In recent weeks there have been lots of conversations in school, on Twitter and on teacher blogs about preparing Y11 for the ‘final push’ ahead of their summer exams. So, as a timely reminder, I thought it would be useful to try and gather together some of the key things we can be doing to help them through to the ‘finishing line’.
- Focused – Do they know where they are in realtion to their target grades, and the key things they need to be working on in order to achieve it?
- Familiar – Are they familiar with the format and layout of the exam paper in your subject?
- Basics – Do they know the key exam skills required for success in your subject? e.g. identiying the command words in questions, how to use connectives, how to use sources, data, text extracts etc.
- Organised – Do they know the dates and times of their exams? Have they put together a well thought out revision schedule, that covers all subjects and prioritises weak areas? They can use the calendar function on their smart phones to do this and set alarm reminders, to remind them to revise.
- Share your plan – Help them feel secure about your preparations by sharing you plan with them e.g. ‘We have X number of lessons left until your exam, we will spend X number of lessons on topic Z……etc. But, be flexible with your plan and respond to their needs.
- RRR – Are you giving them the opportunity to repeat, rehearse and refine these key exam skills during lessons? Much has been spoken about recently around the need for ‘deliberate practice’ when it comes to exam preparation. Don’t shy away from repetition for fear of being ‘boring’. It’s this repetition that embeds skills and knowledge.
- Balance – Make sure your revision plan has a good balance between reviewing content and developing question answering skills.
- Grit and support – Preparing for exams is not always ‘fun’ – it’s hard work! Prepare them for this and be honest about it – stress that they will need to demonstrate perseverence and resilience over the coming weeks. Be positive and supportive though and show them that you believe they can do it.
- Conquer the boredom – Along the same lines, talk about the fact that revision will get boring – but they need to ‘work through the boredom barrier’ and conquer it! Encourage them to set themselves small ‘treats’ after each bout of revision.
- Control the controllable – As a teacher you can’t control what students do outside of school, but you can control what they do in lessons! So with this in mind, make sure revision sessions are well planned, focused and productive. Focus on identified weak areas in terms of topics and skills. Avoid the temptation to just let them ‘get on with it’.
- Use the specification – Get students to interact with the specification – colour code the areas they are confident with, and the areas they are not so confident with. talk to them about focusing their revision on these weak areas, as opposed to just plodding through and giving all topics the same amount of time.
- Interrogate past papers, mark schemes and chief examiner reports – Use these with students so they can see how and why marks are allocated, and the common mistakes students make (from the chief examiners report) – and then use this during exam technique practice.
- Opportunity awareness – Are they aware of revision opportunities, outside of your lessons e.g. before/after school sessions, Easter revision sessions etc. Are they attending them?
- Motivate them – by talking about the light at the end of the tunnel – the prom. Summer holidays. Progressing to their college course etc
- Variety – Try to use a variety of revision strategies with them, to give them the tools to revise – but do not compromise the effectiveness or rigour of the sessions. Substance is more important than style! However a variety of ideas can be found in this ‘Big Ideas Booklet’ and this previous post.
- Exploit their obsession with new technology – Their world revolves around new technologies, so use it to engage them with the process. Apart from the obvious revision sites:
– Use your departmental twitter account (if you have one) to tweet revision tips. During the Easter holidays our Head of History – @BurgessHistory – has had 30 minute time slots on certain days (that she has publicised) we she tweets revision tips and responds to questions from students via twitter.
– Use QR codes as a quick and easy way for students to access revision websites on their mobile devices. Great tutorial here.
– After doing mind maps, revision notes etc – get them to take photos of it on their mobile phones and then share them.
– Use sites like Get Revising to make an online revision schedule and revision flash cards.
– Use Apps like My SQA Study Plan to make revision schedules on their smart phones.
17. Growth Mindset – Now, more than ever, is the time to be developing a growth mindset in students! See here.
Other related blogs:
The following blogs contain some excellent advice on preparing students for revision. The first one, by Alex Quigley (@HuntingEnglish) looks at research based evidence for effective revision – well worth a read: