Teaching Students How to Study with One-Sheets

I would love for my students to learn how to prepare for a math test. This one-sheet idea is the closest I’ve come, as they (eventually) do it all on their own.

At the end of last year I had my students create a study guide for their final exam. I had them make one page (or notecard) of notes for each chapter we had studied. My students commented that although they liked the idea, this was difficult to do at the end of the year. They wish we had summarized each chapter while we were in the chapter so they could remember more things to put on their sheets.  My best ideas often come from students.

So this year at the end of every chapter I had my students summarize the most important topics on the front of one sheet of paper.  Since this was new for them, I gave them a list of topics, then had them brainstorm in groups on whiteboard. Afterwards I had them fold one sheet of paper into sections (one section per topic), and then write the information on their sheets.  I encouraged them to include homework problems they had difficulty on, and notes from the in-class review.

As you can see from the picture above, some students created really thorough one-sheets, while others barely wrote the basics. To help model great one-sheets, I shared the most detailed ones with the class.  But this was after the fact and didn’t help students who had not made thorough one-sheets.


In the end of year survey, most students mentioned how much they loved the one-sheets. But several students mentioned that while they liked having one-sheets, they did not enjoy making them (or make helpful ones).  And that they would love help making a great one sheet.  After reading their comments, I talked to them in class about how to help them create better one-sheets. Overall, more of my boys mentioned that they struggled with making helpful one-sheets.  They suggested that we make the actual one-sheets together in class, especially at the beginning of the year when they are just learning how to make them (and before they realize how valuable the one-sheets will be).

So next year this is how I plan on introducing one sheets.  The first time we do one-sheets, we will make the entire one-sheet together as a class.

  1. Give students a list of topics and let them brainstorm together on whiteboards.
  2. Instruct then how to fold the sheet into sections and label each section.
  3. Give them class time to fill in the sections, guiding them about what is important to include and modeling how to organize the material.
  4. Share great examples as I see them in class so other students can add that information to their sheets.
  5. Finish the one-sheet in class (instead of taking it home to finish).

As the year progresses and they get more practice making the one sheets, we will do less in class.  I want them to learn how to make the one-sheets on their own so they will have this skill for future classes.  However, I will make sure to give them class time at the end of every unit to start making their one-sheets.

About halfway through the year my students became upset with me when I didn’t have them make a one sheet for a chapter.  Some students did it on their own but they missed the class time to brainstorm and work on it together.  By the end of the year most students were creating incredibly detailed one-sheets.  Seriously, some of these one sheets were a work of ART.

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Here are some of the white-boards and one-sheets that my students created this year:



8 thoughts on “Teaching Students How to Study with One-Sheets

    • I teach the honors level, so I don’t let them. But you could if you wanted. Or, they could then make an index card from the one sheet. I give cumulative tests, so the one-sheets are crucial when studying for successive exams.

  1. I do something very similar, but I call it a Focus List. I do give the topics, and the students then write their focus list. I never thought to have the students brainstorm together during class, and is definitely something I will consider for next year. The other thing I do for each summative assessment (SA), is give a blank area on the test called “Brain Dump.” I encourage my students before they start the SA, they should write everything that they have on their brain about that topic. That way, as they progress through the assessment, they don’t completely forget something, because the problem was hard, in depth, or confusing.

  2. I enjoyed this post. I did something similar. At our university, most maths students can take a single sheet of handwritten notes into the exam. But many of my students had trouble creating effective sheets. A colleague gave me the idea to let students use a ‘post-it-note’ of notes on their weekly tests. The idea is to help them build up their final ‘one-sheet’. I’m still refining how I do this, so thanks for sharing!

  3. Pingback: Advice to Next Year’s Students | I Speak Math

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