” [5-10 minutes]
9. Give them a “How to Make Studying Fun Using www.Quizlet.com” instruction sheet (Appendix C) as a “just in case they forget” reference. [2 minutes]
Students were excited from the start, as they didn’t normally meet in the computer lab. They spoke easily about what study strategies worked and what didn’t and several were eager to share their success stories about the usefulness of flashcards or how much a tutor quizzing them before a test had helped. But most of them were more in the camp of dreading studying, expressing frustration that their tests results didn’t reflect all their efforts. I offered, “Sometimes it’s not about how MUCH you’re studying, but how effectively.” (Many nodded.)
One student bemoaned, “It’s just too hard to memorize all the new terms you’re given in 4 or 5 different classes.” That was the perfect segue to my saying, “Well, is anyone interested in learning a fun way to master all those terms you need to learn?” Heads nodded and hands went up.
I opened up Quizlet, and with each new option I introduced, there were positive comments around the room like, “Oh cool!” and “Hey, I gotta try that,” until finally someone inevitably asked the magic question, “Can we make our own sets?” Desire to learn—check!
I gave out the practice vocabulary list with words like “antidisestablishmentarianism” just to prove my point. There were audible groans. But after they’d repeatedly seen, played with, and clearly learned the definitions to all 5 terms (that moments ago they’d had no clue how to define), my other favorite moment came when I clicked “test” and the students collectively called out the answers like it was a piece of cake. I knew then I’d made my case!
Much to my delight, their appreciation for learning Quizlet was reinforced at the end of class, when each student thanked me as they left the room.
* Promote students’ desire to learn a fun and effective new study strategy.
Not only did students verbally express this desire, it was made evident by their answers on their anonymous Study Habits Feedback form, with the following percentages of students in three classes expressing an interest in:
- A strategy to improve the effectiveness of my study time: 77%
- A means of boosting test-taking confidence and the likelihood of doing well on tests: 80%
- A way to make studying more fun: 82%
* Illuminate the advantages of active learning versus passive studying.
We had a productive discussion about active learning, during which comments included, “If I just read something, I usually forget it,” and “I always do the best on tests that I’ve done practice tests for.”
When asked, in the Assessment Form, “Why is an active learning strategy (like using Quizlet) more effective than just reading?” 84% of students were able to give a clear explanation, such as:
- “When you write it, you reinforce it.”
- “Quizlet gives a variety of practice.”
- “The more you use it, the less chance you’ll lose it.”
*Teach and entice students to independently use the online study tool: www.Quizlet.com.
Students all demonstrated their ability to use the program in class. When asked, in the Assessment Form, “Do you think you’ll use Quizlet on your own?” 93% said yes, and the other 7% said they might. In response to the question, “Do you think Quizlet is an effective way to learn new vocabulary?” a whopping 100% of students said yes.
After students were asked to create a new set for homework, 98% did so. But the proof of success came when my colleague told me that two-thirds of the class created another Quizlet set for the next test without being assigned to do so!
Now that time has passed, I’ve been thrilled by the number of times I’ve been told by students who were not in those classes that they’d heard about Quizlet. The word has really gotten out! But unfortunately, few of those who simply heard about it actually tried it on their own. This just reinforces the importance of having students experience Quizlet first-hand. Seeing (and doing) really is believing.
I did this activity with three classes and it got better each time. The first time I only had students write about their study styles, but adding the discussion really helped to set the stage for piquing their interest. I also used very challenging vocabulary words so as to emphasize the effectiveness of Quizlet. I could see the “AHA’s!” around the room as students saw how easily they’d learned the vocabulary in just minutes.
In the future, I would consider ways to help students make using Quizlet a regular study habit. I learned, through one-on-one conversations with a number of students later in the semester, that although they were thrilled with Quizlet when they discovered it (and had the best of intentions of using it), they fell back into old habits and forgot all about it. I think if I had my own class, I would offer extra credit to students for creating Quizlet sets, so as to provide them with incentive for improving their study habits, and increase the likelihood of their turning a good idea into an effective routine.
Finally, I would make sure that students realize that Quizlet is only a first step in connecting to and truly comprehending the material they’re striving to learn, and that it’s just one of many possible study strategies to add to their academic toolbox.”
Appendix A: STUDY HABITS FEEDBACK
Read each statement about study styles and circle how often this reflects what is true for you.
1. When I encounter a lot of vocabulary terms that I need to be responsible for knowing, I tend to…
…be unsure about how to learn them Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…highlight the bold words in my book Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…silently read and re-read the terms and definitions Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…look up the definitions to bold words Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…read and re-read the terms and definitions out loud Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…recopy the terms and definitions on notebook paper Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…recopy the terms and definitions on index cards Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…review the terms and definitions every day for 3+ days Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…play games with the terms and definitions Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…create a test for myself with the terms and definitions Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…have someone else quiz me on them Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
2. So far, I’ve found the way that I’ve been studying and learning new vocabulary to be…
…fun Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…something I look forward to Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…instantly gratifying Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…something I’d want to show off to others how I do Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…easy to share with all my classmates at the same time Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
… a confidence-builder Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…highly successful (as evidenced by my knowledge of the terms) Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
…highly successful (as evidenced by my grades on tests & quizzes) Never/Rarely—Sometimes —Usually/Always
3. Check each of the following which you think might be useful for you:
___A strategy to improve the effectiveness of your study time
___A way to study vocabulary terms so that you know them forwards and backwards
___A means of boosting test-taking confidence
___A way to reduce your pre-test stress
___A way to assess your understanding of terms (to see if you really know them)
___An opportunity to increase the likelihood of your doing well on tests
___A way to make studying more fun and entertaining
___A free website where you can prepare for tests by playing games
___A way to take practice tests on the terms, concepts, or dates you’ll be tested on (without anyone knowing how many times you might bomb it before you ace it).
___A computer program that creates flashcards out of terms and definitions you type in so that you don’t have to write them out by hand
___A way to organize test-prep info for all your classes in one place—online
Appendix B: ASSESSMENT FORM
Name: __________________________ Professor: _________________
Now that you’ve learned to use www.Quizlet.com…
Do you think that using “Quizlet” looks like an effective way to learn new vocabulary? _______
What types of tests would Quizlet help you to prepare for?
What are three possible benefits of using Quizlet as a study tool?
Why is an active learning strategy (like using Quizlet) more effective than just reading?
What might you use Quizlet to help you learn besides terms and definitions?
Name an area of study that Quizlet would NOT be useful to help you with:
What strategy might you use for learning that instead?
Please check all those that apply:
___ I know how to get to the www.Quizlet.com website
___ I know how to sign up and create a free account
___ I know how to create a set of terms and definitions
___ I know how to share a set with others
___ I know how to find a set that others have created
___ I know how to print terms and their definitions
___ I know how to print flashcards
___ I know at least 3 ways to use www.Quizlet.com strategies to learn new terms
___ I know how to test my understanding of terms by playing “Scatter”
___ I know how to improve my rapid recall of terms by playing “Space Race”
___ I know how to create and take a practice test
___ I know how to contact Marni Jones if I have any questions
Any questions you didn’t get answered? (If so, please state.)
Do you think you will use Quizlet on your own?
If no, why not?
If yes, what class(es) do you plan to use Quizlet to prepare for?
Appendix C: Making Studying FUN using www.Quizlet.com.
–Marni Jones, Learning Specialist, Shippensburg University, PA