How to Host an Online Review Session (with Google Docs)

Maybe it's just me, but I hate when my email inbox explodes the night before a test with last-minute questions from students. Don't get me wrong - I love that students are studying at all and are asking questions. However, it bugs me that:

  • others could benefit from viewing my answer
  • the questions are so last-minute, a clear sign of what I call "Procrastinitis"
  • not all students even check their email in time to see my reply!
Thus, after watching a colleague do his own version successfully, I started doing online review sessions in the evenings before midterms and final exams, and it's brought a lot of positives for us.

Disclaimer: My students have school-provided Google accounts and devices, and to the best of my knowledge, they all have internet access. However, this setup is adaptable even if your school or students do not have these privileges. 

How it works:
  1. Get administrative permission, if needed. My admins know that I do this, and all students are doing this on one public/shared Doc with school-provided accounts. 
  2. Start the Google Doc in advance. I start a new Doc, share it to students, and make a table that looks like this (see below). The review session is in a Q&A format, meaning that students type their questions in the left column, and my reply will go in the right. If there's a study guide, I usually copy and paste it (or a link to it) into this Q&A doc also, in order to reduce redundant questions.
  3. Announce the review session with plenty of lead time. I announce and explain the review session in class, usually at least a week in advance. Students can plan accordingly to attend, and since they have early access to the Doc, they can pre-write their questions into the table in advance (before they forget to do so). I claim the review session will end by 9:00pm, so that I can't be accused of keeping them up late, but I sometimes run over the time by a little if a student is still asking good questions.
  4. Get online by the promised time. I usually log on a few minutes early to answer any pre-written questions, but then I answer most of the live questions students ask...  even if it's content that we've gone over in class a million times. 
  5. Most of the questions I get are logistics about the test itself, but sometimes I get teachable moments, explaining content one more time, with new paraphrasing so that everyone understands. 
  6. At the end, I change the access settingsAfter doing a "last call" and wishing them farewell, (often with Bitmojis and emojis and enthusiasm), I change the Doc settings from "can edit" back to "can view". I don't want students to change MY answers, and I don't want them to add questions after I've left and make it look like I didn't help them.

Why it's great:
  1. It's a paper trail of helping students. I don't mean to sound cynical, but it's great to be able to tell students, parents, or other teachers that I DID offer this opportunity (that your son did not choose to participate in...)
  2. Students can fairly view the Q&A, even if they did not attendThere are no secrets, no favoritism, and no unequal opportunity. Even if Brutus had basketball practice and couldn't attend, he can still read over everything that night (or the next morning), and he knows the same last-minute tips that the others do.
  3. It shows students that others struggle, too. So many students study alone, keep grades private, and maintain the "everything is fine" exterior... without realizing that others have questions or struggles, too. Making the Q&A public normalizes that it's okay to ask questions and not know everything.
  4. It shows students you care. Taking your time tells them, Yes, I want you to succeed, and I care enough to help.
The Bottom Line
Yes, I see the counter-argument that I'm enabling their last-minute studying. However, I'm pretty sure that's going to happen regardless, so my stance is to at least help them study correctly, instead of making bad guesses or sitting there frustrated, unable to find an answer.

As much as what we do in class should be "enough", and students should be able to study independently, sometimes the difficulty of the material, the high stakes of the test, or the students' abilities justify a review session like this.

Though I will continue to do what I can during the school day, this is by far my favorite way to host a review session of any kind.

What do you think? 
Tell me in the comments!


  1. Such a great idea ! I love it, especially now that I'll be teaching virtual! Thank you so much !!

  2. I love this! I’m so using this idea!

  3. It made me thankful...again
    ..that we don't have tests as assessments, but I think it's great how you're supporting your students rather than judging them. I could use this review idea at the end of a week of online learning or a unit or a mini lesson to see what burning questions remain. The idea is solid!