The Bridge — A Strategy for Reviewing Content

Teachers provide students with many diverse opportunities to review their learning before moving on to new content. One of my favorite review activities is the Bridge, which is an effective alternative to a question-answer session and requires students to examine their thinking, engage in higher-level thinking, and identify relationships in previous content.

The Bridge can also be an excellent previewing strategy that allows students to prime their background knowledge in a subject area before a teacher presents new information.

Building bridges for Element 14: Reviewing content

The desired effect for Element 14 (i.e., Reviewing Content) in the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model is for the students to be able to accurately recall and describe the prior content. Teachers who succeed on this element — a rating of “applying” or better — must be able to monitor that the majority of the students are achieving this desired effect.

They can achieve this goal by using the Bridge activity with individual students, pairs, or small groups.

Using the Bridge for understanding prior content

Students are given a picture of a bridge on a blank sheet of paper. The following words are placed at the peaks of the bridge: therefore and however. At the connections to the bridge, on the right and the left, the following words are placed: andand but. Finally, the words most significant and in conclusion are written at each of the supports for the bridge. (See illustration below.)

The students must use these words to create sentences related to the content they have learned. The teacher explains that these words can help students create six sentences to summarize key learning if placed in the appropriate order. Students may only use each word one time. The bridge serves as a visual depiction of how we link sentences together to highlight key ideas in a summary.

Richard Nixon: A presidential example

Let’s illustrate this process with an example using content on the presidency of Richard Nixon.

When President Nixon began his term, the country was divided; therefore, one of his first areas of focus was to bring peace to the nation by addressing the conflict of the Vietnam War. However, his presidency was marred by scandal and his association with Watergate. Additionally, Nixon focused some of his efforts on continuing the work of President Johnson and encouraging equal rights, particularly for women, with the start of Title IX. It was President Kennedy who declared man would one day walk on the moon, but the actual moon landing occurred during the presidency of Nixon. One of his most significant accomplishments was his work to achieve worldwide stability, exemplified by his negotiations for Israel with Egypt and Syria and the reduced tension between Russia and China. In conclusion, President Nixon’s term in office, while successful in many ways, was tainted by the scandals that were associated with him and his first vice president, which led both of them to resign before the end of their terms.

The Bridge is particularly effective because it requires students to summarize and identify critical information while sorting through the content they were taught. It demonstrates the students’ ability to describe critical content in relationship to other critical information. We call this a “macrostrategy” because it combines more than one strategy into this review.

This activity lends itself well to monitoring for the desired effect — in this case, “students accurately recall and describe the prior content.” In order to do that, the teacher can walk around and discuss the key content with the students as they incorporate the key words from the bridge into their sentences, correcting and guiding as necessary.

Food for thought: How could you integrate the Bridge activity — or a similar macrostrategy — into your own teaching? Could this activity be modified to work with other content areas and disciplines?


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